Category Archives: Anger

Elihu: An Exhibition in Youthful Zeal (Job 32)

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(Additional languages available upon request by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.)

Scripture reading – Job 32

Job 31 recorded Job’s final reply to the allegation that his troubles were those prescribed to wicked men. When Job finished his retort, his friends were silent, and “ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). In chapter 32, we learned there was a younger man who had listened to the dispute between Job and his friends.

“Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram” (32:2b), had deferred to his elders. Finally, the silence of Job’s “friends” stirred him to no longer hold his tongue. Exhibiting the zeal of youth, he confessed he was stirred to indignation, not only by Job, whom he observed, “justified himself rather than God” (32:2c), but “also against his three friends…because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” (32:3).

Seeing the conversation between Job and his friends ended with no resolution, Elihu determined he would no longer be silent (32:4-8). He observed a profound and enduring truth: “Great men are not always wise: Neither do the aged understand judgment” (32:9). Then, he demanded his elders would listen and weigh his opinion in the matter of Job and his afflictions (32:10).

Elihu’s words were lofty, but his spirit was negative (32:12). Though young, he boasted he had discernment in the matter of Job’s afflictions that was not yet expressed (32:14-17). Elihu spoke allegorically in terms every man would understand. His enthusiasm, coupled with likening his spirit to a new wine skin that was ready to burst (32:18-19), resulted in boasting when he proclaimed, “For I am full of matter [words], The spirit within me constraineth [compels] me. 19Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; It is ready to burst like new bottles” (Job 32:18–19).

Unable to contain himself any longer, Elihu asserted: “20I will speak, that I may be refreshed [relieved]: I will open my lips and answer. 21Let me not, I pray you, accept [favor] any man’s person, Neither let me give flattering titles unto man. 22For I know not to give flattering titles [puff up others]; In so doing my maker [Creator] would soon take me away [seize by force]” (Job 32:20–22).

Though the youngest of the men, Elihu’s youthful zeal demanded a hearing. Although young, he was wise in much he observed. He then began a monologue of judgment and condemnation that would last for six of the remaining chapters in the Book of Job. Yet, as we will see, when the LORD addressed the contention between Job and his “friends,” He will disregard everything Elihu said.

Closing thoughts – Elihu’s assessment was correct when he said, old age is not indicative of spiritual maturity, wisdom, or understanding. However, let us also observe how religious zeal, without godly wisdom and understanding is injurious. I close with Solomon’s challenge that all believers would be wise to heed:

Proverbs 4:77Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: And with all thy getting get understanding.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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A Righteous Response When Mistreated (1 Peter 3; 1 Peter 4)

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Scripture reading – 1 Peter 3; 1 Peter 4

The apostle Peter’s letter “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1) continues with today’s Scripture reading. As you will see, 1 Peter 3 and 4 are practical and insightful, presenting us with numerous principles that are spiritual guides to the believer’s daily life and relationships. Before we consider the subject of today’s devotional, consider the following outlines of 1 Peter 3-4.

An Outline of 1 Peter 3

  1. Peter charged wives and husbands with marital obligations that parallel those recorded by Paul in his epistles (3:1-7; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 318-19; Titus 2:2-7).
  2. Five precepts for “getting along” with others (3:8)
  3. A righteous response when you are mistreated (3:9)
  4. Three essential disciplines for loving life, and seeing good days (3:10-11)
  5. Spiritual responses to trials, troubles, and persecutions (3:13-17)
  6. Keys to a living, eternal hope (3:18-22)

An Outline of 1 Peter 4

  1. Four characteristics of believers who bear injustices without bitterness (4:1-6)
  2. Four characteristics of authentic faith (4:8-11)
  3. Enduring hope in the midst of fiery trials (4:12-19)

A Righteous Response to Injustice (3:9)

To put today’s devotional in context, we should remember Peter was writing to believers who were “strangers” (1:1). They had suffered rejections, persecutions, and been driven from their homes, businesses, and country. Peter, like a pastor who knows the sorrows and sufferings of his congregation, was guided by the Holy Spirit to exhort believers regarding their attitude and response to injustice and mistreatment.

Peter had already encouraged servants to respond to harsh masters in a “good and gentle” manner (2:18); and encouraged them to do so was “acceptable to God (2:20). Yet, not only were servants expected to respond to cruel masters with humility, but the same was expected of believers when they were treated unjustly and provoked. Peter exhorted, “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (3:9).

The practical application of 1 Peter 3:9 is, believers are to be longsuffering, ready to forgive, and not retaliate (“not rendering evil for evil,” 3:9a). Retaliation and revenge are the natural response when we are wounded, and treated unfairly. Our fleshly impulse is to hurt others to the same degree we have been wronged. Yet, Peter taught the persecuted saints not only to shun retaliation, but to refuse to render “railing for railing” (3:9b).

Verbal assaults, threats, and slander will find their target, and a wounded heart is inevitable. Verbal jabs and counter jabs are the way of the world, for the wicked know nothing of grace and forgiveness. We often feel mocking, demeaning, name calling, and slander are too much to bear.

Nevertheless, Peter urged believers to go counter to their instincts, and bless those who leave you wounded, promising, “knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (3:9b). Instead of giving an offender a “piece of your mind,” we are to extend grace (“contrariwise blessing’), knowing God has a purpose, and He will reward His child with unconditional love and favor (3:9c).

Bite Your Tongue (3:10)

If you want to “love life, and see good days” (3:10a), bite your tongue, and speak neither “evil” nor “guile” (lies or deceit, 3:10). When everything within you cries unfair, keep silent, and trust God.

Closing thoughts – Why should believers suffer wrong, and not seek revenge? Why should we be silent, though an enemy would sow lies and seek our ruin?

Because the way of the wicked is to verbally attack, insult, and lie. Yet, our faith is in the Lord, and we trust Him to bestow His favor on us. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the multitude, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11).

In his letter to believers in Rome, Paul wrote: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [make room for God’s wrath]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Truth – A believer’s silence and refusal to retaliate makes room for God to work and exercise justice.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Character and Nature of a Believer (1 Peter 1; 1 Peter 2)

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Scripture reading – 1 Peter 1; 1 Peter 2

Today’s Scripture reading is 1 Peter 2, but I will take the liberty of introducing you to The First Epistle of PeterPenned by Peter, who identified himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ,” the letter before us was not addressed to believers of a specific city, nor individuals (as with Paul’s epistles). Instead, Peter addressed his letter “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). To understand that statement, consider the historical setting of this epistle.

Historical Background

Peter was writing at a time the Roman Empire was near its peak. Reaching as far west as Britain, and south into the African continent to Egypt, Rome’s territories covered nearly two million square miles. The emperor of Peter’s day was the infamous Nero. By the time Peter penned his epistle, the dark clouds of persecution were already shadowing the world. Believers soon experienced the first wave of persecution, and tens of thousands were eventually martyred, among them the apostles Paul and Peter.

The Author – A Story of Amazing Grace (1:1a)

Peter the fisherman (Mark 1:16-20), along with his brother Andrew, had been a disciple of Jesus Christ, and an apostle. He was a natural leader, and with James and John, had been privileged to be numbered in Christ’s inner circle (Matthew 17:1-2; Mark 5:37, 9:2, 14:23). We remember him as the disciple who boasted he would never deny Christ (Matthew 26:29-35); yet, he denied Him three times the night He was betrayed (Matthew 26:69-74). Humiliated, broken, and repentant; Peter was restored (Mark 16:7), and became a testimony of faith, courage, and faithfulness to the Lord.

The Recipients of the First Epistle of Peter (1 Peter 1:1b-2)

Who were “the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). They were not “strangers” to Peter, but aliens, foreigners to this world (1:1). They were numbered among the tribes who believed Jesus was the Messiah, and were rejected by their families, driven from their homes by religious zealots, and left a people without home or country.

They were not only “strangers,” they were the saved “elect,” and chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God” (1:2a). To be elect is a term of endearment. When a sinner becomes a part of God’s kingdom, he becomes part of His family, and is endeared to the Father. In His foresight, God the Father knows those sinners who come to Him by faith, and are sanctified by His Spirit. Their salvation is a covenant relationship, and they are sealed by the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1:2).

On a personal note: I believe the “elect” are chosen by God, according to His foreknowledge, and are the objects of His saving grace, through faith in the sacrificial offering of Christ for our sin [His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection]. Paul described “election” in Ephesians 1:4 in these words: “According as He hath chosen us in Him [i.e., for Himself] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame [above reproach]before him in love.”

Who are the chosen? Who are the elect? Who can be saved?

My answer is, “whosoever will.”  The elect are “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord” (John 3:16; Romans 10:13). My heart rejoices to conclude our brief introduction to 1 Peter 1 with this eternal promise: “And [Jesus] is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

1 Peter 2 – Progressive Sanctification

A brief introduction of chapter 2 will suffice, but I invite you to consider a doctrine that is all but forgotten by the 21st century church: Progressive Sanctification.

In essence, “progressive sanctification” is the sanctifying work of God in the heart of a believer (John 17:17, Ephesians 5:25–27; Colossians 1:22; 1 Thessalonica 5:23; Hebrew 13:12). While it is the work of God, sanctification also requires spiritual discipline on the part of the believer. Paul described progressive sanctification as a “putting off” the sinful ways of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 4:22, 25-31), and “putting on”spiritual virtues and the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-24; Ephesians 4:23-24, 32).

Peter taught progressive sanctification in 1 Peter 2:1-2, when he exhorted believers: “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,  2As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (2:1-2).

Five Besetting Sins (2:1)

Understanding “laying aside” describes how one might remove and exchange a garment for another, Peter challenged believers to be “laying aside” five besetting sins that hinder spiritual growth. The first, “all malice,” a desire that embraces evil, and is acted out in a pattern of hurting and injuring others (2:1a). The second sin to be laid aside is “all guile” (2:1b), implying deception, or as some might say, “two-faced.” Peter exhorted believers to lay aside “hypocrisies” (2:1c), which implies hiding behind a mask (perhaps a mask of spiritual piety that conceals one’s true heart and motive. “Envies” (2:1d) is also identified as a hindrance to spiritual growth, and is a jealousy and longing for what others possess (money, friends, popularity). Finally, “all evil speakings” (2:1e) were to be set aside, knowing slander, gossip, and disparaging words have no place in the congregation.

Closing thoughts (2:1-2) – Having set aside sins that hinder spiritual growth (2:1), Peter urged believers to be as “newborn babes” and “desire the sincere milk of the word” (2:2). In the same way a healthy, growing newborn craves its mother’s milk, believers will earnestly desire the sincere, unadulterated, truths of God’s Word.

A sincere, spiritually growing believer will evidence the signs of progressive sanctification, and “desire the sincere milk of the Word.” (2:2)

How’s your spiritual appetite?

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Living in the Midst of a World Gone Mad (Titus 3; 1 Peter 1)

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Scripture reading – Titus 3; 1 Peter 1

Today’s Scripture reading is Titus 3 and 1 Peter 1. The focus of our devotional is Titus 3.

After challenging Titus regarding the character and virtues of men he would ordain to minister to the churches (1:5-8), Paul warned him concerning those who would oppose the Gospel (describing them as “liars, evil beasts, [and] slow bellies” (in essence, lazy gluttons, 1:12).

In chapter 2, the apostle charged Titus concerning the spiritual character he was to expect of the membership of the church. Addressed were “aged men” (2:2), “aged women” (2:3), “young women” (2:4-5), and “young men” (2:6) of the congregation. Knowing believers of the church would be a reflection of their spiritual leaders, Paul challenged Titus concerning his demeanor before the churches (2:7), and the character and tone of his speech (2:8). He was urged to conduct himself in such a way, that those who opposed him would have “no evil thing to say” of him (2:8b).

Titus 3

The focus of Titus 3 was the life and testimony of believers in that day. The 1st century world was not much different from our own. Like the politicians and bureaucrats of the 21st century, the Roman empire was plagued with government corruption, gross injustices, and high taxes (to support Rome’s vast armies). The Caesars, and governors of Rome’s territories, were infamously immoral, and the bloody spectacle of gladiator fights was employed to feed the demand of the masses for entertainment.

The Believer’s Response to Secular Authority (3:1)

In spite of the wickedness and persecution, Paul commanded Titus to instruct believers, and “put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (3:1). A believer was to obey human authority (the one exception is when those in authority demand we violate the commands and word of God; Acts 4:18-20; 5:25-29). Believers were not only to be obedient, they were to be ready and eager “to every good work” (3:1d; Galatians 6:10).

The Believer’s Testimony Before His Fellow Man (3:2)

I conclude our study of Titus, and invite you to consider four practical commands (two negative, and two positive). Instructing believers concerning their relationship with others, Titus was to urge God’s people “to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (3:2)

Regardless the ill treatment we might receive from others, believers are not to defame, slander, or malign the character of their fellow man (3:2a). Nor are God’s people to be “brawlers,” and find themselves caught up in the midst of needless quarrels and arguments.

Finally, the saints of God are to conduct themselves in a “gentle” manner, “shewing meekness unto all men” (3:2b). To be gentle and compassionate toward those we love is a small matter; but to do the same toward those who are inconsiderate, and mean-spirited is another. Yet, such is the burden of believers; we are to be ready to forgive, and harbor no bitterness in our hearts (Ephesians 4:32). Though the wicked are brazen, and offensive, believers are commanded to respond in “meekness,” accepting slights with gentleness.

Are those spiritual qualities true of you?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Beware of Joy Robbers! (Philippians 3; Philippians 4)

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Scripture reading – Philippians 3; Philippians 4

Our study of Philippians concludes with our Scripture reading, Philippians 3 and 4. Now, the closing verses of chapter 2 revealed the occasion of Paul’s letter. Paul wrote, “I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus…your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants” (2:25). Epaphroditus, a member of the church in Philippi, had come to Rome as a “messenger” for that congregation, and ministered to Paul on their behalf during his imprisonment.

Though he had faithfully discharged his ministry to Paul, he had taken ill, and in the apostle’s words, “was sick nigh unto death” (2:27). Not even the apostle was empowered to heal a fellow servant apart from God’s will and intervention. In other words, in this sin-cursed world, sickness will occasion the life of the most faithful servants of the Lord.

Rejoicing in God’s mercy, Epaphroditus was healed and returned to Philippi with Paul’s letter (2:28), and his commendation of the man as one they should “ receive…in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation” (2:29). Paul was forward in his observation, how Epaphroditus nearly worked himself to death, making up for the insufficient service of other members of the church at Philippi (2:30). (Interesting, but the age-old problem of 10% of the membership doing 90% of the work is as old as the church itself.)

Philippians 3

Arguably typical of many preachers (including this author), Paul began the conclusion of his letter prematurely, and wrote, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (3:1). Epaphroditus’ return would give cause for his fellow-believers to not only “rejoice in the Lord,” but literally, “keep on rejoicing in the Lord!” (3:1). Yet, as soon as he called believers to rejoice, he issued a dire warning:

Beware of joy robbers! (3:2)

Who were the joy robbers of the 1st century church? Paul identified them with three epithets: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision” (3:2). Dogs, evil workers, and the concision were false teachers and fake believers that were in the midst of the congregation. Let us briefly consider those enemies of believers.

Paul wrote, “Beware of dogs (3:2). Unlike our culture, which dotes on dogs as four-footed friends and furry companions, the dogs of the 1st century were unclean, wild pests that ran in packs. The Jews of the 1stcentury considered Gentiles unclean dogs, for they did not follow the Torah (God’s Word). The prophet Isaiah described false prophets as “dumb dogs,” and “greedy dogs” (Isaiah 56:10-11). They were greedy of riches, and guilty of teaching lies, giving some a sense of false security.

There was a second group in the congregation whom Paul identified as “evil workers” (3:2). They were “workers,” fellow laborers, perhaps prominent leaders and teachers in the congregation; however, they lacked integrity. They were “evil,” indicating their character was dishonest, insincere, immoral, and wicked men. Tragically, such personalities earn a following of the naïve, and pose a danger to fellow-believers.

Thirdly, Paul warned, “Beware of the concision (3:2c). The concision were Judaizers, and preached a strict conformity to Jewish customs and practices, and in particular the observance of circumcision. They demanded believers of Gentile origin be circumcised to merit God’s favor. Their influence caused some to lose faith that God’s grace was sufficient for salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Circumcision of the Heart: Three Characteristics of Genuine Believers (3:3)

Lest any be tempted to place their faith in anything other than Christ for salvation, Paul declared, “3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (3:3). That was an astonishing statement to those of Hebrew lineage. Beginning with Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14), physical circumcision served as an outward sign of an inward settled faith in God’s promises. Yet, physical circumcision was insufficient without the circumcision of the heart (identified with God’s grace, and set apart to Him, Acts 15:1-24).

The LORD requires circumcision of the heart and spirit. (3:3-7; note – Romans 2:29)

Paul identified three characteristics of a circumcised heart: “3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (3:3). Circumcised hearts “worship God in the Spirit” (3:3b). When a believer worships “in the Spirit,” his worship is an act of devotion, out of sincere love for the Lord (John 4:24). Secondly, a circumcised heart will “rejoice in Christ Jesus” (3:3c). We who know Christ as Savior, have no reason to glory in works; our rejoicing is in Christ alone.

Finally, a circumcised heart has “no confidence in the flesh” (3:3d). The Judaizers boasted in the circumcision of the flesh, but Paul overshadowed their boasts with his own lineage, and adherence to the Law and customs of the Jews (3:4-6). Yet, he confessed, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (3:7).

Closing thoughtsThe Folly of Self-righteousness (3:7-8)

Paul counted the privilege of his birth (his lineage and tribal heritage), and personal achievements (education, religious zeal, and blameless character) as “loss for Christ” (3:7). He placed his faith in Christ, and declared: “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (3:8). Paul forfeited everything that he might attain “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8).

To be saved, sinners must accept they have no grounds for confidence in the flesh (Titus 3:5), and cannot merit God’s favor (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our salvation is in the Cross of Christ, His death, burial and resurrection (3:9-10).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Relational Dynamics: Children and Parents; Employees and Employers (Ephesians 6)

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Scripture reading – Ephesians 6; Philippians 1

Today’s Scripture reading concludes Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, and introduces his letter to the believers of Philippi. This is the first of two devotions, and is taken from Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 5 challenged believers to live and walk in a manner that was worthy of the Lord (5:1-5). Paul urged the saints to manifest a spirit of humility and submission, “in the fear of God” (5:21), and remember marriage between a husband and wife is a portrait of Christ’s love for His church (5:22-33). The apostle commanded: “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…[and] 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (5:22, 25).

Ephesians 6

Having addressed the institution and sanctity of marriage (5:22-33), Paul’s focus turned to the believer’s family and household. Ephesians 6 presented a portrait of the spiritual dynamics between children and their parents (6:1-4), and servants and their masters (6:5-9).

The Believer’s Family (6:1-4)

Though the majority of Galatian believers were of Greco-Roman ancestry, they were not exempt from the implications and applications of the Commandments of the Lord (Exodus 20). Knowing the 5th commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12), Paul wrote to the sons and daughters of Galatia:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise” (6:1-2). And what was the promise to those who obeyed and honored their parents? “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (6:3).

If you ponder why our society and 21st century world is troubled, you need look no further than the tragic consequences of violating the 5th commandment. It is not well with our families, communities, societies and nation. Disrespect and rebellion in the home has spilled over into our schools and communities, and is a cancer that is destroying our nation and world.

Of course, parents, particularly fathers, must bear the weight and responsibility for the failure of the family. Paul urged fathers, “provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). “Provoke not,” carried the inference of actions and attitudes that were unreasonable and incited resentment in the heart of a child. Provocations might arise from being overly protective, unreasonable in expectations, failing to affirm, or abuse (verbal or physical). Paul exhorted fathers to nurture and admonish their children (6:4b). Nurturing a child requires instruction and correction, while admonishing obliges warning, rebuking, and discipline (Proverbs 29:15, 17). How different our homes and churches would be if children honored and obeyed their parents, and fathers and mothers nurtured and admonished their children in the Lord!

The Household: Servants and their Masters (6:5-9)

The New Testament has a lot to say regarding the dynamics between the servant (slave) and his master. Servitude and oppression have been a perpetual human dynamic since the fall of man. Rather than address the question of the morality of slavery, Paul focused upon the responsibility of the servant to his master, and the relationship of the master to his servant. Because Roman culture allowed slaves to enjoy some liberties, including religion, the Galatian church would have had a membership of slaves and masters. Of course, the application to our culture is the dynamic of the employee and his employer.

The Attitude and Testimony of a Servant

Servants were commanded to be “obedient,” and to respect and serve their masters with a heart that was single in motive: “as unto Christ… as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (6:5-6). Whether a slave or a free man, a believer was to do his work, no matter how menial the task, knowing the Lord was the rewarder (6:7-8). Finally, the duty of masters, as it is with employers, was to neither threaten or abuse their servants. Instead, the master was to treat his servants fairly, according to the Law, knowing God is the rewarder, and an impartial judge (6:9).

Closing thoughts – So much more might be gleaned from this chapter, but I will leave that for a later time. For now, I encourage you to examine your relationships, and whether or not you are honoring to the Lord. Whether a child or parent, an employee or an employer, you should guard your heart and live your life above reproach.

Remember: What you sow you will reap, and God is a righteous judge.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Four Principles that Make for Peace and Unity (Ephesians 4; Ephesians 5)

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Scripture reading – Ephesians 4; Ephesians 5

Continuing our study of Paul’s epistle to the believers of the church in Ephesus, we come to chapters 4 and 5. In the first three chapters, the apostle reminded the believers of Ephesus, though they were of Gentile descent, by their faith in Christ they were redeemed. To what end or purpose had God saved them? To the end they might glorify God (1:4-7; 11-14).

Their salvation and hope of eternal life were not in their physical lineage (for they were, like all sinners, born into this world, “dead in trespasses and sins,” 2:1). The believers of Ephesus were saved by the same grace through which the Old Testament patriarchs came to God…Faith (Hebrews 11).

Paul declared, “For 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” (Ephesians 2:8-9). No sinner is saved by good works, church membership, baptism, or observing a rite or ordinance of the church. Sinners come to salvation and find forgiveness of sins the same way Abraham found favor in God’s sight…Faith. Paul wrote, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6). The apostle wrote the same to the Galatians: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6).

By God’s grace, Jew and Gentile are baptized into the same body, and therefore “of the house of God” (2:19), the visible body of Christ (2:19-22; 3:6).

Ephesians 4 – The Believer’s Life in the Church

For a second time, Paul reminded believers he was not a prisoner of Rome, but “the prisoner of the Lord” (4:1; 3:1). Out of that reality, his imprisonment was fulfilling God’s purpose, even as Paul called believers to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (4:1). A believer’s conversion, and profession of faith in Christ, of necessity changes his walk, and day-to-day priorities. A child of God by faith has a vocation, a holy, heavenly calling (2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 3:1).

The Basis of Unity (4:2-3)

It has been observed: Good relationships are not built upon an absence of problems and conflicts. How are the members of the church (the body of Christ), to find harmony and unity in the midst of our differences? Paul exhorted, if we are to enjoy the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3), we must choose “lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (4:2).

Conflicts are unavoidable; however, when believers respond in “lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering,” and bear our differences in a spirit of sacrificial love, the church will experience “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3).

Conflict only prevails in a vacuum of love, which is the foundation of all spiritual virtues.

The Means of Unity (4:4-24)

Sincere believers have a mutual affection, and spiritual kinship with one another. Paul identified seven traits of our oneness as believers: “4There is one body (the church), and one Spirit (God’s Spirit), even as ye are called in one hope (salvation) of your calling; 5One Lord (King; Sovereign), one faith (in Jesus Christ), one baptism (water baptism, and our identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection), 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (4:4-6).

Closing thoughts – While the world is known for its self-centeredness, and pursuit of sinful pleasures (4:14, 19, 22, 25-30), believers are commanded to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (4:23-24). Consider with me four principles that not only pave the way for peace and unity, but are fundamental to good communication (I credit the late Dr. Jay Adams with this simple outline).

Be Honest: “Speaking the truth in love… putting away lying, speak every man truth” (4:15, 25). Warning: Be prepared for rejection, for sinners hate to hear truth. Yet, when spoken in love, loving words may fall upon a tender heart.

Keep Current: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (4:26). There are circumstances when anger is justified; however, we should seek solutions to conflicts, and not allow for resentment or a vengeful sprit.

Attack Problems, Not People: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (4:29-30). Words have the power to hurt, and the power to heal. We should avoid words that are unwholesome, vicious, and vulgar. Our speech should encourage righteousness, and edify and strengthen others.

Act, Don’t React: This final principle identifies six negative, sinful reactions (4:31), followed by three loving actions (4:32). We read, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (4:31-32).

Spiritual TruthWhen your attitude is proud (4:2-3), and your words are unloving (4:22-32), trouble and heartache will plague your life.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Are you a Legalist, or a Believer in Progressive Sanctification? (Colossians 3; Colossians 4)

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Scripture reading – Colossians 3; Colossians 4

We continue our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, and conclude our two-day study of the book with an examination of Colossians 3 and 4.

“Progressive Sanctification” may be the most neglected topic of the 21st century church. Tragically, few preachers teach this principle for fear of going into an arena where carnal believers will hurl accusations of extremism or legalism. Nevertheless, “Progressive Sanctification” is a Biblical principle, and I dare not overlook this important instruction on spiritual growth. The focus of this devotional will be Colossians 3.

Colossians 3 – New Creature, New Life

The Focus of the New Life (3:1).

In two words, the “new life” is the subject of Colossians 3, as Paul painted a portrait of the believer’s “new life” in Christ. Paul wrote, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (3:1). The new believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ changes everything: His desires, focus, affections, and perspective on life, death, and eternity. When a sincere believer identifies with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (3:1a), he experiences a radical change in his affections. He begins to “seek” and desire “things which are above” (3:1b).

The Desires and Affections of the New Life (3:1c-4)

Rather than seek the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17), the believer’s desires are heavenly, “where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (3:1c). His thoughts and “affections” are “set…on things above, not on things on the earth” (3:2). As a result, he is “dead” to sin, because he treasures the things “hid with Christ in God” (3:3).

Kill the Old Man (3:5-8)

With an eternal perspective and heavenly affections, a sincere believer will be progressively putting to death (“mortify”) sinful attitudes and deeds that have no place in the members of the body of Christ, which is the church. Paul named several sins that are all too familiar: “fornication” (immorality; sexual sins) “uncleanness” (impure thoughts), “inordinate affections” (sexual, vile, forbidden lusts), “evil concupiscence” (sinful desires), and “covetousness, which is idolatry” (greed; an insatiable appetite for more). (3:5)

Then, Paul paused in his litany of sins, and warned, “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (3:6). He admitted, the Colossian believers were no different than others, for they were all guilty of some of the sins, for they had both “walked…and lived in them” (3:7).

Paul exhorted the believers, “put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (3:8-9). To “put off” was an expression we would associate with changing clothes. To put on a new set of clothes, one must “put off,” (take off) the old; the same is spiritually true of the believer.

“Legalist!” you say? No, not if you live the “new life.” (3:9-11)

If we are to put on the likeness of Christ, we can have no tolerance for “anger, wrath, or malice” (malice representing a deep-seated root of hate and bitterness). Not only does a right relationship with Christ change our spirit, it will change our vocabulary. Blasphemy (insulting God, or slandering others), “filthy communication”(obscene, filthy jests), and lying must be put away, if we are to live the new life in Christ (3:8-9).

Believers are expected to “put off the old man with his deeds” (the sinful ways he named in 3:8-9). We are to “put on the new man” (whose ways, attitudes, and actions he will define in 3:12-14). We are to do all this, because we are members of one body in Christ (3:11).

The Portrait of the New Man in Christ (3:12-14).

Having removed the sinful ways of the unsaved man, Paul challenged believers to “put on” those things that are becoming a believer who is “the elect of God, holy and beloved” (3:12a). Paul identified 8 spiritual traits or qualities characteristic of a spiritually growing, mature believer (3:12-14).

A Christlike believer will be compassionate and sympathetic (“bowels of mercies”) and kind (“kindness”).  A believer will evidence humility (“humbleness of mind”), “meekness” (gentleness), and be patient (“longsufferings”). He will suffer slights (“forbearing one another”), and be forgiving (“forgiving one another…even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye,” 3:13).

Closing thoughts (3:14-15) – The quality that binds and unifies those spiritual attributes (3:12-13) was summed up by Paul in verse 14: “14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness (3:14). “Charity,” self-sacrificing love is the perfect bond, that unifies and holds everything together! (3:15) Believer, if you will identify and put off your old sinful ways and attitudes (3:5, 8-9), and replace them with the spiritual character of Christ (3:12-14, you will be able to “let the peace of God rule in [your heart]” (3:15a).

If the “peace of God” does not rule your heart, put off your sinful ways, and put on the spiritual attitudes of Christ!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Harden Not Your Hearts” (Acts 21; Acts 22)

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 Scripture reading – Acts 21; Acts 22

Paul’s journey to Jerusalem continues in today’s scripture reading (Acts 21-22). Acts 20 concluded with Paul deciding he would return to Jerusalem for the Passover. Fearing for his safety and life, some sought to dissuade him, but Paul declared, “I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem” (20:22). Though the Holy Spirit revealed “bonds and afflictions” awaited him, Paul declared, “none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (20:24).

Acts 21

Paul arrived in Caesarea (21:8-14), the Roman post on the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, known as “Caesarea by the Sea.” A beautiful, picturesque location northwest of Jerusalem, Caesarea served the Roman governors of Judea as a retreat from the capital city.  (Saved by the sands of the desert, the ruins of the Roman fortress, a beautifully preserved amphitheater, and Roman aqueduct are visible today.)

It was at “Caesarea by the Sea” that Paul renewed fellowship with Philip. Philip, formerly a deacon of the Jerusalem church, was one of seven men chosen to assist the apostles in the distribution of food in Acts 6 (6:1-6; 21:8). He had made his way to Caesarea where we find him aptly titled, “Philip the evangelist” (21:8). Philip raised a godly family in Caesarea, and was the father of four daughters described as “virgins, which did prophesy” (i.e., teaching those things revealed by the Holy Spirit in God’s Word; 21:8).

Paul was again reminded his journey to Jerusalem would be met by enemies of his own people, who would bind him, and “deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” (21:11). Believers begged with tears for Paul “not to go up to Jerusalem” (21:12), but he answered them, saying, “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (21:13).

Paul’s return to Jerusalem was cause for celebration among the believers (21:17). He reported to the church elders all “God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry” (21:18-19). Paul was informed, that while there were “thousands of Jews there are which believe” (21:20), there were others who would accuse him and stir up the people against him (21:21-22). Hoping to dissuade the anger and accusations of his enemies, Paul observed the Nazarite vow with four other men, as a sign of “purifying himself” (21:23-26).

Though Paul complied with the counsel of the church elders, there were some who “saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him” (21:27). His enemies falsely accused him, and charged he was an enemy of the Jews, had despised the law, and defiled the Temple by bringing Greeks into the holy place (21:28). All the city was in an uproar, and Paul was hauled out of the Temple (21:30), and would have been killed had a Roman captain and his soldiers not come to his rescue (21:31-32). They bound Paul in chains, and carried him “into the castle” (21:34).

As Paul was led into the castle, he spoke to the captain in Greek (revealing he was an educated man, and not an Egyptian revolutionary as the captain had supposed (21:37-38). He then introduced himself as a citizen of Tarsus, a city known for its commerce and education (21:39). Then, Paul requested an opportunity to speak to his enemies, and standing on the stairs overlooking the mob, silenced them with his hand. When the crowd fell silent, Paul began to speak “in the Hebrew tongue” (21:40).

Acts 22

Paul spoke to the mob as one who loved them, and addressed them as “brethren, and fathers” (22:1). He recounted his Hebrew lineage, formal education in the law, and zeal for God (22:2-3). He told how he had been a persecutor (22:4-5). He related his encounter with Christ, and conversion on the road to Damascus (22:6-9). He told them of his call and commission as an apostle and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (22:11-21).

After recounting his ministry to Gentiles, the crowd “then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (22:22). The crowd became so violent, that the captain commanded Paul be taken into the castle, questioned, and scourged (22:23-24). Paul then revealed he was born a citizen of Rome, and the captain “was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him” (for scourging without conviction was a violation of his civil rights, 22:29).

On the next day, the Jewish Sanhedrin was summoned to appear before the Roman captain (22:30), and Paul was allowed to continue his defense before them (23:1).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A World Gone Mad: The Tragedy of Moral Depravity (Romans 1)

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Scripture reading – Romans 1

This devotional is a follow-up to my earlier introduction to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, and one I believe the importance of chapter 1 warrants. Paul’s letter to believers in Rome expressed not only his love for them, but also his longing to fellowship with them for a season (1:10-11). Though his journey to Rome had been prevented (1:12-14), Paul assured the believers, “15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (1:15-16).

Paul was aware of the dark clouds of persecution already visible on the horizon, and would soon engulf the Roman empire. Tens of thousands of believers would be sent to martyrs’ deaths, and Paul felt an urgency to ground them in the faith.

The Sin of Man, and the Wrath of God (1:18-21)

We find in the balance of Romans 1, a depth and breadth of fundamental truths that humanity denies, but are universally shown. While men deny the evidences of the Creator and Divine design, nature itself gives testimony of the handiwork of God; therefore, Paul declared, “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (1:20). Creation serves as a testimony of perfect design, yet, man’s sin and rebellion has introduced a chaotic, self-destructive state, and provoked God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (1:18).

We have not seen the depth of depravity to which men will go when they deny God, and suppress righteousness and truth. Yet, we are witnessing in the 21st century a denial of the undeniable (an example, some of this generation have denied the biological evidences of two sexes—male and female). What is the lesson? Deny the Creator, and there is no end to man’s wicked imaginations (1:21).

An Attitude of Ingratitude (1:21-22)

The hardness and darkness of man’s heart is visible, and undeniable (1:21). Though the Creator is the source of life and well-being, man has rejected him and proposed an evolutionary process that has no scientific basis, and is as irrational, as it is foolish (imagine, an intricate design, but no designer…the thought is preposterous).

While the concept of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory would not be written for 1800 years, Paul diagnosed man’s spiritual crisis, writing of men, they “became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (1:21-22). The classrooms of schools, colleges and universities in the 21st century are instructed by men and women who imagine they are wise philosophers, and lovers of wisdom (1:21). Yet, having denied their Creator, they have become fools, incapable of understanding truth or making moral judgments (discerning between good and evil, 1:22).

The Depth of Depravity (1:23-27)

How foolish are men who deny the revelation of God in His creation? In Paul’s day they worshipped nature, “and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (1:23). What becomes of a world that rejects God?

There is no limit to the depths of moral depravity to which men will descend. In fact, men become slaves to sin, and “dishonour [shame] their own bodies between themselves” (1:24). Because they reject God’s truth, they worship and serve nature (1:25). Rejecting the Creator, and natural design, men and women turn to sodomy, as “women did change the natural use into that which is against nature [contrary to nature]: 27And likewise also the men, leaving [forsaking; abandoning] the natural use of the woman, burned [inflamed; raged] in their lust one toward another; men with men working [doing] that which is unseemly [shameful; indecent], and receiving in themselves that recompence [penalty] of their error which was meet [demanding the judgment of God]” (1:26-27).

Closing thoughts (1:28-32) – What a tragic portrait of man’s rebellion, and moral depravity! Man has cast aside the knowledge of His Creator, and God has abandoned him to destructive passions and lusts. Recorded in Romans 1:29-31 are twenty-three signs or indications a man, people who have abandoned God.

Romans 1:29All unrighteousness (all manner of sin); fornication (sexual immorality: adultery, prostitution, pornography); wickedness (malice; meanness); covetousness (greed; love of wealth and possessions); maliciousness (desire to hurt or harm another); envy (jealous; despising the success of others); murder (taking innocent life); debate (quarreling; contentious); deceit (lie; guile; entrapment); malignity (dishonorable; evil); and whisperers (slander; gossip).

Romans 1:30Backbiters (slanderers); haters of God; despiteful (scoffers); proud (haughty, arrogant); boasters(braggers); inventors of evil things (new means of sexual debauchers); and disobedient to parents (treating parents with disdain and disrespect);

Romans 1:31Without understanding (foolish, ignorant of God and His Law); covenantbreakers (breaking contracts, covenants, and agreements); without natural affection (lacking a natural love for family); implacable(refusing to forgive and be reconciled); and unmerciful (lack compassion; without mercy)

Sinful man is “without excuse” (1:20, 32). In spite of having the judgment of God written upon his conscience, man not only continues in his sin, but takes pleasure in watching others sin (1:32).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.