Don’t Threaten Me with Heaven! (2 Corinthians 5-9)

Scripture reading – 2 Corinthians 5-9

We continue our study of the Second Epistle to Corinth, and Paul reminds us that there is more to life than that which is earthly and temporal. Before we continue today’s Scripture reading (2 Corinthians 5-9), let us take a moment and review the closing verses of 2 Corinthians 4. If not for the chapters that follow, we might have concluded that the spiritual truths contained in the following verses were the great climax of the letter. Paul writes,

2 Corinthians 4:16b–18 – “17b Though our outward man perish [physical body], yet the inward man [the spirit] is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction [trouble; distress], which is but for a moment [passing], worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory [Paul’s troubles were nothing in light of the eternal reward]; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen [earthly; physical], but at the things which are not seen [eternal; heavenly]: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Writing of the sorrows of life, and the sufferings of ministry, the apostle reminded his readers that everything about this life is temporal, and fleeting; however, there is life beyond this veil of flesh and it is glorious and eternal. Continuing his focus on heaven and eternity, Paul stirs us with the promise that has been the hope of every saint of God for two millenniums.

2 Corinthians 5 – An Eternal Home

2 Corinthians 5:1 – “1  For we know [reason and understand] that if our earthly house [physical dwelling, i.e. body] of thistabernacle [temporal tent or dwelling] were dissolved [lifeless; decayed], we have a building of God [spiritual body], an house [dwelling] not made with hands [immortal body], eternal in the heavens [immortal].

What a wonderful promise! You cannot know when you will die (Hebrews 9:27); however, if you have faith that Jesus Christ as your Redeemer, you can be assured when your body lies still in the grave, your eternal spirit is with God in heaven (5:1). Paul would write, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Continuing the theme of his hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ, Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians 5:6-8 – “6 Therefore we are always confident [full of hope and courage], knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent [away] from the Lord: 7  (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8  We are confident [full of hope and courage], I say, and willing rather to be absent [away] from the body [preferring to die], and to be present [at home] with the Lord.”

Your physical body is a temporal dwelling on this earth (5:6). Paul, however, was confident in this: When a believer dies, his spirit will be “absent [away] from the body [preferring to die], and…present [at home] with the Lord.”

Your spirit is eternal and will either be forever with the Lord, or separated eternally from Him and sentenced to eternal judgment (Revelation 20:12, 15). Paul, wrote to believers in Rome, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Friend, in what or in whom have you placed your confidence for eternal life after death? Do you have faith that your sins are forgiven? Is Jesus Christ your Savior and Redeemer? (Romans 3:24)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Love that gives, and forgives. (2 Corinthians 1-4)

Scripture reading – 2 Corinthians 1-4

Today’s Scripture reading (2 Corinthians 1-4) is Paul’s second letter to believers living in Corinth, the capital city of Achaia. While his first epistle had contained loving admonitions due to that church’s failure to deal with sin in its midst, his second letter manifested the joy, and loving compassion of a faithful pastor and apostle of Jesus Christ.

A Brief Review of 1 Corinthians

Before we consider 2 Corinthians, let’s remember the dire spiritual straits that motivated Paul to write 1 Corinthians. Rather than a spirit of love and humility that should have characterized the believers (1 Corinthians 1:10), Paul had learned the assembly in Corinth had become divided over personalities. Some had boasted and identified with Paul, some with Apollos, and others with Peter (1 Corinthians 1:12-13; 3:4-6, 22). Paul had rebuked their petty rifts and declared, “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23), and reminded them, “ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:23).

Paul had longed to go to Corinth himself; however, he knew there were adversaries waiting there and, rather than risk a public confrontation that might have further divided the believers, he instead sent a stern letter by Timothy (1 Corinthians 3:14-21).

Adding to Paul’s displeasure was the knowledge that the church had allowed gross immortality in its midst (1 Corinthians 5:1). Rather than the sorrow and shame that should have moved them to put the sin and the sinner out of their midst, the people were proud and “puffed up” (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). Paul had demanded, “put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:13).

2 Corinthians

Paul’s second epistle is one of joy and relief. The Corinthian believers had received the admonitions in his first epistle, humbled themselves, and repented for their sins. The apostle made no secret that he had suffered much for the cause of Christ and the Gospel (2 Corinthians 1:5), but he prayed his sufferings and persecutions would be a cause for encouragement to them (1:6).

The apostle rejoiced that the believers had addressed the immorality in their midst, and their loving disciplines of the man had turned him to sorrow and repentance (2:5-6). Paul exhorted the believers to forgive the man and restore him, lest he “be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (2:7). Indeed, he goes so far as to encourage the saints to “confirm [their] love toward him” (2:8). With the love of a shepherd, Paul assured the church, “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ” (2:10).

What a great reminder of Biblical, Christlike love. Love that gives, and forgives.

Ephesians 4:3232 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

What If There was No Resurrection? (1 Corinthians 15-16)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 15-16

The focus of today’s Scripture reading moves from Spiritual Gifts, their distribution, uses, and abuses in the church (1 Corinthians 12-14), to the central doctrine of Christianity which is, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Corinthians 15). Paul’s exposition of the Gospel, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (15:1-4), makes 1 Corinthians 15 one of the greatest and most pivotal chapters in the New Testament.

Consider the heart of the Gospel (15:3-4)

1) “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (15:3; Isaiah 53:5-7).

2) “He was buried” (15:4a), thus leaving us no doubt that Jesus was dead, and his body was lifeless when it was removed from the cross.

3) “He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (15:4b; Psalm 16:10; Matthew 12:40).

Eyewitnesses validated Christ’s resurrection from the dead (15:5-9).

Numbered among the eyewitnesses was “Cephas” (the apostle Peter), and “the twelve” disciples, less the traitor Judas (15:5). Jesus was also “seen of above five hundred brethren at once,” and as Paul penned the letter the majority of those witnesses were still alive (15:6). One named James was a witness of Jesus’ resurrection, and most scholars believe he was the half-brother of Jesus (15:7a), who was the head of the church in Jerusalem (15:13-21). Other witnesses were men identified as apostles (15:7b). The number of apostles is not given; however, there were seventy whom Jesus had sent out in Luke 10:1, 17.

Paul, who had been temporarily blinded by the LORD’s heavenly glory on the road to Damascus, numbered himself among the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 9:1; 2 Corinthians 12:1), writing, “last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (15:8).

The fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not only the central doctrine of Christianity, it is also the motivation for boldly, and unapologetically declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ (15:10-19).

Preaching a Savior who was sacrificed on the Cross, but did not rise from the dead, would be a hollow, lifeless, hopeless message. There is no Gospel, no good news, no hope of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life if Christ is not raised from the dead. I close with Paul’s assurance,

1 Corinthians 15:20–2220 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits [the first of many who will be raised from the dead] of them that slept [who died in faith, believing]. 21 For since by man [Adam, the first man] came death, by man [Jesus Christ, the Second Adam] came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

We are the sons and daughters of Adam, and were born with a sinful nature, and under the curse and penalty of sin (15:22a; Romans 6:23a). When we confess our sin, and believe that Christ paid the penalty of our sin by His substitutionary death on the cross, we are promised we “shall all be made alive” (15:22b). To be “made alive,” is to be revived in our spirit (i.e. our inner man), and promised one day our bodies will be raised from the dead to life.

How can this be?

Romans 5:1919 For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus Christ] shall many be made righteous. [Christ’s righteousness imparted to us by faith]

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Are One of a Kind; Embrace the Difference! (1 Corinthians 12-14)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 12-14

Today’s Scripture reading speaks to several important doctrinal issues; however, the overriding subject is Spiritual Gifts.

1 Corinthians 12 draws a portrait of the early church and its diversity. Not only was there a variety of spiritual gifts present (12:4-10), but there was also a multi-cultural membership that included Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free (12:13). Realizing differences can breed the potential of misunderstandings, Paul reminded believers that God has sovereignly “set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (12:18) that He might bring unity and oneness.

To enjoy peace and unity, and to function as God intended, it was important for believers to value each other in their place. To illustrate that truth, Paul gave an extended visual using the physical body and its various members (hand and foot, ear and eye). He observed that there is a symbiotic relationship between members, whose function is dramatically different, yet in their place they work in harmony for the furtherance of the body as a whole (12:14-21).

Paul observed, there are “many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble [weak], are necessary (12:20–22).

Lest jealousy or division arise among the people, Paul made the observation that every member, attractive or unattractive, strong or weak, had a place and should be valued for their individual role and function (12:23-24). Each member has a necessary place in the body of Christ, for “God hath tempered the body together” (12:24).

All members of God’s family should have a loving bond with other members, and evidence a sympathetic concern for others (12:25). When “one member suffer[s], all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (12:26).

Let’s face it, we are different! We can allow our differences to divide us, or we can choose to love and appreciate one another as individual members of “the body of Christ, and members in particular;” meaning valuing every member for their place and function in God’s perfect plan (12:27).

I close inviting you to consider: Are you functioning as a faithful member in the “body of Christ?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale Baptist Church Invitation (and additional COVID-19 Guidelines)

Good morning!

I trust you are planning on joining Hillsdale for our morning services. Pastor Brian Barber will be continuing his series in the 9:15 AM Adult Bible Fellowship Hour and broadcasting live from our auditorium on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

I am looking forward to continuing my series on “The Model Prayer” in the 10:30 AM service as we continue our study in the Gospel of Luke. You are invited to follow the message with the attached Student Outline.02 – The Model Prayer (part 2) – Nov 29, 2020 AM student blank

Finally, knowing many of our Church family have traveled over the holidays, we are putting in place additional COVID-19 Guidelines for the next two Sundays.

Knowing the unintentional danger of exposing others to Coronavirus, we are requesting you to observe the following precautions:

1) Please sit together as family units this Sunday, and the following week. Children and teens are asked to sit with their parents during the morning service.

2) Please observe “social distancing” in the building for the next two-weeks, especially in the           restrooms, lobby, and auditorium.

3) Please limit fellowship in the Lobby for the next two Sundays, including greetings (shaking hands, hugs, etc.).

God has wonderfully blessed and protected our church and school families during COVID-19, and we want to do our part to continue enjoying good health. We love you, and the precautions are not made lightly; however, out of an abundance of caution, we feel they are necessary until we are sure that our families are safe after recent travels.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Does Your Pastor Deserve a Raise? (1 Corinthians 9-11)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 9-11

Today’s Scripture reading (1 Corinthians 9-11) opens with Paul’s defense of not only his apostleship, but also his calling and qualifications as an apostle. Paul writes,

1 Corinthians 9:1– Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?

Paul had opened the letter to Corinth, introducing himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God” (1:1), and now returns to the same, asserting his authority as one having seen Jesus Christ after His resurrection and ascension to heaven (Acts 1:21-22). Whether his enemies might question his apostleship (and there were some who did), it did not matter to Paul, for he looked upon the believers in Corinth as the “seal of [his] apostleship…in the Lord.” (9:2).

Having established his authority as an apostle, Paul then addressed the material obligation of the churches to support all who are pastors (9:3-14).  Paul reasoned that God’s servants have the “power to eat and to drink” (9:4), and to support their families (“to lead about a sister, a wife” (9:5), meaning a spouse).

Continuing his argument that God’s servants should receive compensation for their labor, Paul reasoned that soldiers are compensated when they go to war, farmers eat the fruit of their labor, and shepherds profit from shepherding (9:7). Not only is it rational from a human perspective, but it is also commanded in the Law that servants of God must receive a fair compensation for their labor (9:8-9; Deuteronomy 25:4).

1 Corinthians 9:9 – “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?”

What is the application of 1 Corinthians 9:9?  If God is concerned for the fair treatment of oxen, there can be no doubt He is particularly concerned about the welfare of His servants (9:10).  Taking that truth to its conclusion, Paul admonished believers they are debtors to those who minister to them spiritually, and are under material obligation to meet their physical needs (9:11).

1 Corinthians 9:12 indicates the believers in Corinth had given to meet the needs of others who ministered in the church; however, Paul had not asked the same of the church.  In case some were tempted to continue the same practice towards other ministers, Paul reminded them that priests who ministered in the Temple received a portion of the sacrifices as compensation for their families (9:13; Leviticus 6:14-7:36; 27:6-33).

Principle – In both the Old Testament and New Testament, God has ordained that His servants be supported, and fairly compensated for their labor (9:14). 

Sadly, many church members give little thought to the personal sacrifices, and needs of their ministers.  If you believe “the labourer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7), you should see to it that your pastor is fairly compensated and financially secure.

Paul would later take that principle a step further and write, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).

How about it, does your pastor deserve a raise?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Shameful Failure of the Church to Address Sin (1 Corinthians 5-8)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 5-8

We continue our reading of Paul’s first letter to believers in Corinth. Though our Scripture reading is 1 Corinthians 5-8, today’s devotional will be focused on the introductory verses of 1 Corinthians 5.

Paul had received news of troubles, trials, and sin issues that had arisen in the church of Corinth. He had heard how believers tolerated gross immorality, and he was writing to challenge, exhort, and command believers to condemn sin in their midst.

1 Corinthians 5:1-5

1 Corinthians 5:1 – “It is reported commonly that there is fornication [sexual immorality; adultery] among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife [referring to the sin of incest].”

The latter phrase, “his father’s wife” (5:1), would indicate that the sin was one of incest with the man’s stepmother, and not his mother. Nevertheless, although the heathen of Corinth practiced idol worship and tolerated all manner of sexual perversity in the name of religion, a son lying with his father’s wife was loathed even by Corinthian society.

Rather than shame, the believers in Corinth boasted of their tolerance, being “puffed up” (5:2). Though unable to be present and deal with the wickedness himself (5:3), Paul left no doubt what they were expected to do. With the authority of Christ (5:4), he commanded that the immoral son be “taken away” (5:2, 5), cast out of their midst, and delivered “unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (5:5).

The purpose of the discipline, and the removal of the man from their fellowship was that he would bear the weight of his sin (shame, physical sickness and disease, or death). The spiritual goal was to see the man repent of his sin, before he faced “the day of the Lord Jesus,” meaning the judgment of God (5:5).

The 21st century church is little different from the 1st century church of Corinth when it comes to addressing sexual immorality in its fellowship. Fornication (sexual immorality outside the covenant of marriage), adultery, and divorce are rampant. Pornography, which is the sin of adultery (Matthew 5:28) is epidemic. Sadly, the pulpits of America are themselves wrecked with sexual scandals.

I fear one of the major reasons the church has lost its power and influence (Matthew 5:13-16) in the world is because believers have failed to address sexual sins in the midst. Oh, that all believers would hear and heed Paul’s exhortation:

2 Timothy 2:22 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Salvation and Testimony of Sosthenes (1 Corinthians 1-4)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 1-4

Our chronological reading of God’s Word brings us today to Paul’s first letter to the saints in Corinth. In the preceding devotional (Acts 18), you were introduced to the city of Corinth, the capital of Achaia, a Roman province. Corinth was a seaport city on the Mediterranean Sea, and by Paul’s day had eclipsed ancient Athens in commerce, culture, and wickedness.

Paul’s eighteen month-long ministry in Corinth had been fruitful (Acts 18:11), and many Jews and Gentiles had come to believe and accept Christ as Savior. Nevertheless, there was a great opposition to the Gospel, so that Paul had rebuked the Jews saying, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6). Paul had soon after departed from Corinth.

1 Corinthians 1-4 – An encouraging letter, to a struggling church.

The members of the church in Corinth were far from perfect. Remembering the moral wickedness of that culture, the presence of idolatry, and the universal depravity of man, we understand the spiritual stress on the church from within and without. Not one to shy from his role as an apostle and preacher, Paul’s first letter to the believers in Corinth passionately addressed several issues: 1) The moral failures of believers in the body; 2) A contentious, divisive spirit; 3) Various questions regarding a believer’s liberty (for instance, eating meat offered to idols), marriage and divorce, spiritual gifts, and the resurrection.

I encourage you to read today’s Scripture; however, the balance of today’s devotional will focus on one verse, 1 Corinthians 1:1.

1 Corinthians 1:1 – “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother.”

Who was Sosthenes, and why is the mention of his name noteworthy? To answer that question, we must return to Acts 18:9-17 where he is first mentioned, not as a friend, but as an adversary of Paul (Acts 18:17).

Remember how the Hellenistic Jews in Corinth (being of Greek origin), had been stirred and “made insurrection with one accord against Paul (Acts 18:12). They “brought [Paul] to the judgment seat” where Gallio, the deputy and Roman procurator of Achaia sat in judgment. Gallio, demonstrating his prejudiced toward the Jews, had no tolerance for their religious squabble with Paul (Acts 18:13-15). Humiliated by their dismissal (Acts 18:16), the Greek-Jews turned on Sosthenes, the leader of their insurrection. We read,

Acts 18:17 – “17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.”

It was this same Sosthenes, the leader of the insurrection, who later became a believer and follower of Christ. His salvation had so transformed his life that he became a peer of Paul in the Gospel ministry!

Paul opens his first letter to the church in Corinth with not only a greeting, but with “Sosthenes our brother” (1 Corinthians 1:1). What a wonderful testimony of spiritual transformation! God’s Holy Spirit had so worked in Sosthenes’ life that he became not only Paul’s spiritual brother, but also his fellow-laborer!

Friend, have you known the transformation of a new spiritual nature that begins with sincere salvation?

2 Corinthians 5:17 – “17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Happy Thanksgiving from the Heart of a Shepherd!

Dear Heart of a Shepherd readers,

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and I have so much for which to be thankful.

I am thankful for my salvation, and for the LORD calling me to spend my life serving Him. I am thankful for the Word of God, and for the privilege I have had to preach and teach His unchanging Word for 41 years. I am thankful to have the privilege to study, write down my meditations in the Word, and then share them with hundreds who follow them everyday on http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

I am thankful for my family, and dear friends who have encouraged me through trials. I am thankful to Hillsdale’s church and school staff who have served faithfully through a difficult year. I am thankful to the faithful members of Hillsdale Baptist Church; you have been a part of my life and ministry for over 35 years.

God bless you dear friends, for our God is indeed faithful and we should praise and thank Him!

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With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

No Cause for Fear, When You are In the Center of God’s Will (Acts 18-19)

Scripture reading – Acts 18-19

We find ourselves nearing the end of Paul’s second missionary journey, this time with Silas (15:40), and later Timotheus (16:1; 17:14), as his travel companions. Paul’s ministry in Athens had been a fruitful one, and he had with unapologetic boldness declared to the Jews and Greeks that Jesus Christ was LORD, whom God had raised from the dead (17:31).

Acts 18 – Paul’s Ministry in Corinth

Departing from Athens, Paul traveled alone to the city of Corinth some 40-50 miles west of Athens. Corinth was the capital of Achaia, a Roman province on the Mediterranean Sea, and was renowned for its commerce, culture, scholarship, and its wickedness.

In Corinth, Paul was employed by “a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla” (18:2). This couple had been exiled from Rome by the decree of Claudius, the fifth Roman emperor, who around 49 A.D., commanded that all Jews were “to depart from Rome” (18:2). Providentially, God led Paul to the home of Aquila and Priscilla who were like himself, tentmakers, and there he resided while ministering in Corinth (18:3).

As was Paul’s custom, he began preaching “in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded [convinced] the Jews and the Greeks (most likely Hellenistic Jews)” (18:4). Silas and Timotheus’s arrival in Corinth (18:5) stimulated Paul to boldly and earnestly testify “to the Jews that Jesus was Christ [the Messiah]” (18:5).

The Jews’ strong rejection of the Gospel, and Paul’s rebuke of them is described in the following verse:

Acts 18:66  And when they [the Jews] opposed themselves [resisted; i.e. raised up in opposition to], and blasphemed [railed; reviled; slandered], he shook [to shake violently] his raiment [robe; i.e. indicating exasperation], and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads [i.e. a  disclaimer; Paul was not responsible for their souls]; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”

Literally and figuratively shaking his robe (18:6), Paul continued his ministry in the home of a man “named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard [bordered on; beside] to the synagogue” (18:7). No doubt Paul’s proximity to the synagogue infuriated his enemies. Adding to the offense was the news that “Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed [commitment of faith] on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (18:8).

In spite of the opposition and threats he faced, after the LORD assured him “in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10  For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (18:9-10), Paul continued “teaching the word of God” among the citizens of Corinth another eighteen months (18:11),

Believer, it is comforting to know that even a man like Paul needed assurance that the LORD was with him.

Lesson – There is no greater place of safety, or comfort, than in the center of God’s will.

Isaiah 41:1010 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith