Dear Heart of a Shepherd Reader,

January 1, 2020 marks the beginning of both a New Year and decade.  The year ahead is untarnished by foolish words or sinful choices.  The decade before us is unmarred and promises the possibility of a fresh start on life. 

In a practical sense, those observations are true; however, spiritually, we cannot rush into a new year anticipating a new beginning without addressing the sins and failures of the past.  The past has a way of “catching up” with us and skeletons of secret sins inevitably emerge from the shadows.  The “baggage” of unresolved sins and conflicts will cast a shadow over our lives until we face and address them.

Fortunately, the Word of God has given us God’s answer for past sins and offers us His grace and forgiveness.  John writes, “If we confess [acknowledge; declare; admit] our sins [specific sins], he [The Lord] is faithful [to be trusted] and just [righteous; holy and without sin] to forgive us our sins [offences], and to cleanse [purify; purge] us from all unrighteousness [every wrong, every sin]” (1 John 1:9).

Think of that principle on forgiveness in this way: In the same way a builder cannot begin construction of a new edifice without first clearing away debris and making sure the foundation, you and I cannot enjoy a fresh start without first addressing the sins of our past biblically, confessing them, and seeking forgiveness from the Lord and any against whom we have sinned.

Jesus taught His disciples the same principle in His Sermon on the Mount.  Using the illustration of a worshiper who comes to offer a sacrifice in the Temple, but remembers he has sinned against his “brother” [family member, friend, acquaintance], Jesus commanded, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest [you remember; comes to mind] that thy brother hath ought against thee [has been offended by your sin]24  Leave there [at the Temple] thy gift [sacrifice] before the altar, and go thy way [go immediately]; first be reconciled [seek peace and reconciliation] to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift [sacrifice] (Matthew 5:23-24).

Forgiving Because Forgiven

“Life’s cruel thrusts and stinging 

wounds cut deep—I can’t forget.

I know not if I can forgive, dear       

Lord, they hurt and fret.

But when I think how I have    

sinned and oft have wounded Thee,

Repentant, then I too, forgive,     

as Thou forgavest me!”

—Gertrude Dugan

From “Practical Bible Illustrations From Yesterday and Today”

The potential of a fresh new start, unencumbered by sin, is waiting for you and me if we are willing to seek forgiveness and be made whole with the Lord and others. The Lord is waiting and promises, I will forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).

On a personal note, while I cannot promise to post a devotional commentary every day, I hope to post regular devotionals following a chronological Bible reading plan published by Blue Letter Bible. I invite you to set aside “modern translations” and use the King James Version Bible (KJV) which is a “word-for-word” translation that gives you the very words of God, translated from ancient, trusted manuscripts. A “dirty little fact” on modern Bible versions is that men have, under the guise of making the scriptures readable, taken unjustified (sometimes heretical) liberties with the scriptures. I will quote the KJV in my devotionals, while also inserting brackets “[]” after words to propose an amplified suggestion of a word that I trust will offer clarity for your understanding.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith