Thursday, May 31, 2007

cords of love

Once a parent, always a parent...That's a phrase I've come to believe.  I have experienced the enduring love and concern of my mother for me, though I'm now well into my 6th decade on the planet.  I have felt the attachment of love for my adult daughters and now for my grandchildren.  I know that there is a special quality of relationship that attaches to family and I am grateful for that lasting "glue".  It's such a great thing to know that there is a circle of people who love each other "no matter what" and "just because" we're of the same human family.  I was struck by this today as I overheard a young mother describing her baby and how he resembled both father and mother.  The cords of love within family are stronger than steel and lasting.
Like so many natural things, the supernatural has a parallel.  We know God as our heavenly Father and are confident that His love for us, and His desire for our best, will never end.  We have spiritual brothers and sisters in this heavenly family and we share burdens of health, relationship and all manner of need as we walk through the uncertainty of daily life.  At times we help others find "new birth" by introducing them to Jesus, as their own personal Lord.  So we can have spiritual children that we help mature in faith. 
Our human family ties are very strong, though even they sometimes fail, just as we stumble in every facet of life.  The cords of love that hold us to our heavenly Lord can not break, however.  They do not depend on our strength, but on His.
Hosea 11:4 "I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them."
Rob Smith

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wrong-way Whales

Recently a mother humpback whale and her calf traveled 90 miles up the Sacramento River, almost reaching the California capital of Sacramento.  Along the way they suffered injuries from scrapes with boats and their health suffered from overexposure to fresh water.  Thousands of people lined the shores of the river, watching them move up the river and then return to San Francisco Bay.  The news today is the whales have made it back to the ocean at last!  It's amazing how many people were fascinated by following the course of these wayward sea creatures.  Many folks took an active role with noisemaking to try to herd the animals back to San Francisco.  There's something magnificent and yet endearing about certain creatures, and whales seem to touch our hearts.  One lady described the humpbacks' inland visit as a "profound spiritual experience".
The wayward whales reminded me of us...the wayward people.  We may be following a path that seems familiar and true only to find conditions gradually worsening, like salt water turning to fresh for the whales.  Unintentionally we may find ourselves exchanging great freedom, like the whales had in the ocean, for narrow and shallow river water, where we can't maneuver and it may be hard to breathe.  Just as this pair of whales made a wrong turn on their annual migration, we often turn the wrong way...wrong decisions, wrong motives, or just plain lost.  Fortunately we have a great deal of help "on the shore".  The book of Hebrews tells us (Chapter 12,  verse 1) "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  These witnesses are folks who have followed the Lord in faith and have gone on before us to heaven.  The old testament prophets and even angels are interested in our challenges.  1 Peter 1:12 "It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things."
Yes, there are times when we are like the "Wrong-way whales".  But we have help on the shore from heaven, itself, to guide us back to our eternal home, where there is plenty of room to move and air to breathe!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

He can relate

We know that Jesus came to earth to carry out one very important mission.  We know that the Cross didn't take Him by surprise and that His death was not defeat, rather it was a platform that led to His resurrection.  But a second critical purpose for Jesus coming to earth was to prove that "God can relate" to us and to our lives.  I think one of the problems many people have with God is that He can seem distant and detached when we live in a world swirling with daily difficulties, dilemmas, decisions and distresses.  Is God able to truly understand and relate to us?  If not, religion is nothing more than one more philosophy, and not of much practical use.
But Jesus was the Son of God and the Son of Man.  So He came as Heaven's direct representative, but in human form.  Jesus reveals His father to us: John 6:46 "No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father."  Because He also lived in the flesh He can relate to us: Hebrews 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin."
As you walk through your day, this day, realize that Jesus wants to reveal God to you and reveal you to God.  He has been a citizen of Heaven and of Earth and He can relate!
Rob Smith

Monday, May 28, 2007

Spiritual Health Index

We closely monitor many financial health indicators.  Each day we look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ to check the pulse of stock markets.  We examine unemployment statistics, cost of living increases, mortgage rates, manufacturing, productivity, and currency exchange rates.  We dissect rates of saving, spending, and borrowing.  We compare our economy with Europe, Asia and smaller markets.  We are concerned about inventory backlogs of homes and cars.  We wonder about outsourcing jobs to India and are worried about America's future economy.  I think we've got the business side of America pretty thoroughly covered.  What if we had some kind of Spiritual Health Index.  We could measure the percentage of folks who were confident they were in the Kingdom of God and headed for heaven.  We could evaluate the ratio of self-centeredness to selflessness in our actions and activities.  We could evaluate the emphasis level within homes on spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study vs. entertainment and television watching.  We might look at a ratio that measured the emphasis on material success vs. spiritual contentment.
I'm not sure such a "Spiritual Health Index" could ever grow into an index fund that you could invest in, but it might be eye-opening to consider how little we emphasize or treasure the health of the "inner person" or the condition of the culture, as a whole.
Deuteronomy 25:15 "You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."
Mark 4:24 "Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more."
Rob Smith

Sunday, May 27, 2007


According to, "harmony" is "A combination of sounds considered pleasing to the ear."  The word has Greek roots that tie it to physical joints in the body and it literally means "to fit together" like an arm fits a shoulder.  It is also is referred in music as the "Simultaneous combination of notes in a chord."  I was curious what a chord was and found that, in music, it is "A combination of three or more pitches sounded simultaneously".
This morning, in church, three brothers performed violin in beautiful harmony (Cory, Roland and Caleb Rivera).  The three boys were just like the personification of a musical chord, as their three pitches "fit together" to make sounds pleasing to the ear.
Perhaps even more pleasing was the evident harmony reflected by the brothers across their stepping stone ages(seemingly ranging from pre-school to adolescent).  Watching the oldest brother lead the younger brothers as they performed, it was not hard to infer that his example of musical practice and appealing accomplishment was an obvious inspiration for the younger brothers to play at the same level.  These boys are learning that great beauty comes from a beautiful blend of individual lives, tied to a common performance. 
The beauty of music is enhanced by blended sounds that fit well and the beauty of each day is enriched by lives that seek "to fit together" in our common walk.
1 Peter 3:8 "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble."
Rob Smith

Saturday, May 26, 2007

fulfillment in each other

I was reading the Creation story in Genesis yesterday.  I was especially touched by Genesis, chapter 2 when God formed woman.  Here is the passage (verses 18;21-25):
 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.   The man said,  "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man."   For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Suddenly I was struck with the beauty of God's plan that I wouldn't be alone.  It hit me that a big part of my purpose, as a man, and a big part of Shirley's purpose, as a woman, is that we would help each other...complete each other. 

In our culture we tend to measure purpose and fulfillment independently...that is, every person is to find his or her own mountain to climb, frontier to face, empire to establish.  A great deal of emphasis is placed on each of us finding ourselves through education, career, professions, prosperity on a separate basis.  All that is great but...

What I find lacking these days is a simple appreciation for the profound purpose we find simply as men, and simply as women, in helping one another.  Marriage is the one permanent relationship in our lives where the differences between the genders are perfectly resolved in every important dimension: physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually.

I realize that my wife is my God-appointed helper and I am determined to rely more upon her help.  As men, I think we frustrate our wives when we don't allow them to help...with decisions, with problems, with fears.  I thank the Lord for the one He formed to stand by my side!


Rob Smith

Friday, May 25, 2007

watermelon faith

I was thinking about the wonder of faith.  The Lord compares faith to a mustard seed.  He also tells us that the mustard seed eventually grows into a tree.
Matthew 17:20 He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."[
Matthew 13:32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."
I'm not so familiar with mustard plants so I'm going to work on "Watermelon Faith".  I know what a watermelon seed looks like and I'm very clear on the size and weight of a ripe watermelon.  Did you know that watermelons can grow to be larger than 100 pounds and that they are a great source of vitamins A, B1, B6, C and lots of antioxidants and one serving only has 48 calories.  It only takes 90 days for that small seed to grow to full size.  A seed is a focal point of information that actively converts raw material in the soil into useful plant growth.  The seed doesn't have to be large and we don't particularly want to eat the seed (watermelon seed spitting contests take place everywhere!).  Just as house plans are much smaller than a house, a seed can be much smaller than its plant.  But the seed is absolutely dedicated to one task...making one large watermelon.  I wonder if we can develop faith that is focused on taking the resources God has placed around us and growing them into new life...spiritual life.  Our seed might transform broken hearts and torn marriages into healing and restoration.  It might guide one who is lost, thinking this world was everything, to the eternal Lord.  Our seed can focus on raising children not only to survive and thrive physically but to know their Creator personally.  The watermelon seed doesn't get a lot of glory, but it's in the seed that the action takes place!
Rob Smith
I guess we can look at our lives like watermelon seeds.  We can each

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Created by design

I was watching a pair of birds pick up pieces of mulch and sticks recently and realized they were building, or repairing, a nest.  I thought about the amazing intelligence that lies behind something like nest design.  "Security, warmth and safety" are the key purposes of a nest according to an article I scanned online, and just about all birds use nests to bring their young into the world and nurture them.  I found out that an eagle's nest, called an Aerie, can be 5-6 feet in diameter and weigh a thousand pounds or more.  A hummingbird's nest amounts to strands of plant fiber woven together into a small camouglaged pocket (somewhat smaller than the eagle's nest).  Birds form nests in riverbanks, among sand pebbles, in hollowed trees and stone crevices.  I was fascinated to read about the weaverbirds.  They build waterproof homes by making threads stripped from large leaves and then weaving the threads to make large circular baskets, using more than a dozen kinds of knot in the process.  Apparently the final nest looks like fruit hanging from the tree.
The thought today is to find beauty in the processes of life and to see the Creator in His designs.  You know, just as the Lord fashioned the birds, themselves, I believe He developed these wonderful nest designs.  Just as the Lord fashioned us, so He has wonderful designs for us to fashion as well. 
You might say that one of our tasks is "nest-building for eternity".
Numbers 24:21 Then he saw the Kenites and uttered his oracle:  "Your dwelling place is secure, your nest is set in a rock;"
Rob Smith

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Behind our thoughts

Our internal life is where we live, really.  It's in our thoughts that we respond to the outer world of people and problems.  It occurred to me today that our thoughts have tendencies to react in certain ways.  It's almost like we've been "programmed" by our experiences, our personality...a lifetime of habits.  As I considered this further I thought that this is where the Lord comes in.  He wants to be "behind our thoughts", so He can fill our minds.  
I believe this is how it can work >>     We can establish the attitudes of our heart when we're away from the heat of problems, pressures and people.  We are able to do this by reflecting on God's Word, which is God's Way for us to respond, act or react and we internalize the truth. Our heart is changed by the persuasion of the Lord, through the Holy Spirit in the quiet times (the wonder of faith springing from exposure to God's living truth).   When we find ourselves in the battleground of life, He will bring to our thoughts those attitudes He made real earlier.  As we practice that mindset and experience blessing, we are encouraged to continue.
Just as an apprentice learns by doing and his learning is driven by real needs, so our spiritual growth is driven by life's problems and challenges.  The key is preparing our heart in the quiet times when we come to the Lord and He makes truth become real on a personal's another way His Word becomes flesh (in us !!).
Job 33:
2 I am about to open my mouth;
       my words are on the tip of my tongue.

 3 My words come from an upright heart;
       my lips sincerely speak what I know.

 4 The Spirit of God has made me;
       the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Psalm 16:

6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
       surely I have a delightful inheritance.

 7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
       even at night my heart instructs me.

 8 I have set the LORD always before me.
       Because he is at my right hand,
       I will not be shaken.


Rob Smith

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Risking rejection

Jesus seemed to be walking through minefields during much of His ministry.  He knew when to be open and when to be reserved, where to go to speak His message and where to avoid danger.  But there were interesting times when He stood right on the edge of great danger to reach the lost.  Look at this interesting passage from John Chapter 7, when Jesus privately had gone to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (verses 25-31):
At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, "Isn't this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Christ? But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."   Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, "Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me."  At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.  Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?"
Jesus knew that to reach those who would come to Him in faith that day it was necessary to openly reveal who He was before those who wanted to destroy Him. 
I think that we draw back, at times, from sharing our faith in the Lord because of the possibility of rejection.  Like Jesus, we need to risk rejection that others might come to faith.  As we walk closely with the Lord, there will be times He prompts us to identify with Christ even though that may not be popular.  As Ted Cornell would say to encourage us, in the choir, to hit a difficult note:  "Courage!!"
Rob Smith

Monday, May 21, 2007

Strong and flexible

A tree was designed by the Creator to be both strong and flexible.  We know that trees can stand as high as an apartment building, yet can sustain high winds.  Here's a great quote from the Museum of Natural History website: 
     It (the wood of a tree) has to be stiff, so that trees do not droop under their own weight; it has to be strong, so that the sheer force of the wind does not snap the trunk and branches; it has to be tough, so that when the tree gets damaged it does not shatter; finally it has to be light, so that it does not buckle under its own weight. No manufactured material could do all of these things: plastics are not stiff enough; bricks are too weak; glass is too brittle; steel is too heavy. Weight for weight, wood has probably the best engineering properties of any material.
Hurricane Isabel did knock down some large trees in our back yard, but the amazing thing to me is that most trees withstand tremendous winds without breaking.  You probably have watched during storms and seen how far they can sway and still survive.  Of course, a dead tree or branch is brittle and will snap under much weight or when blown hard and ultimately it will collapse under its own weight.
So, we also are designed with tremendous flexibility as the winds blow and the presence of the Lord, in the context of a vital relationship, is the best safeguard against snapping in the winds.  Apart from the Lord, people eventually do tend to collapse with life's storms, or eventually, under their own dead weight of sin.  Let's keep drawing the water of life through the root systems of our mind, eyes and hearts to provide strength to grow tall and strong...and to maintain flexibility, like the tree.
Ezekiel 17:24 All the trees of the field will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.  " 'I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.' "
Rob Smith

Sunday, May 20, 2007

clear purpose

Jesus seemed to have a crystal clear awareness of His purpose when He walked among us.  In John 6, verse 38 we read, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of HIm who sent Me."  I wonder if we are always so clear on our purpose.  Whose will are we carrying out in our daily life?  Do we have a sense of calling, a sense of the Lord's will for us?  Or, to be honest, are we more focused on our own will?  I think it is easy to begin seeing God as a resource for us to draw on to help us carry our our own will, rather than doing His will.  We take a clue as to God's will for our lives from His will for Jesus.  In this chapter of John, Jesus is explaining that just as God provided the manna to sustain the Israelites in the desert, so He sent His Son to become the bread of life for all who would believe. Verse 40 touches directly on God's will for us: "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." 
Just as we begin our walk walk with the Lord by "beholding and believing", I would suggest that we continue to walk the same way.  Colossians 2:6-7 says, "as you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,  rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving."
Just as we are born again by faith, we are sustained the same way.  Feeding by faith on the Lord is God's clear will for us!
Rob Smith

Saturday, May 19, 2007

spiritual resonance

We mentioned the other day that fragrance is a characteristic that the Lord appreciates.  Incense, sacrifices and even certain perfumes are mentioned in the Bible as pleasing to the Lord and, as believers, we are charged to be the fragrance of Christ.  I take that to mean there is something in our presence, before a word is said that communicates the reality of the Lord in our lives. 
Another wonderful quality that the Lord has blessed us with is sound.  In the choir we practice to create worshipful attitudes through blended voices that use harmony, timing and volume to charge the atmosphere..the air of our sanctuary... and bring the congregation into the presence of the Lord.  There is something wondrous about music, and about the human voice, that can bind message, emotion and conviction together in a form that can speak to the heart of the listener.
Everything has a natural frequency for vibration.  When a tuning fork vibrates at the natural frequency as a nearby object it will start to vibrate as well.  Two thoughts come to mind:  the Lord is able to adjust His voice to match our natural frequency, whether we're vibrating with anxiety, shivering with fear or effervescing with joy.  The other thought is a longing that the Lord would tune our natural frequency so it becomes a supernatural frequency that matches His, that we might hear Him more readily and walk in harmony and in oneness with Him.
Methodist pastor Robert Robertson penned these words in 1757, at the age of 22, in the midst of a great evangelical movement in England:
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Deuteronomy 4:11-12 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness.  Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.
Rob Smith

Friday, May 18, 2007

The wonder of faith

None of us has lived outside of, or beyond the limits of, this natural life.  We believe in eternal life and we have faith in Jesus that one day we will be with Him there.  I believe it is a great miracle that we have this faith.  While we have lived in the flesh we have never seen a living thing that has not, or will not, die.  Yet we believe, with all our hearts, that when we die it will result in a transformed body that will go on forever in the presence of the Lord.  That's a wonderful faith.
This morning I was reading the story of Lazarus (brother of Mary and Martha) and how Jesus raised him to life...opened the tomb and called Lazarus out.  Can you imagine the scene and the expressions on faces as Lazarus, who had died four days earlier, walked out in grave clothes?  Yesterday we were talking about fragrances and when Jesus told them to remove the stone from Lazarus' grave, Martha cautioned about the stench from the dead body.  But, just as there was no stench, there was no dead body.  I believe that Jesus was demonstrating His sovereignty over death, not just for those present that day, but for us too.  If He could bring Lazarus back from the dead to a restored natural life, He can fulfill the promise He made to Martha even before this miracle: 
John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Jesus makes this statement and asks this question to us all.  Even though we live in a natural world, where all that lives eventually dies, can we reach across and believe Jesus when He tells us we will never die, if we believe in...depend on...put our trust in Him.  This is the wonder of the story of Lazarus.  Isn't it great that this promise is for us too!
Rob Smith

Thursday, May 17, 2007

a sweet fragrance

During my lunch break today I stopped in a parking lot that was full of the sweet fragrance of honey suckle.  What a distinctive (and I think, appealing) aroma.  It's pretty remarkable how strong the smell was.  The plants were probably 50 feet from my car when I first picked up the scent.  I couldn't help but walk over and get a direct lungful from some of the clustered blossoms.  No wonder the bees swarm to the flowers.  You know we probably could have lived in a world that didn't have floral fragrance.  I'm glad the Lord designed it in.  We have a new granddaughter...she was born last week and her parents named her Caroline Rose.  My Mom cleverly gave a vase with three lovely roses to greet her arrival and honor her name.  Those roses also had a rich velvety smell.   Sometimes I think the Lord uses all the senses when He observes us.  We know He sees us and we know He's keenly aware of our thoughts...He certainly hears every Word...and I'm grateful to feel His touch, especially for help and healing.
Here's an interesting passage from Genesis 8:20-21 about Noah (after the flood)
"Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done."
Aaron was charged with burning incense morning and night on the altar:
Exodus 30:7,8  "Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the LORD for the generations to come."
There was even a special aroma that was to be like a perfume that only the Lord could enjoy:
Exodus 30:34-37 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD. "
....Remember that one of the gifts of the 3 Wise Men to Jesus was Frank-incense!
We are to be a sweet aroma for the Lord, as well:
2 Corinthians 2:14-15 "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing."
The sweet smell of honeysuckle will only last for a few weeks but we can be fragrant for Christ all our days.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

living water

The nature of water is such an apt metaphor for the Holy Spirit.  Jesus says in John 7:38 "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."  Consider some of the qualities of water.  It flows and will surround any object, no matter what shape.  It will fill any opening it reaches.  It will tend to be absorbed and retained by some materials and reflected or rejected by other materials.  It has a satisfying quality of quenching thirst and of reducing fever or scorching heat.  When it is still it becomes a mirror.  When it is in motion it is a powerful force. 
The Spirit of God is like this water and it flows from within us, as believers, to carry the presence of the Lord to others and to reflect Him, as well.  How wonderful!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

consider the ant

Proverbs 6:6 "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!"
I thought it would be fun to consider some of the interesting facts about ants.  If God can do such remarkable things with something so small and common, I wonder if He might have plans for us too?
The legs of the ant are very strong so they can run very quickly. If a man could run as fast for his size as an ant can, he could run as fast as a racehorse.
Ants can lift 20 times their own body weight.
An ant brain has about 250,000 brain cells. A human brain has 10,000 million so a colony of 40,000 ants has collectively the same size brain as a human. It has been estimated that an ant's brain may have the same processing power as a Macintosh II computer.

The abdomen of the ant contains two stomachs. One stomach holds the food for itself and second stomach is for food to be shared with other ants. 
The job of the queen is to lay eggs which the worker ants look after. Worker ants are sterile, they look for food, look after the young, and defend the nest from unwanted visitors.
Ants are clean and tidy insects. Some worker ants are given the job of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it outside in a special rubbish dump!
Each colony of ants has its own smell. In this way, intruders can be recognized immediately. Many ants such as the common Red species have a sting which they use to defend their nest.

Some birds put ants in their feathers because the ants squirt formic acid which gets rid of the parasites. 
At night the worker ants move the eggs and larvae deep into the nest to protect them from the cold. During the daytime, the worker ants move the eggs and larvae of the colony to the top of the nest so that they can be warmer.
If a worker ant has found a good source for food, it leaves a trail of scent so that the other ants in the colony can find the food.
A crushed ant will emit an alarm pheromone which in high concentration sends nearby ants into an attack frenzy.
Most ants are omnivorous. This means they eat everything, including other insects, seeds, oils and bread.
More than 10,000 species may exist worldwide. Approximately 570 species occur in the United States.
Rob Smith

Monday, May 14, 2007

What if...

What if we didn't have to worry about our future?
What if we didn't have to figure out where the money was going to come from?
What if we never had to be lonely because we were in the constant company of our best friend?
What if we had a place to go with every question, every doubt, every fear?
What if we got real sick but knew that ultimately we would be well forever?
What if we had an answer for our crumbling culture?
What if we had the key to make sense of birth and of death, of being young and becoming old?
What if we discovered that we don't have to fix everything, but there is One who can fix it all?
What if we could see beauty in what we see every day?
What if we realized that God is just as alive as we are?
What if we understood that He wants to spend time with us?
What if that was enough for us?
Rob Smith

Sunday, May 13, 2007

all about growth

In business it's all about the "bottom line".  The bottom line is the profit or loss a company makes when the dust settles over all the income and expenses.  Those who own and run most companies obviously aren't satisfied with continual losses and most insist on progressive growth in profits.  American business is all about constantly improving the bottom line.  There are two basic ways to do that:: one is to improve existing operations and the other is to buy-out the competition.  Over the past few decades, as our car industry has peaked and faced fierce competition from abroad, Detroit realized it couldn't beat the competition anymore, so they tried to buy at least a piece of their European and Asian rivals, with mixed results.  
We are looking for growth in our personal lives as well.  Just like businesses, some folks try to grow by working on improving personally.  Unfortunately others try to "grow" by pulling down those around them.  I think as Christians we have a third way which is the best of all:  when we help others grow in truth and in their relationship with the Lord, then we all grow.  One of the wonderful consequences of this approach is that we can experience three-dimensional spiritual growth: we grow...they grow...and we grow closer to each other.  Maybe that's one reason why Jesus told us to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Matt 28:19-20. 
When we go, we all will grow.
Rob Smith

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Coming back for us

John chapter 14 has been my favorite chapter in the Bible for a long time.  I find so much reassurance there.  This morning I was struck by Jesus' promise to come for us:
John 14:1-3 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
We often consider the promise of Jesus' second coming when He comes in the clouds for all the world and we wonder if that Day is soon.  This morning I am warmed by the promise that He will come for me personally when it is time to go and take me to be with Him.  He actually has prepared a place for us.  I help people plan for retirement and one of the aspects most people consider is whether they will change homes in retirement, or perhaps eventually relocate to a senior center or assisted living.  Isn't it encouraging to know that our heavenly residence will be ready and our personal escort will be Jesus, Himself!
Rob Smith

Friday, May 11, 2007


Anyone who has seen the Mel Gibson film, Braveheart, will remember the final word of the movie.  The Scottish hero, William Wallace, is being executed by the English but as he dies he channels all the pain of his torture into an impassioned yell: "F R E E D O M !!!"   Of course the whole movie is about the Scots seeking freedom from the overbearing English intruders, whose rule and authority they rejected.  Recently I've been reading biographies of individuals from the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars.  We fought for our own freedom from England in the first and to free the slaves in the second war.  America and freedom are almost synonymous.  I think every child in our country grows up with the notion that freedom is a noble and great quality.
As Christians we know that God actually has made all men free.  Regardless of the form of government or control over our outer life, the Lord has given every man and woman the freedom to decide what will govern our inner person.  Of itself, freedom is only a means to an end.  When the survivors of concentration camps were liberated at the end of World War II I'm sure their freedom was far more than that...but after months and years even they knew that the absence of confinement didn't represent fulfillment.  Rather it meant opportunity.
So what is real freedom?
Luke 4:18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
        because he has anointed me
        to preach good news to the poor.
        He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
       and recovery of sight for the blind,
       to release the oppressed,  
Ephesians 3:12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
1 Peter 2:16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.
John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Jesus has brought us freedom from the captivity of sin that we might approach God confidently, serve others instead of ourselves, and find a permanent place in the family of that's freedom worth shouting about !!
Rob Smith

Thursday, May 10, 2007

worship is personal

The essence of worship is personal.  Jesus, himself, drew away from all others (including His disciples) many times to be alone with His Father.  One time He allowed Peter, James, and John to watch a worship experience.
Matthew 14:23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
Matthew 17:1-2 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
We often worship the Lord in a large group setting.  There is great beauty and a wonderful sense of the Lord's presence in those times.  It is good to remember the personal side of worship, though, and our need to draw away and be with the Lord ourselves.  It is in the quietness of our own times with Him that we often hear the personal direction and encouragement, the personal words of truth for our own hearts, that we need.  I think it is so awesome that He desires to have time with each of us!  Remember, He knows each of His sheep by name:
John 10:3-4 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
Let's make personal time to be alone with the one who knows us and loves us so well.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The work of God

We would like to do the work God wants us to do...right? 
After all there is only so much time to make a difference while we are on this earth and there sure are plenty of problems to address.  I think it's interesting that when people were trying to get a direct answer from Jesus about what they needed to be doing to "do God's work" He didn't talk about "doing".  He talked about "believing".  John 6:28-29 "Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?'  Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent'.
I think this has two important applications.  First, we must believe and trust in Jesus as God's son, sent down from Heaven to pay for our sin.  This vital work assures our salvation: John 6:40 "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
Second, having believed in Christ unto salvation, as we center our beliefs, our trust, our hope and our joy on the Lord we tend to find God's purpose and do those things that please and satisfy Him.  There is always a choice, even for those who are saved, to center thoughts, concerns and trusts on other sources than the Lord.  It helps me to remember that there is work in believing because there is a continual undertow that tries to pull me away from trusting in the Lord.  We can start each day by "planting our flag" in the Lord and His kingdom.
Matthew 11:29 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
Let's yoke up with Jesus and pull with Him at our side.
blessings to fellow believers,
Rob Smith

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

built for service

Did you know that of the 206 bones in an adult body over half are located in our hands and feet!  I was looking at hands and feet in an online anatomy picture and I was amazed at the complexity of bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves and blood supply that all work together like a fabulous symphony just to allow us to put one foot in front of the other or hit a letter on a computer keyboard.
  My mother's hands are the most loving ones I've known.  They've helped care for me from day one until recent days when I had my accident.  She bravely deals with arthritis that has swollen the joints of her hands, but that has not deterred her from serving or fashioning knitted goods for her great grandchildren.  She has made countless meals, spent untold hours adding beauty to her garden, tended many who are ill or disabled, and decorated scores of walls with paint and wallpaper over the years.  It is Mother's Day this week and I can think of no one who better illustrates "going and doing" for others like my Mom.  She reminds me that there's a reason God designed our hands and feet with such complexity and capability.  They are the front line of service and we were all made to serve.  I must thank so many of you for hands and feet that have cut my grass, fashioned tasty meals, cleaned our home and were joined in prayer for me and my family in recent weeks.  It is such a beautiful picture of love to witness hands and feet led by hearts of love.  We were built to serve!
Jesus' hands were instruments of blessing:
Luke 13:13  And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
and He touches others with our hands an carries His gospel on our feet:
Acts 5:12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people.
Acts 14:3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
Romans 10:15  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “ How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
Rob Smith

Monday, May 7, 2007

true fellowship

We use the term "fellowship" commonly in the church.  The familiar meaning seems to convey the friendship and warm feelings we share when we are with Christian friends.  Sometimes we use it as a verb as in: "I'm looking forward to fellowshipping with some good friends".  Certainly good times with good friends are always welcome but I would challenge us to look freshly at the word.  I believe that the deeper, richer meaning of the word has to do with experiencing the nearness of our Lord in our experience.  There is a characteristic of our Lord that He is touched when even a few of us gather with thoughts, hearts and activity squarely centered on Him. 
Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
There is a real possibility of experiencing the brush of heaven, the touch of the Lord, and a joyful peace directly from the heart of God when He is at the center of our interaction and the central purpose of our meeting.  Here are some other verses:
1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ephesians 3:8-9 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery
1 John 1:3-4 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
Fellowship is more than proximity.  It has to do with presence, and the best fellowship is being in the presence of our Lord!
Rob Smith

Sunday, May 6, 2007

come in union

Holy Communion has always been a wonder and a bit of mystery to me.  I really love the way we pause and focus so intently on Jesus and the great price He paid with his life and through His death.  Today as we participated in the Communion service I was reflecting on the meaning and it occurred to me that there is truly such significance in taking the elements that represent Christ's body and blood into our bodies.  Look at 1 Corinthians 11:23-25  For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”  Of all the ways the Lord could have asked His disciples to remember Him, He chose the symbolic picture of taking His very body and blood into our being.
What this says to me is that we don't remember Jesus primarily for His power, His wisdom, His wonder-working miracles.  We don't celebrate primarily the superiority of His truth over all other religions.  We don't primarily recall Him as magnificent teacher or even as maker of all we see. 
Jesus asked that we primarily remember that the body that was broken for us and the blood that sealed His redemption promise has actually entered our individual lives.  He is Emmanuel ("God with us") not only because He lived among us in the flesh.  He is Emmanuel because He still lives within our flesh as we have welcomed Him, individually, within.
blessings in remembrance of Him,
Rob Smith

Saturday, May 5, 2007

smile power

Yesterday I went through a Macdonald's drive-thru for lunch.  The gal at the window shined a big smile as she passed my lunch just warmed my heart and I actually forgot about the hamburger inside the bag for a moment.  It made me think about the power of a sincere smile.  Davy Crockett claimed that he didn't need a rifle to shoot a raccoon...he could just stare and grin and the animal would fall right out of the tree.  A smile is a positive and very easy way to connect and communicate love.  We have good reason to smile, don't we?  Our sin has been forgiven, our every need is being met, our lives have the purpose of heaven and the presence of Jesus' spirit lodges within our hearts.  We're not always in the mood to smile and it's not always appropriate...but maybe we can find more opportunities to connect with a face that's lit up.  So many need to find that light.
Romans 12:6-8 (the message)
If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Ephesians 6:5-8 (The Message)
Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don't just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ's servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you're really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.
blessings (with a smile)
Rob Smith

Friday, May 4, 2007

to see royalty

The past few days our little town has been near euphoria as Queen Elizabeth of England has been in the neighborhood.  Some folks have waited for hours to catch a glimpse of her lovely hats and patented cordial wave.  She seems to really enjoy making contact with brief exchanges of flowers and warm greetings.  People have traveled here from several states distant to see royalty; (...didn't we go to some trouble to separate ourselves from monarchs a few centuries back?).  Somehow. the Queen carries it all off with just the right blend of formality mixed with genuine human interest and sincerity.  I had the thought this afternoon that we have the king of all kings as our Lord and Savior.  We can go directly to Him any time and are encouraged to do so more than is our nature.  He also makes His dwelling place not in a distant and foreboding castle, but within the delicate frame of our own hearts.  Beyond all that, not only do we not have to wait in line for a glimpse...He will come to us.  He is the king who also is our maker and the one who has sewn together the fabric of intimacy that had been torn in Eden.  His royal robe started as swaddling cloths and ended in grave linens, His crown was a painful coil of thorns.  He doesn't wave but He does beckon to us: Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
The line is always short for those who want to see Him.
1 Timothy 6:14-15 "that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords,"
Rob Smith

Thursday, May 3, 2007

the real you

Popular marketing offers countless products we can buy to improve ourselves.  Think about all the ads we see on fitness, weight loss, hair care, skin care and apparel.  When I had my accident a month ago I discovered that my body was almost like a "third person".  I found that my arm could shatter but that had no bearing on the "me" deep inside.  It has been more like a very important tool that I depend on has been damaged rather than "I've been damaged".  Same thing with the lacerations on my face.  The good thing is it has caused me to realize that those wounds and any possible scars can leave no mark on the "real me", which is deep inside.
The whole experience has reinforced the fact that our true identity, our personhood, is of a separate nature than the physical package we strut about in all day.  If I want to work on "a more beautiful me", I need to concentrate on this inner person, where heart and mind are engaged and the issues are weightier than a clear complexion and rippling muscle.
Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 
Matthew 16:26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
Rob Smith

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

designed to heal

Since I've been recovering from an accident that included a few significant wounds, I've been amazed to see the healing power that has been designed into my body,  Of course, I'm also amazed and grateful for the skills of paramedics, nurses and doctors who have dedicated years to the acquisition of skills and knowledge that set my body in a direction where it could mend properly.  But it occurred to me that the Lord knew, when He designed man, that sickness, accidents, and acts of sin would inevitably come.  He designed into our frame not only the capacity for life but the resources to recover from a wide array of maladies.  He knew that this creature, man, was headed for a fallen world even before we chose to disobey Him in the Garden of Eden.  Our design anticipated it.  So my thought has to do with taking comfort in God's large sovereign hand.  He knows what will happen ahead of time and is not surprised.  Whether we're considering mankind as a whole or our lives, individually, God has anticipated the future.  His design includes events that will happen in the future.  He will not be surprised by any activity or problem and He has provided for healing in our bodies in this life and for our eternal lives.  His design is sound.
Isaiah 58:8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
       and your healing will quickly appear;
       then your righteousness will go before you,
       and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Rob Smith