Know That a Prophet Hath Been Among You (Ezekiel 33:33)

After enjoying a vacation in the Smoky Mountains, I look forward to being back in Hillsdale’s pulpit this Sunday.  We will return to our verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of John, taking up our study with the closing verses of John 9 and introducing one of the most beautiful and beloved passages of the Gospels… the Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

Knowing the shepherd is a metaphor for a spiritual leader and the sheep is a metaphor for God’s people throughout the scriptures, I invested several hours focusing on the role of the shepherd and his relationship with the sheep.  In the Parable of the Good Shepherd we identify not only the character of the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ), we also see the evil characteristics of Israel’s spiritual leaders portrayed as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8) and as the “hireling” who flees “and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:13).

Israel was cursed with spiritual shepherd’s like those described in John 10.  When the nation needed shepherds to boldly declare the Word of the Lord and condemn the sins of the nation, she instead promoted men to be her pastors who not only failed to lead the nation spiritually, but also exploited her vulnerable state.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the “pastors” (spiritual shepherds) of Israel, “1Woe be unto the pastors [lit. shepherds] that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD…I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1-2).

Ezekiel prophesied “against the shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:1-2), condemning the spiritual leaders for putting their self-interests before the needs of the people (34:2).  Israel’s pastors had taken the best of everything for themselves (34:3), neglected the weak and injured (34:4a), failed to seek the lost, pursued sinful pleasures, and failed to call God’s people to be a holy people (34:4).  Israel had become an immoral, lawless nation and God determined to turn the nation and their shepherds over to be afflicted (Ezekiel 34:10).  God, however, did not leave His people hopeless and promised them He would one day deliver them (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

The task of a faithful prophet is not a popular one and God warned Ezekiel he would become the object of scorn (Ezekiel 33).  God challenged the prophet, “I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:7).  Ezekiel was admonished, should he fail to warn the wicked in his sin and the wicked man “die in his iniquity”, the blood of the wicked would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8).

Ezekiel 33 closes with a malady that in my observation is present in fundamental churches and colleges of our day…a generation that is “talking against” the prophet, expressing a faux-piety of hearing “the word that cometh forth from the LORD” (33:30), and “with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31).  God warns Ezekiel, “they hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).

From a perspective of outward results, Ezekiel was a failure for Israel did not repent of her sins and her pastors continued in their wickedness.  Ezekiel was promised, when God’s judgment falls upon Israel, all would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:33).

The words of a faithful, prophetic (forth-telling), uncompromising preacher are not welcome in most pulpits and one need not look far in our churches, colleges, and seminaries to understand there are many who “hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).  I pray God might find me faithful and some “shall know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

The Scope of Hillsdale’s Relief Team is Bigger Than We Imagined…

While we are praising the Lord the first team from Hillsdale is beginning a second day assisting Lighthouse Baptist Church, Panama City and their neighbors, the reality is the scope and demand is far greater than we imagined.

In addition to assisting many, especially widows and the elderly with removing trees from rooftops and driveways, our first team has begun to provide for 30-50 workers and neighbors at mealtimes. We planned financially to feed our work teams; however, the reality is, without electricity, food has spoiled and people are looking to Hillsdale for meals in the area.

We anticipate other groups, as well as the National Guard, will arrive toward the weekend; however, until they do our Hillsdale team encampment is the site for many to come for meals as they work to help themselves and their neighbors.

Our second team leaves Wednesday morning and we will send up coolers full of sliced meats, bread, and all the fixings for sandwiches. In addition, we are providing breakfast and require eggs, etc…

Pastor Peterman is working diligently, but he will welcome assistance as he is making purchases and packing (CALL THE OFFICE – 813-884-8250).  We are receiving a donation of Dry Ice, but we need large coolers today for tomorrow’s journey to Panama City.

We welcome donations either online at http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org (look for the Donations button in the upper right corner, follow instructions, and at “Other” type in Disaster Relief).  Of course you are welcome to either mail or drop off your donation at our office at 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33624.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale’s First Disaster Relief Team Is In Panama City…A second to follow this Wednesday

Natural disasters are terribly inconvenient and come at the untimeliest moments.

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Friends and Followers,

Last Wednesday, Hillsdale was finishing four days of blessings after hosting, housing many, and feeding 200 guests for Baptist World Mission’s Annual Meeting.  At the time, we had no way of knowing the devastation Hurricane Michael had created in Panama City and outlying coastal towns of the Florida Panhandle.

Our church family is tired, many of our members having taken vacation days to assist with the BWM conference.  News of the suffering in the Panhandle followed by an invitation and request from Dr. Jan Milton, founder of Operation Renewed Hope, that Hillsdale organize to assist brethren and neighbors in northern Florida, motivated us to arise to the occasion in light of this principle:

1 John 3:17-18 – 17  But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassionfrom him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Some have said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  Our current goal is to send three teams to the Florida Panhandle.  Our first team is focused in Panama City at Central Baptist Church and assisting Lighthouse Baptist Church.  I am advised our second and third team will thrust out from Panama City to small coastal towns that have not received aid or assistance.

Hillsdale’s policy is to work with and through local churches that are like-minded and can continue as a Lighthouse of the Gospel long after we are gone.  As I told our church family on Sunday, “We are not interested in taking credit for any effort. We are working with local churches for them to shine for Christ and minister to their families and neighbors.”

The expense of renting a large box truck, purchasing pallets of water, cases of non-perishable food, paper goods (including diapers), and cleaning supplies is enormous. In addition, the cost of fuel for hauling in trailers and heavy equipment if needed is beyond one local churches effort. The expense of our first team has exceeded $5,000 and we believe the second and third teams might be near the same.

(Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

I close with two challenges. The first, if you can GO, call our church office and request to speak to Family Pastor Eric Peterman to volunteer.  The second, if you cannot go, GIVE. You can give online to Hillsdale at http://www.hillsdalebaptist.org, look for the Donations button in the upper righthand corner, select Other and designate to Disaster Relief Fund. 100% of your gift will go to defray the expenses incurred in our ministry in the Florida Panhandle.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Hillsdale’s First Disaster Relief Team Departing for Panama City This Morning

Please pray for Hillsdale’s first Disaster Relief Team consisting of eight members is departing for Panama City at 8:00am this morning.  The team will be working with local churches and in cooperation with Operation Renewed Hope.

The initial cost for supplies and the rental of a box truck to transport pallets of water and supplies is $5,000.00. We hope a second team will follow with chainsaws in the middle of the week to assist or relieve the first team.

To donate, go to http://www.hillsdalebaptist.org and click on the Donate button in the upper right hand corner. Hillsdale members are encouraged to prepare for a special offering this morning.

HELP US HELP THE VICTIMS OF HURRICANE MICHAEL

October 12, 2018

Hillsdale family and friends,

As many of you know, Hurricane Michael left a path of destruction this week when that storm, packing near Category 5 winds, directed its fury on Panama City and outlying areas along the coast of Florida’s Panhandle.  The pictures coming out of the area are described as having the appearance of a war zone.

The devastation from the winds was so great in that area that details are only now slowly emerging.  Operation Renewed Hope, an organization Hillsdale has worked with in the past has found it impossible to establish a staging area for assistance since it appears the churches contacted in advance of the storm were themselves destroyed.

One of Hillsdale’s men, a man with extensive background with the military and an expert in disaster relief, is leaving Tampa this afternoon and driving to Panama City.  Fortunately, he has credentials to go into secured areas not open to residents and the general public (by the way, a “thank you” to the good people at Veterans Fordand manager Lorenzo Pena for supplying our man with a vehicle elevated enough to go into those areas).

Hillsdale, in cooperation with Operation Renewed Hope, will send in men and supplies after a safe route is found and a secured staging area is established.  Our goal will be to find a church that will commit to housing supplies and working with us, allowing us to minister to churches and their neighbors in Panama City and surrounding regions.

Departure time is uncertain, pending the survey trip; however, Hillsdale’s youth pastor, Justin Jarret, is acting as our point man for putting together the first team which is already forming with skilled and unskilled volunteers.

Hillsdale members will be given an opportunity this Sunday to designate financial gifts for the Disaster Relief effort.  You can also bring cases of bottled water this Sunday morning to be transported by our team to Panama City.

If you want to be a part of our Disaster Relief effort, you may donate to Hillsdale Baptist Church, knowing 100% of your gift will go to the expenses and supplies in our effort to minister to those in need in the areas impacted by Hurricane Michael.  Please look for the “Donations Button” and follow instructions.  Of course, you can also mail your financial gifts to Hillsdale Baptist Church, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL, 33624.  Please designate to “Disaster Relief”.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. smith

Senior Pastor

COPYRIGHT 2018 – TRAVIS D. SMITH

At the Risk of Being Misunderstood

John McCain’s death has drawn tributes from all quarters of the world…political and religious; however, I fear we too easily overlook the one lasting lesson we might take from his life … “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Lest I be accused of callousness, I extend to John McCain’s family sincere condolences, being reminded the grief and sorrow of death is a universal certainty. Indeed, death is no respecter of persons and we all, great and small, live under the shadow of death, “For all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

I am not privy of John McCain’s spiritual relationship with God at his death.  Commended by many for his service to our country, the only commendation that has lasting, eternal value is whether or not God received him on the basis of his faith in the redemption found in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

Of all the acclamations expressed to a man for a life-time of service, the most important is not one he deserves, but one promised as an expression of God’s grace: “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

United States Naval Academy graduate, naval aviator, tortured prisoner of war, and life-time politician…all earn the acclaim of an adoring public, but I wonder if God received John McCain as a believer saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  After all, “there is no respect of persons” before God’s judgment (Colossians 3:24-25).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

To My Critics

I realized my earlier blogs stating my observations and concerns regarding Bob Jones University  would not be received well by some.  While I expressed my thoughts in a spirit of love and sorrow, I was aware I might be greeted with a vitriol that might turn personal and caustic.

Like the culture we live in, I have found many believers infected with a strident spirit that maligns and attacks. Indeed, it is that harsh vindictive spirit that chides many into silence.

I have no interest in debating ad nauseam my concerns, nor do I have time to address every critic.  My concerns are my concerns. If you do not share them, that is fine by me; however, do not attack me for daring to express them.

My blogs were not written with a spirit of malice, but as an expression of a shepherd who loves his sheep. After nearly 33 years of ministry at Hillsdale Baptist Church, I am content with being a pastor and have no interest in being a crusader for or against any institution.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith