Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Experiencing victory

Tuesday evening I was fortunate to be in the stands to watch the Chapel softball team win two games and claim the James City County Men's Softball Championship!

They had to win the first game to qualify for the championship game that followed. Both games were close. The first was won in extra innings by one run and the second was a back and forth contest where the Chapel ended up a winner by two runs. Everybody knew what the goal was as the night began, but no one could know the outcome. During the game, everyone knew that the key was for each guy to get a good hit every time he was up, but no one could absolutely control that and we made plenty of outs when we wish we'd made hits. One inning in the championship game we had the bases loaded with no outs and still found a way to make three outs and not score a single run! Looking back at the games, we made plenty of mistakes and misplayed several opportunities to make plays....it's hard to say just how we won, but we did. There's no way you could point to one player and say that because of his individual talent, skill and control we won. Actually, we could have lost...but we won! In a similar way, we have victory in Jesus. There have been plenty of times that we've blown it. Sure, we all know the goal is eternal life and to be with the Lord, but somehow we find ways to drop the ball or fail to concentrate on a pitch. Winning in softball happens as a team experience although everyone on the team is a champion, individually. Winning in our faith takes a team too. I suppose that's why all the various spiritual gifts were given and why we're encouraged to stick together and help one another. The most important player is the Lord, Himself. We know He's committed to the victory...He laid down a sacrifice that is still advancing runners today!

1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

blessings teammates!
Rob Smith

Monday, July 30, 2007

His blood covers the world

Earlier today, I was exercising in the big James City Recreation Center Pool.  I noticed that every so often the young lifeguards  would test the pool water chemistry.  Then they'd add some ingredients and recheck later.  This pool is really large...there must be thousands of gallons of water.  Through properties of dilution, the chemicals that are added to one part of the pool eventually reach across the pool and equally affect every drop of water.  Jesus is the ultimate lifeguard.  He came once and tested the water of our world.  He found that it was missing one essential ingredient...HIs own blood.  When He gave His life once on the cross, His blood started to disperse .  The pool covers the entire world and runs across time.  Jesus intersected history and  changed the quality of life forever.  Each of us has the chance to receive the cleansing power of the blood because His gift is that powerful and is equally available to all.
Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 
Rob Smith

to be encouraged

The word "encourage" is made of two roots "en" and "courage".  We're pretty familiar with courage.  That has something to do with facing difficulty with bravery and heart.  The reality of life calls for many personal battles to be fought, with disease, personal disappointment and distress.  We typically look at courage as a personal  quality of strength.  We tend to think that some people are courageous and others not...that it depends on the individual.  That's where the little "en" up front comes in.  It means to "make or put in".  It turns out that we can help put courage into others.  Just as the Lord encourages us by His word and His presence, so we can encourage those around us.  I suspect that, no matter how brave some may appear, we all can benefit from support and encouragement.  We don't stand alone in courage, we stand together encouraged!
Acts 9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
blessings with encouragement,
Rob Smith

Sunday, July 29, 2007

baby thoughts

Psalm 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
It seems like I've been around a lot of babies lately.  My daughter has two children under two years old and we've been around some my daughter's friends, who also have infants and toddlers.  Just to be near these special little people warms your heart.  They are so soft and sweet (even when they're unhappy...they're still sweet to me!).  They have glowing eyes, surprising smiles and are full of energy as they crawl, scoot or run from one activity or interest to another.  It's almost hard to believe that one day these will be grown-up adults with problems and bills and careers and all the other things that face us.  Children are one experience where we really outdo the angels.  After all, they were created beings who have always been just as they are now...I don't think they grew up because they weren't born like we were.  We get the high privilege of being a part of new life as it moves from the very beginning, through birth and all the stepping stones of growth.  Sometimes I'm convinced that the Lord gives us children because we learn and grow so much as a result of raising them.  In a way, a family is a laboratory of learning where everyone is changing and growing, whether parent or child.  I guess the truth is that we start the process of growth as babies and just continue growing throughout our journey here.  Even though the physical process of maturing peaks and declines and babies grow to adulthood, we continue to grow spiritually as we prepare for eternity...From the standpoint of heaven we must seem like babes to our Lord!
Psalm 78:3 what we have heard and known,
       what our fathers have told us.

 4 We will not hide them from their children;
       we will tell the next generation
       the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
       his power, and the wonders he has done.

 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
       and established the law in Israel,
       which he commanded our forefathers
       to teach their children,


Rob Smith


Friday, July 27, 2007

a taste of honey

Honey is an amazing substance.  It is so good that we couldn't let the bees have all of it.  By the way it takes 20,000 to 40,000 worker bees to fill a hive.  Did you know that honey has a lot more going for it than sweetness, alone (though it is far sweeter than sugar).  Besides the complex sugars that are obvious to the taste there are several important vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.  This is really healthy stuff.  It's interesting that part of the preparation of honey requires the bees to fan their wings over the nectar and cause most of the water to evaporate...otherwise it would ferment.  As it is, honey can sit on the shelf almost indefinitely without spoiling.
Honey is a beautiful illustration of God's loving provision for us.  He has a way of wrapping healthy gifts inside a sweet packages.  Have you tasted the sweet love gifts of family, children, and friends?  Have you known the joy of satisfying work and have you discovered the unique gifts and talents the Lord has blessed you with?  I imagine that if it takes 40,000 bees to make our honey, it takes a lot of heavenly care to fashion each of our lives.  I believe that our wonderful Lord would like for each of us  to be honey in the lives of others...gifts of sweetness that bring health (hopefully we will have long shelf lives, too, without spoiling!)
Deuteronomy 32:13 He made him ride on the heights of the land
                             and fed him with the fruit of the fields.
                             He nourished him with honey from the rock,
                             and with oil from the flinty crag,
Psalm 19:9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
                 enduring forever.
                 The ordinances of the LORD are sure
                 and altogether righteous.

               10 They are more precious than gold, 
                  than much pure gold; 
           they are sweeter than honey, 
                 than honey from the comb.

              11 By them is your servant warned; 
                in keeping them there is great reward.

sweet blessings,

Rob Smith



Psalm 43:3 Send forth your light and your truth,
       let them guide me;
       let them bring me to your holy mountain,
       to the place where you dwell.
What rhymes with tooth and satisfies more than food?  Truth......I'm convinced that somewhere deep inside we long for the truth like we long for satisfying food.  We want to know the right and dependable way because all around us swirl deception, poor judgment, conflicts of interest, influence peddlers, exaggerated news, unreported news...We don't always have enough knowledge and we can't always rely on our "common sense" alone.  Truth has something to do with important facts and vital wisdom.  Finding the truth is like sitting in trigonometry class and, all of a sudden, it starts to make sense.  Truth is revealed and truth is eternal.  Truth is one of those things that just doesn't change, but is necessary for every situation and every day.  No wonder that one of the ways Jesus describes Himself is the Truth  ("I am the way and the truth and the life" from John 14:6).  Living without truth is like trying to draw a perfectly straight line without a ruler...you may come close with a lot of effort, but you just can't get there.
Let's bask in the truth as we enjoy the company of Jesus!
Rob Smith

Thursday, July 26, 2007

where do you turn?

Separately, the New York Times reports Mr. Maliki and President Bush have been holding video conferences at least once every two weeks. "In sessions usually lasting more than an hour, Mr. Bush, a committed Christian of Texas by way of privileged schooling in New England, and Mr. Maliki, an Iraqi Shiite by way of political exile in Iran and Syria, talk about leadership and democracy, troop deployments and their own domestic challenges," the Times says, citing an official who has attended the meetings. And sometimes they talk about their faith in God. "It is an issue that comes up between two men who are believers in difficult times, who are being challenged," the official says.

I saw the  above quote in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.  There probably aren't two men on the planet with more antagonism, pressure and ill-will expressed toward them than President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki these days.  Where does a person turn when it seems the world has turned against them?  Our faith tends to flourish more under duress than under comfort.  We are developed and we are defined by difficulty.  I don't know anything about the specifics of their conversations, but I'm touched that "their faith in God" is  included.   I suppose there comes a time when each of us must realize that if our lives are to count for anything, we must recognize that our prime motivation cannot be to please others or to please ourselves.  During our brief stay on planet Earth the only enduring satisfaction will come from drawing our energy from the living God and living for Him, as well.  I'm  grateful that we have a God who will never turn His back on us, even when it may seem that everyone else has.

Matthew 28:20 "and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—


Rob Smith


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

real food

Most of us consider ourselves well fed when our stomachs are full of a good meal.  That truly is a satisfying feeling (unless we overdo it and get a bit stuffed).  I was  reflecting on the analogy the Lord used to describe Himself when He said in John 6:55 "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink."
The process of nourishment that food accomplishes goes far beyond the stomach.  Through a complex biochemical and anatomical process, food from vegetable and animal sources is converted to life-giving energy that reaches every single cell in our body.  Nourishment from food doesn't take place until those individual cells are fed.  We humans are made of about 100 trillion cells and every one of them has a distinct function and carries unique DNA that give it our identity.  They all  require food  to survive...every last cell.  The word "cell" means "little room".  The first discoverers of cells thought they looked like rooms.  So when Jesus says his flesh is real food and His blood is real drink, that goes far beyond just filling us...He goes to every tiny corner or little room of our being and nourishes all the vital parts and I'm sure we're talking about all the invisible components that make up our spiritual nature.  He satisfies us completely, just like our food and drink sustain the trillions of cells of our human body.  That certainly is "real food".
May our physical hunger remind us of our need for the spiritual food Jesus provides!
Rob Smith

born to fly

Yesterday was another gorgeous summer day, with a blue sky that seemed to extend to heaven.  As I gazed up I spotted a large bird soaring lazily in circles.  The hawk must have  been at least 1,000 feet above ground and maybe higher.  It occurred to me that he was perfectly comfortable at that height.  He certainly wasn't afraid of falling.  Of course he's not on a pleasue cruise up there, he's constantly looking for his next meal.  Hawks have fantastic vision.  They see about 8 times better than we do and even have a built-in magnifier (like binoculars) built into the center of their vision.  They can actually see forward and sideways at the same time.  An eagle can spot a fish, underwater, from several hundred feet in the air (even though the fish is camouflaged with darker skin on top and fishermen have a hard time seeing them from a few feet away).  An eagle actually has about 7,000 feathers made of keratin, just like our nails and hair.  These are not just designed for flight but for insulation and are tough and strong.  Just as the hawk and the eagle have been designed to fly and to live in the air, we have been designed for flight, as well.  The Holy Spirit is our wind.  The great capacity for faith and trust, that the Lord has built in, allows us to soar above earthly limits.  He has given us spiritual vision that can see beyond the horizon of this life, even to the next, and this establishes our sense of well being, even as we cope with earthly difficulties.  We are not afraid of falling, because we were also designed for flight!
Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD
       will renew their strength.
       They will soar on wings like eagles;
       they will run and not grow weary,
       they will walk and not be faint.
Rob Smith

Monday, July 23, 2007

no place like home

Acts 17:28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
It's a strange feeling not to have a home.  I wouldn't say that Shirley and I are "homeless people" because we're staying for a few months with my Mom and we're not out on the streets.  But it seems odd to be temporarily without an address that represents our unique residence.  For over two decades we went to the same kitchen for meals, used the same familiar bathtub for showers, found rakes and lawnmower in the same familiar garage and got our mail from the same mailbox.  Home is some kind of center for us.  It's the place we leave when we go to work, knowing that it's the place we'll return to at the end of the day.  It's the place that wraps around our children and gives them shelter and security while they grow up.  I suppose today's thought is a reminder that no matter where we live, Jesus is our real home.  As the scripture above says, our real life and movement all take place within Him.  In a sense, we carry our permanent eternal home with us wherever we go, and we can be confident He'll never move away from us!
2 Peter 3:13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
Rob Smith

Sunday, July 22, 2007

your pin number to Heaven

These days we all carry secret codes with us to protect access to our money, our car, our home, our cell phone.  I was just thinking about how I hardly carry cash anymore because I use a debit card instead.  When I present the debit card I have to key in my secret pin number to make it work.  If somebody stole my wallet they'd have a hard time getting money because they don't know the code.  The Lord has set up a pin number to get access to the riches of Heaven too.  You can't just show up and demand services or show your good works card or your religious membership certificate.  It turns out that there is an access code.  You might want to grab a pencil....o.k. the pin number is xxxxx (sorry, that's not very helpful).  The real pin number is JESUS (doesn't have to be all caps but that's preferred).  You actually have to apply for your own card.  The good thing is, once you've received your card, you don't have to show the card again and again and you don't have to worry about losing the card or changing your pin and the number can't be stolen.  (You might even consider sharing this pin with others!!)
JESUS is the key to Heaven!
Ephesians 2:17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
Rob Smith

Saturday, July 21, 2007

hands-on living

It occurs to me this morning that our hand represents the connecting point between what is inside our personal lives and the rest of life.  The final expression of wrath, love, compassion, fear, action, or addiction ultimately will reach expression through our hands.  In a sense, our heart is revealed through our hands.  I looked through the Wisdom books this morning to find scriptures that reference the hand and there are hundreds of verses that do so.  Here are a few:
Psalm 145:16 You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.
Psalm 63:8 My soul follows close behind You;Your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 123:2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
                   as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, 
                   so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
                   till he shows us his mercy.
Job 31:21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
               knowing that I had influence in court,         
          22 then let my arm fall from the shoulder, 
               let it be broken off at the joint.
Proverbs 26:9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand
                    is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Psalm 37:23 If the LORD delights in a man's way,
                   he makes his steps firm; 
              24 though he stumble, he will not fall,
                  for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
I believe the Lord has called us to touch our world with hands that hold to comfort and encourage, with hands that help when weak hands fail, with hands that act to defend those who are defenseless, with hands that gently lead and rarely strike, with the hands of Jesus who still touches our world today (and often through our hands)!
handfuls of blessings to you!
Rob Smith

Friday, July 20, 2007

missing ingredient

We're staying with my Mom for a few months until our new home is done.  It's great to enjoy some of her cooking.  This morning she was making muffins as I wandered into the kitchen.  She had poured the ingredients into the little paper cups to cook the muffins and then exclaimed, "Oh no, I forgot the baking powder".  So, I grabbed the can of baking powder from the cupboard and she remixed the ingredients to include a spoonful of the powder.  I asked her what the baking powder did and she explained that it made the muffins rise.  A little research shows that baking powder combines an acid with an alkali, which react during cooking to create carbon dioxide gas,,, which inflates the muffins. Otherwise I guess they look more like a puddle than a muffin.  It hit me that, just like the muffins, we need a little lift in our day as we get started, or we may have a case of "flat day".  A  dose of Holy Spirit  in the morning as we awake can give us the lift we need to rise above the pressures of the next 24 hours.  Maybe that's what I'm missing when the day just doesn't seem to have any pizzazz.  I need to bring the Lord into my mind!
James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
Rob Smith

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Three distant relatives

Deuteronomy 30:20 that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
Acts 3:13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.
Matthew 8:11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
Did you ever realize the special relationship we have with three men who are named throughout the Bible?  Again and again these three related men (Grandfather, Son and Grandson) are given as an example of God's commitment to us.  God demonsterated for all generations through His promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that one day they and their descendants would inherit a promised land of plenty.  This was fulfilled in earthly terms when the Jordan was crossed and the descendants of Abraham reached the promised land of Israel.   It's especially wonderful that the promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has now been extended to you and I.  Even though men like us delivered up Jesus to Pilate to be crucified, God held onto His promise made to those three patriarchs so that one day  in Heaven many of us will come from around the globe and actually sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the eternal promised land.  What God proved faithful to do for three generations He will complete for all generations!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


As if it wasn't busy enough today...what with moving out of our house and cleaning to prepare for the new family moving in...I got a speeding ticket!  I was doing 39 in a 25 zone.  I couldn't believe it...sure didn't seem like I was going too fast...but I was guilty!  When the policeman  pulled me over I was so surprised I started to get out of my car...he didn't like that and asked me politely to get back in the car.  I became very cooperative after that.  But I still got a ticket...I'm not happy about the ticket.  It's expensive and it will probably impact my car insurance rate.  There is also this feeling of embarassment because I made a public mistake and the flashing lights of the police car were there to broadcast it to my temporary new neighborhood (we're staying with my Mom while finishing our new home). 
Reflecting on this experience afterward I realized that the part of the speeding ticket that galled me most was that I was publicly identified for a valid infraction.  It made me think...what if the Lord tapped me on the shoulder every time I broke a commandment (even if no one else could see).  The police officer who pulled me over was very cordial.  He even explained that they were paying particular attention to the speed limit in that neighborhood due to recent complaints...I think he sensed my frustration.  As the Lord looks into our hearts I imagine he is also very composed.  He also is paying attention to violations in His neighborhood, ever since that serpent Satan showed up there has been a run of violations.  The reality of it is that doing  39 in a 25 is not the worst sin I''ve committed in my heart.  Just as the police officer faithfully pulled me over to help maintain safe conditions in this neighborhood, I'm glad that the Lord does pull me over as well, through the tug He places by His Spirit when I start to wander outside the lines of His plan.  Both the police officer and the Lord really only want the best for us.  They have every right to expect the best from us!
Psalm 119:176 I have strayed like a lost sheep.
                       Seek your servant,
                       for I have not forgotten your commands.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Five reasons we act

I was thinking about the motivations we have to take action in our lives.  I came up with five categories: routine, emergency, desire, persuasion, and inspiration(faith).  In a typical day routine may carry us through much of our activity.  Emergency will surface occasionally (unless you have young children around and "emergencies" become routine).  Temptation and the desires of the flesh lie always right below the surface and seem coiled like a snake, poised to strike when a vulnerable moment is sensed.  Unfortunately, sometimes we give in to these desires so often that we can form addictions that become "routine".  America is all about persuasion and "sales" and a portion of every day we are exposed to advertising and sales influence trying to push us to buy or commit to spend or act.  But the area we may exercise least is inspiration and faith, where the source of our motivation is our direct tie with the Lord.  It's a shame that we often let the other four motivations crowd out the magnificent privilege we have of inclining our hearts and minds toward our heavenly Father.  He has plenty for us: things to do, people to help, truths to believe, and peace that comes from being in His presence.  I think we need to exercise this category of motivation more!
Isaiah 58:2 For day after day they seek me out;
       they seem eager to know my ways,
       as if they were a nation that does what is right
       and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
       They ask me for just decisions
       and seem eager for God to come near them.
blessings and hope for inspiration!
Rob Smith

Monday, July 16, 2007

power of the past

We can't live in the past.  We must face each day squarely and honestly and tackle the responsibilities and issues that face us.  Yet, there is an important role for the past.  This week Shirley and I are moving out of a home we've lived in for 22 years.  Our youngest daughter, Bethany, was born 3 weeks after we moved in and it's the only home she's known.  There is a doorframe in one of the closets where we marked the height of the girls as they grew.  Memories of Christmases, birthdays, first days of school,  the girls getting picked up for proms saturate this place.  I am reminded today that memories help anchor us and serve as signposts of the Lord's rich love toward us.  As we go through our lives, sometimes trials and problems try to rip us from our peace.  But we have specific memories of the Lord's healing, protection, provision for our family, and salvation that can not be denied and that help us cling to Him, as our rock, no matter how swift the current may be that seeks to carry us away.  No, we can't live in the past.  But from the past we can draw confidence that our unchanging Lord will continue to carry us.
Deuteronomy 7:17 “If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’— 18 you shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: 19 the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.
Rob Smith

Sunday, July 15, 2007

faith's beginnings

Ruth 1:16-17 But Ruth said, "Don't force me to leave you; don't make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I'll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I'll die, and that's where I'll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!"
I was reading the first chapter of the book of Ruth yesterday.  It's an interesting family story with a very sad beginning.  Ruth and her sister-in-law, Orpah, were young widows.  Their mother-in-law Naomi was also a widow.  Naomi and her family had moved to Moab from Israel (Bethlehem) years before and so neither Ruth nor Orpah knew of the Israelites' God before marrying into the family (they were local girls from Moab).  At a certain point, Naomi decided it was time to head back to her roots in Israel.  She discouraged the girls from following her with a very convincing argument:  after all they had much more chance of remarrying within their culture in Moab, where they were well known and accepted, than if they followed her to Bethlehem.  Orpah saw the logic in this right away and after kissing her mother in law goodbye, she headed back to her Moabite family.  Ruth turned out to be more illogical.  Somehow, after living with Naomi for ten years or so, Ruth had developed a heart attraction for her mother-in-law that was directly interwoven with Naomi's sincere walk with God.  She had seen how Naomi had conducted herself with courage and faith while living in a totally foreign culture without the protection or companionship of a husband and she had realized that God is a real person who can be known and depended on.  When forced to choose between her familiar Moabite culture, that didn't include God, and the foreign Israelite culture, that did include God, she chose God.  I believe this is a perfect picture of faith.  A miracle takes place when we really see the living God in another person's life and we decide that knowing the same God they know is the most important thing we can do, no matter how illogical it may look to others.
As Ruth said in the quote above, when you come to know God, "not even death" can separate you from those you love in the Lord, or from God, Himself.  In the Lord our journey begins here and continues, forever, in Heaven.
Rob Smith

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Woodpeckers for truth

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 "Don't suppress the Spirit, and don't stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don't be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what's good. Throw out anything tainted with evil."
I've been hearing woodpeckers quite a bit recently.  One of them has become fond of the metal cap on our chimney.  When he pecks it with his bill, he must be sending a signal to woodpeckers across the county, because it reverberates so noisily.  It turns out that woodpeckers hammer trees and other objects for two reasons: to claim a territory and to find their food.  I have been particularly curious about how the woodpecker finds its meals.  I knew it had something to do with all that pecking.  It turns out that the bird pecks hard against the outer bark of the wood and listens to see if the wood is hollow beneath.  If so, there is probably a tunnel that insects have created.  He can then bore a hole with his beak and use his very long tongue (as long as his body!) to find and snare his insect prey.  In a way, he's "checking out" the tree before he uses energy to go after his food.  We need to check out the messages we hear, like the woodpecker.  We should test spiritual lessons and other communications that are purported to be truthful and see if they ring solid and true according to God's word before we invest energy and heart to follow them.  A good message can stand up to a lot of "pecking" without collapse.
Rob Smith

Friday, July 13, 2007

Less is more

The other day a fellow I didn't recognize approached me and greeted me by name while I was doing physical therapy.  I was just a little startled that this stranger would know me.  He then explained who he was and I remembered him, but his appearance was radically different than the last time I'd seen him, perhaps 6 or 7 years ago.  He had been severely overweight and taken serious action.  A gastric bypass operation had ultimately reduced his weight by about 1/3, from 300 to 200 pounds.  His face was much narrower and more sharply defined than I recalled.   As we talked about our children and life activities I recognized the same personality I'd known in the past...but I never would have recognized him unless he'd approached me.  Sometimes less is more and in his case there is more energy and endurance.  He has the same job that he did in the past and it is a demanding physical job that calls for him to carry quite a bit of weight and be on his feet all day.  Imagine how much better he must feel to take on that routine with 100 fewer pounds of body weight to support!  The thought today has to do with our outlook on the things of this world.  We can easily embrace the cultural current of "desire and acquire" to add to our material possessions.  In a sense we can be like a hot air balloon that just barely hovers above the ground.  If we throw out some of the bags of stone and dirt our balloon will rise.  If we can reduce our grip on this life, we can be freed to seen things from a higher or better perspective.  Sometimes I think we need a "spiritual bypass" to reduce our appetite for the material, that we might grow in the Lord!!
John 3:30-31 He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.
Rob Smith

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Crickets defy gravity

I noticed a grasshopper walking up the outside of my office window yesterday.  I don't usually associate "superpowers" with a common insect, but here was an obvious example of gravity being defied.  I've seen this before, of course, with ants and other bugs but the large grasshopper walking up the large window made an impression.  I was curious how the grasshopper could do this.  It turns out that there are hairy adhesive pads on their legs that secrete an oily substance.  This substance causes the hairs to adhere to the glass and provides traction to walk vertically and to resist forces that want to dislodge it.
  I suppose this helps the small creature to hang on when it gets windy.  Maybe it also helps them chase their prey.  It occurred to me that the same God who created the force of gravity also created the grasshopper.  He gave this humble creature a wonderful ability to overcome the universal tendency to fall so that it can survive.  Apparently we humans don't have a need to climb smooth vertical surfaces so we can't imitate the grasshopper.  We do have a need to escape falling, however.  The universal pull of temptation draws on all of us.  Fortunately the Lord has given us a unique ability to reach out, not with sticky feet, but with sticky hearts to cling to Him and we, too, can avoid falling.
Psalm 63:8 My soul clings to you;
                    your right hand upholds me.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

origin of self centeredness

Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Something else that happened when they ate the forbidden fruit: Adam and Eve became self conscious...in fact they became self centered.  Before they ate they were focused on two things: enjoying and obeying God and enjoying one another.  Note the difference before they ate: Genesis 2:25 "The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame."  Today we still suffer from this condition of living lives that center on ourselves.  Life doesn't go well when self is in the middle.  We just weren't designed to carry that much weight.  It goes much better when God holds that spot.  In a sense,  when we receive Christ we are actually set free from ourselves!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hear God directly

Genesis 2:7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
21 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. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
Genesis 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'
I was thinking about the Garden of Eden story this morning.  Adam is the one who heard the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil directly from God.  At that time Eve didn't yet exist.  Satan decided to pick on Eve and I think at least one reason is that she hadn't gotten the command about the tree directly from God.  She got it secondhand from Adam.  In fact, something got added in the translation because in the original command nothing was said about being punished for "touching" the fruit.  When our relationship with God is "second hand" and we 'hear about God' instead of 'hear from God', two things happen: we are more vulnerable to temptation because God just isn't as real to us and, secondly, we're likely to hear a garbled message because it has passed through others to us.  It is critical for us, each, to know and interact with God directly!
Rob Smith

Monday, July 9, 2007

power supply

I walked down a road near my home this morning and, for some reason, I noticed the telephone poles (which also carry electrical power).  I followed the power lines as I walked past the homes to see where each home received its electrical and phone wires off of the main line.  All of a sudden I came to some houses that had the telephone poles out front but no visible wires leading to the houses (I guess they were buried wires).  At the end of the road, in the newest section, there weren't even any telephone poles...the whole service had been buried.  It wasn't obvious with the new houses where their power was coming from.  The oldest homes were very conspicuous to show their source of energy.  I thought of the reality that, as I grow older, I am much more comfortable showing my source of power, in the Lord, than when I was young.  For some irrational reason I didn't think it was cool, or I didn't think I'd be accepted, or I just didn't think and I didn't want the world to see that the living God was my source of energy.  I buried the wires, just like the new houses.  They look prettier but when there's a problem there's a lot more digging required to make a repair.  I think it's better for people to let their power lines show!
Psalm 68:34 Proclaim the power of God,
                   whose majesty is over Israel,
                   whose power is in the skies
Rob Smith

Sunday, July 8, 2007

each breath

Over the course of a minute all the blood of your body passes through the lungs to receive fresh oxygen and to get rid of carbon dioxide.  Breathing is the process that accomplishes this.  Breathing calls for a coordinated effort, regulated by the brain and empowered by muscles of the abdomen and rib cage.  For the most part, we don't think about breathing.  It just happens.  If we exercise, our  brain responds to chemical triggers and prompts the muscles kick into a higher gear to accelerate the rate of breathing.  The actual exchange of good gases for bad occurs in tiny air sacs with very thin walls.  Moving from higher to lower concentrations, oxygen moves from the lung to the blood and carbon dioxide moves from the blood to the lung.  This way, the life-giving blood is refreshed to bring all the nutrients every cell of the body need for maintenance, repair and growth.  I know of a young woman who had such difficulties with her breathing process that she had to have both lungs replaced several years ago.  This was a very painful and trying experience.  She has recently found out that she'll need another total lung replacement to extend her life.  Despite the pain that lies ahead, she will pursue that opportunity.  She is under 30 years of age and recently was married.  Life is indeed precious to her and worth clinging to!
For our natural lives to continue we need a dependable way to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide.  For our spiritual lives to thrive we need a way to feed our inner spirit while expelling the sin that tends to build up.  As natural as breathing should be the input of God's presence through the reception of His word and the expelling of unclean attitudes and actions through a process of spiritual conviction and confession.  Just as this exchange of life occurs across a delicate membrane in the lungs, so does the spiritual exchange occur across the delicate membrane of our individual spiritual hearts.  Life requires this two-way exchange.
Job 32:8 But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.
Rob Smith

Saturday, July 7, 2007

We are rich

Ephesians 3:8 "Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ"
Luke 8:14 "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature."
There are only two problems with money: having too little and having too much.  Many of us seem to be on a lifelong quest to solve the mystery of money.  I was recently reflecting on the position of the believer in Christ, who has the riches of God's Kingdom available at all times....not a bad starting point, wouldn't you agree?  I've come to the conclusion that it's God's job(not mine)  to take care my material needs.  My job is something else...something to do with reflecting the reality of God to those who are bent on pursuing the world's definition of riches.  Imagine if, before you could set about your daily routine, you had to bottle up enough oxygen to breathe for the day ahead and you had to wind up a spring that ran your heart to pump for the day.  The Lord doesn't want us to spend our time just existing and so He is committed to satisfying the physical needs we have and to keeping our bodies in operation without much conscious effort on our part.  Unfortunately, rather than using the liberation of time to enjoy His company and to share His presence with others, we have decided that we will redefine and repackage pleasure in terms of that which can carry a price tag.  In other words, we have decided that the things that have the most value, that carry the biggest price, that beckon us to give sacrificially of our time, passions, and energy are those things made or marketed by other men.  That's why we go after money so hard...in a sense we replace worship of God with worship of man.
Let's keep in mind Philippians 4:19 "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
We could never be more wealthy that we are who are clothed in Christ.
Rob Smith

Friday, July 6, 2007

Accentuating the positive

Event-based reporting dominates our news.  Each day the media chases dramatic stories that will catch our attention, arouse our emotion, and create headlines that encourage purchase of their newspaper or viewing of their tv program or listening to their radio broadcast.  We tend to think of history marching past in terms of a succession of daily crises, disasters, and battles.  My sense is that the media prefers to report stories that elicit a strong negative emotion (fear, anger, disgust, despair, disappointment) to connect with folks at gut level.  Unfortunately the picture that is painted daily is of a world that is trudging through an endless succession of tragedies, mistakes and failures.  We can't deny the truth behind most stories reported, but.....it seems like all the wonderful "good news" stories about orphans being adopted, diseases being researched and cured, steady progress within countries moving from tyranny through anarchy to freedom, and marriages restored through reconciliation don't get nearly as much daily coverage.  Many of the good news stories are more gradual and progressive rather than explosive and "in your face" emotional.
The word gospel comes from old English words that basically mean "good tale" or good news.  The good news of Jesus and the reality of God's Kingdom never grows old and always is relevant.  I believe there is an aspect of the gospel that pertains to every news story we hear every day.  Either the demonstration of God's power through natural events (like earthquakes) or the willful ignorance of God's ways that leads to evil is demonstrated.  Rarely reported is the power of God, through His Gospel, to change hearts, restore homes, motivate help in disasters, and provide individuals with hope no matter what their circumstance.
The good news of God is breaking daily over the planet and if you watch closely, you may see it in evidence right around your own experience today!
Galatians 1:11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
blessings with good news,
Rob Smith

Thursday, July 5, 2007

too many prisoners

Recently I read some disturbing news.  There are more prisoners in U.S. jails than any other country in the world.  As of June 2006 the prison population was 2,245,000.  This amounts to 7/10 of one percent of our total population.  If all the prisoners were considered a U.S. city, they'd be the third largest U.S. city, after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.  I'm sure that many factors have contributed to this disturbing number.  Certainly there is a sense of general moral disintegration across mainstream culture with half of marriages ending and one third of children growing up without a Dad in the house.  We don't seem to embrace a universally accepted set of "rights" and "wrongs" like we used to and, too often, individuals probably commit crimes because they can get away with them (they think) rather than because they think it's o.k.  Maybe part of the big prison population is due to more effective law enforcement, and I am deeply grateful for the police officers who risk their lives every day.  Even the most benign traffic citation could potentially become a fatal encounter.
But in a larger sense I'm concerned for those who are spiritual prisoners.  Many are prisoners to the concept that this life on earth is the only life, and that all the pleasure that can be grabbed now defines the motivation for living.  Many are prisoners to their natural tendency to go astray...which we all do, ever since the Garden of Eden.  There are probably millions who feel trapped by their past...past failures, sins, lost opportunities, broken homes and serious errors in judgment.  Many are held by the grip of addictions and truly feel imprisoned by those desires.
We have hope in the one who formed each one of us, for He knows our weaknesses and personally experienced the same temptations we do.  We don't have a God who has left us to remain in prison.  We have a God who doesn't want to leave anyone behind.  The fact is: we're all in prison and we all need to be set free.  Only one who was greater than we could accomplish that.
We have just celebrated our country's freedom.  Have you yet celebrated your personal freedom by allowing Jesus to unlock your personal prison door? 
Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

deer persistence

Last night I nearly hit a few deer out in the country, as they crossed the pitch black road.  They weren't particularly startled by my car and I observed them for a few moments as they stood by the roadside.  I couldn't help but think: What beautiful creatures!   I know a lot of people get upset when deer eat their gardens and some are worried about the overpopulation of deer in our area.  They certainly are a popular target for hunting.  But, once again, I was struck with how graceful and quick they are.  A little internet exploration turned up some interesting facts about deer:  they only eat vegetation (four stomachs like a cow)... the gestation period for the fawn is about the same as for a human baby at 10 months...however, the newborn fawn will be on his feet within 20 minutes of being born!...adult deer can run 30 miles per hour and jump over trees eight feet high!  Maybe the most interesting thing about deer are the antlers that male deer have.  I didn't know that they actually grow a fresh set of antlers each year, and then lose them after mating season.  They don't use them to attack enemies.  They use them to challenge other male deer to "jousts" to win the right to mate with particular females, or to claim territories as their own.  It occurred to me that the older deer have a big advantage because each year they add more "points" to their rack of antlers, giving them a competitive advantage.  There is a point, however, when the antlers grow no larger with age, and so eventually the younger suitors may catch up and make the competition more even.  During the years when they lose, they are probably gaining valuable experience in strategy and technique and their motivation builds with each year as they long to find a mating partner.
There is a process of growth for Christians too.  There may be frustrations with our own failures to "stick to it" when it comes to having a close walk with the Lord.  There may be disappointments in work, parenting, or marriage.  Sometimes I think one of the most important qualities we need is persistence.  We need time to experience the trials and disappointments sometimes, while remaining fixed in our trust in the Lord.  Like the growing deer, we need time to learn from those difficult and disappointing outcomes, until we have grown to the point where we can take on those challenges successfully.
Psalm 18:33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Cement mixer trucks

I've been fascinated with those big cement mixer trucks since I was little.  There's something about about their elephant-like shape and size and the fact that the big cylinder on the truck's back is constantly turning that grabs the attention.  I was behind one in traffic last night and found inspiration.  It turns out that these trucks carry about 20 tons of concrete in a 10 ton truck.  They have so much weight that they have extra wheels to distribute the load and avoid damaging roads.  While enroute from the concrete factory, the raw materials of dry concrete and water are mixed.  The big drum can turn two directions.  When it turns to push the material down into the drum, it's mixing the ingredients.  This is called "charging" the mixer.  When it gets to the job site the drum turns the other direction and the concrete is forced out onto chutes, where it is directed to the specific task.  One major problem can occur if a mixer truck turns over.  The concrete quickly hardens and it is virtually impossible to get the truck upright again.  I really like cement mixers because, unlike most vehicles, they're obviously working while they're moving.
  They fill that time between the factory and the job with preparation so that they're ready to perform once they arrive.  I'm challenged to stay in motion, with my mind turning on the Lord, so that He can "charge me" with truth even when I'm going from point A to point B.  You never know when you might come across a job site and you may need to go to work.  And I sure don't want to take silly risks with my precious load and possibly turn over...if I don't stay in motion for the Lord things can harden up pretty fast!
Let's keep turning, even as we're moving, for the Lord!
Isaiah 62:10-12 (The Message)
Walk out of the gates. Get going!
   Get the road ready for the people.
Build the highway. Get at it!
   Clear the debris,
   hoist high a flag, a signal to all peoples!
Yes! God has broadcast to all the world:
   "Tell daughter Zion, 'Look! Your Savior comes,
Ready to do what he said he'd do,
   prepared to complete what he promised.'"
Zion will be called new names: Holy People, God-Redeemed,
   Sought-Out, City-Not-Forsaken.
Rob Smith

Monday, July 2, 2007

amazing bones

When I used to think of bones, I thought about skeletons and how the bones were the framework of the body... a place for muscles to attach and a way to give our bodies support.  That was the obvious purpose and that's about all I thought about it.  Recently, I have been challenged to look at bones a little closer.  I've been amazed to watch my broken arm heal and to see new bone growth occurring all around the shattered bones.  It hit me that my bones are living tissue, not just white building blocks, like some kind of Legos or Erector Set.  There is a lot more going on in their purpose and function than I had given them credit for.  Besides the obvious support role and protection for internal organs and brain, the skeleton is a storehouse for minerals like calcium and phosphorus.  It releases these as the body needs them to keep the body in chemical balance.  But the most amazing aspect of bones, to me, is that all red and white blood cells are produced inside our bones.  All the life-giving red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body, and all the white blood cells that defend the body from infection are also made in the bones. 
There is so much more to our bones than the obvious.  There is also a lot more to our personal worth than the obvious.  Buried within our framework, the Lord has designed qualities to bring life and protection from harm, just like the bones do.  We carry the presence and the message of Christ, which can bring life and protection from harm.  Just as the bones are more than hard objects to hang our skin on, our lives count for much more than their obvious outward appearance.  We carry life!
Job 10:10 Did you not pour me out like milk
       and curdle me like cheese,

 11 clothe me with skin and flesh
       and knit me together with bones and sinews?

 12 You gave me life and showed me kindness,
       and in your providence watched over my spirit.


Rob Smith