Strange Fire: The Music of the 21st Century Church (Leviticus 9-10)

I am working on a devotional thought from Leviticus 9-10 that I plan to publish next Tuesday.  In my meditations I am pondering:

What is the “strange fire” of the 21st century church? (Leviticus 10:1)

What has the substance of worship, but lacks the hallowed holiness God requires?

I have come to the conclusion:

Pastors of my generation have failed God and His church:

We failed to demand pastoral virtues (1 Timothy 3:1-7) in worship leaders and have tolerated music that is a “strange fire” to discerning believers (Philippians 4:8).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Unmasking Hypocrites (Mark 7)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 3-4, Psalm 35, and Mark 7. Our devotional is from Mark 7.

An oft criticism of churches and one of the primary excuses given by non-believers for not attending church is, “There are too many hypocrites in the church!” After 40 years in the ministry, I have to agree:  “There are too many hypocrites in the church!”

Hypocrisy, however, is not limited to the church or Christianity. Indeed, I am certain all religions and belief systems have their hypocrites, including non-religious institutions and associations.

The word “Hypocrite” comes from the Greek word for a stage actor – someone who plays a part or role in a play.  Actors in ancient plays would portray more than one character by wearing masks that identified a character’s role.  When playing a comedic character, an actor would wear a mask with a silly smile.  For a sad character the actor would wear a large frowning mask and quote tragic lines inducing sorrow and weeping from the audience.

In effect; a hypocrite is an actor who wears a mask playing one part while in reality being another.

Mark 7 records one of Christ’s most stinging rebukes of the Pharisees, the religious legalists of the day whom He exposed as hypocrites. I invite you to join me in an honest and transparent study of Mark 7.

Jesus’ growing popularity incited a backlash among his enemies. Thousands were following Him in Galilee and the situation for the scribes and Pharisees was intolerable. While the scribes were experts in the Law of God; the Pharisees were its enforcers and the most influential religious group in Israel (Mark 7:1).  Outwardly zealous in matters of the Law, the Pharisees instituted hundreds of man-made laws in an attempt to interpret the Laws and Commandments.

The Pharisees came to Jesus criticizing His disciples’ failure to “wash their hands” before eating (Mark 7:2-3).  The issue was not that the disciples were eating with dirty hands, but they had failed to practice “the tradition of the elders” in ceremonial cleansing (7:4).

Jesus answered His critics quoting the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13) and accusing the Pharisees of being hypocrites (7:7-9).  While professing to be teachers of God’s commandments, they were in fact, advocates of man-made rituals and traditions (7:7-9).

Exposing their hypocrisy, Jesus addressed the Pharisees’ violation of the fifth commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12).  Allowing a man to pronounce an oath, It is Corban”, meaning it is an offering, the Pharisees applauded men who dedicated their wealth to the Temple at the neglect of their parent’s material and financial welfare.  Such an oath, they argued, freed a son from honoring and caring for his parents.

What hypocrites!  To enrich the Temple treasury, they applauded men violating the fifth commandment, but judged the disciples harshly for failing to conform to petty traditions. They supplanted God’s Law, hiding behind their traditions.

Friend, are you hiding behind a mask of religion? Are you judging others by your self-imposed standards, while failing to keep the precepts and principles of God’s Word?

Don’t forget “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Invited for a Special Sunday at Hillsdale Baptist Church

 

This Sunday, February 17, 2019, Hillsdale Baptist Church will welcome to our ministry evangelist Dr. Ron Comfort and his wife Joyce.  The Comforts will be ministering to our church family throughout the day beginning with a split session for our Adult Bible Fellowship at 9:15am.  

Mrs. Comfort will be teaching a combined class of our ladies and teen daughters in our Friendship Hall.  Dr. Comfort will teach our men and teen sons in Cox Hall.  A lobby fellowship with pastries and coffee will precede our 9:15am ABF classes.

Dr. Comfort will be preaching in both the 10:30am and 6:00pm services.  His wife, an accomplished pianist, will be playing and she and Dr. Comfort will be singing before each message.

Dr. Comfort has been an evangelist for 58 years, beginning his ministry in 1961.  In 1989 he founded Ambassador Baptist College (ABC) in Lattimore, North Carolina.  Dr. Comfort serves today as ABC’s Chancellor and the college continues its mission of preparing young men for the Gospel ministry under the leadership of its second president, Dr. Alton Beal.  ABC is best known as an “old-fashioned, preacher-training Bible college” and is dedicated to the task of training men and women for ministry.  

Dr. Comfort recently published his autobiography, “A Fire in My Bones”, sharing his testimony of salvation and his lifetime of experiences as an evangelist serving the LORD faithfully as a preacher of the Gospel from 1961 to our day.

You are not only invited to our services this Sunday, but also encouraged to bring family and friends with you to what I pray will be an old-fashioned day of revival.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

Old Testament Sacrifices and What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 1-3)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 1-2, Psalm 34, and Mark 6. Our devotional is from Leviticus 1-3.

Leviticus 1-3 states what God required of Israel in sacrificial offerings and it serves as a lesson for the 21stcentury believer: God demands His people be a holy, sanctified people.

Preacher and author, Warren Wiersbe writes in his “Be Series” on the Book of Leviticus: “Leviticus tells New Testament Christians how to appreciate holiness and appropriate it into their everyday lives. The word holy is used 91 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times. References to uncleanness number 128. There’s no question what this book is all about.”  [BE Series – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Pentateuch]

The sacrifices offered in the Old Testament were a pre-figure of which Jesus Christ was the perfect, complete, “once and for all” sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).

The first offering required in Leviticus is the “burnt offering” (1:1-17).  The head of each household was to bring to the Tabernacle “a male without blemish”(1:3); placing “his hand upon the head” of the bull, sheep or goat, the worshipper identified with the animal’s death as the substitutionary sacrifice for his sin (1:4-5, 10, 14-15).   The sacrifice was then killed and the priest would take the blood and sprinkle it on the altar (1:5, 11).

The second sacrifice noted in Leviticus is the “meat offering” (a better translation would be “meal” or food offering) (Leviticus 2).  Also known as an oblation (meaning “gift” or present); it was a non-blood offering that consisted of grain (“fine flour”), oil and frankincense (2:1).  The priests were to take a portion of the “meal offering” for their families and the rest was to be offered as a burnt offering (2:2).

The third offering was a “sacrifice of peace offering” and was a blood offering (Leviticus 3).  Unlike the “burnt offering”, the “peace offering” could be male or female; however, the standard, “without blemish”, applied and the priests inspected the offerings to ensure they were acceptable sacrifices (3:1, 12).  As with the “burnt offering”, the worshipper would “lay his hand upon the head of his offering, kill it at the door of the tabernacle” (3:2), and the priests would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar.  We will continue our examination of sacrifices in our next devotional commentary from Leviticus.

I close highlighting the “without blemish” standard the LORD required of sacrifices under the Law.  Sacrificial offerings were to be of the highest quality; however, I am sure the temptation for many was to give the LORD something, but not necessarily the best.

The apostle Paul had in mind the same “without blemish” standard for believers when he wrote:

“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” (Romans 12:1-2).

The LORD required the best and He requires no less of His people today.  Our bodies and our lives are to be “holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1).   Holy, sanctified, set apart and dedicated to the LORD.  Acceptable, pleasing and conforming to the will of God.

Anything less than our best is unacceptable to a holy God!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Psychology Attempts to Reform What Salvation Promises to Transform (Mark 5)

A devotional bonus from Mark 5.

The Christian radio broadcast, Unshackled”, is the longest continually running radio program in history.   Produced by the Pacific Garden Mission of Chicago for over 69 years, “Unshackled” has conveyed the real life stories of thousands of sinner’s whose lives were transformed by trusting Jesus Christ as Savior!

The great validating testimony of the Christian faith above all the world’s religions is not reformation but transformation!   For more than a century doctors have practiced “psychology” attempting to address the ailments of man’s mind and soul. Medications, rehab centers, and mental institutions have all failed to “fix” troubled souls.  Today’s “bonus devotional thought” from Mark 5:1-20 tells the story of the terrible ravages sin takes on a man’s life.

Crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the eastern shore known as Gadara where they were met by a man with an “unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).  We are not told when the man gave his soul over to demons; however, sin had taken every corner of his thoughts and affections, degrading and destroying his life.

Notice three visible details about the man.  The first, his pitiful physical appearance:  His body scarred by self-inflicted wounds; ropes hanging around his ankles and chains about his neck and wrists, all evidencing the desperate attempts of loved ones to control him (5:3-4).  The second characteristic of this troubled man is his social isolation: cut off from family, friends, and neighbors, he made his abode among the caves and tombs (5:5).  The third detail is his emotional condition exhibited by his tormented screams echoing off the hillsides “always, night and day” (5:5).

Seeing Jesus, in a fleeting moment of desperation, the man ran out of the hills and came to Him and worshipped Him (5:6).  Jesus, evidencing His authority over demons cast them out of the man and they entered swine that could not abide the indwelling of such wickedness (5:10-13).

Rather than the protracted steps and methods of “reformation” that is the methodology of psychologists and psychiatrists, the demon-possessed man’s life immediately gave evidence of his conversion and transformation (5:8, 15).   The change was so transformative that his family, friends, and neighbors observed he was “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (5:15).  Sitting”… he was at peace, no longer needing to be bound with chains and ropes; clothed”… no longer a wild man crying and cutting himself;  in his right mind… repentant and rational.

How great was this transformation?  In Mark 5:7 he wanted nothing to do with Jesus; however, in Mark 5:18 his love and gratitude for Jesus moved him to want nothing more than to be with Jesus.

Everything about the maniac of Gadara changed: His attitudes— he was “in his right mind” (5:15); His actions— he was “sitting” with Jesus (5:15); His appearance— he was “clothed” (5:15); His affections— “prayed Him that he might be with Him [Jesus]” (5:15).

God’s power not only overcame his rebellious spirit, it transformed his thoughts, mind, and affections.  The power of the Gospel of Christ promises not only reformation; it promises total transformation!

2 Corinthians 5:17 – 17 Therefore if any man bein Christ, he isa new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Hipster, Skinny-jean Worship Leaders are the Trend, But Who is Their God? (Exodus 37-40)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 39-40, Psalm 33, and Mark 5. Our Bible devotional is from Exodus 37-40.

Because the Tabernacle was a constant reminder of the LORD’s presence in the midst of His people, He gave precise details of its design and furnishings; including the construction and exact dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant that represented God’s heavenly throne on earth (37:1-9; note – Psalm 80:1; 99:1).

The Ark would be transported by means of “staves” (i.e. rods) overlaid with gold (37:3-5).  Gold overlaid the entirety of the Ark, including the “mercy seat” upon which two cherubim faced with their wings outstretched toward one another (37:7-9), reflecting the purity and holiness of God’s throne of judgment.

Exodus 37:10-28 itemizes other furnishings employed in the tabernacle including a table overlaid with gold, and dishes, bowls, spoons, an elaborate candlestick and “altar of incense” (37:25-29), all of pure gold.

Exodus 38:1-20 gives the design of an “altar of burnt offering” and the vessels of brass used in offering sacrifices (38:1-8).  The outer court of the Tabernacle, including its construction, curtains, and rings on which they were to hang is given in exacting detail (38:9-20).  The enormous sacrifice of the people reflected in the vast amount of gold, silver and brass they gave for the furnishings of the Tabernacle is recorded (38:24-26).

The stunning colors of the “holy garments” worn by the high priest is described (39:1-2) as well as the breastplate embedded with twelve precious jewels, each engraved with the names of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (39:8-14).  The bindings of the breastplate worn by the high priest is given as well as other articles of clothing worn by him (39:15-31).  Fastened to a turban worn by the high priest was a plate of gold engraved with the words, “Holiness to the LORD” (39:30-31).

Moses directed the construction of the Tabernacle, the forging of its implements, and the dedication of the high priest, his sons and the garments worn by them (Exodus 40).  Insuring all was done “as the LORD had commanded” (39:43), Moses dedicated the work (40:33) and the outward manifestation of God’s approval was “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (40:34)!

I close drawing your attention to the phrase, “as the LORD commanded Moses”.  That phrase, repeated thirteen times in Exodus 39 and 40, reminds us that worship was not treated in some loosey-goosey, half-hearted manner. There was a preciseness in the preparations of the place of worship and the order and conduct of the spiritual leaders was to reflect God’s holy character.

Compare that to what most American churches call worship today where the bold declaration of God’s Word has decayed into an entertainment venue of strobe lights,  deafening music and tight-jeaned, tattooed spiritual leaders who are more concerned with reflecting the carnal culture of the masses than the holy character of the God they portend to serve!

Let’s remember what God requires of His servants!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which isin you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm” (Mark 4)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 37-38, Psalm 32, and Mark 4. Our devotional is from Mark 4.

Jesus had taught parables throughout the day with crowds so large He was forced to launch 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, and lying down in the boat He slept.

The Sea of Galilee (14 miles long and 7 miles wide) is notorious for violent storms.  Its surface 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 snow-covered mountain peaks to the north often push down through the hillsides that act as a funnel sending cold air colliding with 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 fisherman; however, even those veteran sailors were unable to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.   With cold winds whipping at the sailors and waves crashing into the ship, the exhausted disciples finally cried out, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

Friend, like the stormy sea in today’s Bible reading, trials will arise in your life and put your faith and trust in God’s will to the test. 

Before the disciples launched their ship out into the sea, Jesus knew an approaching storm would soon test their faith and whether or not they would put their trust in Him.  By the way, notice Jesus did not lead them where He was not going and when the storm came He was with them!

A second observation: The disciples’ response to the storm revealed they did not know fully Who Jesus was!  After Jesus 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).

The storm was an opportunity for the disciples to see Jesus as more than a mere mortal.  Struck with fear, awe, and respect they ask, “What manner of man is this?”

Someone reading today’s devotion is in the midst of a storm of personal trials.  Fear of the future has laid hold on your spirit and loneliness oppresses your soul.  Take heart; the LORD is with you in the midst of the storm of uncertainty… “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).

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

Take a few minutes and listen to a wonderful song titled, What Manner of This?, written and performed by my evangelist friend Ben Everson.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith