A Word from the Author of “Heart of a Shepherd”

Dear Faithful followers of “Heart of a Shepherd” and my Hillsdale family,

Knowing hundreds have faithfully followed my regular posts to this blog for several years, I feel it behooves me to give a word of explanation for my absence since January 1, 2018.

I purposed to have far less presence in the social media realm this year and must admit it has been refreshing to be free of “Facebook” except for my periodic posts on my “Spiritual Minutemen” Facebook page (my political media site).

However, my absence from Heart of a Shepherd has been far longer than I had planned.  The last two months have been full of physical trials like I have not had before. Surgery for kidney stones in early November; surgery to repair my right shoulder cuff in mid-November; and therapy through the end of December.

In the midst, I have been battling with severe hives due to an allergic reaction abated with a steroid; however, the cause has still not been isolated.  Add to that trial; a week ago I came down with the flu (one of the side effects of the steroid is it compromises my immune system).

I covet your prayers as I hope to, in the words of one of my staff, “return to the world of the living” soon.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Resolutions for 2018

Happy New Year!

An old adage suggests, “Aim at nothing and you’re bound to hit it!”  

I am afraid that statement is, for many, a reality.  An aimless, pointless existence is no doubt a great contributor to the depression and anxiety that plagues 21st century society.  Sadly, that same malady is found in the lives of many professing Christians.

On Sunday I shared Ten New Year’s Resolutions with my church family I hope you might consider adopting as your own.  The first five are Spiritual Resolutions; the latter five are Personal Resolutions.

Five Spiritual Resolutions for 2018…I resolve to:

Read God’s Word daily (Psalm 1:2; 119:11, 15-16; 2 Timothy 2:15)

Psalm 1:2 – But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Live a holy, consecrated life (Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-22)

Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Be unwavering in my faith and walk with the LORD (Hebrews 10:23)

Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised😉

Love, serve, and encourage others (Hebrews 10:24)

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider one another [give continuous care] to provoke [to incite; prod; stimulate] unto love [agape’] and to good works [honest labor]:

Make congregational worship a priority for my family (Hebrews 10:25)

Hebrews 10:25  – Not forsaking [leaving or neglecting] the assembling [gathering] of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day [Second Coming of Christ]  approaching.

Five Personal Resolutions for 2018…I resolve to:

To be a better steward of my life, body, and health – To lose weight; Eat healthier (i.e. eat less; eat nutritional foods)Exercise regularly

Read more and watch less TV (Romans 12:2)

To be less involved on social media and more involved in people’s lives

To “love my neighbor” and show compassion for lost souls (Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14)

In summary, to be more Christlike (Matthew 5:3-16; Romans 13:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

 

Bible Reading Plan for 2018

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Readers and Hillsdale family members,

The opportunity for studying the scriptures in a systematic, daily discipline has never been easier than it is today.  While the internet is unfortunately a place of grave temptations, it also provides believers resources and opportunities to study the Bible, with commentaries and devotionals only a few mouse clicks away from any who have a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

Of course, the universal problem for us all is making time and exercising the self-discipline required to study the scriptures.  The apostle Paul challenged Timothy,  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

I announced in an earlier post that, while I plan to write and post devotionals periodically, I am discontinuing my practice of posting daily devotional commentary this New Year.  I do, however, want to encourage you to continue reading the scriptures daily and am suggesting you consider following the attached “One-Year Bible Reading Plan” published by iBelieve.com (this is not an endorsement of that organization since I am not familiar with them).  I will have copies of the plan available to the Hillsdale church family this Sunday; however, I am also attaching a copy of the same plan to this post.

God bless you dear friends as we stand at the threshold of a New Year and embrace King David’s conviction, 14  But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God. 15  My times are in thy hand…” (Psalm 31:14-15).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale’s Ministry Theme for 2018: “Revive…Renew…Reach…Restore”

Looking ahead to the New Year, it is my heart’s desire that Hillsdale’s ministries will experience a renewed passion for serving the LORD; to that end, I have chosen four words I pray will define our ministry this New Year: “Revive…Renew…Reach…Restore”

REVIVE”…that we would see the LORD stir a flame of spiritual revival in our church (Romans 12:1-2); “RENEW” a passion for holiness and sanctification (2 Corinthians 5:17); “REACH”…the unsaved by sharing the Gospel and showing them the love and compassion of Christ (John 4); and “RESTORE”…ministering the grace of Christ to others (Galatians 6:1).

New Sunday Morning Sermon Series

I am excited to begin a new sermon series this Sunday morning titled, “Compassion and Grace: A Study of the Gospel of John”.  Rather than an exhaustive, verse-by-verse study of this great book, I will be highlighting our LORD’s contact and compassion for sinners in John’s Gospel in 2018.

My sermon title for this Sunday’s 10:30 AM service is, “Quenching A Spiritual Thirst”, based on Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4).  It is my prayer this new sermon series will stir within our church family a spirit of revival and a renewed compassion for lost sinners.

Charitable Giving

A reminder to those who faithfully support Hillsdale through tithes and offerings:  This Sunday, December 31 is the last day you can give and be credited for charitable giving in 2017.  You can also go to Hillsdale’s website, www.HillsdaleBaptist.org, and give online.

If you are thinking of giving a special year-end gift, allow me to suggest designating to the purchase of new office chairs for our Conference rooms or toward the purchase of vacuum cleaners for our school classrooms ($69\each).

Happy New Year!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

pastorsmith@hillsdalebaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

The Journey’s End

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 27-28

Our scripture reading today is Acts 27-28 and chronicles the apostle Paul’s journey to Rome as a prisoner where he will inevitably give his life as a martyr for Christ.

Paul’s journey to Rome was by ship and he was in the company of other prisoners under the escort of “one named Julius, a centurion of [Caesar] Augusts’ band [regiment]” (27:1).  The ship would stop at several ports on its journey to Rome, including Sidon where Paul notes the centurion’s favor in allowing him to fellowship with other believers (27:3).

Departing from Sidon enroute to Myra, the centurion transferred Paul and the other prisoners to a “ship of Alexandria” [i.e. Egypt] that was sailing directly to Italy (27:4-6).  The sailing was slow (27:9) and knowing storms would soon make sailing dangerous, “Paul admonished” the captain of the ship and the centurion guard to seek safe harbor until the stormy season was past (27:9-11).

Dismissing Paul’s warning, the ship set sail and the vessel was soon caught up in a great storm so that, in Paul’s words, “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (27:12-20).

Acts 27:21-44, Paul turns from prisoner to encourager and tells the men, although the ship would be lost, God revealed to him no lives would perish (27:21-24).  Blown several hundred miles off course and hearing the roar of waves landing upon rocks on the shore, some shipmen prepared to abandon the ship and its passengers and were preparing to cast off in a small boat (27:30).  Heeding Paul’s warning that any who abandon ship would be lost, the soldiers cut away the ropes of the small boat (27:32).  Acts 27 closes with Paul and all 276 souls on the ship being saved alive (27:33-44).

The ship ran aground on the island “called Melita”, our modern-day Malta (Acts 28:1).  Warming themselves around a fire, God miraculously spared Paul’s life when a poisonous viper took hold of his hand (28:3). Those who witnessed the viper’s attack wondered if Paul was not being punished for his wickedness, but then marveled he did not perish (28:4-6).

We often wonder why God allows His people and choice servants to go through difficult trials…sickness, disappointments, accidents, sorrows, losses.  In the immediate we may not rightly see God’s purpose; however, we are surely no different from the apostle Paul.  What a great example of a suffering, faithful servant Paul gives us as we witness him arrested and tried, but turning the occasions to an opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Festus (Acts 25) and Agrippa (Acts 26).

As a prisoner on a ship setting sail for Rome, Paul turned the storm into an opportunity to share God’s revelation He had the LORD’s assurance their lives would be saved for he “must be brought before Caesar” (27:23-25).  Finally, bitten by a viper, God spared Paul’s life as a testimony that the power of God rested upon him (28:6).

Acts 28 concludes with Paul’s safe travel and arrival in Rome (28:11-31) where he had freedom to visit with fellow believers (28:11-16). 

In an incredible testimony of God’s providence and Paul’s passion for preaching the Gospel, Paul’s “house” imprisonment in Rome opened the door for him to not only share his own conversion and calling with Jewish leaders (28:17-22), but also declare to all who would listen that Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited suffering Messiah foretold by the prophet Isaiah (28:23-31).

Acts 28:30-31 – “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31  Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”

My friend, if you have followed our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year schedule, today marks the end of your journey for it is our 364th daily reading assignment of 2017.   It is easy to begin a spiritual discipline; however, there are few who know the joy of persevering to the end!  Congratulations on this blessed milestone in your spiritual walk with the LORD.  I bid you God’s blessings and wish you a Happy New Year!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The King is Coming!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Revelation 18-22

Our readings in the Book of Revelation come to a close with today’s scripture reading, Revelation 18-22.  The length of the passage and the practical and prophetic applications are far too great to be summed up in a brief devotional commentary.  For that reason, I will narrow this commentary to a few elements for interpretation and understanding taken from Revelation 18-19.

Revelation 18 addresses the destruction of Babylon.  Realizing Babylon was already destroyed, it is obvious this Babylon has a broader interpretation than that ancient city.  In the scriptures, Babylon, the world’s first great empire, represents the world’s political, economic, and religious systems.  She is the symbol of idolatry and rebellion against God (18:1-3).

Revelation 18:4-8, God calls His people to separate from Babylon and not be a party to her sins and the judgment of God that will fall upon her.

Revelation 18:9-19, prophesies the collapse and destruction of Babylon’s (i.e. the world’s) financial and commercial sectors.  Given the interdependence and interconnection of our international economy and the volatility and turmoil of our world politically, it is easy to grasp the potential of imminent collapse and anarchy.

Having been oppressed and persecuted by the world’s political and economic systems, we read the LORD commanded the saints of heaven to,

Revelation 18:20 – “Rejoice over her [Babylon], thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.”

The rejoicing over God’s vengeance against Babylon (i.e. the world’s political and economic systems) continues in Revelation 19:1-10.  The Lamb in verse 7 is Christ (John 3:29) and his wife is the church (Ephesians 5:22-33).

With the world’s political and economic systems destroyed, heaven opens and Christ triumphantly returns to the earth as Conquering King and Judge… “Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war” (19:11).  Christ has ruled in heaven and now He comes as Conqueror (Rev. 19:11-16) to establish His earthly kingdom.  “His name is called The Word of God” (19:13; John 1:1-14) and He comes as the “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (19:16).

The nations that have gathered themselves against Israel will be defeated (19:17-19, 21).  “The beast” and “false prophet” (19:20) will be “cast into a lake of fire burning with brimstone” (19:20).

Revelation 20 records the final judgment of God.  The Devil is bound a thousand years (20:1-2) and cast “into the bottomless pit” until the final judgment of God (20:3-4).  At the close of the thousand years, Satan is loosed and leads a final insurrection of the nations against God and Jerusalem until “fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them” (20:9).

The devil is cast “into the lake of fire and brimstone…and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (20:10).  Lost sinners are gathered before “a great white throne” (20:11) and “stand before God” (20:12) and “were judged every man according to their works” (20:13). “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (20:15).

I close today’s devotional commentary at the threshold of a glorious new beginning…John writes,

Revelation 21:1-6 – “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“What Beautiful Feet You Have, My Love!”

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Song of Solomon 7-8

Today’s reading brings us to the close of our Old Testament “Read Thru the Bible” daily scripture reading assignments.  What a wonderful accomplishment on your part!  Not only did you persevere in your commitment to read the scriptures, many of you followed the daily meditational meanderings of this pastor’s daily devotional commentary.

As a reminder, there are three methods of interpretations for the Song of Solomon.   The Allegorical interpretation suggests the Song of Solomon describes God’s relationship with His people and is a story or parable meant to describe either God’s relationship with Israel or Christ’s relationship with His bride, the Church.  A Typical interpretation suggests the bride of Solomon is a type or picture of the Church and the groom is Jesus Christ.

The third, and the one I settled on for my devotional commentary, is a Literal interpretation.  In other words, I suggest the Song of Solomon is a true love story; the romance of Solomon as a young king and his love for a young Shulamite peasant girl who will become his queen.

The phrase, “Love is blind”, is often credited to William Shakespeare who employed it on several occasions in his plays; however, the phrase first appears in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Merchant Tale (1405) and states in the old English, “For loue is blynd alday and may nat see.” [i.e. “Love is blind all day, and may not see.”]

Author Pauline Thomason, perhaps more realistic than the previous quote, weighed in with her own observation: Love is blind, marriage is the eye-opener.”

An anonymous author states a sentiment for the state of blind love more fitting to the love expressed by Solomon in today’s scripture reading:

“They are wrong who say that love is blind. On the contrary, nothing – not even the smallest detail – escapes the eyes; one sees everything in the loved one, notices everything; but melts it all into one flame with the great and simple: I love you.”

I will not take the time to write an extensive commentary on Song of Solomon 7; however, anyone who has been in love will no doubt identify with the king’s words.  Solomon is “in love” and he takes no time to notice, let along number, the blemishes of his beloved wife.

Some might spin an interpretation of the opening verses of Song of Solomon 8:1-3, into an insidious attempt to suggest an incestuous love; however, I assure you it is not!

The Shulamite’s desire for Solomon to be as her brother, one whom she could show public affection, reminds us her husband is king and his office demands a certain reserve and decorum in public.  Of course, her’s is a young love and she yearns to shower her love upon Solomon; he is not only her king, he is her beloved husband (8:4)!

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 states what should be true of every marriage; the covenant of marriage is singular in nature… “forsaking all others”.  “Love is strong as death” (8:6b) and only death can quench its flame.  The love of husband and wife is a lifelong passion whose embers can never be quenched, save by death alone (8:7).

This wonderful portrait of love and romance between the young king and his queen concludes with a beautiful sentiment…

Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices” (8:14).

Hollywood’s portrayal of love and marriage is lust and a far cry from what the Creator intended for husband and wife.  Sadly, the Millennium generation’s demand for instant gratification and pleasure has embraced lust.  Having no moral boundaries, young men and women are sacrificing innocence, passion, and joy for empty, no commitment “one night stands” that inevitably leave them hollow and abandoned.

It is my observation the testimony of the 21st century church is hardly better.  I have known many portraits of lasting love and romance in the course of my ministry; however, this generation is a different story.  In fact, the rate of divorce in Bible-preaching churches rivals the world.  What a sad testimony of love and marriage we give the world.  After all, Christian marriages should be earthly portraits of Christ’ love for His Church…self-sacrificing, passionate, honorable, and enduring.

Ephesians 5:25, 33 – “ 25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it… 33  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

I close by taking liberty that comes with being the author of this devotional commentary… To the wife of my youth, who remains my joy after 40 years of marriage, “I love you more than ever!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith