Monday, September 30, 2013

redeemed day

Saturday was a day of redemption for Shirley and me. We started by traveling to Hampton to exchange a shrub. We had bought several bushes to plant in front of our garage this past spring and one didn't thrive over the summer. The nursery agreed to exchange for a healthy plant that matched the remaining ones in size. On the way home we stopped for lunch at a franchise Italian restaurant because I'd been given a gift card for my birthday. It was fun to have lunch and see the cost covered by that gift. Later in the evening we took in a movie and used a movie gift card that we'd received this past Christmas and after the film we stopped by the local frozen yogurt shop for a treat that was, once again, covered by a gift certificate Shirley had received on her birthday. It wasn't that these things were was that they had been paid for by others...covered from past payments. And most of them were gifts from loved ones. They were gifts that gave us freedom of choice, to exercise them when we were ready. Naturally I think of the parallel with the great gift God has made of Himself. He placed the payment for a close relationship with us, not on a gift card, but on His Son. When we place our trust...our faith...we unlock the blessing of this gift. The love behind the gift cards we used on Saturday was like the love of our Father in Heaven. He waits for us behind the redemption He has placed in His Son for you and for me to accept the greatest gift of all.
Romans 4:16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham's. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

the change agent

Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord's followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?"
5 "Who are you, lord?" Saul asked.
And the voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
15 But the Lord said, "Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name's sake."
Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is indeed the Son of God!"
21 All who heard him were amazed. "Isn't this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus' followers in Jerusalem?" they asked. "And didn't he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?"
There are times that we may become discouraged as we seem to see the moral fabric of our culture and our country and our families unravel. It can appear irreversible and unstoppable. But I don't accept that. Our God is the same One who took the fiercest human enemy of His Son and transformed him into the fiercest and most effective Apostle. When a person becomes saved, through the work of God, he is no longer in opposition to God or His church and he is now in alignment with the Lord. I believe the answer to our cultural ebb tide is prayer, presentation through example, and proclamation in word of that Gospel. Of all the messages that flood our air, internet and print...that is the one message that must take root to hold back erosion and build the cultural cornerstone upon. I think this is best illustrated in the life of Paul. Transformation of a culture begins with transformation of individuals!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


I have roamed both far and near
in places and in mind;
I have searched for answers dear
to satisfy inside;
I have looked for peace in strength,
thinking I was strong;
But what I wanted was so near,
the place where I belong.
You have made a place with me
to enter and abide;
You have crafted shelter's shade,
within I will abide.
You are all I'll ever need...
Please come and don't be long,
I will wait beside this stream
for you, and you alone.
a love song to Jesus
Rob Smith

Monday, September 23, 2013

the heart of Deuteronomy

Somehow when I think about the Old Testament I don't think about tender words like "heart" as much as the New Testament. But there is a lot of heart in Deuteronomy. There is a lot about the heart of God and the heart of man. In fact, it seems pretty clear that the heart of God is for the heart of man. Here are a few passages:
Deuteronomy 7:7 "The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations!"
Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will search again for the Lord your God. And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.
Deuteronomy 5:29 Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.
But here is the verse that caught my ear:
Deuteronomy 10:16 Therefore, change your hearts and stop being stubborn.
I was reminded that I have control over my heart. I can choose to change and I can set my heart upon the Lord, just as He has set His heart on me. This short verse also speaks to the problem we have with making that choice. We are proud and stubborn and satisfied with ourselves or with hearts that are set on anything other than the Lord. I was reminded to be grateful that the Lord has set His heart on me and challenged to drop my stubborn attitude and anything that is in the way of following that love.
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

under the rainbow

Rainbows are fascinating. They're beautiful, of course, and a wonderful reminder of God's reality and of His promise never to send the all-destructive flood again (although some in Colorado may be wondering right now...). I was thinking about the Irish legend that if you follow a rainbow to its end you'll find a pot of gold. (Although you may have to elude the leprechauns who are guarding it!). The quest for riches is like the desire to find the gold at the end of the rainbow. Just as you can never actually find an end, you can never satisfy the desire. But, just as the rainbow represents God's promise, a better way is to live in peace under the rainbow. That is where the riches are found...beneath the promise of God. The One who invented light is the One who can separate it into its colors and the One who will fill us with both light and color!
Revelation 10:1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire.
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

It's football season

I love football. I love the emotion of it especially...the emotion that can build when your team seizes momentum and also seizes control of a game. I love being part of the crowd, pulling together for that team and cheering together for them. But lately I've been thinking that I'm tired of being in the crowd...I want to be on the field. Not on the "football field", that's for team would benefit from that! But on God's field. I'm tired of being a spectator...or having a spectator mentality. We weren't made to watch others perform as active Christians! We were made to participate with Him...on His field. So I looked up a few "participation" verses to motivate that direction:
1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace (favor and spiritual blessing) of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the presence and fellowship (the communion and sharing together, and participation) in the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen (so be it).
2 Peter 1:4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Now let's get out there and participate in Him and with Him and for Him! He is the winning team.
Rob Smith

Friday, September 13, 2013

Will you not obey me?

Deuteronomy 11:22 "Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the Lord your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him. 23 Then the Lord will drive out all the nations ahead of you, though they are much greater and stronger than you, and you will take over their land."
26 "Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! 27 You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. 28 But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from him and worship gods you have not known before."
Will you not obey me?
What more have I to do?
Will you choose the blessing now...
or the curse to follow you?
One way or the other....
I've made it plain you see.
The best is what I want for you,
But you must come to me!
Why wander in your darkness?
Pretending false control...
Take my hand and hold on tight,
In trust you are made whole.
blessings and good night,
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

the big question

Deuteronomy 10:12 "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. 13 And you must always obey the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good."
Sometimes "only" can seem like more than "only". Deuteronomy, chapter 10 asks the big question: "...what does the Lord your God require of you?" What does God really want? What does He expect? What is our expectation of ourselves regarding our relationship with God? Well He only has one requirement: He requires only that you fear Him and please Him and love Him and serve Him with all that is within you! And that means to absolutely obey Him!
That's a big "only"! And I look at it as a life challenge. There have been, and continue to be, a lot of things that I love a lot and they aren't all about God! But I want to make that kind of focus a life objective, and I want to love Him that way...or at least I want to want all that! But it makes sense that if God is who He is and I am going to spend all of eternity with Him I should hone that focus now so that when we are face to face the surprise factor will be minimal and the joy factor will be maximized!
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

idols and ideals

Deuteronomy 4:15 "But be very careful! You did not see the Lord's form on the day he spoke to you from the heart of the fire at Mount Sinai. 16 So do not corrupt yourselves by making an idol in any form—whether of a man or a woman, 17 an animal on the ground, a bird in the sky, 18 a small animal that scurries along the ground, or a fish in the deepest sea.
We are starting into a study of the book of Deuteronomy this week in the Mini Bible College (9:30 am Sunday morning, Rm 120 at the Chapel). Moses knew that he would not be entering the Promised Land with the rest of the Hebrew people because God had told him so. In fact, only two survivors from the Egyptian Exodus would enter: Joshua and Caleb. All the others, who had travelled the 40 year journey in the desert would not be permitted to enter because of their unbelief that God could deliver the powerful occupiers of that land into their hands. So Moses assembled a collection of messages to convey the lessons learned during the Wilderness experience to the next generation, who would enter the land. So Deuteronomy is a kind of "retelling" of Exodus from the standpoint of teaching and application. One of the themes that Moses emphasizes is that God must be "number one" in their hearts and minds. There can be no room for worshiping idols. I was struck with the words from verse 15 in chapter 4. Moses seems to be saying that God wants a living relationship with His people but a relationship that doesn't depend on being seen but a relationship that depends on being trusted. I thought about who real God is every day. He is real in His creation. He is real in His provision for us. He is real in hearing and answering our prayers. He is real in communicating truth and in knowing us deep inside. We have come to love the Lord, not because He is seen but because He is so real and true without having to be seen directly. When we worship idols of any kind (and many modern examples exist) we are investing our heart and our belief and our trust in something we can see and we forfeit placing our trust in the unseen God who sees us (and loves us faithfully)!
Rob Smith

Monday, September 9, 2013

your rock

Psalm 62:1 I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.
The image of a "rock" seems to be pretty common in scripture as a picture of the Lord in our lives. I pondered this and realized that the rock is a good analogy for something that is dependable and hard to move. The rock can be relied upon to stay in place, to cling also becomes a strong corner for a building. It's interesting to compare rocks with dirt...after all they are both found in nature. Rocks are more solid and stronger than dirt. They are made of crystals that are homogeneous and uniform and are bound by chemical bonds that create the strength of the mineral. Who or what is the rock in your life? If you are the dirt or clay then what is the stronger element you cling to?
The Psalmist knew that God was his rock, as well as his salvation and his fortress. God is the greater strength that delivers and protects!
Rob Smith

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lessons from jogging

After a long period of being unable to run due to long-healing foot and ankle issues, I have recently resumed jogging and I am rediscovering the satisfactions that accompany it (along with the fatigue factor!). It occurred to me that there are two lessons from jogging that I have discovered. First, the easiest way to jog in an unfamiliar place is to jog out a certain route and the return along the same pathway, in reverse. That way you can't get lost and you have a good idea of how far you are from your starting point at all times. If you apply this first lesson, the second lesson follows. What goes up must come down and what goes down must come up! When you run back the same way you ran out, the hills on the way out become downslopes on the return side and downward trails on the way out become hills on returning. In life, it is also important not to get lost when we are in unfamiliar territory and I believe that every day we live we are in new and somewhat unfamiliar territory. So it makes sense to start out with Jesus with our side at the beginning of the day so that we can return with Him alongside at night. And when we run into hills on the way out we can look for relief on the return as we remember what we have learned as we scaled the tough climbs. And when we coast on the way out we can be confident that there will be lessons to learn from covering the same ground on returning. God gets great mileage out of our journey...whether we are going uphill or down or when we travel the straight paths and enjoy the scenery, He will keep us from getting lost when we travel out and back with Him and we will grow from the challenges and rejoice on the downslopes.
Blessings as you travel this week!
Psalm 121:7 The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
8 The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.
Rob Smith

Saturday, September 7, 2013

this time, let's remain

As I pass through golden gates before the chamber throne,
Once again I praise your name for paving my way home.
Better is the Son you sent from high to rescue me,
than any hope in any god or thing that I could dream (or scheme).
Unworthy to behold your face...
Without the agency of grace...
You found me even in this place.
I come boldly through the door,
Sin's been vanquished evermore...
But this time I shall remain
In your Courts, before your frame.
In the place where victory lives
In this space my Father gives
peace that nowhere else is found
This time I will stay inside,
Never will I turn around.
In my mind and heart I'm home:
With You and nevermore alone.
Psalm 26:8 I love your sanctuary, Lord,
the place where your glorious presence dwells.
Rob Smith

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Psalm themes

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
Having listened to a number of psalms recently I begin to pick up on some themes that keep coming back. There is evil and darkness and there are enemies. These forces and people keep coming after the writer of the Psalms (usually David). There are prayers for deliverance and there is frustration in the waiting process when evil appears to win, but there is ultimate confidence that the evil will disappear. Their influence and power are limited to this natural place and God will destroy that influence and wipe the evil away. The Lord is the source of life, of all Creation and through our trust in Him we find joy. Joy comes from all He does on our behalf, but joy comes also from waiting quietly in His presence. Joy gives way to praise and there are times of music and clapping and even shouting praise! Psalm 63 (first verses quoted above) touches on the deep ways that God quenches our inner thirst. I especially love verse 3: "Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!"
Rob Smith

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Get a lift!

I was listening to Psalms this morning...I love to hear them read. Some are like stories, some are poems and all deal with our personal relationship with God, with others and with ourselves. One Psalm that stood out to me today was Psalm 47. It is such a positive and refreshing picture of worship and praise. Psalm 47 recounts the mighty work of God for the people of Israel and also for us. It reminds us that, no matter what our current experience, God is still King of the Earth! He is the one who delivers us from problems and enemies here in this life and He is the One who sent His Son to us...the Son who ultimately ascended back to Heaven and who will come again with trumpets as we ascend also. For God is the King over all the earth, as the Psalm tells us, and God is also the one who has granted us a Promised Land of heaven, and God is the one who loves us. His throne is high above but His heart is close to each one who will acknowledge and bow before Him. We should make some noise when we praise Him! (Clap your hands and shout with joyful praise!)
Psalm 47:1 Come, everyone! Clap your hands!
Shout to God with joyful praise!
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
3 He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet.
4 He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
the proud possession of Jacob's descendants, whom he loves. Interlude
5 God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm.
8 God reigns above the nations,
sitting on his holy throne.
9 The rulers of the world have gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
He is highly honored everywhere.
peace and joy,
Rob Smith

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What's in our words?

Psalm 33:6 The Lord merely spoke,
and the heavens were created.
He breathed the word,
and all the stars were born.
7 He assigned the sea its boundaries
and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.
8 Let the whole world fear the Lord,
and let everyone stand in awe of him.
9 For when he spoke, the world began!
It appeared at his command.
It is awesome to consider that we are made, or fashioned, in the image of God. We are in some way, or ways, like God. Whatever this means, I think it means at least that we are able to have a relationship with God that includes interaction, love, discipline, obedience and certainly communication. The short passage from Psalm 33, above, gives us an insight into the power of the spoken word. When God spoke, heavens were created, stars were born, oceans were locked into boundaries. His words had, and have, creation power. We don't have that kind of power but our words can have great power. Through our words we either build up or tear down. Through our words the world can hear of the work of God in a person. When our words include and properly communicate His words, lives can be reached by the Lord and eternity is populated through those who respond in faith. It is good to consider the impact of our words before they pass over our lips!
Rob Smith

Monday, September 2, 2013

What's in a name?

This morning, as I finished a jog, I spotted a truck parked near mine. A contractor was enjoying a day off and fishing at the local reservoir. But as I read the name of his business (see picture) I had to laugh to myself. The first impression you create counts for so much when it comes to a business. The name of your business epitomizes that impression. Trust, professionalism and skill are some of the impressions you want to create. So, while "Shady" Tree service might have some visual associations with tree trimming that make might question the judgement that led to the name choice when it comes to the trust side of the relationship. Parents invest a great deal of thought, and possibly prayer, in the selection of a child's name. Even after the child has grown and established his or her own adult life, the name will remain. Another word for name is reputation. What do you think your name is...your reputation others, to yourself and to the Lord? It is wonderful that, no matter what name we have been given, our reputation/name can reflect a transformation and also reflect the One who has transformed us and is transforming is, more and more into His image.
Luke 1:
57 When it was time for Elizabeth's baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, "No! His name is John!"
61 "What?" they exclaimed. "There is no one in all your family by that name." 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby's father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone's surprise he wrote, "His name is John." 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, "What will this child turn out to be?" For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.
blessings in the great name of Jesus,
Rob Smith

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Psalm 33 (part 1)

Psalm 33:1 Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord;
it is fitting for the pure to praise him.
2 Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre;
make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.
3 Sing a new song of praise to him;
play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.
4 For the word of the Lord holds true,
and we can trust everything he does.
5 He loves whatever is just and good;
the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.
One strong sign that a person has a deep and sincere faith in God: they just have to make music! When it comes to expressing the inexpressible music does a better job than any other human method. Through music the deep wells that tap into joy can gush like an oil well and release the innermost feelings of the heart. With our voices, with instruments, in our humming, whistling, foot makes the connection from earth to heaven in a form of outward expression that perfectly complements prayer. Psalm 33 talks about this and in verses 4 and 5 we see the motivation to music. The word of the Lord is true and He can be trusted! God loves what is just and good and His love absolutely fills the earth (and can fill us too!).
Rob Smith