Category Archives: America

Scripture Reading and Hurricane Relief Teams

Dear Hillsdale family and followers of Heart of a Shepherd,

My preparation for Sunday services prevent me from posting a devotional commentary today; however, I encourage you to continue in the discipline of reading and studying God’s Word.  If you are continuing our “Read-thru the Bible” in a year format, the following are the scripture reading assignments for Saturday and Sunday, September 23-24, 2017.

Saturday, September 23, 2017 – Gospel of John 19-21

Sunday, September 24, 2017 – Book of Hebrews 1-4

Follow Up On Hurricane Irma

Truckloads of Appliances: Because of the sacrificial giving of our church family and some gifts from friends of our ministry, Hillsdale is sending two truckloads of 30 or more household appliances to Marathon, FL today.  In addition to what Hillsdale has purchased locally, Famous Tate Appliances is graciously donating refrigerators, washers and dryers from their warehouse for families in the Florida Keys.

Relief Team: Many of our members lost a week of work following Hurricane Irma, making it impossible for them to take off from work another week to assist in relief efforts.  In spite of that, we hope to send a relief team to Marathon that will leave this Sunday and return Friday night.

Volunteers: If interested in joining our relief team going to Marathon, FL, please email your contact information to: Pastor Jarrrett at jjarrett@hillsdalebaptist.org or Pastor Barber at bbarber@hillsdalebaptist.org.

Continue to pray for the Houston, TX vicinity, the Florida Keys, Port Charlotte and Naples, FL and the devastated islands in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico.  Remember to pray for believers ministering to families in Mexico impacted by this past week’s earthquake.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Financial Needs and Hurricane Irma (FL) and Hurricane Harvey (TX)

Dear Followers of Heart of a Shepherd and Hillsdale families,

As you are aware, Hillsdale Baptist Church was focusing on helping churches in Houston, Texas impacted by the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey two weeks ago.   On Sunday, September 10, our own Florida experienced the impact of Hurricane Irma as she passed over the Caribbean, Cuba, the Florida Keys and Southern Florida.

We had intended to send two or more crews to Texas and our first team was in Houston last week assisting two churches and their memberships when the approach of Hurricane Irma forced them to return to Tampa Bay to prepare their homes and families.

Having witnessed the destruction in our own State, I have asked Hillsdale Baptist Church to focus our people and resources closer to home in Florida.  We are able to drive to the Keys in a few hours to serve and be a blessing to our neighbors, knowing many in the Midwest are available to go to Houston and help them in recovery.

If you know our ministry, you are aware we function with integrity and make sure we are financial stewards of your sacrificial financial gifts.  To date Hillsdale has received $13,990.51 for Hurricane Relief, the great majority of that received from our own membership.  In addition, some who follow this Blog have designated gifts for which we are thankful.  Less the expenses used by Hillsdale’s first relief team to go to Texas, the balance of your financial gifts are being directed to Operation Renewed Hope (ORH) for that organization to use as it gives assistance in Texas and FL.

I am writing this blog post on Friday afternoon not only to be accountable to you who have given, but also alert you to the fact there are four truckloads of goods (food, water, blankets, etc) waiting in Jacksonville, FL for shipment to a church in the Keys.  That church will act as a staging ground for other churches in the Keys to pick up goods and distribute them to their neighbors.  The estimated cost for shipping is $2,000\truckload or a total of $8,000.

Hillsdale will continue to raise funds for Hurricane Relief and refocus our membership and resources in FL in the weeks ahead.

There is also a need for men to hang drywall, lay tile and carpet in two Houston, Texas churches.

If you want to direct your funds to and through Hillsdale for our Hurricane relief efforts, go to our website, www.HillsdaleBaptist.org, click on the Donations button, create your profile with pertinent information, and beside “Other Designated Funds” type in Hurricane Relief to donate directly from your banking or savings account.  Of course, your gifts are tax-deductible and your will receive a statement at year’s end.

More updates will follow as we receive news from Texas or the Florida Keys.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

Woe to the Nation That Celebrates Perversity and Attacks Morality!

September 15, 2017

Scripture Reading – Amos 1-4

Borrowing the modern vernacular of politics, the prophet Amos was an outsider when God called him to deliver a word of prophecy against Judah and Israel (Amos 1:1).  He lived and worked in obscurity as a common herdsman with no political ties or religious lineage.   When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

“Uzziah king of Judah” (1:1) presided over the southern kingdom and the nation maintained an outward form of worshipping the LORD (5:21-22); however, the hearts of the king and people were far from Him.  “Jeroboam the son of Joash” was king of Israel (1:1), the northern kingdom; making no pretense of worshipping the LORD, that nation built an altar in Bethel and offered sacrifices to a golden calf.

Amos, a layperson “who was among the herdmen of Tekoa” (1:1), was a courageous prophet.  With the word of the LORD upon his lips, he delivered a series of prophecies against six Gentile nations: Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5)… Philistia, identified by its principal cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1:6-8)… Tyre (1:9-10)… Edom (1:11-12)… Ammon (1:13-15)… and Moab (2:1-3) all were warned the judgment of God was imminent.

Turning his focus from the six Gentile nations, Amos warned Judah the nation would be judged “because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments” (2:4).

Amos then declared the sins and wickedness of the kingdom of Israel and warned the nation would suffer God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the nation how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9) and given them the land of the Amorites (2:9-10).  God sent prophets, but the people said, “Prophesy not” (2:12).

In chapter 3 Amos prophesied reminding the people the LORD had chosen the “children of Israel” (meaning both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah) as His people and made Himself known to them (3:1-2).  Israel, however, rejected the LORD and He set Himself against them saying, “I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:1).

Adding to the Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations, Ashdod, a Philistine city, and Egypt to witness God’s judgment against Israel (whose capital was Samaria).  A sad commentary on the deception of sin is the condemnation: For they know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

How did the nation to whom the LORD had revealed Himself, His Law and Commandments come to this?  How could they be so blind they lost sense and discernment of right and wrong?

Warning: Here is the beguiling way of sin and wickedness.  When a people make light of God’s Truth, trivialize and rationalize sin, eventually their hearts becomes desensitized to wickedness, they no longer know how to do right.  Perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe an accurate one:  Israel had strayed so far from God’s law the people no longer had “common sense”—they had no sense of right (3:10).

My friend, the same condemnation is true of our beloved United States!

The lunacy of atheism coupled with the perversity of humanism is so entrenched in government, education, religion and media it has crippled our judgment as a society.   Having rejected God and His Laws, our moral judgment as a nation is twisted and perverted and we “know not to do right” (3:10).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Slay the Three-headed Monster: Gluttony, Booze and Self-indulgence”

September 14, 2017

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 23-24

Proverbs 23-24 is our scripture reading for today as we continue to mine truths found in this book one author described as “Common Sense in Overalls” (source unknown).   The principles and precepts found in Proverbs leave no room for ambiguity if one believes Solomon wrote exactly what the Holy Spirit directed him to write (2 Peter 1:21).  Today’s devotional commentary focuses on Proverbs 23:20-21 and Proverbs 23:29-32.

Proverbs 23:20  “Be not among winebibbers [drunken; heavy drinkers]; among riotous eaters [gluttons; squanderers] of flesh:”

Solomon addressed a pattern of sin that has been the ruin of the greatest of men and women—drunkenness and gluttony.   American families are a tragic testimony of excess in each.   A 2009 survey found 63.1% of Americans are overweight [there are medical reasons for some; however, the majority cannot take refuge behind that defense].   Gluttony is not only sinful (Proverbs 23:2; Philippians 3:19); it is a leading cause for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancers and arthritis.  As a nation, we are eating ourselves to death!

Believers are not only guilty of gluttony, there is a growing number of believers trivializing imbibing in wine and alcohol.   Championing Christian liberty, some pastors are leading their families and congregations to accept wine and alcohol proving the adage: Liberty for one becomes a license for another.

Wonder what those torchbearers of “liberty” will say to parents burying a child killed in an alcohol related accident?   What rationalizations will they offer when a vice they approved leads a family to the morass of abuse and addiction?

Proverbs 23:21  “For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty [driven to poverty]: and drowsiness [sleepiness; indolence; slumber] shall clothe [dress] a man with rags.”

Solomon observed that a man given to excesses of drunkenness and gluttony tends to laziness [i.e. “drowsiness”] and follows a path to want [“poverty” and “rags”].  Solomon warned his son alcohol may desensitize a soul, but it never solves problems.  A series of six questions describe the sad lot of those given to wine and drunkenness (23:29-30).

Proverbs 23:29-30 – “Who hath woe [grief; despair; cry of lamentations]? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions [strife; brawlings]? who hath babbling [complaints; disparaging talk]? who hath wounds [bruise] without cause [for naught; for no good reason]? who hath redness [dullness, implied from drinking wine] of eyes [sight]? 30 They that tarry long [delay; remain] at the wine [strong drink]; they that go to seek mixed wine [with herbs or honey].”

Those who indulge in strong drink have a penchant for “woe” and “sorrow” or what some today describe as “mental illness” and depression.  The excessive cost of alcohol consumption in the United States in 2006 was estimated to be $223.5 billion.

Of course, we cannot place a dollar amount on alcohol’s human toll.   Solomon described the suffering of alcoholism as “wounds without cause…redness of eyes”.   Failing health, physical and sexual abuses, failed marriages, splintered families, ruined careers, crime, murders and suicides can all be ascribed to drunkenness.   Solomon admonished his son:

Proverbs 23:31-32 – “Look [examine; choose] not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth [walk; behave] itself aright. 32 At the last [in the end] it biteth [sting; strike] like a serpent [viper], and stingeth [wound] like an adder [poisonous serpent].”

The phrase “moveth itself aright” describes the redness of the wine and its sparkle when it is strongest and most alcoholic in content.   Solomon warned his son…don’t look at it; don’t desire and imbibe in wine when it has fermented for it will be like the bite of a poisonous viper when it delivers its mortal wound.

Someone reading today’s devotional will take an exception to my commentary and dismiss Solomon and this simple author.  You indulge your liberty and take solace in others coming to your defense; however, I wonder where those “friends” will be when your son or daughter descends into the dark, dismal hole of sinful indulgence attempting to fill the void and emptiness of their soul with drugs and alcohol?

1 Corinthians 6:9-10  “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Mass Exodus Out of Florida Returning Home

I want to thank you for your prayers on behalf of Hillsdale Baptist Church, its members and staff who anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  As our lives are getting back to normal, with the exception of some roof leaks, our church and school buildings are in great shape.  We are praising the LORD our membership suffered little damage as Category 1 and Category 2 winds whipped through our region.  Other than the inconvenience of losing electricity, we are rejoicing in God’s protection.

On a personal note:  In my opinion, sensationalism has become the daily diet of our culture and the mass exodus from Florida before and during Hurricane Irma’s arrival driven in large part to a news media given to hype and ratings.

“Breaking News”, “This Just In”, “Epic” are clichés used ad nauseam by news networks desperately competing for viewership that translates into revenue from advertisers.

The coverage of Hurricane Irma was indeed “epic” and the storm was without a doubt powerful and destructive; however, the news media’s use of images (replayed over and over) along with the hyperbole of exaggeration, ramped up both fear and anxiety that went far beyond the actual threat of the storm.

Citizens of Florida were running from the east coast to the west coast, then back to the east coast in an attempt to flee Irma based on the forecasts of meteorological “experts” that hadn’t a clue where the storm was going to make landfall or the track she would take.  Hundreds of thousands of Floridians fled homes located far from coastal waters and the predicted “surge” only to be overtaken by Irma in their northward flight (apparently, she was not listening to weather prognosticators failing to accurately predict her track even an hour ahead of her eye).

Two days before Irma’s arrival, hoarders emptied grocery shelves of food stocks and water; Gas stations ran out of gas as a panicked population clogged highway arteries.

I am left wondering what happened to the common-sense adage saints use to follow, “Prepare for the worst and pray”.

I believe the inspiration of that saying is Proverbs 21:31.   Solomon advised his son, “The horse is prepared [ready] against the day of battle [war; warfare]: but safety [salvation; deliverance; victory] is of the LORD.”

Believers are to use wisdom and exercise prudence in preparing for trials, troubles and storms (i.e. prepare the horse for battle); however, people of faith, having done all to prepare, must put their faith in the LORD who is Omnipotent and Sovereign, after all, “safety is of the LORD”, is it not?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Prayer and Note of Appreciation to First Responders

September 10, 2017

Remembering tomorrow is September 11, I am writing this brief note of appreciation Sunday evening, not knowing what trials Hurricane Irma may leave in her wake for those who call Tampa Bay home.

As I seek shelter from the storm I know First Responders are ready and waiting to rush into Hurricane Irma’s winds and wade into her flood waters to save lives as their brothers and sisters did in New York City September 11, 2001.   May we never forget those who answered the call to duty and rushed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers as others fled to safety.

My prayer is for God to bless each of you, keep you safe through the night and restore you to the families anxiously waiting for you to come home.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

Reminder before Hurricane Irma: “The World Always Has Room for One More Servant”

September 9, 2017

Scripture Reading – John 13-15

My heart is blessed to observe our “Divided United States” pulling together as neighbor helps and encourages neighbor throughout the State of Florida.   With the exception of a few fringe anarchists, when lives are at risk the majority of Americans set aside political differences, come together and serve others.

Foot washing was a cultural practice in Jesus’ day as households in the first century lacked plumbing and running water.  Wealthy citizens of towns and villages went to public baths to bathe and, after walking home on dusty streets, were met by a household servant who would wash their feet in a basin of water and dry them with a towel.

Carrying forward the theme of serving others, today’s scripture reading is John 13-15; however, I am limiting my focus to John 13:1-17 and the beautiful portrait of humility and love seen in our LORD washing the feet of His disciples.  The setting of John 13 is the night Judas betrayed Jesus and His disciples deserted Him fleeing into the night.

Pride and a lack of humility prevented the disciples from taking up the task of washing the feet of the LORD or their peers.  Rising from the Passover feast, Jesus took up a towel and began washing the feet of the disciples, among them Judas who had arranged to betray the LORD to His enemies that night (John 13:1-2).   What an act of grace!  It is one thing to stoop to wash the feet of another; however, to wash the feet of a traitor is grace (John 13:2, 11)!

Although an awkward moment, the disciples allowed Jesus to wash their feet.  Peter, however, piously protested Jesus’ act of servitude (John 13:6-11).

John 13:14-15If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Consider three spiritual lessons in this brief devotional.  The first is Salvation: Washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus Christ taught them He alone can forgive and spiritually cleanse sinners of sin.  The disciples believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; however, not all believed.  Judas rejected Jesus Christ and his lack of faith forever damned his unbelieving soul (John 13:10-11).

Sanctification is the second spiritual lesson.  Jesus washing the feet of His disciples reminds us that a believer needs daily cleaning from sin.  The apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Our third spiritual lesson is that of Service—serving others (John 13:1, 5, 12-16).  To bear a servant’s towel requires three things in my estimation.  The first, “persevering love”.  We read of the LORD, “…having loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end [continually; to the uttermost]” (John 13:1).

The second requirement for those who earn a servant’s towel is “unpretentious humility”–Jesus “began to wash the disciples’ feet” – (John 13:5).  Paul exhorted the believers in Philippi to follow Christ’s example of humility.

Philippians 2:5-7 – “Let this mind [attitude] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God [possessing all the attributes of God], thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation [setting aside the glory and dignity that was His], and took upon him the form of a servant [slave], and was made in the likeness of men [became man]:”

Finally, to earn a servant’s towel requires “enduring commitment” to follow Jesus’ example.  Jesus commanded His followers:

John 13:14-15If I then, your Lord and Master [teacher], have washed your feet; ye also ought [duty, obligation] to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Hillsdale family and friends, I do not know what trials Hurricane Irma may bring us in the next 48 hours; however, I close with a challenge for you to consider three characteristics of a servant:

The first, a servant is proactive and seeks opportunities to serve others.

The second, a servant meets needs others disregard.

The third, a servant serves when others falter.

The world will always make room for one more servant.  Will you be that servant?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith