Monday, November 30, 2009

The Re-Creator

You probably have seen some of these TV shows where dilapidated houses are gutted, rebuilt and refinished to become attractive and updated homes.  They always start with lots of footage of the "before" image of the home.  It's fascinating to watch the process of reconstruction.  Often they find hidden challenges behind walls and under floors that make the re-construction problem different and greater than new construction.  But there seems a special satisfaction to bringing new life to an old dwelling.  It's almost like a "born again" experience we would have with the Lord.  This morning, as I continued reading in Jeremiah, I thought I detected a delight that the Lord has in rebuilding, renovating and restoring our lives in a similar way.  The people of Judah had turned away from God and worshiped idols and the Lord ultimately responded by having another nation carry off those people to be captives.  He also saw to it that Jerusalem and the Temple were razed..totally destroyed.  But God didn't give up on His people.  In fact He instructed them to plant the ground that they lived on in Babylon and to grow their families.  He even encouraged them to seek for the prosperity of Babylon, because that would translate into "trickle down" benefits for the captives, too.  We know our Lord as the Creator of the Universe.  He seems to delight in Re-Creation just as much!
Jeremiah 30:8'It shall come about on that day,' declares the LORD of hosts, 'that I will break his yoke from off their neck and will tear off their bonds; and strangers will no longer make them their slaves.

 9'But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.
    10'Fear not, O Jacob My servant,' declares the LORD,
         'And do not be dismayed, O Israel;
         For behold, I will save you from afar
         And your offspring from the land of their captivity
         And Jacob will return and will be quiet and at ease,
         And no one will make him afraid.
    11'For I am with you,' declares the LORD, 'to save you;


(and He is with us as well!)



Rob Smith

Sunday, November 29, 2009

all in the spelling

When I was young I remember a school assignment to list all the homonyms I could come up with (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings).  I loved the challenge and came up with quite a list.  Today, as I was reflecting on the prophet Jeremiah (which we are surveying in the Mini Bible College) I thought of two interesting words that are homonyms: "grown" and "groan".  It occurred to me that there can sometimes be quite a bit of agony in the process of growth (growing pains).  In the case of Jeremiah, the people of Judah were told to prepare to be taken captive for 70 years because of their failure to turn from idol worship.  No doubt there was a lot of groaning in the course of being ripped away from homes and thrown to the servant heap of the Babylonians.  Jeremiah had also provided hope, though, that after 70 years of capitivity the people of Judah would be set free to return and rebuild Jerusalem.  Apparently the Bible makes it pretty clear that when they were restored after that captivity idol worship was no longer a problem (of course they still had other issues).  The Lord took them through a "groaning" process so He could also take them through a "growing" process.  I suppose He is doing the same today in our lives, because He knows that some of the most lasting lessons we learn are fired in cauldrons of difficulty.
Jeremiah 23:7 "So then, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "when people will no longer say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,' 8 but they will say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.' Then they will live in their own land."
blessings (may your groaning lead to growing),
Rob Smith

Saturday, November 28, 2009

on things above

One of the few things we have control over is what we set our minds think consider.  Unsurprisingly, our minds tend to fall naturally to our basic desires.  Unfortunately, our basic desires are often more in line with unhealthy aspects of our nature than healthy ones.  We need some "lift" in our mental orientation to raise our thoughts to the grander view of heaven.  We are encouraged in Colossians, chapter 3 verse 2 to "set your minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth".  There is some marvelous motivation to do this in verses 3 and 4: "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."  So we really ought to look up and reflect on the reality of God and His marvelous presence within our frames.  When we have come to know Jesus as savior and Lord we actually have "died" in one sense to the confines of an earthly life and doorways have opened to expand our vistas.  We don't leave the earth right away but now we can see all that is around us as the expression of our great Creator whom we also know as the lover of our souls.  Later in Colossians (3:23,24) we are given guidance that goes beyond what we think to what we do.  "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."  Thinking and Doing...that covers a lot of territory!  Blessings to you in your thoughts and actions today.
Rob Smith

Friday, November 27, 2009


We breathe an air we cannot see and fill our lungs repeatedly,
We look through air to see beyond, the heavens beckon..the stars look on,
We feel the air we cannot see that blankets us the seasons round,
We feel the wind we cannot see and then recall that we've been found,
By the One we cannot see but walks with us eternally.
Rob Smith

Thursday, November 26, 2009

a bird in winter

I was watching birds through my work window yesterday.  They were flitting about and landing on the young maple trees close to our building.  The leaves of those maples have finally let go and the branches are bare.  I thought about the challenge that birds face who live through the winter in our area.  The nights are cold and long, insects become scarce, food becomes harder to find, shelter is a challenge with leafless trees and since birds are warm-blooded they have to keep their body temperature up.  One strategy birds follow is to form flocks in the fall to help find food and protect against predators.  We, too, can find ourselves living through winter experiences (and it can happen anytime during the year)!  There are times when every aspect of life can seem difficult even though life has been much easier in the past.  Beyond food, shelter and basic necessities we also may feel like we are living in the bare branches of a winter tree emotionally and spiritually.  I think the Lord's provision becomes all the more apparent at these times.  He is faithful to feed and shelter us in our inner person even as we move through winter.  He keeps our "body temperature" up by the warmth of His presence and His voice in word and prayer.  When we live on branches without leaves the view of the sky is unblocked and we may turn to Him more readily.  It is helpful to flock with others who trust Him as well.
Job 12:7 "But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
       or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

 10 In his hand is the life of every creature
       and the breath of all mankind."


blessings and thanks to He who made us, restored us and keeps us,

Rob Smith 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

refusing forever

The people of Jerusalem, back in Jeremiah's day, had forgotten God and He was more than frustrated.  You can imagine how it galled Him that, after blessing them with the Promised Land for all their generations, they forgot how real He is and worshipped false gods, who could never give them anything.  He offers them one last chance in Jeremiah, chapter 7: 5 "For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, 7 then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever."
It occurs to me that we, also, exchange the forever place God has given us for temporary and very short -sighted satisfactions.  In His Son, the Father has caused us to dwell in the heavenly dimension.  We have come to realize that we are citizens of Heaven with lives that will extend to eternity and with purpose that transcends our brief stay on the planet.  Why would we embrace the same false and shallow "gods" that unbelievers share.  Why do we exchange forever for scraps?
Rob Smith 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

nations and you

As I read the first several chapters of the prophet Jeremiah this morning I was struck with the thought that God was disappointed with Israel and Judah, as nations, because, as individuals they had turned away from following Him and turned toward false gods...and this despite God's faithful deliverance and provision through many trials and across deserts.  He looked for even one individual in Israel who had not turned their back on Him, but without success.  As a consequence He was preparing the people for His judgment.  He had decided to move a fierce nation from the North down to destroy Jerusalem and to take the people prisoner.  He told them that if they wanted to worship the false gods of strangers He would give them the chance to become full-time servants of the ones who originated those gods.  It occurs to me that God is willing to move whole nations to ultimately move the hearts of individuals to return to Him.  He is the God of nations because He is the God who desires each of us, as individuals, to know love follow Him (the one true God).
Jeremiah 4:1 "If you will return, O Israel,
       return to me,"
       declares the LORD.
       "If you put your detestable idols out of my sight
       and no longer go astray,

 2 and if in a truthful, just and righteous way
       you swear, 'As surely as the LORD lives,'
       then the nations will be blessed by him
       and in him they will glory."



Rob Smith

Monday, November 23, 2009

If you only knew...

John, Chapter 4 recounts the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at a well.  She has gone to draw water and this was probably part of her daily routine.  She was not expecting to meet the Lord that day.  Jesus surprised her by asking for some of her water.  He broke into her routine and got her attention.  When she was curious why He would even talk to her (as Jews typically had nothing to do with Samaritans), He said to her, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water."   Many of us have come to know this great gift and the One who gives it, yet we often forget and return to our routines...going to the well each day with our buckets...but failing to spend time with the one who provides Living Water.  I don't know why it is that we have such short spiritual memories, but I do know that when we take time to set our buckets down and listen to Jesus our hearts naturally turn to worship and we find, like the Samaritan woman, that there is one who knows us and loves us despite our faults.
Rob Smith

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the dimension of prophecy

We have been surveying the prophet Isaiah in our Mini Bible College class on Sunday mornings.  It has been eye-opening to see how many precise predictions Isaiah made about events that were to happen anywhere from 100 years to 700 years after Isaiah's lifetime and beyond, even to the second coming of the Lord, which lies ahead of us!  Here's one passage from Isaiah, chapter 53:
4 Surely he took up our infirmities
       and carried our sorrows,
       yet we considered him stricken by God,
       smitten by him, and afflicted.

 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
       he was crushed for our iniquities;
       the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
       and by his wounds we are healed.

 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
       each of us has turned to his own way;
       and the LORD has laid on him
       the iniquity of us all.


Those words could have been written by a reporter from "Christianity Today" assigned to cover Jesus' crucifixion rather than someone who lived 700 years before the event.

As I consider the impact of such accurate prophecy it occurs to me that the remarkable plan of God is confirmed and given great depth.  We shouldn't be surprised that this would happen.  After all, God is sovereign over time and events.  He knows what will happen before it does and He has a plan which is being worked out over the centuries that man walks the earth.  It is good to be shaken out of my narrow "here and now" approach to living and refocus on the one true God who holds history in His hands and the future in His plans.



Rob Smith

Saturday, November 21, 2009

the challenge of love

It seems like an "ultimate" experience to personally be aware of the Lord's presence, abiding within our hearts.  Just to think that we can be aware of Him actually indwelling our fragile and fault-filled frames is almost more than we can comprehend.  But apparently that is exactly what He has intended!  You would think that some of the most important messages Jesus gave were the ones He left His disciples just before going to the Cross.  The night before that experience began to unfold He told them that He and the Father wanted to live with them in this way: [John 14:23 "Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."]  In order to love Him, the disciples were to "abide and obey".  Their thoughts and hearts were to find their home in Jesus and they needed to follow His commands.  Jesus mapped out the command part in John 15:12 ["This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."]
I love how the blessing of the Lord's immediate presence follows from putting others first.  It's as if the Lord is saying, "When you have learned to be centered on the needs of others, you have learned much about who I am".  I am glad that Jesus focused His command this way.  Loving others becomes a measure of our maturity and the key to knowing the Lord intimately.
Rob Smith

Friday, November 20, 2009

fruit that remains

Recently my interest in classical music has increased a bit.  I find it  peasant to have playing in the background, at low volume, while I work.  Somehow it isn't distracting like other fact I think it may help with concentration.  As music is introduced, the announcer generally provides a short introduction of the composer and the background of the work.  Names like Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart spring up among others.  It occurred to me that most of these composers lived hundreds of years ago and yet I am the beneficiary of their composition today.  They died centuries before I was born but their work remains.  I thought of John chapter 15 where Jesus was giving His final teaching to the disciples before going to the garden of Gethsemane.  He spoke a great deal of the relationship we are intended to have with Him.  And He used the picture of fruit as a picture of the outcome from a healthy relationship. 
John 15:16 "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you."
I am challenged and excited about the possibility we have of doing work, something like the composers of centuries past, that will remain.  I believe "remain" has two important qualities.  Work that remains may continue on earth after we depart and work that remains may continue to echo throughout eternity.
Rob Smith

Thursday, November 19, 2009

hidden treasure

Do you remember the excitement of Treasure Island and the search for buried treasure?  You can probably recall other stories and movies that featured the discovery of a treasure map, marked with an "X" and hotly contested by good and evil forces as they sought vast and ancient treasures from shipwrecks, pirates or kings from a bygone era.  Last night our small group was looking at Colossians, chapter 2 and one verse jumped out: (verse 3) "In Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and enlightenment are stored up and lie hidden."  It occurred to me that when we have found Jesus by faith we have found the true treasure map (marked with a cross instead of an "X") and it is our life quest to open that treasure chest and spend our lives appreciating and valuing and applying those treasures of knowledge and wisdom He opens to us!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

moving through the crowd

As you picture your walk with Jesus, do relate to those in the fringe of the crowds that followed Him or do you relate to those who worked their way next to Him?  It can take some effort to move through the crowd and once there you are very conscious that He will see you, with all your blemishes.  It can be comfortable to remain in the outer orbit where you sense the excitement that others are experiencing from direct interaction while guarding against becoming uncomfortably close.  But when we remain in the outer areas we miss the chance to make eye contact with Jesus.  There is no amplification in this crowd and it may be impossible to hear His words precisely.  We continue to carry sin burdens and concerns that He would lift.  You begin to see the joy and radiance that others reflect as they return from being at His side and you realize that you must draw near.  You decide to risk whatever may come from falling directly under His gaze and you gently shoulder your way to the center with a sense of anticipation.  As you find Him sitting on a large rock you discover a warmth and a tenderness that seem to draw you in and as He speaks and as He locks eyes with yours, you are changed.  You are glad that He knows you and you wonder why you ever hesitated to draw near.  You become motivated to bring your loved ones into this inner place.
Matthew 9:36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Mark 5:27When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28because she thought, "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed."
Rob Smith

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

first generation Christians

I've been watching a documentary on TV about World War II this week.  One of the thoughts I had was that many of the young soldiers in our army were first or second generation Americans.  Many had direct family ties with Europe and the scene of the fighting.  For many the freedoms and opportunities of America were fresh and greatly valued.  The experience of leaving Europe in search of a better life was a memory of their own, or their parents', lifetimes.  But as successive generations have lived in prosperity we tend to lose an appreciation for our freedoms because we have known nothing else.  It occurs that there is no such thing as a second generation Christian.  Citizenship in Heaven means escaping the clutches of death by grasping the payment of Jesus for our shortcomings and being lifted to new life.  This happens as a matter of personal response and cannot be passed down to another generation simply by virtue of parenting a child.  As the experience of immigrating to Heaven's shores is fresh in our personal memories we ought to cherish and embrace this new life and be eager to represent our Lord on the battlefields of daily choice and personal relationships.
2 Peter 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Blessings (from my fox hole to yours),
Rob Smith

Monday, November 16, 2009

recognizing Jesus

John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
John 3:31 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. 32 And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.
John 4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our report?
      And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 
       3 He is despised and rejected by men,
      A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
      And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
      He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
It's interesting that when Jesus comes to us we don't always recognize Him.   He is God and His message is the best news of all: that we can be made right with our Heavenly Father.  But we are blind and we are distracted and we are looking for the sensational when we ought to look for the substantial.  But He is Immanuel...God in our midst...and He would come to us personally and testify of Heaven and give us Living Water, if we will hear and receive Him.  I suppose we need to tune our hearts and ears and eyes that we would not miss Him.  He comes to confirm that we can know Him here and to fire the hope that the best is yet to come!
Rob Smith

Sybille Campbell's gratitude for Veterans


Sir, I would like to thank you for what you did for our country.  I spoke this tribute to an army veteran years ago when I was on vacation with my family.  A group of Army veterans were having a reunion and were staying in the same hotel.




My father and father-in-law,  who are both now deceased, were World War II veterans, and both earned a purple heart.  It is hard to describe the pride and gratefulness that I feel when I stop to think about the tremendous gift of freedom that all of our Veterans fought to defend. I get teary eyed when hearing or singing a patriotic song.  One of the most emotional memories that I have is standing at the first Jacksonville Jaguars game after 9-11.  As usual the national anthem was sung and fighter jets flew over just as the singer finished.  I still get chills up and down my spine remembering that day.


Thoughts of gratitude for our veterans by Sybille Campbell on Veteran's Day 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009


There is a quality of living that lies dormant within.  We are carried by routines through our days.  We follow expected courses of education, career and retirement.  We develop relationships with others that dance on the surface of life.  We satisfy basic hungers and drives and we go beyond to other, fleeting satisfactions...but there remains a quality of living that is deeper, that is part of an eternal river, that we know lies within and yet we often allow to lie, dormant or sleeping while we dance on the surface of living.  The Lord comes to awaken the dormant deep within and nurture the awareness of our connection with forever.  Rather than satisfaction with the earthly life, He longs to show Himself through our surroundings to draw us upward and deeper to Himself.  When we are "born again" to new life by trusting in the work of Jesus on the Cross this dormant aspect of our nature is awakened and somewhere within we realize that it was for this quality of living that we were made!
Psalm 57: 8 Awake, my glory!
         Awake, lute and harp!
         I will awaken the dawn.
 9 I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples;
         I will sing to You among the nations.
 10 For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens,
         And Your truth unto the clouds.
Rob Smith

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In the midst of winter

I have been enjoying the beauty of autumn colors.  The golds and reds and yellows are unlike the fresh green of spring which heralds new life.  The colors of fall anticipate the glory of life's end.  In the process of dying the leaves offer a final surge of beauty.  It occurs that there is beauty in God's plan, whether at the outset of life or at its earthly end.  It's all part of His plan.  I have seen this cycle repeat for many years and I realize that I am now in the fall of my own life.  My leaves seem to go toward gray rather than lustrous rusty hues but there is assurance that as this leaf withers we are attached to something lasting.  We have not gone beyond the cycle of this earthly life yet but the colors of fall suggest that the Creator is involved in every stage of living.  In a month the trees will be bare of color and the leaves will have become brown on the forest floor.  I am glad that we celebrate the birth of our Savior when there is such little sign of life.  It is in the midst of winter that we need hope the most.

Isaiah 40:6-8 (New King James Version)

6 The voice said, "Cry out!"
      And he said, "What shall I cry?" 
      " All flesh is grass,
      And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
       7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
      Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
      Surely the people are grass.
       8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
      But the word of our God stands forever."



Rob Smith

Friday, November 13, 2009

Invitation to a King

Who would consider going, without invitation, into the presence of a great king.  These days, even if one is requested to see our President I'm sure he must pass through layers of security and many scrutinizing eyes.  It is the King who gives the orders and makes the big decisions that affect millions of lives.  Of course we have earthly kings and we have the one Heavenly King who is God, Himself.  He rules from a throne that is in the heavenly dimension but His domain includes all His creation.  He is building an eternal kingdom with subjects who come from across generations as well as across oceans, mountains and rivers.  He has invited us to enter the gates of His land through the gateway of His Son, whose shed blood has provided the key to that door.  Remarkably, once we have entered through that grand gate we still retain much freedom.  We can choose to look to the King for direction or we can scurry about the land living as if we were not His subjects.  Once we have responded to His invitation we have the privilege, daily, of inviting Him into our lives.  How rare to live in a kingdom where the citizens have the freedom to invite the King into their lives.  We can choose to think of Him, to listen to His pure words, to acknowledge His presence and to bow before His greatness.  For He is grand and yet He would be our friends.

2 Chronicles 30:6 (The Message)

 6-9 The king gave the orders, and the couriers delivered the invitations from the king and his leaders throughout Israel and Judah. The invitation read: "O Israelites! Come back to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he can return to you who have survived the predations of the kings of Assyria. Don't repeat the sins of your ancestors who turned their backs on God, the God of their ancestors who then brought them to ruin—you can see the ruins all around you. Don't be pigheaded as your ancestors were. Clasp God's outstretched hand. Come to his Temple of holy worship, consecrated for all time. Serve God, your God. You'll no longer be in danger of his hot anger. If you come back to God, your captive relatives and children will be treated compassionately and allowed to come home. Your God is gracious and kind and won't snub you—come back and he'll welcome you with open arms."



Rob Smith