Category Archives: America

An Exhortation to Pray for Our President (Psalm 20)

Today’s Bible Reading is Exodus 1-2, Psalm 20, and Matthew 20. Today’s devotional is from Psalm 20.

Psalm 20 is a nation’s intercessory prayer for her king the day before he leads the sons of Israel into battle.  The psalm is instructive and serves as a reminder of our responsibility to pray and intercede with God on behalf of our leaders.

I am afraid the majority of 21st century Christians look at the drama in Washington, DC as little more than political theater.  Some Christians suggest we be impartial in political matters and give little thought or time to them.  Of course, the matter of praying for those in authority is unquestionably commanded by God (1 Timothy 2:1-3).  Let us consider Israel’s prayer for her king (Psalm 20).

Psalm 20:1-2 – “The LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] hear thee in the day [time] of trouble [adversity]; the name [fame; renown] of the God [Elohim; the Mighty God] of Jacob defend [strengthen] thee; 2  Send thee help [aid] from the sanctuary [holy place], and strengthen [support;; sustain] thee out of Zion [site of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount];

Israel was confident the king had come before the LORD, sought His wisdom and offered sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God.  The people prayed God would not only hear the prayers of the king, but would go before him into battle (20:1-2).

Confident the battle was the LORD’s, the people prayed He would accept the king’s sacrifices, hear, and answer his prayers (20:3-4).

Psalm 20:3-4 – “Remember [think of] all thy offerings [sacrifices], and accept thy burnt sacrifice [offering]; Selah [lit. pause; or pause to think]. 4  Grant [Deliver] thee according to thine own heart [mind], and fulfil [accomplish] all thy counsel [advice; purpose].”

Before the battle was fought, the people promised the LORD He would be the object of their praise believing He would answer their prayers and give the king victory (20:5).

Psalm 20:5 – “We will rejoice [sing; shout] in thy salvation [deliverance], and in the name [fame; renown; reputation] of our God [Elohim; the Mighty God] we will set up our banners [flags; standard]: the LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] fulfil  [accomplish] all thy petitions [request; desires].”

On a personal note, troubles and spiritual battles are an ever-present reality for us in this sin cursed world.  Some adversaries threaten us with physical harm, others attack our character, question our motives and assail our testimony.  We also face spiritual trials that tempt us to turn aside from God’s purpose, question His goodness, and threaten our joy.

Consider three spiritual lessons from Psalm 20.

The first, the LORD hears and answers prayer.  Israel prayed for God to bless the king in battle and be his shield and fortress (20:1-2).  Christian friend, we should pray the same for our President.  As Israel prayed for her king, we should pray for President Trump.

The second, we need to pray and assure leaders of our prayers (20:3-4).  More than an assurance of goodwill, Israel assured the king their prayer was for the LORD to grant him wisdom and bless his strategy for battle.  Agree or disagree with his politics,  believers should be brokenhearted to hear President Trump’s enemies assail him, his family, and supporters with a vitriol exceeding any we have witnessed in modern times.  Such malicious attacks should move us to pray for our President and nation.

The third lesson expresses the faith of the nation in God’s grace and blessings.  Before the battle was waged, the people were planning the victory celebration; confident God heard and would answer their prayers.

A farmer told the story how he heard a voice when he was walking through the woods near Washington’s army encampment at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. Drawing near, the farmer found General George Washington on his knees, his cheeks wet with tears, praying to God.

Returning home, the farmer assured his wife America would win her independence.

When the farmer’s wife asked how he could be so sure.  He answered, “Because I heard Washington’s prayer.”

1 Timothy 2:1-2 – 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“He saw the multitudes [and] was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Today’s Bible reading assignment is Genesis 21-22, Psalm 9, and Matthew 9.  Today’s devotion is taking from the Gospel of Matthew 9.

Matthew 9 gives us a beautiful portrait of Christ’s compassion for the physical suffering and hurting of His day.  Among the objects of His compassion was a paralyzed man “sick of the palsy” (9:2-7), a leader’s daughter raised from the dead (9:18-19, 23-25), a woman healed from “an issue of blood” (9:20-22), two blind men given sight (9:27-30), a man delivered from a demon (9:32-33), and the healing of “every sickness and every disease among the people” (9:35).

What an extraordinary record of compassion and miracles!  To almost overstate the obvious, we read, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (9:36a).

What a compassionate Savior!  Men’s afflictions moved Jesus; however, His compassion also plunged to the depths of men’s souls who “fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36b).  What lessons might a believer take from Jesus’ extraordinary example of compassion?

Christlike compassion is deeper and broader than empathy.  Cultural icons and American institutions frequently make hit and run “feel good” gestures in the name of charity.  Stars and athletes drop a few coins in a kettle, establish a “Go Fund Me” account, pledge money to a good cause, and hold a Money-thon for an emergency; however, when the popularity of the cause has waned, the hurting are forgotten.

Christlike compassion is deeply invested in the well-being of men’s souls. Author William Barclay observes the compassion Jesus expressed was “no ordinary pity or compassion, but an emotion which moves a man to the very depths of his being.”  (N.T. Words; Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1964), p. 276.

What moved Jesus with compassion in Matthew 9:36?  The spiritual condition of the people moved Him.  He observed they “fainted”, tired of pursuits that left them spiritually and emotionally wanting. They were like sheep, “scattered abroad…having no shepherd”.

Knowing, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37), moved Jesus with compassion.  Harvest speaks of judgment when the sickle is employed to cut grain (Isaiah 17:11; Joel 3:9, 13; Revelation 14:14).   When the harvest comes, good grain is separated and stored, but bad grain is gathered and burned (Matthew 13:24-30).

We should be moved to compassion knowing the harvest and judgment of men’s souls.  Lost sinners are dying everyday without the  Shepherd.

What would Jesus have us do?

Matthew 9:38– “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy of Sin and Its Consequences (Genesis 3-4)

We read in the Genesis account that God provided a “garden eastward in Eden” for Adam; an orchard not only beautiful to behold, but its trees provided fruit “good for food” (Genesis 2:8-9).  In the midst of the garden God planted two trees described as the “tree of life” and the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

God charged Adam to act as the steward (Genesis 1:28) and servant (laborer) of His creation (Genesis 2:15); and commanded him, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

“Why did God put a tree in the midst of Eden and forbid Adam to eat its fruit?”

Adam and Eve were not robots and the forbidden fruit was a test of man’s love for God. Tragically, Adam and Eve disobeyed the LORD, ate of the forbidden fruit, “and the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:1-8).  In an act of grace, the LORD covered their nakedness with animal skins (Genesis 3:9-21).

The curse and tragic nature of sin was soon evident in the conflict between Cain, Eve’s firstborn son, and his brother Abel (Genesis 4).  Obedient to God’s model of atonement for sin, Abel brought a sacrificial offering to the LORD (Genesis 4:4); however, God refused Cain’s bloodless sacrifice (Genesis 4:3, 5).  Rejected, Cain burned in anger toward the LORD and his “countenance” betrayed his rebellion (Genesis 4:5).  Ever merciful, the LORD questioned Cain,

Genesis 4:6-76  And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall behis desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Rather than repent and do right, Cain’s wrath escalated and he slew his brother (Genesis 4:8).  Consider the dialogue between the LORD and Cain after he killed his brother.

Genesis 4:9– “And the LORD [Jehovah] said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: AmI my brother’s keeper [watchman; guard; keeper]?”

Presented with an opportunity to confess his sin, Cain turned insolent and defied the LORD asking, Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).

Why did Cain refuse to humble himself and repent of his sin?  The answer: “[Cain’s] own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). Cain murdered Abel for he hated his brother’s righteousness.  When the LORD confronted Cain, he shirked responsibility for his sin and refused to repent (Genesis 4:9-12).  Characteristic of  hardened sinners, Cain’s focus was not on the evil he had done, but on the punishment, the consequences of his sin (Genesis 4:13-16).

“To grieve over sin is one thing; to repent is another.”– Anonymous

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

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

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

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Friends and Followers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

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

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

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

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

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

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