Warning: Cater to the carnal and you do so at your peril.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Before I post today’s devotional commentary, I want to return to an earlier observation in our study of 1 Samuel 10: “Be Careful What You Wish For…You May Get It”.

Israel had come to a spiritual crossroads as a nation, rejecting God’s rule over His people and the judges He called to administrate His Law, the nation demanded a king to rule over them.  With a word of warning, the LORD directed the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as king (10:1); however, all was not well in the nation for we read, “the children of Belial…despised him” (10:27).

Whether secular or religious, a transition in leadership is a critical period in any organization’s history.  Lest my readers believe this despising of the LORD’s authority and the pattern of God’s people demanding a leader of their choosing is an ancient problem, I invite you to reflect that many Christian institutions, churches, and organizations grapple with the same in our day.

Numerous examples come to mind; churches once numbered in the pinnacle of biblical fundamentalism, have faltered after undergoing a transition of pastoral leadership; some falling from their fundamentalist heritage, others altogether failing as ministries.  Deacon boards and church members, demanding a change in pastoral leadership, often steer those ministries from their fundamental heritage and often to dissolution.  Sadly, churches departing from their heritage and appeasing the carnal is continuing across our nation.

I have observed the same pattern in the last 15 years in fundamental Christian institutions…Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, and Clearwater Christian College all faltered and failed following transitions in leadership.   Knowing many of our fundamental Christian colleges and universities have accommodated the demands of accreditation and become “board run” institutions (in my opinion reflecting the spirit of the Israelites who demanded, “make us a king to judge us like all the nations” – 1 Samuel 8:5); board members share the responsibility of steering those institutions from the Bible fundamental pillars of their founders, away from their loyal constituents, and adrift in a morass of pragmatic ideas void of spiritual principles.

Warning: Cater to the carnal and you do so at your peril.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Wonder What God is Up To? Don’t worry; it is for good!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 48-50

Today’s scripture reading brings us to the close of our study of Genesis.  Please do not underestimate the inestimable value of this book; not only its historic character, but also the doctrines that are foundational to everything we believe.  It might be argued that no other book in the Bible has come under harsher attack and been denied more by liberal and progressive “churches” than the Book of Genesis.

Consider what is lost if the integrity of Genesis is undermined:  Creation… the fall of man…God’s promise to Eve of a Redeemer…God’s judgment of the wicked fulfilled in the worldwide flood; the choosing of Abraham and the preservation of his lineage through which our Savior\Redeemer Jesus Christ would be born.   Reject Genesis and you have no foundation for the Christian faith or the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Genesis 48-49 is what I will describe as the “Last Will and Testament” of Jacob, whom the LORD named “Israel” (Genesis 32:28) and whose lineage is the twelve tribes of Israel.

In Genesis 48 we find Jacob, his twelve sons, their children and servants now living in Egypt.  Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, was providentially sold into slavery by his brothers and raised up by the LORD to serve second only to Pharaoh.  Jacob rehearsed with Joseph God’s covenant promises that were first given to his grandfather Abraham, his father Isaac,  and then repeated to him (48:3-4).  Because Joseph had been a faithful son and servant of the LORD in Egypt, Jacob promises he will be doubly blessed of the LORD; his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, will each receive an inheritance equal to that of Reuben and Simeon (48:5-6).

Jacob’s final words to his sons and his prophetic insight into the future of their lineage is recorded in Genesis 49:3-27.  Jacob’s final request to his sons was that he might be buried with his grandfather Abraham, his father Isaac and mother Rebekah, and with his wife Leah (49:29-32).   Chapter 49 closes with Jacob’s death.

Genesis 50 opens with a dramatic scene:  “And Joseph fell upon his father’s face, and wept upon him, and kissed him” (50:1).  A powerful officer of Pharaoh, Joseph gave his father a burial fit for a king (50:2-3).  When the days of mourning were past, Joseph sought permission to fulfill his fathers’ dying wish and bury Jacob in Canaan with his ancestors (50:4-7).

Genesis 50:8-9 records a funeral procession like none ever seen in Canaan.  Jacob’s sons and their families followed his mummified body from Egypt to Canaan, driving Egyptian chariots and horses  (50:10-13).

With their father buried and famine continuing in the land, Joseph and his brothers returned to Egypt (50:14).  Understanding the evil they had committed against their brother in his youth, Joseph’s brothers feared he might exact revenge for their wrongs in their father’s absence (50:15-17).  Instead of revenge, we read, “Joseph wept” (50:17b).

Realizing once again the fulfillment of the vision the LORD had given him in his youth (Genesis 37:3-11), Joseph’s brothers fell on their faces before him (50:18).  Joseph; however, had come to accept the wrongs he had suffered were providentially used by God to prepare the way for him to preserve his family (50:19-20).

I close with one of the great statements of faith on God’s sovereignty and providence found in the Bible:  “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:20).

My friend, I do not know your circumstances, but I assure you God is in control!  Joseph’s testimony is one we should all embrace…whatever evil others might commit against us; be confident…God is able to bring to pass that which is good!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Does Your Pastor Deserve A Raise?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 9-10

I have studied and taught 1 Corinthians 10 and the subject of Christian Liberty in sermons and devotional posts; however, I confess the subject addressed by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 is one I have neglected.  Knowing this devotional commentary will be read Sunday, March 26, 2017, I cannot think of a better time to remind the church you have an obligation to the men who will minister before you this day of worship.

Paul had fallen victim to critics who not only questioned his credentials as an apostle, but also his authority over the church (1 Corinthians 9:1-2).   In answering his critics, Paul goes a step further and addressed not only his apostleship, but also the material obligations of churches to to their pastors (9:3-14).  Paul reasoned that God’s servants have the “power” (lit. the right and authority) of all who labor… “to eat and to drink” (9:4) and to support their families (“to lead about a sister, a wife”; meaning a companion – 9:5).

Continuing his argument on behalf of God’s servants receiving compensation for their labor, Paul reasoned we compensate soldiers when they go to war, farmers eat the fruit of their labor, and shepherds profit from shepherding (9:7).  Surely the pastor is worthy of the same!

Moving beyond human portraits of workers receiving just compensation for their labor, Paul challenged believers that the Law demands that servants of God receive a fair compensation for their labor (9:8-9; Deuteronomy 25:4).

1 Corinthians 9:9 – “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?”

What is the application of 1 Corinthians 9:9?  Because God is concerned with the fair treatment of oxen, there is no doubt He is particularly concerned about the welfare of His servants (9:10).  Taking that truth to its conclusion, Paul admonished believers they are debtors to those who minister to them spiritually and under material obligation to minister to their physical needs (9:11).  1 Corinthians 9:12 indicate the believers in Corinth had given to meet the needs of others who ministered in the church; although Paul had not asked the same of the church.  In case the Corinthian church were tempted to practice the same lack of support toward other ministers, Paul reminded them how priests who ministered in the Temple received a portion of the sacrifices as compensation for their families (9:13; Leviticus 6:14-7:36; 27:6-33).

Principle – God has ordained in both the Old Testament and New Testament that His servants should be supported and fairly compensated for their labor (9:14).

Sadly, many church members give little thought to the personal sacrifices and needs of their ministers.  If you believe “the labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7), you should see to it that your pastor(s) is fairly compensated and financially secure.

Paul takes that principle a step further when he writes, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).

How about it, does your pastor deserve a raise?

* Note from the author of “Heart of A Shepherd” – Please accept my apology for my devotional commentary posts being somewhat erratic this past week. I am back home and looking forward to being back in my daily routine.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm”

March 25, 2017

Scripture Reading – Mark 3-4

Jesus had been teaching parables throughout the day with crowds so large He launched out from the lakeshore where he sat in a boat while He taught.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other shore (7 miles away), lying down in the boat, He slept.

The Sea of Galilee (14 miles long and 7 miles wide) is notorious for violent storms. Lying 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year round (much like our own Tampa Bay). Surrounded by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift. Cold winds from the snow-covered mountain peaks to the north often push down through the hillsides that act as a funnel sending cold air colliding into the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.

We read of this occasion in the Gospel of Matthew: “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

At least four of the disciples were experienced fishermen; however, even those veteran sailors were unable to salvage the desperate situation they were in.   With cold winds whipping at the sailors and waves crashing into the ship, the disciples exhausted themselves trying to keep the vessel afloat. Finally they cried out, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

Allow me to close with some observations and what I hope will be some practical lessons.  The first, storms in life challenge our faith and acceptance of God’s will.  Before the disciples launched the boat out into the sea, Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith and their failure to put their trust Him.

A second lesson, your response to personal storms and trials evidences your faith or lack of faith in God and His plan for your life.  The disciples’ response to the storm revealed they did not fully know Who Jesus was!   After He commanded the wind and the waves to cease, we read: “they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41).  Jesus used the storm as an opportunity to reveal Who He was and His disciples were struck with fear, awe, and respect.

Someone reading this devotion is in the midst of a storm and feeling overwhelmed by pressing trials.   I encourage you to rest in this truth:

Psalm 89:8-9 – “O Lord God of host….Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“God’s Warning to a Nation on the Brink of Destruction”

Friday, March 24, 2017

Scripture Reading – Jeremiah 1-6

For those continuing the spiritual discipline of reading through the Bible this year, today’s scripture reading bring us to the Book of Jeremiah, the record of the cry of God’s prophet by the same name to a nation on the brink of destruction.

The book of Jeremiah is 52 chapters long and spans 54 years from Judah’s glory years under the reign of King Josiah to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple under the reign of King Zedekiah in 587 BC. The book of Jeremiah is both biographical and prophetic, chronicling the life and experience of God’s man who stood alone in his day. For over four decades, Jeremiah called on the nation to repent of her sins and turn to God.

From a human perspective, it could be argued the prophet was a failure: Reviled by His people; scorned by the nation’s leaders; persecuted, imprisoned, and rejected by Judah’s kings. Bearing God’s promise that He would spare Jerusalem from destruction if Jeremiah found one righteous man in the city (Jeremiah 5:1-6), Jeremiah sought for a righteous man among the poor…and found none (5:4). He sought for a righteous man among the nation’s leaders …and found none (5:5).   Knowing God’s judgment would soon come upon the nation, we can understand why the prophet struggled with discouragement and disappointment; however, he did not quit!

Why study the warnings of God’s judgment that were directed to the Jews and the nation of Judah? Answer, God has not changed! He is loving, patient and longsuffering toward sinners. He is holy and just…and His judgment and punishment of sin is sure.

We will notice that America bears many striking similarities with Judah and the world of Jeremiah’s day. Like Judah, America has enjoyed the blessings and riches of God’s grace. Founded by men and women who came to this continent in search of religious freedom and dedicated this land to God. Her first colonies were established on principles that were fundamentally Christian. Although not a Christian nation, our Constitution and laws were drafted by men who were God-fearing– many of them clergy and Christian leaders in their communities. Tragically, America parallels Judah’s movement from faith and prosperity to apostasy and decay. We were the envy of the world in my lifetime; however, we have become like ancient Judah — mocked and scorned by the nations of the world…a nation that fears God. Like Israel of old, we are a nation that calls “evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). We have become a reprobate nation…slaughtering tens of millions of unborn children. America’s rejection of God has led our nation, community and homes down a path of spiritual, moral, and fiscal decay.

Is there any hope for America? We will discuss that in the weeks that are ahead during our reading of Jeremiah.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Fret…God is in Control!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Scripture Reading – Job 23-24

Dear Heart of a Shepherd readers,

I am out of the office again; however, I encourage you to continue your “Read Thru the Bible” in a year, even in the absence of my daily devotional post.

Today’s reading returns to the trials and sorrows of Job and the accusations of his “friends”.  If possible, I will send out a devotional later today.

For now, meditate on this…God is in control!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Have you forgotten the Lord is on your side?

defense

Wednesday,  March 22, 2017

Scripture reading – Psalms 33-35

Psalm 35:1-9 is an inspiring psalm of praise for any believer who has ever been the object of unwarranted verbal threats and personal attacks.  This psalm is an encouraging reminder that the LORD hears our cry, comes to our defense, and avenges His sons and daughters with the fury of a father coming to save a child from a predator.

We note in Psalm 35:1 David’s cry for the LORD to come to his defense against an enemy determined to destroy him.

Psalm 35:1 – “Plead [Strive; contend; Argue in a legal sense] my cause, O LORD, with them that strive [contend; are contentious; an opponent or adversary] with me: fight [make war; i.e. go to battle] against them that fight [make war; i.e. go to battle] against me.

We find two battle arenas in verse 1, the first a courtroom where an enemy has assailed him moving David to pray for the LORD to “plead” on his behalf “with them that strive” (35:1a).  David’s prayer is for the LORD to be his Advocate and defend him against those who attack his character and slandered his name.  The second arena is a battlefield: “fight against them that fight with me” (35:1b).  Facing a formidable enemy, David prays, Lord, go to battle with me; fight against those who are my enemies.shields

Psalm 35:2-3 – “Take hold [fasten upon; seize] of shield [small shield] and buckler [large shield], and stand up [rise; endure] for mine help [aid; support; assistance]. 3  Draw out [pour out; make empty] also the spear [lance; javelin], and stop [shut; deliver; close] the way against [meet; oppose] them that persecute [pursue; chase; i.e. follow with hostile intent] me: say [command; speak] unto my soul [life; person; heart], I am thy salvation [help; deliverance; prosperity].”

Two strategies for the battlefield are found in these verses, the first defensive.  David prays for the LORD to come to his defense with two shields, the first a small “shield” used in hand to hand combat; the second a “buckler”, a large shield that protects the body, often in the shape of a door and capable of interlocking with the same shield of fellow soldiers and forming a wall of defense.

God is on our sideThe second plan is offensive (35:2b-3). David not only prayed for the LORD to defend him and be his shield, but also to deliver him from his enemy with sword (“stand up for mine help” means literally to draw the sword out of its sheath) and spear (35:2b-3a). David also prayed for the LORD to drive out his enemy (35:3b).

 Psalm 35:4-6 – “Let them be confounded [ashamed; confused; disappointed] and put to shame that seek [enquire; strive after] after my soul: let them be turned [turned away; go back] back and brought to confusion [shame; confounded] that devise [purpose; plot; plan] my hurt [evil; wickedness; injury]5  Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel [messenger] of the LORD chase [overthrow; drive out] them6  Let their way [journey; path] be dark [misery; slippery] and slippery [treacherous]: and let the angel of the LORD persecute [pursue; put to flight] them.

David prays specifically for the LORD to overcome his enemy by confusing, shaming, chasing, overthrowing and driving him down a dark and treacherous path.

Psalm 35:7 – “For without cause [devoid of reason; in vain; i.e. without provocation] have they hid [lay in secret; concealed] for me their net [used in catching animals] in a pit [trap; hole], which without cause [devoid of reason; in vain; i.e. without provocation] they have digged for my soul [life; person].”

Having examined his heart for sin that would warrant the chastening of the LORD, David pleads his innocence (“without cause”) and reveals the wicked nature of his enemy; an enemy who, without provocation, plotted to provoke him to disgrace his name and lure him into a trap like a beast lured into a hunter’s net.  Failing to covertly entrap him, the enemy brazenly and figuratively dug a pit hoping David would fall out of favor with the people.

Psalm 35:8 – “Let destruction [desolation; ruin] come upon him at unaware; and let his net that he hath hid [concealed] catch [take; capture; seize] himself: into that very destruction [desolation; ruin] let him fall [fail; cast down].”

David has prayed for the LORD to defend, deliver and drive away his enemy and, having declared his innocence, prays for God to avenge him against his enemy.  Here we see a spiritual reality:  The plots and plans of an enemy against God’s servant is often the very destiny of those who oppose the LORD and His people.joyful soul

 Psalm 35:9 – “And my soul [life; person] shall be joyful [rejoice; be glad] in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation [deliverance; aid; help].”

 With faith in the LORD and a steadfast heart, David declares his plan to celebrate his victory over the enemy before the battle has been won!

What a great challenge for believers facing trials, disappointments and critics.  Rather than groveling in despondency and depression, cry out to the LORD when assailed by an enemy, knowing God hears and answers prayers, and  “be joyful in the LORD”!

Psalm 104:35 – “Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith