YOUR INVITATION TO “1777: A COLONIAL CHRISTMAS”

1777-a-colonial-christmasThe Fine Arts Ministry of Hillsdale Baptist Church will present the musical  “1777: A COLONIAL CHRISTMAS” this Sunday evening, December 11, at 6:00 PM.
Combining Hillsdale’s choir with actors in a Reader’s Theater format, the musical is set in the midst of America’s Revolutionary War.  
The physical hardships suffered by Washington’s army at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777 provides a powerful backdrop for an inspiring message of hope and salvation.
* Note – Admission is free and tickets are not required.

“Hope for the Hopeless” – A spiritual perspective from Psalm 34:1-4 (part 2)

hopeless1Continuing our study of Psalm 34, I remind you the backdrop of this psalm was God saving David from his enemies (1 Samuel 20-22).   Having exhausted his strength and efforts to save himself, David turned his thoughts to the LORD and resolved to never turn from worshipping and serving the LORD.

Three spiritual disciplines define David’s ADORATION of the LORD (Psalm 34:1-3).  The first, David resolved his life would be a testimony of perpetual praise to the LORD (34:1).

Psalm 34:1 – “I will bless [salute; praise] the LORD at all times [always; season; continually]: his praise [glory; song of praise] shall continually [daily; always; ever] be in my mouth [word; speech].”

David’s vow to praise the LORD was more than a “fair weather” decision.  He committed to praise the LORD “at all times”…good times and bad times; times of blessing and times of trouble.  When distressed, David vowed, the “praise [of the LORD] shall continually be in my mouth” (34:1b).

The second discipline in David’s ADORATION and worship of the LORD was his vow to “boast in the LORD” (34:2).

Psalm 34:2 – “My soul [life; mind; heart] shall make her boast [praise; glory] in the LORD: the humble [meek; lowly; needy; afflicted] shall hear [hearken; obey; listen; publish] thereof, and be glad [rejoice; cheer; be merry].”worship

Conscious of his role as God’s anointed and his influence on others, David resolved praising the LORD would dominate his soul (34:2a) and the “humble” would be encouraged by his praise (34:2b).

The third discipline of David’s ADORATION was his invitation for others to join him in corporate worship, praise, and thanksgiving (34:3).

Psalm 34:3 – “O magnify [boast; i.e. speak with pride] the LORD with me, and let us exalt [raise; become proud; bold] his name [renown; reputation] together [united].”

Worldly leaders crave the praise and adoration of their followers; however, godly leaders deflect human praise and desire that others would be inspired by their example and “magnify” and “exalt” the LORD and His name!

Some reading today’s devotional are battling depression.  I do not know your circumstances, but I understand feeling abandoned, disillusioned, and discouraged.  I have learned negative feelings and dark thoughts will consume me spiritually, physically and emotionally if I fail to get the focus off myself and turn to the LORD.  Reading and meditating on God’s Word and His promises are the first steps to digging out of a spiritual funk.  Also, turning my focus to encouraging others who are struggling has proven to be a balm to my soul.encourage

In closing, it is my prayer you will take consolation in this:  You are not experiencing anything that the rest of us have not felt and experienced (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Trials, troubles, and disappointments are the lot of living in a sin-cursed world; however, we have this assurance:  The LORD hears and answers prayer!

Psalm 34:4 – “I sought [seek; enquire; consult] the LORD, and He heard [answered; replied] me, and delivered [pluck up; preserve; rescue] me from all my fears [fright].

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

“Hope for the Hopeless” – A Word of Encouragement from Psalm 34 (part 1)

hopelessPsalm 34:1-3 1  I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2  My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. 3  O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

The author of Psalm 34 is a man who had known the solace of a shepherd’s life as a youth and the pleasures of a king’s palace as a young man.  The opening verses of the psalm might lead some to believe they were penned by a man enjoying a moment of triumph, rather than the reality…they were the exhortations of a man who had known betrayal, sorrow, and despair.

giant-slayerThe background of Psalm 34 is events recorded in 1 Samuel 20-22.  David, the slayer of the Philistine giant Goliath, had lived in the palace of the king from his late teen years.  By his mid-20’s, he had become a battle-hardened soldier, a household name in Israel, and the friend and confidant of Jonathan, son of King Saul, and the presumed heir to Israel’s throne.  At the pinnacle of his career as a warrior, David’s rise in popularity coincided with King Saul’s insecurities and he became the focus of the king’s jealousy and wrath.

Bidding his friend Jonathan a final farewell (1 Samuel 20:34-42), David had fled to the priestly city of Nob where he requested bread for food and was given the sword of Goliath for his defense (1 Samuel 21:1-9).  Knowing Saul would send soldiers to slay him, David fled from Israel into the land of his old enemy, the Philistines (1 Samuel 21:10-15).  After  the Philistines identified him as Israel’s mighty warrior, David feigned insanity until the king of the Philistines dismissed him as a “mad man” (1 Samuel 21:12-15).

David spent the next 10 years of his life as a fugitive, hiding in the wilderness, living in caves (1 Samuel 22), and grappling with the reality his faithfulness and loyalty to the king had been rewarded with jealousy, mistrust, and the peril of death.  God’s anointed heir to Israel’s throne, had fallen from fame to infamy; from the hero of Israel, to the fugitive of En-gedi; from the lavishness of a king’s palace, to the poverty of the wilderness.psalm-34-1

Rather than despair and self-pity, David modeled the spiritual response when trials, injustices, and discouragement take hold on the soul—he resolved to worship His LORD and enumerated three spiritual disciplines that defined his ADORATION.

Psalm 34:1 – “I will bless [salute; praise] the LORD at all times [always; season; continually]: his praise [glory; song of praise] shall continually [daily; always; ever] be in my mouth [word; speech].”

Psalm 34:2 “My soul [life; mind; heart] shall make her boast [praise; glory] in the LORD: the humble [meek; lowly; needy; afflicted] shall hear [hearken; obey; listen; publish] thereof, and be glad [rejoice; cheer; be merry].”

Psalm 34:3 – “O magnify [boast; i.e. speak with pride] the LORD with me, and let us exalt [raise; become proud; bold] his name [renown; reputation] together [united].”

My next devotional will focus on David’s ADORATION of the LORD in the midst of trials.  I close today inviting you to meditate on Psalm 34:1-3 and offer the LORD a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for His faithfulness and salvation.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

Hope for the Hopeless (an Introduction to Psalm 34)

hopeless1As a whole, Americans are the wealthiest population the world has ever known.  Even the poorest among us would rank among the most prosperous in the world.  So how is it that a people who have so much are so miserable?

SAVE [Suicide Awareness Voices of Education], citing data provided by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and World Health Organization, states that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States (the second leading cause of death among college age students).  SAVE estimates that 20-25% of Americans 18+ years old are depressed.

According to VOX Magazine, the Millennial generation (18-34 years old) is evidencing anxiety and depression of epidemic proportions.  Campus protests, the vitriol expressed by college students toward Donald Trump [i.e. “Not my President”], and the embrace of socialism reveal not only an anti-American, anti-establishment political sentiment, but a whole sector of the American populace that is dissatisfied with life in general.  “The Chronicle of Higher Education” reported in 2015 that, More than 25 percent of college students have a diagnosable mental illness”.  A 2014 survey by the American College Health Association found that “35.5% [of college students] said they ‘felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.’”

millennials1So what is the answer to despair and melancholy?  Like the rest of America, the millennial generation, does not need a political revolution, it needs a spiritual revival!   Free higher education, “friends” on social media sites, wealth and possessions, cannot fill the haunting emptiness of a miserable lost soul.  Sadly, the generation that has been coddled from birth and told how unique they are, is facing the ugly reality that no amount of accommodations, amusements or vices can satisfy a gnawing hunger for happiness and contentment.

In a recent series titled “Hope for the Hopeless”, I put forward the following three questions to my church family:  1) Where do you turn when you have no place to turn?  2) Where do you go for help when you are reduced to helplessness?  3) Where do you find hope when all appears hopeless?

Writing out of his own life experiences,  David answered those questions in Psalm 34.  I invite you to read that chapter as we continue our study of “Hope for the Hopeless” in the days ahead.

To be continued…

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

Are you a spiritual cub or a lion?

lion-and-cubs“I feel like I am not being fed spiritually” is a stinging barb often employed by disgruntled church members towards their pastor and church.

Granted, there are many pastors who are not faithful preachers of God’s Word and many churches where Bible preaching and teaching have taken a back pew to music and entertainment.  If entertaining the masses has become the focus of your pastor and church, it is time to find a new church!

However, many who read this blog are members of churches where God’s Word is faithfully preached leaving me to ask:  Who bears the failure (or guilt) for a spiritually emaciated Christian?  The church?  The pastor? Or the individual believer?  That question is answered in Psalm 34:9-10.

Psalm 34:9-10 – O fear [be afraid; reverence; stand in awe] the LORD, ye his saints [holy ones; set apart; pure]: for there is no want [lack; need] to them that fear [afraid; revere] him. 10 The young lions do lack [needy; destitute; poverty], and suffer hunger [famine; famish; i.e. a voracious hunger]: but they that seek [enquire; search; ask] the LORD shall not want [lack; fail; have need] any good [better; pleasant; favorable] thing.

Two spiritual qualities are true of saints who experience “no want” and  “shall not want any good thing”:  They “fear” and “seek the LORD” (34:9-10).  In other words, when a believer professes, “I feel like I am not being fed”, they are in essence confessing their failure to “fear” and “seek the LORD” (34:9-10).

lion-cub-leftoversDavid offers a potent illustration of a spiritually emaciated saint when he draws a parallel with “young lions” that “lack, and suffer hunger” (34:10a).  Why would young lions go hungry?  Two reasons come to mind:  Immaturity and Inexperience.  The inexperience of young lions in the hunt often leaves them weak, hungry, and dependent on the spoils left from the kills of mature and experienced lions.Funny retro nerd flexing his muscle isolated on white background

The same is true of spiritually immature Christians who wait for their pastor to bottle and spoon-feed spiritual truths on Sunday mornings.  Like the pitiful roar of hungry young lions, whining saints too lazy to study God’s Word and feed themselves often complain they are hungry!

“…They that seek [enquire; search; ask] the LORD shall not want [lack; fail; have need] any good [better; pleasant; favorable] thing.” (Psalm 34:10b)

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

PRINCIPLES AND PROMISES, NOT PERSONALITY, DIRECTED MY VOTE FOR TRUMP — Spiritual Minutemen

The rejoicing and the uproar over Donald Trump’s election in these post-election days is both amusing and heart-breaking. I am amused that the media and liberal Democrats express outrage that “white evangelicals” voted for the president-elect and tout his “baggage” to justify their anger and resentment for the “basket of deplorable” who cast their vote […]

via PRINCIPLES AND PROMISES, NOT PERSONALITY, DIRECTED MY VOTE FOR TRUMP — Spiritual Minutemen