Author Archives: pastortravissmith

About pastortravissmith

Senior Pastor - Hillsdale Baptist Church Tampa, FL 33625

Are You Whole? (Luke 16-17)

Scripture reading – Luke 16-17

Today’s Scripture reading, Luke 16-17, continues with two additional parables taught by Jesus:  The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13), and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31). The latter is believed by some to not fall into the category of a parable because it uses a man’s proper name, “Lazarus.”

Four Spiritual Principles (guidelines) For Living in a Sin Cursed World (Luke 17:1-10)

In Luke 17, Jesus moved from employing parables in His teaching, to teaching His disciples specific spiritual principles. The first principle was a warning: Offend “one of these little ones” (meaning, to discourage or lead one to sin), and you invoke God’s wrath (17:1-2).

A second principle was a command for addressing offences: When offences arise, which is inevitable, don’t give place to bitterness. Rather, go to the one who has offended you, “rebuke him,” meaning to address his sin (17:3), and be ready to forgive (17:4).

The essential of faith, was the third principle, and can be summed up in this: “Faith as [i.e. or as small as]a grain of mustard seed,” is powerful (17:5-6).

The fourth principle was in the matter of obeying God: As a servant is duty bound to serve his master (17:7-9), so is a believer who serves the LORD (17:10). We have no cause or grounds for pride or boasting, for when we have served the LORD faithfully, “we have done that which was our duty to do” (17:10).

Gratitude: A Blessed Attitude (Luke 17:11-19)

With His appointment of the Cross before Him, Jesus, passed “through the midst of Samaria and Galilee,” setting His face to go up to Jerusalem (17:11). As He traveled with His disciples, Jesus encountered ten lepers who appealed to Him from afar, “Master, have mercy on us” (17:12-13).

Jesus commanded the lepers, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests,” and as they went on their way, “they were cleansed” (17:14). Ten men had been healed, but only one “turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (17:15-16).

Notice the phrase, “he was a Samaritan” (17:16).

“Misery loves company,” is a trite saying that might have described the unity of the lepers when they were ten in number. However, though they had all experienced the blessed miracle of healing and the wholeness that only Christ could give, only one, a Samaritan expressed sincere gratitude.

The Samaritan, however, had known a life of rejection in Israel. He had borne not only the scars of leprosy, but the scorn of Jews who looked upon his lineage with disdain. He demonstrated a humility of one who had known rejection, and he was profoundly aware that he was the object of God’s grace.

Jesus asked, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” (17:17); “18There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger” (17:18).

Why a “stranger?” He was a Samaritan. Unlike the nine ungrateful men who had been healed of leprosy, he was a “stranger” from God’s covenant promises with Israel. He felt his unworthiness, and was sensitive to His need. He had been transformed, not merely physically, but spiritually.

Jesus commanded the Samaritan, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (17:19). He was whole! Not only having been delivered from leprosy, but delivered from the curse of sin, by his faith in Jesus Christ!

Friend, are you “whole?” Not merely physically, but spiritually whole. You can be, by simply turning from sin, putting your faith in Jesus Christ, and receiving Him as your Savior.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – “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

Congratulations! Today is the 300th Scripture Reading and Daily Devotional of 2020! (Luke 14-15)

Scripture reading – Luke 14-15

A Word from the Author

Congratulations to all who have followed my chronological Scripture reading schedule in 2020! Today’s reading assignment and devotional commentary is the three hundredth this year. I pray you have found this journey through the Scriptures spiritually enlightening, and the devotionals a blessing.

Over the years I have found the majority of published daily devotionals to be topical, and lacking in substance. Because my heart is that of a shepherd for the members of Hillsdale Baptist Church, I set my heart this year to lead our church family through a chronological study of the Scriptures. While this discipline continues to be a great joy, it has been labor intensive, yet has been rewarded with readers from around the world.

Thank you for following www.HeartofAShepherd.com. I would love to hear from any who have followed me on this journey through the Bible. You are invited to email me at: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

Email – HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Some of the most beloved Parables taught by Jesus are found in the Gospel of Luke, chapters 14-15.

Luke 14 – “The Parable of a Great Wedding Banquet” (14:7-14), encouraged humility and cautioned those who are inclined to pride and ambition. “The Parable of a Great Supper” (14:15-24), was a portrait of a great banquet where God is the host and invites the righteous to supper. Sadly, those who were first invited (i.e. proud, self-righteous religious leaders), refused the invitation (14:18-21a), and a second invitation was sent to those who were not first invited, “the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” (14:21). These would have been considered outcasts by the proud Pharisees, and therefore unworthy of the invitation. When the servant announced to His master that there was yet room at the his supper, he sent the servant out again, and commanded him to go outside the house of Israel to the Gentile nations: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (14:23).

Luke 15 – Illustrates three parables that demonstrate God’s love for lost sinners, and His joy when they are restored to Him.

The “Parable of the Lost Sheep” (15:1-7), the “Parable of the Lost Coin” (15:8-10), and the “Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Self-righteous Eldest Son” (15:11-24) are illustrative of God’s longsuffering and love.

Friend, what a blessed promise! God loves sinners, He seeks them, and when He finds them willing to come to Him, He restores them by extending His mercy, compassion, and saving grace.

Ephesians 2:8–98For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Beware That Your Possessions Do Not Possess You (Luke 12-13)

Scripture reading – Luke 12-13

The sin of covetousness is the malady of humanity, and is as ancient as sin itself.

When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed that she consider the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden, the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Initially, Eve resisted the temptation; however, the more she considered the forbidden fruit, the more she pondered what the serpent (Satan) suggested were its benefits.

She saw that the fruit God had forbidden was “good for food,” appealing, for it was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Coveting what God had prohibited, Eve “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:6-7).

Covetousness goes by many names and is evidenced in many ways: Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are a few words and attitudes that define a sin that has driven many a man or woman to self-destruction, and eternal damnation.

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (Luke 12:16-21) is universally known to many.

In the parable, Jesus told the story of a rich man whose “passion for possessions” could not be satisfied. Even when he was blessed and his barns were filled and overflowing, he was not content. So the rich man determined to build larger barns, boasting within himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (12:19). Sadly, the sum of the parable has been repeated and condemned by God since the fall of man: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (12:20)

What prompted this enduring illustration of covetousness?

It was the request of a man whose “passion for possessions” had taken precedence over the natural affection one brother should have for another. The man had come to Jesus demanding, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (12:13).  The Law was clear regarding inheritance, yet this brother was discontent, demanding his inheritance out of a heart of greed and gain.

Recalling Jesus knew the hearts of all men, He recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as judge in a matter where the law had clearly spoken, Jesus warned: “Take heed [be quiet; i.e. listen], and beware of covetousness [i.e. greed; a desire or craving to have more]: for a man’s life consisteth [i.e. is defined by] not in the abundance [surplus; affluence] of the things which he possesseth” (12:15).

Truth: A fool treasures riches, and eventually finds himself a slave of them.

Luke 12:2121So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Where is your treasure?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Pray for Laborers! (Luke 10)

Scripture reading – Luke 10

The Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, is one of the most instructive and moving of the twenty-four chapters we find in Luke’s gospel.

We find a model for the Great Commission (Luke 10:1-20), and an answer to life’s most important question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:25-29). Jesus taught a moving parable that is universally recognized as, “The Good Samaritan,” an illustration of mercy and loving compassion for others (10:30-37). Finally, there is a warning to those tempted to be busy and distracted with much that is good, and like Martha, miss the most important thing, our daily time with the LORD in His Word (10:38-42).

Luke 10 begins with Jesus appointing “seventy” (i.e. seventy disciples), and sending them out “two and two…into every city and place, whither he himself would come” (10:1).

The number of disciples sent out, being seventy, no doubt surprises some believers. There were many who followed Jesus, besides the Twelve He had called to be His disciples. I invite you to consider the verses that precede the commissioning of the seventy (Luke 9:57-62), and be reminded that not all who followed Jesus were sincere believers. For instance, there was a man who volunteered to follow Jesus (Luke 9:57), but when Jesus reminded him the life of a disciple was one of self-denial and sacrifice, he turned back (9:58). Jesus commanded another man, “Follow me” (9:59), but he would not until his father had died and he could claim his inheritance (9:60). There was a third man who came to Jesus and said, “Lord, I will follow thee” (9:61), but his affection for home was greater than his love and devotion to Jesus (9:62).

Having chosen seventy disciples out of the great multitude that followed Him, Jesus instructed them to go before Him, two by two, into every city and village where He would soon come and minister (10:1). Jesus then challenged the seventy with the spiritual need of those among whom they would labor (10:2).

Luke 10:2 2Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

The seventy were challenged with the image of the opportunity (“The harvest [of needy souls] truly is great” – 10:2a), the magnitude of the need (“but the labourers [preachers and teachers of the Gospel] are few” – 10:2b), and the challenge to do something every believer is compelled to do: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c).

Jesus knew that He was within months of the Cross, and there was an urgency for the Gospel to be taken far and wide throughout the villages and cities of Israel (Matthew 9:37-38). Though the opportunity to reach lost souls was stunning, the reality was that so few would be willing to take the Gospel to them. John wrote in His Gospel:

John 4:35 – “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields [of lost souls]; for they are white already to harvest.”

What can a believer do in the face of so great a need of lost souls?Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c).

Pray for laborers. Pray for men and women who will dedicate their lives to serve the LORD, and take the Gospel: Jesus Christ crucified for our sins, buried, and raised from the dead.

Pray with urgency, knowing “the harvest truly is great” (10:2a). Pray with fervency, for “the laborers are few”(10:2b). Pray perpetually, until the LORD answers your prayer and sends forth laborers (preachers, teachers, and missionaries) who will faithfully sow the seed of the Gospel.

As you pray, ponder the question: Are you willing to go?

Matthew 28:19–2019Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Uses the Common; the Ordinary for His Service (John 9-10)

Scripture reading – John 9-10

John 8 marked a dramatic shift in Jesus’ life and public ministry. He had enjoyed a great following among the Jews with great crowds receiving Him with joy as news of His teachings and miracles traveled throughout Israel and beyond. Many of the people wondered if Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel.

For the religious rulers of Israel, the situation had become intolerable and their anger was displayed openly when they picked up stones and would have killed Jesus. Jesus, however, “hid Himself, and went out of the Temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59). As He parted the Temple mount, Jesus passed by a blind man who would become the central figure of a theological showdown between Jesus and His detractors (John 9).

John 9:1-7 – A Theological Problem: “Who Did Sin?”

There are fifty-four references to physical blindness in the Scriptures, among them are Matthew 9:27-31; 12:22; 15:30-31; 20:30-34; 21:14; and Mark 10:46-48. Blindness was a common malady in Jesus’ day for several reasons: Environmental (poor diet or brightness of the desert sun), physical injury (irritation of desert sands, accidents, or a victim of violence), disease (especially sexually transmitted disease, such as gonorrhea that was a result of promiscuous behavior, but also contributed to infant blindness), and genetic birth defects.

The blind in first century Israel were dependent on family and charity, and often reduced to begging. The presence of blind beggars in prominent places, such as near the Temple Mount, was a common sight. Because the Jews believed physical maladies were a consequence of personal or familial sin, the blind were often treated with disdain. Thus, seeing the blind man, the disciples asked Jesus: Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).

Jesus’ answer must have stunned the disciples, for He stated, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (9:3). Jesus continued, explaining that the man was born blind so that his life might serve as the backdrop for God’s miraculous works through His Son (9:4), Who was “the light of the world” (9:5).

Jesus then made a poultice of His spittle and clay, anointed the blind man’s eyes, and then sent him to “wash in the pool of Siloam” (9:7a). We read, “he went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (9:7b). The man’s neighbors were astonished that he could see, knowing the man had been blind from birth (9:8a), and they questioned among themselves, “Is not this he that sat and begged?” (9:8b)

Our study of this passage could focus on many things: 1) The bewilderment of the man’s neighbors who knew he had been born blind, but that he could see (9:8-12). 2) The hypocritical Pharisees’ disdain for Christ that moved them to ignore the evidence of the blind man’s miraculous healing (9:13-29). 3) The testimony of the man who had been born blind, that if Christ “were not of God, he could do nothing” (9:30-33). 4) The Pharisees’ vindictive response to the once blind man’s testimony, “Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out [i.e. out of the synagogue]” (9:34).

I invite you to consider for our conclusion some simple, but practical observations.

The first, a contrast in viewpoints. The disciples saw a blind, beggarly soul; dependent upon charity, and the object of contempt (9:2). Jesus “saw a man” who had never seen the smile of his mother, or the beauty of a sunset (9:1). The Pharisees had made the blind man an object of disdain, but Jesus saw his affliction as an opportunity to glorify His Heavenly Father (9:3-4).

Consider also how Jesus used the common and ordinary (spittle and clay), to do an extraordinary work (9:6-7). Surely Jesus might have spoken, or merely touched the man’s eyes and he would have had sight. Instead, He used ordinary spittle, clay, and an act of faith and obedience by the blind man, who went immediately to the “pool of Siloam” and “washed, and came seeing” (9:7).

Believer, take comfort in this: God uses the common; the ordinary for His service.

1 Corinthians 1:26-2926  For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29  That no flesh should glory in his presence.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Whose Glory Are You Seeking? (John 7-8)

Scripture reading – John 7-8

Today’s Scripture reading is a pivotal moment in our study of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. John 7 and John 8 indicate a change in Christ’s relationship with the religious rulers of His day. They had plotted in secret to arrest Him, and would have killed Him if the opportunity had presented itself. Jesus, however, knowing the hearts of men, “would not walk in Jewry [Judaea]” (7:1) and took care to not fall prematurely into the hands of His enemies, mindful that His “time [was] not yet come” (7:6).

“His brethren” (half-brothers of Jesus, who were sons born of Joseph and Mary), bid Him to go up to the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2-3). They challenged Jesus, “there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly (7:4a). The apostle John would later reflect, For neither did his brethren believe in him” (7:5).

Jesus refused the invitation of His brothers saying, “8Go ye up unto this feast [Feast of the Tabernacles]: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come” (7:7-8).

The “Jews,” meaning the religious rulers and leaders, were awaiting Jesus’ attendance at the Feast of the Tabernacles and began to question, “Where is He?” (7:9-11). The people too, anticipated Jesus would be present at the feast, and there was a contentious debate that arose among them: “Some said, He is a good man [loving; caring; compassionate]: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth [leads astray] the people [i.e. with His doctrine]” (7:12).

Now Jesus followed His brethren covertly to Jerusalem, until He revealed His presence in the Temple where He began to teach (7:14).

The Jewish leaders, knowing Jesus lacked a formal rabbinic education, were stunned by His insight and understanding of the Scriptures and “marveled [at His teachings], saying, How knoweth this man letters [meaning an understanding of the Law and Commandments], having never learned [lacking academic credentials]?” (7:15)

John 7:16-18 16Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine [teaching; instruction] is not mine, but his [God the Father] that sent me. 17If any man will do his will [the will of God], he shall know of the doctrine [teaching; instruction], whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.18He that speaketh [reasons] of himself [speaks of himself and not the One who sent him] seeketh his own glory [seeks his own fame; boasts of himself; seeks the favor of others]: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him [giving glory and honor and praise to God and not seeking his own following], the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

There are several insights, spiritual truths, and principles we can derive from Jesus’ response to His enemies (John 7:1-18).

For instance, Jesus knew His enemies and was cautious to not fall into the trap they would have set for Him. Knowing even His brethren were not believers, and had rejected Him, Jesus refused to allow the taunts of His family to provoke Him (7:3-8).

A second lesson gives us cause to examine the words, doctrine, and example of the men and women whose teachings and writings we follow (7:16-18). Social media and internet blogs have given platforms and influence to men and women who profess to be bearers of God’s Word, but whose doctrine is not the Truth.

What should a discerning believer look for in the writings and teachings of a teacher or preacher?

1) Whose doctrine are they teaching?

Jesus said, “My doctrine [teaching; instruction] is not mine, but his [God the Father] that sent me” (7:16b). Jesus came to be God the Father’s Ambassador and His works and teachings were faithful and true to the One Who sent Him. Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).

Believer, be careful of teachers who take a seed of “truth,” and wrap around it their own reasoning and logic. Beware the teacher who takes a verse, proceeds to spin a web of personal opinions and human reasoning, without context and supporting Scriptural texts.

2) Whose glory are they seeking? What is their motive?

Jesus warned, “18He that speaketh [reasons] of himself [speaks of himself and not the One who sent him] seeketh his own glory [seeks his own fame; boasts of himself; seeks the favor of others]” (7:18a). Christ taught the Truth and performed miracles, not for His glory, but to glorify God the Father. Jesus prayed to God, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4).

False teachers are “glory-seekers.”  They are interested in self-promotion, and seek a following that advances themselves, even at the sacrifice of others. They seek their own glory, and not that of Christ and His Church.

Whose glory are you seeking?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Childlike Humility: The Character of Saving Grace (Matthew 18)

Scripture reading – Matthew 18

Matthew 18 suggests four major themes: 1) The Spiritual Character of the Citizens of Heaven (18:1-4); 2) God’s Love and Care for His Children (18:5-14); 3) Steps to Resolving Conflicts and Offenses (18:15-20); 4) A Lesson in Forgiveness (18:21-35). Today’s devotional commentary will be limited to the first theme:

The Spiritual Character of Heavenly Citizenship (Matthew 18:1-4)

The opening phrase of Matthew 18, “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus” (18:1a), demands that we put the passage in context. Peter, James, and John had witnessed a display of Jesus’ heavenly glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, but He had commanded them to tell no man; a vision they would keep to themselves until Christ was resurrected from the dead.

Descending from the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus had found His disciples the target of scoffing because they had failed to cast an evil spirit out of a father’s son. Jesus then taught His followers a lesson in prayer and dependence on God’s power, saying: “This kind [kind of faith] can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Matthew 18 marks a dramatic shift in Christ’s ministry, from one to the multitudes, to a ministry focused primarily on His Twelve Disciples (Mark 9:30).

As they passed through Galilee in their journey to Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus foretold His betrayal, death, and resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23).  Matthew would later write, “They were exceeding sorry” (17:23b). Mark wrote, “They [the disciples] understood not… and were afraid to ask Him” (Mark 9:32). Luke wrote in his Gospel, “they feared to ask him of that saying” (Luke 9:45).

Why were the disciples blind to what Jesus taught concerning His death, burial and resurrection? Why did they fear to ask Him?

Three possible explanations come to mind: The first, it served God’s purpose for the disciples to hear, but not understand until after Jesus was resurrected from the dead (Luke 9:45). A second, they might have feared to ask for explanation after Peter was rebuked by Jesus for opposing His prophesy of His suffering death, and resurrection (Mark 8:32-33; 9:32). Another explanation, and one I suggest is the malady of many believers; the disciples were blinded by selfish ambitions.

During their journey to Capernaum, the disciples entered into a dispute among themselves (Mark 9:33-37; note also Matthew 20:20-21; Luke 22:24). Though knowing the hearts and thoughts of His disciples (Luke 9:47a), Jesus asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?” (Mark 9:33) Mark would later reveal that the disciples “had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest” (Mark 9:34). That dispute brings us to Matthew 18:1 when the disciples came “unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

The disciples had expected Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom. Dismissing the prophecies of the Messiah’s suffering and death (Isaiah 53), they anticipated He would establish the Messianic kingdom prophesied by the prophets. Thus, the disciples debated among themselves, “Who is the greatest?” (18:1)

Seeming to ignore their question, Jesus called a “little child unto Him, and set him in the midst” (18:2) and began to teach His followers a spiritual lesson:

 A young child is a portrait of greatness, cloaked in humility (18:2).

The disciples were common men, and for the most part, fishermen. They were fickle-hearted, short-sighted, and self-centered. Though common, ordinary men, they nevertheless shared aspirations of fame, success, and power. Knowing the pride that resided in their hearts, Jesus set a child in their midst and said, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (18:3).

What spiritual truth should the disciples have taken from this object lesson?

Humility will define the character of all who are citizens of the “kingdom of heaven” (18:3). In other words, childlike humility is the sign of saving grace (18:4).

What was it about the small child that served Christ as a portrait of humility? I suggest four traits of humility found in the boy’s example. The first, he came to Jesus when He called (18:2a). Secondly, he yielded to Jesus’ will and embrace (Mark 9:36). The third, he stayed in the place where Christ called him (Luke 9:47). Finally, he served as nothing more than Christ’s example of humility (Matthew 18:3-4; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48).

The character of the children of God, who are citizens of heaven is this:

Matthew 18:3–43And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted [repent; turn from sin to Christ], and become as little children [submissive, trusting, yielded to the will of God], ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble [lowly submission] himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Finally, Christ’s defined greatness and success, not by how many serve a man, but how many a man serves: “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35b)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Nothing is Impossible (Matthew 17; Mark 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 17; Mark 9

Today’s chronological Scripture reading brings us to within a year of Christ’s appointment with the cross. The crowds following Jesus throughout Israel are growing, while the anxiety and fear of His enemies are inflamed. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and High Priest plot His arrest, as His disciples debate among themselves who would be the greatest in His earthly kingdom.

Matthew 17 and Mark 9 record the transfiguration of Christ when He unveiled His heavenly glory.

Words and imagination fail me to describe the transformative moment when Peter, James, and his brother John (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:1-13) witnessed Christ’s transfiguration. Those three disciples, identified as Christ’s inner circle, gazed upon Jesus, “and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (17:2). As the disciples looked on, suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus “talking with Him” (17:3). It has been suggested by many, and I believe the same, that Moses was representative of the Law and Elijah the prophets.

Peter, never one to be at a loss for words, interrupted the moment and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias [i.e. Elijah]” (17:4). Even as the words were in Peter’s mouth, he was interrupted by a sight and sound that silenced him and struck fear in the three disciples.

Matthew 17:5–6 – “5While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.”

With a touch of compassion (17:7), Jesus bid the disciples to rise, and challenged them to tell no man what they had seen, “until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (17:9). Peter would write later of this experience on the mount: “[We] were eyewitnesses of his [Christ’s] majesty. 17For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him [Christ] in the holy mount” (2 Peter 1:16–18).

After He had descended the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus found His other disciples embroiled in a controversy with scribes (experts in the Law of Moses), who were “questioning,” and mocking the disciples’ failure to cast a demon out of a father’s son (Mark 9:14; Matthew 17:14-16). Rebuking His disciples for their lack of faith (Matthew 17:17), Jesus commanded the demon to depart from the son, “and the child was cured from that very hour” (17:18).

The disciples, embarrassed by their failure and humbled by Jesus’ rebuke (Mark 9:19), later questioned why they had been unable to cast the demon out of the child (Mark 9:28).  Christ’s answer revealed the power and necessity of faith and prayer (Mark 9:29; Matthew 17:20-21).

Matthew 17:20–2120And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

The disciples had failed to cast the demon out of the child because they had faltered in both the matter of faith and prayer.

Jesus taught, even a small amount of faith can grow and overcome obstacles as great as a mountain (I believe the idea of moving a mountain was figurative or symbolic of great obstacles, and not literal mountains). To overcome a great obstacle, like that of the possession and influence of a demon, required both faith (believing “nothing shall be impossible” – Matthew 17:20) and “prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29).

Are you facing obstacles that seem to tower over you like mountains? Are you struggling to believe and trust God?

Set your heart to seek the LORD in prayer. Desire Him more than you crave food!

Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Whose Doctrine Are You Following? (Matthew 16; Mark 8)

Scripture reading – Matthew 16; Mark 8

There are times when I read and study the Scriptures that I feel overwhelmed by the necessity to choose one truth from a passage that is rich in content. Today’s Scripture reading in Matthew 16 and Mark 8 presents us with that challenge: Mining one truth in a passage of Scripture arrayed with diamonds of truth too numerous to be counted.

Mark 8:1-9 begins with the account of the Feeding of the Four Thousand. Immediately after, Jesus and the disciples departed by ship to an area known as “Dalmanutha,” which was located on the western short of the Sea of Galilee near Magdala (8:10). It was in Dalmanutha that the LORD had a confrontation with the Pharisees, the religious legalists of His day. The Pharisees came to Jesus and demanded that He prove Himself with a “sign [i.e. a miraculous sight] from heaven” (8:11). Mark declares that the purpose of the Pharisees was to tempt Jesus, meaning to put Him to the test in hopes that He would fail (8:11).

Understanding Jesus knew the hearts of men, He rebuked the Pharisees saying, “There shall no sign be given unto this generation” (8:12b). Jesus then departed, setting sail for Bethsaida (8:13-22), a village located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, that was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1:44-45).

As they crossed the sea, Jesus charged His disciples, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (8:15). “Leaven,” like yeast, was used in dough to induce bread to rise when baked. The disciples, hearing Jesus speak of leaven, assumed He was speaking of bread, because they had neglected to bring bread on their journey (8:14, 16).

The irony of the moment was summed up when Jesus asked the disciples, “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? 18Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?” (8:17-18).

What was the irony? That the disciples would have been concerned with what they would eat at their next meal (8:19-20)! After twice witnessing Jesus take the lunch of a boy and feed 5,000 men, and seven loaves of bread and feed 4,000 men, and have leftovers on each occasion: Why would they be concerned about their next meal? “How is it that ye do not understand?” (8:21)

Matthew sums up the same narrative, concluding that the disciples then understood “how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:12).

What was the “leaven (i.e. doctrine) of the Pharisees, and of the leaven (i.e. doctrine) of Herod”? (8:15)

It was a religious hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) that was rooted in their legalism (Matthew 23:27-29), traditionalism, doctrine of works for salvation, and other errors and departures from the Truth. I close asking,

Is the 21st century Church any different? How much of what we believe, and the Church observes, is rooted in traditionalism and not in the Truth?

As Bible believers, our doctrine and practice is to be solely based upon the Truth of God’s Word, and not traditionalism or the philosophies and interpretations of men.

John 17:17 17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Uses Simple Things (Matthew 15; Mark 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 15; Mark 7

We noted in an earlier devotional the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-43; John 6:1-14); and we find a similar miracle in today’s Scripture reading that is known as the Feeding of the Four Thousandor The Miracle of the Seven Loaves and Fish (Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 8:1-21).

The setting was a hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 15:29), at a place Mark identifies as Decapolis (Mark 8:31). Whereas the feeding of the 5,000 had taken place in Galilee at Bethsaida (Luke 9:10) and was attended by Jewish people; Decapolis would have had a population that was predominately Gentile. In other words, the feeding of the 4,000 not only put the faith of the disciples to the test, but also challenged their prejudices towards Gentiles.

Now, the fame of Jesus had reached Decapolis and there “great multitudes” came seeking Jesus, and bringing their loved ones who were “lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others” (Matthew 15:30, 38). Believing Jesus could, and would heal their family and friends, the people “cast them at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them, “31Insomuch that the multitude wondered [marveled], when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel” (15:31).

After ministering, and healing the sick and afflicted for three days, Jesus was sensitive that the people had “nothing to eat” (15:32). It was at the close of the third day when Jesus declared to His disciples, “I have compassion on the multitude…I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” (15:32).

When Jesus fed the five thousand, He had questioned Philip how they might feed so many. On this occasion, the disciples questioned Jesus, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” (15:33)

The disciples, perhaps expecting Jesus would perform a miracle, stated the obvious: They lacked the means to feed the people. The disciples knew it was not a question of whether or not Jesus could perform a miracle. The question was, “Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness?” (15:33)

Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes” (15:34).

Taking the resources, the disciples had available, Jesus “commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude” (15:35-36). There was not only enough to feed the multitude, there were leftovers that “left seven baskets full” (15:37; Mark 8:8).

There are several lessons we might take from this event.

The first: The challenge to look past our prejudices, and see the need of lost souls around us. When Jesus fed the 5,000, the disciples were among their own people, the Jews of Galilee. In Decapolis, however, the population was mostly Gentile, and a people the Jews would have disdained. Nevertheless, the people were hurting and hungry and Jesus had compassion on them (15:32).

A second lesson: God uses for His work and ministry, the resources we have at hand, no matter how little or humble.

The question for the disciples was not, “What would Jesus do to feed so many?” The question was, Would the disciples give what they had to the LORD, so that He might minister to others through them and their offering?”

I fear many believers go through life without ever grasping that simple truth:

Your ministry is dependent, not on your ability, but on your availability.     

1 Corinthians 1:26-27, 29 – “26 For ye see your calling [invitation to accept the benefits of salvation], brethren, how that not many wise men [wise in the estimation of man] after the flesh [nature of man], not many mighty [powerful; strong], not many noble [noble birth; high in rank; i.e. king, price or ruler], are called: 27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound [make ashamed; dishonor; confuse] the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things [feeble; impotent] of the world to confound the things which are mighty… 29  That no flesh [no mortal man] should glory [boast; rejoice] in His presence [the Presence of God].”

Will you dedicate to the LORD all that you are and have, whether little or much?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith