Thursday, December 31, 2009

club mentality

Reading through Acts, chapter 4 I was fascinated by the attitude of the "Temple establishment" in Jerusalem toward Peter and John.  The two disciples had just been involved in a miracle that provided a life-long lame man with legs to walk and leap about.  Several thousand people quickly heard about this.  They were familiar with this lame man because he was a fixture at the temple gate as he daily sought handouts.  Thousands came to faith in Christ as Peter and John were faithful to point to Jesus as the source for the healing.  The Temple establishment (sadduccees, scribes, elders and priests, etc.) were distressed.  They thought they'd extinguished the impact of the miracle worker from Galilee when they had Him crucified.  Now it appeared to be backfiring as the very one they had killed had apparently achieved the impossible: he'd overcome death and now was back to his old tricks of healing people.  One has to wonder how people can become so distorted as to ignore the obvious:  the Temple establishment was trying to shut down the living God.  I thought about how this could happen.  One observation is that they had formed a separate code of living and this gave them meaning, structure and purpose. 
Acts 4:15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, "What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name."
I think we need to be on guard that we not allow any human "club" or culture displace the fellowship of faith we have with the Lord, Himself.  The Temple crowd (priests, Sadduccees, etc.) had taken on a way of life that gave them all they wanted on the horizontal level.  They preferred to keep their comfortable club relationships with each other rather than submit to God, Himself!
Rob Smith

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

winning over enemies

After reading Acts, chapter 3 I was struck with the Lord's attitude toward the very people who had clammored for his crucifixion several weeks earlier.  Peter has gained their attention by performing a miracle, just like the kind Jesus did, to heal a man who had been lame from birth and who was well known as a beggar at the temple entrance.  Peter seizes the opportunity to explain how the source of this miracle was the very same Jesus who they had turned in to Pilate.  But he goes beyond criticizing them to seek to win them for the Lord. 
Acts 3:17 "Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord"
How different is the Lord from most people.  Rather than revenge, He is more interested in rescuing the very ones who had Him suffer and die.  He knows they acted out of ignorance and that their actions ultimately led to the opportunity for their salvation.  His murderers now are given the chance to be forgiven and restored.  Jesus was more interested in winning over His enemies than He was in winning....over His enemies!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

one for all

Acts, chapter 2, recounts the dramatic arrival of the Holy Spirit in the midst of Jesus' first followers.  I was struck with the idea that the Lord breaks down barriers and builds oneness when He comes.  As the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples, they began speaking in the languages of many nations.  These were the same languages spoken by Jews who had come from all the countries of the known earth to Jerusalem.  But they heard one message: the wonderful and mighty works of God.  It was necessary for God to speak many languages so that one message would be clearly heard.  The same is true today.  God speaks the message of salvation...of peace with Him...of His awesome power in the language each of us can understand, no matter what far land we've come from.  Bible translators, today, are making God's word available in thousands of languages to reach the smallest and remotest of people.  But the message is the same and as people receive the Lord through that message, the result is the same:  there is oneness forged between God and man and there is oneness formed between believers.  By the end of Acts, chapter 2, the many new believers have lost their "self-focus" and have become more attuned to the needs of those around them.  The "One message" of relationship with the living God has drawn all eyes first to the Lord and then to love those around.  I think this is what Peter is referring to in Acts 2:28, when he quotes David from Psalm 16, 28 You have made known to me the ways of life;  You will make me full of joy in Your presence.  There are languages we speak and there are languages of the heart.  The Lord speaks every language of man that every man's heart might be touched.
Rob Smith

Monday, December 28, 2009

lighting the fire within

Having just completed the book of John I am now venturing into Acts.  The first episode of Acts records Jesus' final words to the disciples before ascending in a cloud back to Heaven.  I thought about the importance of those 40 days following Jesus' resurrection and before his return to Heaven.  He showed himself many ways and many times in convincing proofs that He had, indeed, conquered death.  I looked back in the book of Luke to the story of Jesus walking with two followers shortly after He'd risen from the grave.  Their eyes were supernaturally  restrained from recognizing Jesus, but as they walked together Jesus walked them through the Bible and explained how the scriptures had pointed to Him and all the marvelous events and purposes of His life.  I was especially struck by their words once they recognized Jesus (from Luke 24)32 And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?"   Two thoughts impressed me from this story.  Firstly, it isn't enough in a sense for Jesus to have raised from the dead.  He also needs to appear to us after that great event and we need to recognize Him.  Secondly, there is a fire waiting to be lit within our hearts that is the combustible result of God's Word as fuel, the Holy Spirit as oxygen and the spark of a heart that comes under conviction to cause ignition.  Once this fire is lit, no other spiritual heat satisfies us because this is the fire of truth that burns impurities and forges truth within.  Jesus appeared to those who followed Him to forge an eternal  bond with them and He appears to us, still, today.
Rob Smith

Sunday, December 27, 2009

He thinks of you

Psalm 139:17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
         How great is the sum of them!
 18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
         When I awake, I am still with You.
Daily Bible reading took me through Psalm 139 today.  I was struck with Verses 17 & 18 (above).  I was overwhelmed considering the reality that God might have more specific thoughts regarding my life than the grains of sand on the beaches of the world.  I don't think God has a problem with inadequate computer memory.  Just to think that He has this kind of awareness and involvement with each of us is one of those God-facts that is beyond comprehension.  By contrast, even though I have only one God to think about there can be large blocks of time when I have no thoughts of Him at all.  But as we do contemplate Him and reflect on His reality and His truth, we seem to find that our thoughts of Him increase and our awareness of Him draws us nearer.  Aren't you glad that He is this involved in our lives?  Don't you long to have more thoughts of Him that you might be closer to HIm? 
Rob Smith

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mary's arms

I had the pleasure on Christmas Eve of attending each of our church's three services (two as a choir member and one in the audience).  Among the many celebratory highlights, one musical offering especially touched my heart and caught my imagination in each worship experience.  A young gal played the violin to a Celtic air, favoring us with the Christmas medley "An Infant's Lullaby and Away in a Manger".  The first two services her strings blended with those of a marvelous acoustic guitar.  The effect was to transport you to the Blue Ridge mountains where the mellifluous tones seemed to rise like a mist from the slopes and the trees.  Truly the guitar and violin complemented each other in a marvelous way.  But something very special happened as I watched the young girl perform alone at the 11 pm service.  Beyond the sounds, which continued to capture my Irish heart, I was captivated by the swaying motion of her body and the movement of her hands and arms as she seemed to caress her instrument.  Upon reflection I realized that the entire effect mirrored the movements of a young mother as she rocked her infant child to sleep or hushed her baby's cry.  I imagine that Mary must have been about the same age as this high school gal when Jesus was born.  The tones of the violin were simultaneously melancholy and joyful and combined with the visual presentation of this artist to portray what Mary may have felt as she held her infant boy and contemplated the unfolding of His life, promised by angels.
Luke 1:42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
Rob Smith

Friday, December 25, 2009

in the midst of darkness

We enjoyed attending Christmas Eve service last night.  The music came in traditional carols, a resonant solo, instrumental duets and choral anthems.  Our pastor reminded us that we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, but that His beginnings trace to eternity and that He has always been with the Father.  As we basked in the light of Christmas-anticipated it struck me that three of the greatest events that forever changed mankind took place during the darkness of night.  The birth of Jesus, the betrayal of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb all took place during the night.  And so we see the beginning of Jesus' ministry among us in the manger, the end of Jesus' ministry among us before His crucifixion and the victory of Jesus for us through His resurrection all occurring during the time when the earth was in the shadows of night.  And so it is in our lives that we, who have walked in a dark way...without wisdom or knowledge or hope beyond our days on earth have had the Lord come to us in the night of our lives.  The Lord is not uncomfortable in the night.  It can be when He does His greatest work.  And beyond the night there is day!
Job 12:22 He uncovers deep things out of darkness, And brings the shadow of death to light:.
Psalm 18:9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down  
                          With darkness under His feet.
Psalm 112:4 Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness;
Luke 1: 76 " And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
      For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
       79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
      To guide our feet into the way of peace."
blessings and thanks for Light from darkness,
Rob Smith
(Joyous Christmas with light to you all)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

future hope

"Future hope" first reading this sounds like a repetitive phrase.  How could a hope not be "future"?  This morning I was reading through Proverbs, chapter 24.  Verse 14 seemed to stand out: 14 Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul;
       if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  
I thought about the hope that we have who have come to grasp the love of our Lord.  Our hope is a future hope.  It is beyond the scope of this natural life.  It finds its fulfillment in the heavenly realm and it is not realized until we go through the door of death and leave this shell...this natural form behind.  Our greatest aspirations cannot be realized until we experience what the world fears the most: "death".  When we find the Lord, or more correctly, when we realize that He has found us we have found wisdom, as the writer of the Proverb says.  I thought about how so many of our hopes are short-sighted ones that will be realized here.  I also remembered that when the Bible talks about hope, it refers to an assured expectation as opposed to a wishful anticipation.  As Paul says in Romans, chapter 8,  24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. and again in 1 Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.  20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
As we celebrate the long-ago birth of our Savior let's remember that because of His life, death and resurrection we have the hope of walking in Heaven...we are confident that we will be with Him...death is not the end of hope, but the entrance.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

not of this world

Perspective comes from distance.  You can, perhaps, best appreciate a mountain when you are some miles away and it can be seen from the ground to the peak.  The view from a mountaintop is an awesome panorama of many square miles of ground, rivers, towns and farms.  This morning I was thinking about Heaven from a distance.  I suppose that is because Heaven seems to be some distance away.  It certainly is a different place than the world that is currently wrapped around us.  This seems to be reality and Heaven seems ethereal...the stuff of poets and wistful hopes.  I've just been reading John chapter 18 this morning, however, and I was reminded that Heaven is a real kingdom.  It has residents, defenders, messengers and royalty.  There is no concern about kingly succession in Heaven because the King is eternal.  When Jesus was brought before Pilate he was challenged: "Are you the King of the Jews?"  36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."  But then I remembered the end of Jesus' prayer right before He went to Gethsemane and I realized that Heaven is also in my heart: 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."


In a sense, we who love the Lord, may be like a travel brochure for Heaven.  When we allow Jesus to shine through our personalities from the inside out we may provide a glimpse of that eternal Kingdom where He rules, where we are headed, and where there remains room for others.



Rob Smith

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

left behind

I read Jesus' amazing prayer in John, Chapter 17 this morning.  He asks the Father to make those who have believed in the Son to be one with Father and Son, just as the Father and the Son are united as one.  He asks the Father not to take believers out of the world and away from trouble, but to keep them safe from the attacks of the enemy.  This is because Jesus knows that believers have a mission.  They are to share the words of life with others in every generation.  I'm struck with the enormity of God's plan for salvation and that we are called to be instrumental participants in that plan.  As we have believed who have heard and seen Jesus, so we are to reflect and express that same message and that same life to others.  We don't know who will believe, but we do know that the Lord has others who will respond in faith as we carry the message.
18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
But the promise that inspired me most this morning was captured in Jesus specific request:
24 "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
One day will be where Jesus is now...we will see His glory.   We will be in Heaven.  We and all who respond in faith to the Father's outstretched hand, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Rob Smith

Monday, December 21, 2009

room for growth

John 16:31 Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? 32 Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone.
The night before Jesus was captured He was deeply involved in final instructions to the faithful 11 disciples.  These men had stayed with Jesus through three years of volatile experience.  They had seen miracles and heard the voice of God and they had also felt the emotion of hate and anger from those who sought to destroy their Leader.  They had come to know and trust Jesus to be the Messiah...the Christ...the promised One who would deliver from sin and plant God's love in their hearts. And yet Jesus makes it clear that a test is coming very soon and these who were most loyal of all men would abandon Him.  I think that we can relate to the Disciples in many ways, despite the fact that we have not physically walked with Jesus.  We have come to know Him and trust Him because He has revealed how intimately He knows us and shown us how we cannot trust ourselves.  Somewhere deep inside there has been a incompleteness, that He has filled and that He continues to fill.  Yet there are many times that we abandon Him.  Amazing as it seems, we also leave the God who came from Heaven to be our friend...we leave Him alone.  I think it is amazing that we would allow any desire, temptation, self-reliance or distraction of this temporary life to cause us to drop our eyes from His...and yet we do.  As I read the story of the Disciples I am reminded that, like them, we also have much room for growth.
Rob Smith

Sunday, December 20, 2009

cut to the core

Proverbs 20:6 Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, But who can find a faithful man?
When you bite into an apple you never know just what flavor to expect...sweet, sour, fresh or mealy, clear or bruised, until you taste it.  When you look inside a man you never know what you might find...sweet, sour, fresh or mealy, clear or bruised until you savor his actions.  The Proverb today spoke to my heart that I can be "full" of myself or full of "faith".  That is, I can depend on my limited faculties and capabilities and wisdom or I can depend on God.  I think that is why "Most men will proclaim each his own goodness."  It is because they are standing pretty much entirely on themselves.  They make their way in the world competitively, jockeying with other men who also proclaim their own goodness, competing for success in a world of men and ready to take the trophies that prove themselves better than others.  But there are some men who, when you cut them open to the heart, are full of faith, or trust, or dependence on the living God.  They have found that there is One who has plans that their minds couldn't fathom, strength beyond human capability and love that washes over personal weakness.  Those who are full of faith have found another source of strength and another plane of living that transcends self and draws us upward.  Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He said that those who would find themselves must first lose themselves.
Matthew 10:39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it
Rob Smith

Saturday, December 19, 2009

snow white

It's relatively rare here in Southeastern Virginia to have snowfalls that accumulate several inches.  We had one such snow last night and now it is snowing again.  I wondered why snow is white when water is transparent.  Apparently the answer lies in two contradictory phenomena: order and disorder.  Snow is made of ice crystals that freeze together into snowflaces.  There is great symmetry in the snowflakes.  As the water molecules crystallize they form six-sided shapes that are infinitely varied depending on temperature and humidity.  However, the snowflakes are thrown together rather chaotically as they stick together.  When light strikes this arrangement it is quickly scattered by the crystals and air pockets that make the snow.  As a result, no light is absorbed and all is reflected back as white light.  The whiteness of snow expresses purity...freshness...cleanness...a transforming blanket.  Tonight I am reminded that the chaos of my sin required the order of God's saving grace to reflect His light.
Mark 9:2 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
         And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. 
          7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
         Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Isaiah 1:18 " Come now, and let us reason together,"
      Says the LORD,

      " Though your sins are like scarlet,
      They shall be as white as snow;
      Though they are red like crimson,
      They shall be as wool.
Rob Smith

Friday, December 18, 2009

set free

Yesterday I read about a man who was pardoned after serving 35 years in prison, as an innocent man.  DNA evidence proved that the gentleman could not have been the guilty party.  Unfortunately, DNA testing wasn't available at the time of his trial.  It seems that the actual evidence came down to one person's guess and the victim's error with identification.  As a result, there was a grievous crime followed by a grievous error followed by 35 years of "lost life".  But the amazing thing is that the man, himself, was not bitter.  Despite living in prison from age 19 until age 54...despite loss of all of his opportunity for family, career and every way the world would define fulfillment...but rather than filled with anger he was buoyant in outlook.  He said that despite losing years of life he had found eternity because he had discovered the reality of God on the personal level.  He endured 3 1/2 decades of wrong treatment but now is looking forward to the rest of "forever".  It struck me that he had gone to prison to be set free.
Romans 6:22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
Rob Smith

Thursday, December 17, 2009

beneath the surface

This morning I had a good time with the Lord, visiting portions of Proverbs, John and Luke.  I loved reading in John about the promised coming of the Holy Spirit that Jesus explained would follow His departure to Heaven and how it was actually good for us that Jesus leave, so that all the world could experience His touch through the Holy Spirit.  I was fascinated to read the story of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and how he couldn't talk at all from the time he doubted the angel's promise until the birth of his son.  I thought about how awkward and frustrating it must have been for his wife to go all through this extraordinary pregnancy and for her husband not to be able to easily converse or encourage her.  After reading, I stepped to the edge of my favorite pond and looked out over the glassy surface...that communicates peace and reflects light...and I thought about all the life below the surface of the pond.  I know there are fish and turtles and some otters there, among other wiggly critters.  It made me consider how we, as people, can be like the pond's surface.  Apparently smooth and peaceful...if we get under the surface that's where we find life and that's where we find issues.  It was far too cold to explore below the surface of my pond but I suspect we all need to consider how we can touch the life below the surface of those around us...perhaps by revealing the life swimming about in our own lives.
from 1 Corinthians 2:6-7 (The Message)  God's wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don't find it lying around on the surface. It's not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

secrets of the vine

I enjoyed reading the familiar passage in John chapter 15 this morning about the vine and the branches.  It is such a clear picture of the seamless relationship we are to have with Jesus and our Father in Heaven.  Vine, branch and fruit are vitally connected and really picture "oneness" for us.  But this morning I was challenged to look closer at just how I can be the kind of branch that Jesus is describing.  Several words seem key: abide, words, commands, obey, friends, love.  Jesus seems to teach that the branch will remain or abide in Him when we are nourished by His words, like a plant is fed from the soil and from the sun.  Unlike the plant, however, we have a choice about whether to accept the benefits of that good food.  If we obey we will be healthy branches that can bear fruit.  It's interesting that almighty God has given us the ability to choose whether we will (or won't) obey His commands.  This is more than the rest of His creation can do.  The sun must rise, the ocean must stop where He holds His hand, the birds must migrate, the seasons must change, but man can decide whether to obey almighty God!  But the most interesting aspect to me is the connection between obedience, love, and friendship that Jesus teaches. 
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. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
Our relationship with Jesus is built on love and friendship.  We show our friendship with Jesus by doing what He wants rather than doing what we want for ourselves.  And the thing He wants is for us to put others' interests ahead of our own.  It seems that putting others first is a key way of putting Jesus first.  This reflects our friendship with Jesus and helps us remain close to Him.  The fruit of love is also the nourishment needed by the vine to grow!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

the rest of faith

I was in a discussion recently with some folks who were wondering about the eternal destiny of people from other religions: the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.  They had a hard time, I think, with the idea that Jesus could be the only pathway to salvation.  It is kind of staggering to consider the millions, perhaps billions, of people who don't know about Jesus, let only come to faith in Him.  Of course I have strong convictions about Jesus when He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."  But I was thinking about the benefits we have, well before we go to Heaven, from knowing Him.  Of course we have the very real companionship of the Holy Spirit, the illumination of God's Word in the Bible, the encouragement and fellowship of other believers and the access through prayer to a God who hears and answers.  One other thought that struck me is that when we enter into a faith/trust relationship with the Lord we can really rest.  I think much of our activity in this life is based on restlessness, unease, uncertainty and lack of clarity about who we are.  When we surrender self to Jesus and trust Him for our lives that all drops away.  We know our purpose...we rest in His undergirding arms....and our actions are no longer based in uncertainty but are all about reflecting and carrying that assurance to others.
Hebrews 4: 9There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
Rob Smith

Monday, December 14, 2009


This is a foggy morning.  I went down to the pond where I meet with God each morning and enjoyed a good time with a breakfast of Proverbs, Psalms and the book of John.  But as the morning light began to filter through the trees around me and I looked over the pond I considered how fog and heavy mist makes visibility difficult.  The usual crisp scene of water, trees and sky was dulled like some kind of impressionistic painting.  Things were unclear.  Fortunately I was so familiar with the winding road to and from the pond that despite the fog I could anticipate the bends and turns as the headlights led my truck there and back.  It occurred to me that life can be like a fog sometimes and the things that usually are clear can lose their definition.  Yesterday we learned that a good friend from church had tragically died while on a trip abroad.  He was one of the most dynamic, life-filled people I've known, with a fervent and active faith in our Lord.  He leaves a wife and children who are just emerging into young adulthood.  This is a foggy happening.  It has no definition and It is hard for us to see clearly right now.  The sharp edges of life's routine have become fuzzy and our thoughts have nowhere to go but to God.  It seems that this fog is making some things much clearer...things that we talk about a lot as Christians like, eternal life, Heaven, God's sovereignty in our lives and over every dimension of living.  The fog makes it difficult to see around us but is causing us to look within and to look up and we are confident that the sun is near and the fog will lift!
1 Corinthians 13:12We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
blessings and tender thoughts for Wendy and the kids,
Rob Smith

Sunday, December 13, 2009


The word "rejoice" comes from two French roots, "re" and "joir".  To rejoice means to welcome and to enjoy.  This morning as I am reflecting on the great sadness of Jeremiah (in preparation for our Mini Bible class) I considered what could be the antidote for sadness.  Jeremiah's great sadness came as the Lord revealed His plans for punishment because the people of Jerusalem would not follow or honor the Lord.  He was also sad because the people just wouldn't listen or change.  It occurred to me that if we are proactive to "rejoice" in the Lord it could make all the difference.  If we will start our day and weave into our lives an attitude of joy and thankfulness for all the Lord has done for us and in us and for all the Hope He has given us, it could help keep us close to Him and help us avoid much heartache and the sadness and separation of much sin.  Consider the words of Paul in the book of Romans, chapter 5:
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through 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. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
We should lead with rejoicing because we have been forgiven...we have access directly to God...we have the sure hope of Heaven and all its Glory.  We also should rejoice because now we have perspective on suffering when it takes place on the far side of our salvation experience...even suffering is growing us and increasing our hope and providing opportunity to feel the presence of God directly via His Holy Spirit..placed within us.
Let's enjoy the Lord proactively (that is: "Let's rejoice in Him"!)
Rob Smith

Saturday, December 12, 2009

short thought

We are busy in the Chapel Choir with our Community Christmas Concert series, having performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  But I wanted to share one brief thought from John chapter 14 before today melts into tomorrow.  I was struck this morning with the reality that Jesus is coming again, not just in the grand sense to rule and reign.  He promised His believers that He would come back and take them to be with Him in Heaven.  Verse 3:"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."   In the past I've always pictured going up to Heaven and hoping to meet the Savior then.  I find it all the more exciting that He will come at the appropriate time and take me home with Him.
Christmas blessings to all who are awaiting this glorious encounter!
Rob Smith

Friday, December 11, 2009

stuck in the mud

This morning I read the miraculous story of Jesus raising Lazarus, his friend, from the dead.  You probably know the Jesus was asked to come by Lazarus' sisters when he was very ill.  Rather than rushing to the scene, Jesus waited two more days before responding.  And by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead and placed in the tomb for four days.  You can picture this "dead man walking" when Jesus commanded him to come out of the tomb and he emerged wrapped in burial linens like some kind of mummy from an old movie.  Unsurprisingly, many came to faith in Jesus that day!   But a few of those who observed the miracle decided to report it to the Pharisees.  This is the amazing part: A man is raised from death and restored to life and yet some people responded in fear and anger.  The chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting and decided that they couldn't let Jesus go on doing miracles because if too many people trusted in Jesus and followed Him the Romans would be unhappy.  The priests and Pharisees had forged a cozy coexistence with the Roman conquerors and their number one concern was to not upset the world's greatest nation.  This seems amazingly be more concerned with Rome than with Heaven.  But I think this is where many of us are.  While the Lord makes Himself known daily through His word, His creation and His acts of grace, mercy and help we can be so rooted in this world that we may find Him to be inconvenient.  In fact, like the Pharisees, we may suspect that trusting in Jesus might upset our whole comfortable way of life.  When it comes to Jesus, we may be looking at Him through the wrong end of the telescope!
John 11:45Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 46But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

   "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."



Rob Smith

Thursday, December 10, 2009

two questions

"Where are you from?" and "Where are you going?"
These were two questions that when Jesus was talking to the Jews and the Pharisees.  They tried to discredit Jesus by saying that He couldn't be the Messiah because when the Messiah was to come no one would know where He was from.
 John 7:27"But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." 
But Jesus explained that they may have known His earthly home but they didn't know that He actually had been sent from Heaven.
28Then 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, 29but I know him because I am from him and he sent me." 
Perhaps more interestingly, Jesus turned the tables and challenged them to know where they would eventually go.   
33Jesus said, "I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. 34You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come."
It occurs to me that we start out with very little understanding of where we've come from and where we're going.  We had nothing to do with the origin of our own lives and we know little of what happens after this life ends....apart from the One who designed life, itself, and who can be trusted to lead us safely when our time on earth is done.  Truly we need to trust the one who has been from the beginning and who has no end.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

No one ever spoke like this

This morning I was reading the gospel of John, chapter 7.  Jesus was teaching in the Temple Court during a feast in Jerusalem.  He experienced interesting reactions from the crowd listening to Him:
15The Jews were amazed and asked, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" 
25At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, "Isn't this the man they are trying to kill?
30At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come.
31Still, many in the crowd put their faith in him. They said, "When the Christ comes, will he do more miraculous signs than this man?"  
Perhaps the most interesting reaction was from the Temple guards who were sent to arrest Jesus but came back without him:
John 7:45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?"

 46"No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.


I think Jesus is intent on getting a reaction, one way or the other, from us.  As long as the folks in the crowd looked to reinforce their skepticism and disbelief with each other, they remained bitter and hateful.  As individuals, however, when they blocked out the crowd and really listened to Jesus many allowed themselves to believe what their hearts told them to be true.  They were willing to risk rejection by the crowd in exchange for acceptance by Jesus.  In our days we are pulled by the crowd but we are also in range of the Lord's voice.  Will we be smothered by crowd-think or resuscitated by the breath of the Savior! 



Rob Smith

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

anatomy of a disaster

I read the Old Testament book of Lamentations this morning (short...only 5 chapters).  It really is more like a very sad poem than a book.  Apparently, Jeremiah was moved to recount the great sadness he felt as Jerusalem was levelled and its people carted away.  It is apparent, as you read, that Jeremiah realized that this dramatic turn of events was not only orchestrated by was intended for their ultimate good.  But as I considered the anatomy of the great sin that had caused God's wrath to fall so heavily, it occurred to me that it all started with a widespread case of "ignoring God".  As the people of Jerusalem had ceased to think about God, they then had found it fairly to ignore Him and His direction for their lives.  And the natural progression led them to follow their own ways.  All this took place while they had the trappings of God in His awesome temple in their immediate presence as a daily physical reminder.  Of course the obvious application emerged that I need to start with my level of awareness of the Lord, when I consider the quality of my walk with Him.  If I am not thinking about Him, seeing Him in His handiwork, appreciating Him as I interact with others then I am likely to ignore His direction for my life, personally.  This morning I am reminded that God is not hard to find...He's waiting for my attention to be directed to Him!
Lamentations 3:24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
       therefore I will wait for him."

 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
       to the one who seeks him;

 26 it is good to wait quietly
       for the salvation of the LORD.



Rob Smith

Monday, December 7, 2009

spirit to flesh

Jesus is God come down to earth in human form.  He did this to identify with us, to intercede for us and ultimately to pay the price we couldn't pay to reconcile us to the Father.  When we believe this, with trust...putting the full weight of our life on Him we enter eternal life.  From then on, while we are still on the planet, it is our privilege to come after Him to garner tastes of Heaven so that, one day, we will bask in His full presence, with glorious praise and gratitude.  It occurred to me this morning that Jesus was fully spirit and He took on flesh so that I, who am fully flesh, might take on Spirit.  As a friend shared recently, Jesus ascended in His resurrection body to sit at the Father's right hand and, still today, He is in the form of that resurrected "Human" body and so Jesus still carries His human side in Heaven.  We begin our heavenly identity here and carry our spiritual form to Heaven.  One day we will worship our brother and Lord, Jesus, in His immediate presence...where spirit and flesh have become one.
John 17:24"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world."
Rob Smith

Sunday, December 6, 2009

the old story

Yesterday afternoon my wife and I experienced a wonderful performance of Handel's Messiah, the classic musical recounting of the coming of Jesus as prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament.  The work dates back to 1741 in England.  As the glorious scriptures came to dramatic life through the stirring music I thought of the wonder of God's story.  It is a story whose author has long known the plot and the climax.  And, amazingly enough, we also are characters in the story.  From the earliest scripture revealed to Moses about God's response to Adam and Eve's transgressions to the story of Abraham's faith and through the ups and downs of the nation Israel which gave rise to effervescent prophecies of the Messiah in Isaiah, we know that God has a plan.  Perhaps the most amazing aspect is that this plan includes you and me.  In fact, in a sense, there is no one on earth more important to God than you and I, as the story unfolds.  As wave after wave of generations pass and the story rolls through human history we see the opportunity for salvation as a light that shines for all to turn towards.  And there is more to the story as history continues, as we know from the Prophets that Jesus will come again and this world will be dramatically changed and we also will have the chance to walk directly in the presence of the Father and the Son.  So, this Christmas, as the story is recounted once again...write yourself into the story and realize that it was written for includes you...and you can find yourself there!
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Rob Smith

Saturday, December 5, 2009

enemy at the gates

We've been spending the past year surveying the Old Testament through the window of the Mini-Bible College and Dick Woodward's inspired insights.  One of the broad-brush truths that emerges is that the Old Testament uses stories of individuals, families and nations to teach principles we can apply personally in our walk with the Lord.  Having just completed a reading of the prophet Jeremiah I find myself amazed at two things: (1) the capacity of the people of Judah and Israel to stiff arm the living God and (2) the sovereignty of God which uses whole nations to judge other nations and to restore His people to their home.  I was specifically challenged this morning by Jeremiah 51:51 "We are ashamed because we have heard reproach; Disgrace has covered our faces, For aliens have entered the holy places of the Lord's house."  I remembered that ever since I personally trusted in Jesus for His work of salvation, my heart has been His home.  I realized that when I allow evil thoughts and evil actions to form in that heart I effectively have acted just like the Judeans and Israelites of Jeremiah's time.  I have allowed "aliens" to enter  the holy place of the Lord's house.  This led to the memory of another verse: Proverbs 4:23 "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the issues of life."  Sometimes I need to remember the walls around Jerusalem and build even stronger walls around my heart!
Rob Smith

Friday, December 4, 2009

What are you looking for?

John 6:26Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled."
The crowd that had been miraculously fed one day before followed Jesus across the sea of Galilee.  Apparently they were more interested in getting another free meal than they were in believing Jesus to be the Son of God.  They were settling for stomach contentment.  Jesus wanted them to think past their next meal and set their sights on eternity.  So He said to them:  27"Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal."  The people wanted a simple list of good works they could do but Jesus gave them another kind of work: 29Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."  The people wanted another 'miracle show' to amaze them before they'd believe.  But Jesus told them that their need wasn't to see more miracles, but to realize the source of the miracle they'd just seen the day before: 32Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven."  They were looking for bread.  Jesus wanted them to know that He was looking for them: 40"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."
Have you found the One who is looking for you?
Rob Smith

Thursday, December 3, 2009

the nobility of every man

As I peered out my window at work the other day I spotted a crew of fellows blowing leaves away from the commercial buildings that surround us.  They were working hard physically while I was comfortable in my office setting.  I thought about the tendency we may have to categorize people.  Even in subtle ways we may judge some folks "better" than others improperly.  We tend to stratify the worth of people by education, possessions, achievement, land of origin....perhaps we do this because we like to find ways to elevate our "self-view".  It occurred to me that there is a dignity and a nobility of man that we share and that is vested within us by our Creator.  Our nobility is reflected in the great price that has been paid for everyone to be reconciled to the One who formed us.  Recent news about celebrities  has made clear that our sin nature is shared across all classes of men.  There are many good things that we can accomplish and achieve, but our worth is intrinsic...equally shared with all...and imbued by our Creator and not ourselves.
Hebrews 2: 9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

matter of death and life

I enjoyed reading Hebrews chapter 2 this morning in preparation for fellowship time with a friend.  Hebrews is a noble book that states eloquently the nature of man, the nature of God (Father and Son) and the nature of heavenly beings (angels).  It also explains our need for salvation and the manner through which the Father has provided it through the Son.  Chapter 2 discusses how perfect Jesus is to represent us because He is both man and God at the same time.  How amazing that He is both brother and Lord!  One thought that grabbed me came from verses 14-15: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
It occurred to me that death is the dark door that we all must go through and that lingers in the background of our minds...surfacing frequently and full of unknown.  We cannot speak to others who have been through this experience and we cannot read the writings of people who have died.   We know that death leads to another dimension that will probably be very different from this dimension.  And we sense that we will face God in a direct and personal way on the other side.  All of these factors can make a "stew" of unknowns that cause fear.  So it is wonderful that Jesus has shown the way through that door and conquered the fear of judgment by paying the price we know needs to be paid for our shortcomings.   We start under a cloud of fear about death, but when we have put our trust in Jesus' victory we realize the story is all about life...moving from one dimension to another.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

not the Babylonians

As I continue in the book of the prophet Jeremiah I read the warnings and dire predictions of how the people of Jerusalem were to lose their property, their freedom, their way of life.  If Jeremiah said it once, he said it scores of times.  Yet it doesn't appear that many, if any, listened or changed.  This morning it occurred to me that God wasn't expressing his displeasure with the nations who had no knowledge of Him, like Egypt or Babylon.  He was upset with the nation of Israel, with whom He had made more than one covenant, and to whom He had been faithful to preserve and protect.  As we look about our world today, we can find much to be unhappy about.  There are many, even in "the land of the free", who do not know the Lord and, unsurprisingly, do not order their lives to Him or to His ways.  Our culture reflects our people and, perhaps, that is why there are many evidences of moral decline.  On the other hand, the people who have come to know the Lord and experienced His covenant of forgiveness and reconciliation can represent a distinctive difference in focus, values and lifestyle.  No doubt the Lord is not pleased when unbelievers ignore their Creator, but I imagine He is more distressed by believers who live like unbelievers, rather than like people who have been transformed.  We may live close to Babylon, but our address can still be Jerusalem!
Jeremiah 32:36 "Now therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, 'It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: 37 Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. 38 They shall be My people, and I will be their God; 39 then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. 40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. 41 Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.'
Rob Smith