Wednesday, June 26, 2013

the God of today

Hebrews 3:12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still "today," so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 

Sometimes I think that it is easier to consider God from a distance than God who is right here.  Sometimes I think it is easier to think of the God of eternity than the God of right now.  We are learning from the book of Hebrews that we tend to quickly get out of alignment with God, with the intimate and near God who has gone to such great lengths to make that closeness of relationship possible.  The writer of the book exhorts us to warn each other every day to turn to God so that we won't be turned by the world and hardened against God.  It seems that we are either drawing near or drawing apart and there is no middle ground, when it comes to our walk with the Lord.  It seems that we have a capability for self deception and we need to encourage each other in this challenge.  Perhaps we can find new purpose as we look to Him on a daily basis, that we might enjoy His presence and that we might be an encouragement to others, as they also encourage us.  Our purpose is to be purposeful in bringing the focus back to the Lord day by day!

Rob Smith

Monday, June 24, 2013

everything and everyone

We are studying the book of Hebrews this summer.  I listened to the first few chapters as I exercised this morning.  The wonder and greatness of Jesus was described and two words stood out to me: "everything" and "everyone".  I realized that I have a God and Savior who has a lot to do with "everything" and "everyone".  We see this show up almost right away, in the second half of chapter 1, verse 2: God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. 

We learn that Jesus is above, and greater, than everything else, because He made everything and holds everything together.  

In chapter two we learn about everyone.  Starting in verse 9 we see: Yes, by God's grace, Jesus tasted death foreveryone. 10 God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

Of course, Jesus' death for everyone calls for a response of repentance and acceptance on a personal level.  But it makes sense that the One who made it all would be the One who could save each one who comes in faith.

We learn right away in the first few chapters about our "every" God and Savior.  When you have a God that can be associated confidently with every...everything that is made, everything that is held together, and everyone who lives or who has ever lived, you are have the true God and the right Savior.  Only the One who has made it all can determine the course of life and the path of redemption.

Rob Smith

Sunday, June 23, 2013

light or tight

To what will I cling tight today...
and what will I hold light?

Will it be my life so dear...
my wants, my needs, my rights...

Or will it be His presence near,
so self can step aside,

That holding tight to His strong hand
I know the Master's guide.

If I grasp the selfish things and try to shape this day,
I will miss His sweeter voice and pass by Heaven's Way.

I will loosen this life's grip and let Life's giver hold
the substance of my life entire,

Until my days are old.

Rob Smith

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Still there

Hebrews God's promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them....We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: "On the seventh day God rested from all his work."...So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:
"Today when you hear his voice,
    don't harden your hearts."

This morning I returned to a place I used to go every morning...the local pond.  It is a quiet place where the water stretches out in peaceful reflection and large birds survey the setting from high in the trees on the shoreline.  I was treated to a view of a gorgeous osprey who worked his way from the far end of the pond down the length, toward me, in search of a breakfast fish.  The familiar feeling of peace reminded me that the familiar peace of the Lord is still there as well.  I am reminded that the Lord has called us to peace...peace with Him that leads to peace within.  The passage above from Hebrews tells us that the seventh day of Creation, when God rested, was a picture of this peace that we find in Him...that has been established based on the perfect sacrifice of His Son, and our resting on that work.  He has called us to rest in Him and to find this be still because He is still there.

Rob Smith

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

the big water

Last night we went to the first swim meet of the season.  Our grandkids are "just getting their feet wet" with swimming and have joined a local pool and the swim team.  These swim meets are quite exciting.  The smell of grilled hamburgers mixes with chlorine.  There is a constant background buzz of chatter between parents, kids and other family and friends.  They really are a great growth opportunity for the kids as the little ones can join the teens and boys can team up with girls to represent one pool against another.  The most thrilling races for me are the littlest children who are swimming the full length of the pool for the first time.  Some of these kids are hardly bigger than a peanut and it is exciting to watch them plunge into the pool and then bob, flail and inch their way down the lanes to the far end.  It must be an overwhelming sight for them before they start...the crowd is watching...the pool stretches out far ahead...they may not have ever succeeded to that point...and then they leave the wooden blocks and head out, with everyone encouraging them from the pool side.  It was especially endearing to watch the hugs and praises and applause as each one finished.  I think it is a great picture of faith and fellowship.  Each of us has our time on the blocks with a challenge stretched out before us and the crowd around.  At a certain point we jump, in faith, believing that we have enough trust to stay afloat and enough skill to keep our heads above water and move to the goal, despite how far away it seems.  But we are surprised to find the shouts and encouragement of others and how much that invigorates us to keep on to the end.  Yes, faith and fellowship are great companions, and children make some of the best teachers!

1 Thessalonians 5:14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

Rob Smith

Monday, June 17, 2013


listen now as day begins,
the Lord is calling clear...

"Look to me and hear my words,
and draw up to be near."

"It is I who has made you and you 
bear my design."

"Consider how I planned for you
to walk this day...this time."

"You do not live for self, alone.
But for my pleasure true."

"The life you have, the breath you draw,
the thoughts you think, the craft you do."

"It's all from me this gift this you're a giver too!"

"For as you give yourself to me, I'll show Myself through you."

1 Peter 2:But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

Rob Smith

Sunday, June 16, 2013

our allotment

Numbers 18:20 And the Lord said to Aaron, "You priests will receive no allotment of land or share of property among the people of Israel. I am your share and your allotment."

1 Peter 2:And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What's more, you are his holy priests.Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.

As the people of Israel prepared to move into the promised land, as recorded in the book of Numbers, God laid out allotments of land to all the tribes to be their eternal property, except for the tribe of Levi...the tribe of priests.  The priests were all wrapped up in the service and duties that centered on the Tabernacle.  They had no time for tending flocks or raising crops.  Their sole focus was to be the Lord and issues of God and man that were dealt with at the Tabernacle.  These included the sacrifices for sin and offerings for peace and thanksgiving.  The priests made judgments that dealt with the physical and spiritual health of the people and decided who was "clean" and who was "unclean".  So the Lord made very clear in Numbers 18:20 that their allotment would not be one of land or property.  Their allotment would be the Lord, Himself.

There are many things that we aspire to in this life and often they have to do with things like land and property.  And the Lord certainly provides those things.  But, as we learn from 1 Peter, chapter 2, we who have placed our faith in Jesus for our salvation are the holy priests of God.  We offer sacrifices as the priests did in the Old Testament...but not animal sacrifices...we offer spiritual sacrifices that include our very lives and our time and our talents and our material goods.  I think it is reasonable to say that we can make a direct connection with the priests of the Tabernacle when we say that God is also "our share and allotment".  What more could we want?

Rob Smith

Saturday, June 15, 2013

content and contentment

Reading (or listening) through the book of Numbers you see that the people of Israel fail to grasp the most important thing.  The picture from within the camps is of a stubborn and dissatisfied people who just cannot seem to faithfully obey the Lord.  Time after time God provides for them: miraculous food appears on a daily basis, water pours from a rock in the desert, enemies are kept at bay...But the people have short memories and when times get tough they forget all this.  I think the problem is that they are fixated on their circumstances rather than on the One who is bigger than circumstance.  Ultimately, when they hunger or thirst or grow weary in the demanding wilderness and desert they allow their perception of life to be shaped by that discomfort.  They haven't moved beyond the physical to appreciate the spiritual reality that God is with them, God is for them and God goes before them.  I am reminded that, in my life, I can overemphasize the material and natural circumstances and begin to think that the quality of life is measured by the satisfaction that is experienced in natural ways.  I need to look past and look beyond and remember the One who is greater than circumstance and who soars over time and nature.  When my contentment doesn't come from the content but from the Creator of life I am no longer ruled by the ups and downs of circumstance!

Numbers 20:There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. The people blamed Moses and said, "If only we had died in the Lord's presence with our brothers!

Numbers 20:"You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock."

Rob Smith

Thursday, June 13, 2013

minority report

In Exodus, chapter 13, Moses sent 12 spies to investigate the "promised land" within the first year or so after the people of Israel had crossed the Red Sea.  The spies (one from each tribe) were sent to check out how strong the armies were that they would face and whether the people lived in walled cities.  They were also to find out how rich the soil was.  When they came back They brought a sample of the grapes that proved the good quality of the land but only Joshua and Caleb spoke with confidence that they should invade the land.  The other spies fixated on the size and strength of the armies they'd seen.  Joshua and Caleb didn't deny the reality of this challenge but they had the faith to believe that what God had promised, He was absolutely able to deliver.  Here is part of what they said  from Numbers 14:"Do not rebel against the Lord, and don't be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don't be afraid of them!"  Unfortunately the people decided to be swayed by the fears of the ten spies over the faith of the two.  I am reminded that when we are listening for the voice of the Lord we need discernment to hear truth and wisdom.  We may find that His direction for us comes from the "minority report" of the few over the blare from the many.  If we have laid the strong foundation of His promises in our hearts like Joshua and Caleb then we will have faith for their fulfillment.  Otherwise we will be blown around by fears because our faith has shallow roots.

Rob Smith

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

tassels to remember

Numbers 15:37 Then the Lord said to Moses, 38 "Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: Throughout the generations to come you must make tassels for the hems of your clothing and attach them with a blue cord. 39 When you see the tassels, you will remember and obey all the commands of the Lord instead of following your own desires and defiling yourselves, as you are prone to do. 40 The tassels will help you remember that you must obey all my commands and be holy to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt that I might be your God. I am the Lord your God!"

I've been listening to the Book of Numbers this week.  It is a true story of the power and authority of God contrasted with the chronic rebellion of God's people.  In the passage above God provides an instruction to help the people remember and obey His commands.  He has them attach tassels to the bottom of their robes that have no other function other than to serve as a reminder of Him.  So every day, everywhere they went they carried a direct reminder of God on their person.  They could also see these reminders on the clothes of all others around them.  In a way it seems strange that we would need reminders of the all powerful, all present God.  But we are made in such a way that it is very possible to forget Him, despite His fingerprints on all He has made, and even despite the work He has done in our hearts.  I am challenged to make the first piece of clothing that I put on in the morning an invisible remember that I am more clothed by the covering of the Lord over my sin than the protection any physical clothes can provide.  I am also reminded by the blessings of this life: wife, children, grandchildren and other family that are the direct gift of God in my life.

blessings to you,
Rob Smith 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

why rush?

Do you ever have those days that you dread, before they even begin?  There are days that spring up like a giant wave at the shore that seem poised to crush the swimmer and pound him into the surf.  Sometimes there appear to be so many things to do that you have a hard time even remembering them, let alone assign priorities to accomplish them.  You know that it is possible to multitask and so you begin to consider a day that resembles a chef tending to various pots on the stove, dishes in the oven and salads on the chopping block...all at the same time.  But then, sensing this overwhelming set of events, you kneel in a quiet place and simply ask the Lord, "Father help to order my day.  Show me what must be done first and then show me what must be done next.  Be my guide and then be my companion so that I might experience your help to accomplish each thing well."  I think I have come to the conclusion that I really can only do one thing at a time.  Of course there are times when I must move quickly because there is much to do.  But often I find that my mind tends to create anxiety needlessly.  If I lay a foundation of prayer before going into action, then the actions have the Lord as their conductor and the tasks become an experience where we find the Lord meets us in their midst.

Luke 11:"And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."

Rob Smith

Monday, June 10, 2013

rust and renewal

I went for a drive through the countryside yesterday afternoon.  It was a gorgeous Virginia afternoon.  The sun was bright but not too glaring.  The fields waved green and gold of grasses, corn and grains.  Few other drivers were sampling the remote stretch of road I followed and I felt like I was sampling a banquet of the Lord.  I passed a number of antiquated general stores and old gas stations.  They typically still had signs that had been sponsored by Coca Cola or other beverage companies.  Some of the old stores and stations had been maintained, complete with the old vertical kind of gas pumps.  But most had been allowed to fade and rust and go unpainted as nature was gradually reclaiming the materials.  It occurred to me that the fields I passed represented God's nature of life and renewal.  With every spring the land produces new crops.  The seasons work through their cycle and the nutrients of the soil combine with the light of the sun and the warmth of the air and the moisture from the sky to support the farmers labor to form the food to renew our lives and the lives of livestock.  God's nature is to bring life and to renew the land.  This contrasted with the work of man on display through the old stores and stations.  The handiwork of man does not renew naturally like the fields of God.  Man's handiwork tends toward rust and deterioration.  I was reminded that we need the renewal of God in our lives, as the fields display, to bring new life.  The land of Virginia is very old but this spring a fresh crop is rising once again.  We can shake off the rust and experience the same renewal in our lives as we consider the soil of our lives as a field for His planting.

Psalm 72:16 
May there be abundant grain throughout the land,
    flourishing even on the hilltops.
May the fruit trees flourish like the trees of Lebanon,
    and may the people thrive like grass in a field.

Rob Smith

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

simple words

When we pray it may be useful to follow this advice: Use simple words.  Simple words can express sincere truth and real needs in honesty and transparency.  When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He replied with a model prayer that used simple words which we know as the Lord's Prayer.  Clearly the Lord knows where we are and knows what we are going through but simple words may help us to identify and express our concerns, as well as our joys, so that as we hear ourselves say or think these expressions we are aligning with Him, with the God who is right here.  We don't need to impress the Lord with our knowledge of the Bible and we probably don't need to instruct Him.  We just need to come to Him in absolute surrender and sincerity and level with Him.  The great reality is that we "can" come to Him, just as we are and as we lift our words, which represent the cares and substance of our lives.  In doing this, we lift the sweetest of offerings to Him.  The Bible pictures our prayers as fragrant incense.  He cared so much to reach us that He sacrificed His Son so that we would lift our cares back to Him.

Matthew 6:"When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don't be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
    may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
    as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins,
    as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don't let us yield to temptation,
    but rescue us from the evil one.

Rob Smith

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

a call for prayer

Our church has been moving through a time of transition and some degree of pain.  A change at the top of the local church is probably never easy and our church is negotiating that narrow passage as it also climbs up and out to a new future.  There is a great need for closeness...starting with closeness to God on the personal level and then moving to closeness with each other at the "body life" level.  It has occurred to me that if ever prayer was an important pursuit, now is that time for our local church.  Disappointment and distress don't have to become disaster.  We are confident that God is still here and God is still in control of the events that have transpired and God has plans that are positive...even exciting.   But, perhaps in a more focused way, we are aware that the plans and the ways of man don't always move seamlessly.  There was a commuter train that ran for a long time from Connecticut to New York City without problem.  Recently that eastbound train was returning home on a Friday night when it apparently hit some construction debris on the track, causing it to derail and hit a westbound train.  Some 60 people were injured and the commuter system was upset for a while, with people having to find alternative ways to and from work.  Sometimes we have debris on the tracks because we are people and we are far from perfect and sometimes our trains derail.  Unfortunately this usually leads to collisions and injuries.

So we need to get the debris off the track, make the needed repairs and put the train back in place.  We also need to study to see what can be learned from the whole situation.  This calls for a commitment to prayer.   In times of crisis we are reminded to "look up" because we can't find the answers or the healing or the hope just from each other.  We need to go vertical if we are going to function well here on the horizontal.

Psalm 138:
As soon as I pray, you answer me;
    you encourage me by giving me strength.

Rob Smith

Monday, June 3, 2013

the offering

We are working through the book of Leviticus in our survey of the Bible.  This is tough going.  Yesterday, in our class, I characterized the Book of Leviticus as "the swamp", just because it is like reading through a law book (which, of course, it is!).  But several impressions stand out as I am nearing the completion of this book.  1. God is detail oriented and very specific.  There is no doubt about His statements of what is right and what is wrong or about the procedures to be followed.  And I am reminded that God is detail oriented in my life as well.  He has many plans and thoughts and He has an "ideal" in mind for my life.  2. Holiness is important in our lives because God is holy.  The detailed and complex set of commands for sacrifice and cleansing were all necessary because of this truth.  While God is holy, we are not.  I am reminded that this is why Jesus came to earth and completed His work of perfect sacrifice to do what I could never do and make it possible for me, an unholy person, to come before the Holy God.  3. A great deal of time, attention and value was placed on the offerings that the people of Israel brought.  The offerings came from the provision of God in their lives...their livestock and their crops.  I am reminded that I am to give back to God what He was already given me for life, provision  and the abilities and skills He has equipped me with.  And this "giving back" is not occasional.  It is to be a daily and a continual giving back.   This is how I can align my life with the giver of life!

Leviticus 19 The Lord also said to Moses, "Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy."

Rob Smith

Sunday, June 2, 2013

moving vans

Whenever you are driving through your neighborhood and you spot moving vans it catches your attention and you begin to think.  Are existing neighbors moving out?  Are new folks moving in?  Where are they going to or where are they coming from?  All their earthly furnishings are visible at some point as they are carted one direction or the other from van to house or house to van.  For the new people moving in you wonder about the family and how they will blend with the neighborhood and how you might get to know them.  In our neighborhood we have quite a few active military families and it is humbling to see the stickers on the back of vehicles that indicate service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But as an allegory I was thinking what it is like to become a Christian.  When we personally decide to trust in the work of Christ on the Cross something happens that the Bible calls "being reborn".  We actually are re-made in a way as the forgiving and cleansing work of the Lord on our behalf is directly associated with us, personally.  But, not only does that miracle take place, God also moves into our lives.  He puts His Spirit within us and we are characterized as "His Temple", which is like the Temple or Tabernacle that God actually dwelled in in the times of the Old Testament.  If you could see with Spiritual eyes what is happening as a new believer places his faith in Jesus, you might see Heavenly moving vans pulling up to that new member of God's family and all the furnishings that the Spirit wants to bring into that life are carried in.  There is a hunger for the Word of God, the Bible.  There is a new compassion for others.  There is a change of heart and mind regarding certain bad habits and freedom from certain addictions.  There is a totally new mindset toward life.  And once He moves in He remains through life.  The moving vans don't show up again until it is time to leave the body behind and move on to the eternal mansion in Heaven!

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

John 14:In My Father's house are many mansions;if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Rob Smith