“Sustaining Hope When All Seems Lost”

The Last PassoverThe theme of today’s blog is the title of the sermon I am looking forward to preaching this Sunday morning from Matthew 26:30-35 and Luke 22:24-34.  I am nearing the end of a verse-by-verse expositional study of the Gospel of Matthew  and excited to savor some of the great, dramatic moments in the life and ministry of Christ in the hours before His sacrificial death on the Cross.

Matthew 26:30-35 follows the LORD’s last Passover meal. Earlier in the evening, the disciples became embroiled in a heated dispute (Luke 22:24-27) over which of them would be the greatest in Christ’s earthly kingdom (in spite of His teachings, the disciples had not accepted the LORD’s destiny was a cross, not a throne).   Jesus, rising from the table, modeled the manner of leadership He commanded of His disciples when He washed their feet (John 13:3-15).

sift as wheatSitting down, the LORD stated the first of two declarations that His disciples would deny Him that night (Luke 22:31-34).  Warning the disciples that Satan desired to sift them as wheat, the LORD promised He had prayed specifically for Peter that his faith would not fail and, when He faltered and returned to the LORD, his ministry would strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32). Peter protested He would never deny the LORD (Luke 22:33), but the LORD rebuked him saying he would deny Him three times before the crowing of the rooster would break the silence of the night (Luke 22:34).sift

Enroute to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus declared a second time that the disciples would be scattered into the night, fulfilling the 500-year-old prophecy of Zechariah, “Awake, O sword [instrument of death], against my shepherd [i.e. the LORD’s shepherd], and against the man that is my fellow [neighbor; friend], saith the LORD [Jehovah; Yahweh] of hosts: smite [slay; kill] the shepherd, and the sheep [flock] shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones”  (Zechariah 13:7).  Peter protested a second time He would never deny the LORD (Matthew 26:33) and all the disciples joined him with the same assertion (Matthew 26:35).

In a few hours, Peter and the disciples faced their worse fears when the LORD was arrested and led away.  As Zechariah had prophesied 500 years earlier,  they fled into the darkness of the night (Matthew 26:56).

Peter followed the Lord and three times was asked if he was not one of the LORD’s disciples; each time Peter denied the LORD, the third time with cursing (Matthew 26:57-58, 69-75).  Hearing the crowing of a rooster in the distance, Peter’s heart was pierced with sorrow and we read, “he went out, and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75).

We know all was not lost!  Peter and the other disciples, though they faltered in their walk, did not lose their faith.  They lacked the courage and fortitude to face their adversaries before the cross (indeed, they stood a great way off); however, after the resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2), they could not be silenced!risen

My friend, I am afraid the days ahead for Bible-believing Christians will evidence a growing intolerance of the Gospel and an intensifying hostility for God’s Word.   If we are anchored in our confidence of a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, and filled with the Holy Spirit, we might falter at times; however, our faith will never fail!

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

The potential of contending with a fool or behaving like a fool is a daily possibility.

road rageWe live in a sin cursed world of unhappy, emotionally unstable people.  Many in society live with a short fuse and, with little provocation, are ready to explode.  It seems we hear everyday how a driver allows an inadvertent disagreement with another driver escalate into an outburst that ends in an act of deadly road-rage.  In urban America, police sirens break the silence of the night rushing to households where petty differences have turned violent.

It is impossible to live in a fallen world and not be confronted by individuals determined to have their say and “pound of flesh”.  The potential of contending with a fool or behaving like a fool is a daily possibility.  Today’s proverbs, Proverbs 26:4-5, have been useful principles in my spiritual and mental arsenal down through my years in ministry.   I recommend you adopt them as part of your spiritual disciplines.crime in urban America

Proverbs 26:4-5 – Answer [speak; respond; reply] not a fool according to his folly [foolishness; stupidity], lest thou also be like [equal to; resemble] unto him. 5  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise [shrewd] in his own conceit [eye; confidence; disdain].”

On first reading, Solomon appears to contradict himself in verses 4 and 5.  In verse 4 he taught his son to “Answer not a fool according to his folly” and in verse 5 “Answer a fool according to his folly”.  Those two phrases alone are at odds; however, the parables in their entirety make perfect sense when we consider the outcome.

Solomon warns his son in verse 4 that responding to a fool in the midst of his folly has the potential of drawing you into his foolishness—and you become like him—a fool!   Stated in a different way—You cannot reason with a fool!   It is a waste of time and effort to reason with a man who has rejected Truth and refuses to heed the clear exposition of God’s Word.

Verse 5 urges us to not be silent when a fool speaks.  Why answer this fool?  Because a loving rebuke and exposure to God’s Truth may potentially spare a fool from a path of self-delusion and limit his influence on others.

conflict resolutionWe live in a world in which fools abound and we can ill afford to be like them; however, we dare not be silent and embolden them to spew foolish notions unchecked by the Eternal, Living Word of Truth.

Psalm 119:11-16 – “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. 12  Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. 13  With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. 14  I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. 15  I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. 16  I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.”

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith

“What can you teach a scorner?”

sneer, scornReading today’s proverb, Proverbs 22:10, prompts me to ask: “What can you teach a scorner?”

My answer – Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

Solomon’s assessment agrees with mine own when it comes to dealing with a scorner.  In two earlier proverbs, the king writes:

Proverbs 9:7-8 He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame [trouble; disgrace; abuse]8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee [see you as an enemy]: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”

Who is the scorner?  By definition, he is a man or woman who disdains the Truth and the bearers of truth.  He resents rebuke and despises any who would correct him.  A scorner has a calloused heart and his manner is often subtle, but contentious and quarrelsome.

Because you can neither teach nor correct a scorner without inviting his abuse and hatred, what must one do when confronting him?mocker

Some might suggest we reason with him. Others, that we would be patient, loving and forgiving.  Let us set aside our opinions and go to the final authority on dealing with a scorner—the Word of God.

Proverbs 22:10“Cast out [drive out; expel; put away] the scorner [mocker; scoffer; mock at sin and judgment, i.e. consequences of sin], and contention [strife; discord] shall go out [depart; come to an end]; yea, strife [judgment] and reproach [shame; confusion; disgrace; dishonor] shall cease [desist; fail; stop].”

Solomon’s advice, inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17) is simple and direct—Drive the scorner out!

Notice the twofold benefit for heeding Solomon’s advise to confront the scorner and drive him out of your fellowship—“… contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.”

Too many pastors, church leaders and Christians are unwilling to accept the reality that their failure to confront a scorner is not only a dereliction of duty; it also allows the infestation of a spiritual cancer that will potentially destroy a church fellowship.  I have known good people who take the side of a scorner, sympathize with his cry and fail to support those tasked with the burden and responsibility of dealing with him biblically.

Proverbs 22-10I part with another of Solomon’s proverbs stating the responsibility and benefit of addressing the scorner:

Proverbs 19:25 – “Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.”

Copyright 2014 – Travis D. Smith

What became of utopia?

blind-justiceOur devotional today is from Proverbs 20; however, I once again remind you that the goal is to read today’s chapter in Proverbs in its entirety.  After reading Proverbs 20, continue in today’s meditation by considering my brief exposition of Proverbs 20:8-9.

Two statements can address our devotional proverbs today: The first, “the way things ought to be” (20:8); the second, “the way things are” (20:9).

Proverbs 20:8 “A king that sitteth [abide; inhabit; dwell] in the throne [canopied area] of judgment [place of justice; sentence; plea] scattereth away [disperse; fan away; i.e. fanning chaff away] all evil [sin; wickedness] with his eyes [sight; view; or opinion].”

A righteous ruler is the subject of Proverbs 20:8.  Under an absolute monarchy, the king is the personification of the law of the land.  He is not only the ruler; he is the final judge in all matters.  When a righteous ruler sits in judgment, the people rejoice and the wicked are deterred in their proclivity to do evil (Proverbs 11:10).

To know whether the righteous or wicked rule, one need only consider the attitude the wicked hold toward law and justice.  When the righteous are in authority, The wicked flee [and] the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverb 28:1); however, when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn (Proverb 29:2).gavel

America’s judicial system is compromised and the rule of law is no longer respected or feared.  Rather than the utopia men had imagined, the 21st century has ushered in a lawless day.  We have become what Solomon taught his son was not good:

Proverbs 18:5 – “It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.”

Proverbs 20:9 spotlights the universal malady of man–a deceitful and wicked heart.

Proverbs 20:9 “Who can say [speak; answer], I have made my heart [mind; will; seat of thoughts, feelings and emotions] clean [pure; innocent], I am pure [morally innocent; ceremonially clean before God] from my sin [offences; sinfulness]?”

Not one of us wants to ponder for long the inherent evil that rests within our heart [the seat of our thoughts, feelings and emotions].  In verse 9, Solomon proposes a rhetorical question that demands a negative answer.  To paraphrase, Solomon asks:

SONY DSCIs there one among us who can say, “I have cleansed, purified and made innocent my heart, thoughts and emotions? I am pure, clean and innocent of any wrongdoing before God who knows all things?”

Those questions demand honesty and the transparent answer is, “No!”

Romans 3:10 – “…There is none righteous, no, not one:”

Romans 3:12 – “…there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

The natural man is given to a high opinion of himself and foolishly believes, “I’m not that bad!”  God however, has a different opinion:Jeremiah 17.9

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart [mind; seat of thoughts and feelings] is deceitful [swells up; crooked; lit. grabs hold of the heel] above all things, and desperately wicked [incurably, woefully wicked]: who can know it [understand]?”

Copyright 2014 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: Everyone will have their day in God’s court.

winneth soulsProverbs 11:30-31 – “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. 31  Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.”

The reward of the righteous and the wicked is the theme of Proverbs 11:30-31.  The righteous, redeemed and their sins forgiven through the blood of Christ, are assured a heavenly reward, but the wicked are warned they will have their day of judgment before the God of Heaven.

Proverbs 11:30 – “The fruit [reward] of the righteous is a tree of life [the life of the righteous bear fruit that endures]; and he that winneth [grasp, attract, reach out to] souls is wise.”

This verse uses the portrait of a fruit-bearing tree to remind us that every life bears fruit; the lost bear the bitter fruit of sin that ends in death (“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23a) and the righteous are like a tree that bears fruit that promises life.fruit trees

The Apostle Paul, using the image of a farmer grafting olive branches from a cultivated tree into a wild tree (Romans 11:17-24), reminded Gentile Christians that apart from Christ they were like wild branches whose lives bear undesirable fruit, unworthy of God. However, grafted into Christ, the born-again Christian not only has life, but bears the spiritual fruit that attracts lost souls [“and he that winneth souls is wise”].

Proverbs 11:31 – “Behold, the righteous [just; upright before God] shall be recompensed [rewarded] in the earth: much more the wicked [ungodly; guilty] and the sinner [violated God’s Law].”

The lives of the righteous in Christ (righteous not because of good works, but because of God’s grace and mercy – Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9) are promised they will be judged for their works. The fiery test of God’s judgment will prove, put to the test, a Christian’s works (1 Corinthians 3:12-13) and only that which is good, righteous and free from sin will pass the test of God’s judgment.

Solomon taught his son that God’s chastening and judgment of His people should serve as a warning to lost sinners that they will bear God’s judgment and we know the end of that judgment will be hell.  Peter wrote the same in his first epistle: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)judgment

I close with a sobering, prophetic warning of God’s final day of judgment.

Revelation 20:11-15 – “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson From the World of Hip-Hop for Pre-Millennialist Pastors

crossover church A generation ago, professing Bible believers who were sincere in their faith and devoted to Christ as Savior and LORD, understood that Sanctification (separation unto God and from sin and the world) was a natural, fundamental step of spiritual growth.
Unfortunately, this generation of “Christians”, discipled by “Pre-Millennialist” pastors desperate to be “relevant”, have no grounding or Biblical understanding that copying and modeling the world is fundamentally un-Christlike and a violation of elementary spiritual principles.  
A recent Christianity Today article on Hip Hop Culture featuring a podcast with guest pastor “Urban D” from Crossover Church in Tampa, FL, illustrates not only my point, but also the naivety of a popular poet, author and hip hop pastor\artist who had to hear from a teenager that assimilating “the world’s culture”, its musical style and overlaying Christian words with popular songs, was causing confusion. 
Urban D“Urban D” shared the following encounter with a teen as his revelation that the world was confused by Crossover Church’s adaption of worldly music into its worship services.
“There was a high school student who came to us and said, “Man, our church has a bad reputation at our school.” I’m like, “Why?” “‘Cause everybody says it’s not a real church, ‘cause y’all are playing Busta Rhymes, playing Eminem.” I’m like, “For real?” “Yeah, man; everybody’s like, ‘A church shouldn’t be doing that.’”
 
Sadly, there are many “Pre-Millennialist” pastors in our own “Bible Fundamental” churches who, in their quest to be relevant, are going down this same path of compromise and worldliness.  They have not gone nearly as far as “Urban D”; however, they are adopting the same pragmatic philosophy that might appease their conscience, excuse their compromise, but is inevitably setting the course that will lead their congregations to an irreverence for God’s holiness and a rejection of Biblical Sanctification. 
We do not need a teenager to explain the confusion caused by assimilating worldliness into ministry. The apostle John declared God’s verdict on that matter 2,000 years ago.

1 John 2:15-17 – “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

http://www.christianitytoday.com/local-church/2016/july/how-my-hip-hop-church-learned-to-stop-copying-culture-and-s.html?share=IC8DQ7AK5ltRIKj09MB0sl1pDklq3GhK

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith