Category Archives: Attitude

Don’t Give Up Hope!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 37-42

Not only is today’s reading a lengthy one, it also has details with numbers and measurements that are sure to leave the average reader wondering what possible application could this have to a 21st century student of God’s Word.   For the sake of brevity, I suggest a simple outline of chapters 37 through 42.

Ezekiel 37 is a prophetic illustration of Israel’s resurrection as a nation (remember, the prophet is ministering to the Jews in Babylon after the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem).   My younger readers might enjoy watching a video\audio clip of “Dry Bones” (I avoid referring to it as a “gospel song” since there is hardly a gospel lesson in the recording; however, the classy style of the “Delta Rhythm Boys” compared with today’s “recording artists” is worth the watch).   Ezekiel 37 is not only a prophetic picture of Israel’s resurrection as a nation, but also the unification of the people divided into two nations since Solomon’s reign.

Ezekiel 38 prophesies events that are yet to occur on an international scale against Israel.  There is neither time or space to enter into the debate of the nations portrayed in this chapter; however, it is my opinion this is a prophecy there is a day when the ruler of the north (38:14) which I believe is Russia (38:2 – “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal”) will lead an invasion of Middle Eastern nations (identified as “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya” – 38:5) against Israel.   Ezekiel 38:14-39:18 details the invasion of the armies and their defeat.  The LORD intervenes and Israel’s victory will be so overwhelming that the burial of the dead will take seven months (39:14).

Israel’s captivity in Babylon was 70 years less one and the time of the writing of Ezekiel 40 was in “the five and twentieth year” of the Jewish captivity (40:1).   Ezekiel 40-42 gives us a prophetic time not yet fulfilled when Israel, safely restored in her land will set her heart as a nation to build a new temple (the last destroyed in 70 AD) and worship the LORD.  The plans, dimensions, physical attributes and future construction of the future temple are given in Ezekiel 40-42.

Our scripture reading today concludes with Ezekiel 42; however, chapter 43 continues the narrative concerning the future temple with the promise the heavenly glory of the LORD Himself will fill the temple (Ezekiel 43:2-4).

As I close, consider this: The LORD wanted His people to never give up hope!

Remember Ezekiel’s immediate audience was His own people who were captives in Babylon.  Many had witnessed the devastating destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem.  Humanly speaking, all was lost and apart from divine intervention, the Jews would be numbered among those nations that had come and gone; their cities covered by the sands of the desert and the people assimilated into the populations of the earth and forgotten.

However, such was not the case with God’s chosen people with whom He covenanted to be their God.  God promised Abraham he and his descendants would be a blessing to all the earth (Genesis 12:1-3), a promise not fulfilled until the coming of Jesus Christ.  The Jews rejected Christ at His first coming as a suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53); however, at the end of the Tribulation they will see Him come as a conquering King and He will rule from Jerusalem and the people will worship Him during the Millennial in a new temple.

In the midst of reading the numbers and dimensions of a future temple, consider the revival of joy and hope among God’s people when they were reminded God had not forgotten them and all was not lost!  The day was coming when a new temple would be built and God’s glory would once again fill the temple and the world would know the LORD is in the midst of His people!

Friend, don’t give up hope…remember, this same LORD promised His disciples He was going away to “prepare a place” for them and “will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-4).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Attitudes are an External Indicator of the Bent or Direction of One’s Heart and Thoughts

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 13

Our society defines attitudes from an emotional perspective and deflects personal responsibility.  If someone exhibits a bad attitude, psychologists deem them victims—victims of poverty, neglect, rejection or abuse. Rather than taking responsibility and self-correcting one’s bad attitude, people find it easier to cast dispersion upon a peer or an authority figure they feel has failed them.  In the process of deflecting responsibility for one’s attitudes, they dig a deeper emotional and spiritual rut!

Today’s devotional will challenge you to look into your own heart for the cause of attitudes that beset you.  More than emotions, attitudes are an external indicator of the bent or direction of one’s heart and thoughts.

Proverbs 13:1  “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction [correction]: but a scorner [scoffer] heareth not rebuke [firm reproof].”

Notice the heart attitude of the “wise son”—he hears and heeds his father’s correction, reproof and rebuke.  His attitude toward his father’s discipline is that of a learner, unlike the scorner. The scorner “heareth not rebuke”—he mocks the authorities in his life and holds them in derision. He blames others for his attitudes and justifies his rebellion by focusing on what he perceives as their failures. He is a slave to “stinking thinking”, a pattern rooted within the bent of his heart and thoughts. Allow me to illustrate this truth with a childhood memory.

I remember NASA illustrating the entry of space capsules into earth’s atmosphere in the 1960’s and emphasizing the attitude of the nose of the capsule.  Attitude was the word NASA used to define the direction of the top or nose of the capsule as contrasted with the heat shield at its base. If the attitude of the nose were right, the heat shield at the base of the capsule would deflect the fiery heat of earth’s atmosphere. If the attitude of the capsule were wrong, the capsule and its occupants would burn up upon re-entry. Life and death were directly related to the attitude of the capsule’s nose.

That same principle is true concerning our attitudes. A pattern of bad attitudes will drive one emotionally and spiritually down a path of self-destruction.  However, the answer to a life of bad attitudes [anger, rebellion, resentment, jealousy, etc.] is not to merely confess and correct negative attitudes or emotions…it is to get to the heart of the problem, which is the problem of a sinful heart! In other words, as goes the heart so goes the attitude!

A Right Heart/Mind/Pattern of Thoughts = A Right Attitude

A Wrong Heart/Mind/Pattern of Thoughts = A Wrong Attitude

My friend, if you are waging war with sinful attitudes, the solution is not for others to change, but for you to change. Too many look outside themselves for a solution to enslaving attitudes…a different spouse, different school, different job, different church…foolishly thinking different will make a difference! Not so!

If you are weary of battling with enslaving attitudes, look to the bent and direction of your own heart and “stinking thoughts”.  Take a few minutes and do an honest, spiritual heart check-up and take responsibility for your attitudes! Get control of your thoughts and you will overcome your attitudes (Philippians 4:8; Proverbs 23:7).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Be a Fool: Character Does Matter!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 11-15

My first memory of a public debate over the importance of a man’s character in public office dates to 1992 when President Bill Clinton was first running for President of the United States.  Twenty-five years later, I am still stunned the obvious would be a matter of debate.

The moral values rooted in the heart of a man define his character and drive his disciplines in thought and deed.  Character is the compass that charts a man’s course in conduct and life and a leader’s character profoundly affects his sphere of influence. A man’s character will either bless or curse his home, marriage, ministry, business and public office.

The opening verses of 2 Kings 11 are illustrative of the matter of character and indicative of the depths of depravity a soul will descend when driven by a covetous heart set upon power, position and possessions.   Athaliah, a murderous wench and the mother of Ahaziah king of Judah, seeing her son was dead, (2 Kings 8:25-26; 9:27), directed the murder of her grandchildren so she might succeed her son to the throne of Judah (2 Kings 11:1).

In spite of his grandmother’s murderous rampage, Joash, the infant son of king Ahaziah was spared when his aunt hid he and his nurse in her house for six years (2 Kings 11:2-3).   In the seventh year of queen Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada, a commander of Judah’s army revealed a son of the late king Ahaziah had survived the slaughter of the king’s sons (11:4-11).   Swearing allegiance to Joash, the military leaders crowned him king of Judah (11:12) and executed queen Athaliah  (11:13-16; 2 Chronicles 23:12-15).

Following the death of Athaliah, the nation of Judah enjoyed a season of spiritual revival (2 Kings 11:17-21).   Jehoiada, the high priest, renewed the nation’s covenant with the LORD “that they should be the LORD’S people” (11:17) and directed the destruction of the altars of Baal (11:18).   Although only seven years old (11:21); Jehoash (i.e. Joash), was profoundly influenced by the high priest and “all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet” (11:20).

The revival in Judah was far reaching and “Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (2 Kings 12:2).   The king directed renovation of the Temple that had fallen into disrepair; however, when Jehoiada died, the king neglected the Temple and apostasy once again took root in Judah (2 Chronicles 24:15-22).

Sadly, the life of Jehoash ends tragically in 2 Kings 12:17-21.   Without his godly mentor, Jehoash evidenced shallowness in both his faith and character.   When the king of Syria threatened Judah, rather than look to the LORD, Jehoash bribed the heathen king of Syria by giving him the tithes and offerings in the Temple treasuries.   Soon after, two servants assassinated Jehoash.

Does a man (or woman’s) character matter? I will allow the Word of God to answer that question.

Proverbs 29:2 – When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Workshop”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 10

The following study is taken in part from my devotional commentary post on the Book of Proverbs dated December 10, 2014.

Today’s study in proverbs features what I will call three “stand alone proverbs” – three proverbial statements of “Uncommon Common Sense” communicating three distinct observations.

Proverbs 10:15  “The rich man’s wealth [property; possessions; savings] is his strong city [a fortified city]: the destruction [ruin; dismay; terror] of the poor [needy; helpless] is their poverty.”

“You didn’t build that!”, was an adage employed by liberal politicians in the 2012 election cycle in the United States.   Hoping to stir up class envy, the statement taunted the successful while dismissing the sacrifices and risks taken by employers and business owners.  I accept the statement if the intent is to acknowledge divine providence; however, an ideology that taunts hardworking entrepreneurs, spawns an expansive welfare state, inevitably makes citizens debtors and slaves of big government.   How tragic!   While excoriating the successful, the poor are left weak, dependent and one crisis from destitution!

Proverbs 10:15 is a statement of fact—a rich man finds comfort and security in his wealth.   In the same way citizens of a medieval city found refuge behind the walls of a city, a rich man finds security in riches providentially provided to him by God.   By contrast, the working poor are often a crisis away from desperation (an incentive to be a “saver” and not a “spender” or “debtor”).

Proverbs 10:16 – “The labour  [wages; reward] of the righteous [just; law-abiding] tendeth to life [strength; satisfaction]: the fruit [result; reaping] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] to sin [punishment; i.e. leads to greater sin].”

Though the curse of sin left man laboring for food by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3:19),  the reward of an honest day’s labor brings its own satisfaction.   I am not sure who to credit with the quote, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; however, there is a lot of truth in that statement.   The prevalence of depression in our society is, I believe, directly related to the gross amount of leisure time we enjoy as a society.  Too few of us come to the end of a day and enjoy the reward of having accomplished anything that is lasting!

Proverbs 10:17 – “He is in the way [path] of life that keepeth [heeds] instruction: but he that refuseth reproof [refuses to hear and heed correction] erreth.”

Solomon continues a common theme in verse 17—God blesses a man who heeds correction and rebuke; however, a rebel will inevitably follow a path to his own destruction.

As Solomon challenged his son to take the path of righteousness, it is the duty and responsibility of parents and spiritual leaders to challenge men and women with the same enduring truths from God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2)!

Two questions to ponder: What path are you taking?  Is your heart open to correction? 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Some People Cannot Be Trusted

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 6-10

The history in today’s scripture reading consists of five chapters and is too broad and the spiritual lessons too many to do justice; however, that is our task if we are to read through the Bible in one year. For the sake of today’s devotional commentary, I will pick out one highlight and make a few brief observation.

Consider the integrity evidence by a young prophet under Elisha’s tutelage (2 Kings 6:1-7).   Surely a minor miracle in light of Elisha’s many miracles; nevertheless God raising an iron axe head from the waters of the Jordan River after Elisha cast a stick on the water is a miracle only God’s blessing can explain (6:6-7)!

Elisha was overseer to a school for prophets and was preparing the next generation to serve the LORD. When the school outgrew its meeting place, the students proposed building a larger facility on the Jordan River (2 Kings 6:1-2). After Elisha gave his approval, the students set about building until a borrowed axe head fell from its handle and into the water. The poor student who had borrowed the axe bemoaned his loss and the expense to replace it (6:5). Elisha had sympathy for his student’s plea and God blessed raising the axe head from the waters.

Should you be left wondering where the lesson on integrity is found in this story, I ask you to consider the young prophet’s confession of his loss and recognition of his indebtedness and duty to return it to its owner (6:5).

Small thing you say? Insignificant?  No, I have known too many occasions where believers failed the integrity test in small things.  Something they accidentally broke, misplaced and lost, or borrowed with seemingly no conscience or concern they were obligated to replace or repay the owner for their loss.

Of course such men and women are unworthy of one’s trust in anything consequential.

Luke 16:10 “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Two Things God Hates: A Covetous Heart and Lying Lips

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 1-5

Today’s scripture reading contains stories that have enriched the hearts, lives and imagination of children in Sunday School for centuries.  The book of 2 Kings picks up where 1 Kings finished with no introduction.  The old prophet Elijah is in the last days of his earthly ministry and his protégé Elisha is prepared to take up the “mantle” of Elijah, literally and figuratively (2 Kings 2:13).

Due to the length of today’s reading, I will content myself with a few highlights.  Ahaziah, king of Israel, became deathly ill after falling through the lattice-work of his upper chamber.  Wondering if he would recover from his fall, the wicked king sent servants to enquire of the pagan god Baalzebub (2 Kings 1:2).  God, however, intervened and sent Elijah to send word to the king that his decision to enquire of Baalzebub would result in his death (1:3-4).  The king’s messengers described Elijah as the bearer of the news concerning the king’s death (1:5-8).

Three occasions the king sent a captain and fifty soldiers demanding Elijah come to the king.  The first two times the captain and the soldiers arrogantly demanded the prophet come to the king, and each time the captain and soldiers were slain (1:9-12).  The third captain and his soldiers humbled themselves before God’s prophet and requested their lives be spared (1:13-14).

2 Kings 2 records the momentous occasion God sent a fiery chariot to take Elijah to heaven.  Elijah promised Elisha he would receive a double portion of the old prophets spirit if he saw him taken up (2:9-11).  A “double portion” was that amount of inheritance that would be allotted to a firstborn son.  In that sense, it was Elisha’s longing that he would be the inheritor of Elijah’s ministry, and indeed he was!

God promotes the ministry of Elisha as God’s prophet before three kings in 2 Kings 3.  The king of Israel, Judah, and Edom all learned God had a prophet in the land and that prophet was Elisha.

Elisha performed four miracles in 2 Kings 4.  The first, multiplying a widow’s oil to pay her debts and save her sons from becoming bond slaves (4:1-7).  The second miracle, blessing a childless, elderly woman and her husband with a son as a reward for serving as Elisha’s benefactors (4:8-17).  The third miracle was raising that same elderly couples’ son from the dead (4:18-37).  The fourth miracle was turning a poison pottage into one that nourished the “sons of the prophets” (4:38-44).

I close with Elisha directing the healing of a leper named “Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria” (2 Kings 5:1).   The description of Naaman’s character aids us in understanding why his welfare was so important to his king.  We read, he “was a great man [noble; but perhaps great is size as well] with his master, and honourable [exalted; respected]…a mighty [heroic; valiant; champion] man in valour [virtuous; strong], but he was a leper” (5:1).

Every man has his flaws and challenges; however, for Naaman his was an illness…leprosy.  There was no cure for leprosy and a leper would eventually face exclusion from the living as the disease slowly took hold on the face, limbs and extremities of the body.

Providentially for Naaman, a slave girl from Israel waited upon his wife and shared with her there was a great prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband (5:2-3).  When the king of Syria heard there was hope for Naaman’s healing in Israel, he sent a letter with Naaman and gifts requesting his captain would be healed of leprosy (5:4-6).  Knowing the request was impossible for him to fulfill, the king of Israel “rent his clothes” fearing the king of Syria was provoking a conflict with Israel (5:7).  At his request, the king sent Naaman to Elisha (5:8).

Naaman, feeling slighted by Elisha’s refusal to greet him and perhaps expecting some great, ceremonial act of healing, was instead directed by Elisha’s servant to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times (5:9-10).  The thought of the great warrior of Syria humbling himself to wash in Israel’s small river infuriated Naaman who at first refused (5:11-12).  Fortunately, his servants prevailed upon him and persuaded him to obey the prophet.  When Naaman came forth from the Jordan “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (5:13-14).

Following his healing, Naaman offered to reward Elisha for his service; however, the prophet refused his gifts (5:15-16).  Naaman responded to the prophet and his miraculous healing with a moving statement of his faith that his sacrifices would forever be only unto the LORD, Jehovah, the Self-existent, Eternal God of Israel (5:17-18).

Reminding us a spirit of covetous (Exodus 20:17) might take root in the hearts of those who serve the LORD, “Gehazi, the servant of Elisah” set his heart on a portion of the reward Naaman offered to Elisha (5:20-22).

With a greeting of shalom, “Is all well?” (5:21) and Gehazi responding with shalom, “All is well” (5:22), Gehazi lied suggesting Elisha had sent him for a portion of the reward.  When Naaman granted his request, Gehazi hid the gifts (5:23-24) and took his place before Elisha (5:25).

When Elisha asked Gehazi where he had gone, he lied (5:25); whereupon, Elisha cursed his covetous heart and his unfaithful servant was smitten with the leprosy that had plagued Naaman (5:26-27).  Leprosy marked the end of his ministry to Elisha and became Gehazi’s lifelong reminder God hates covetousness and lying lips.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Who You Gonna Blame?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 13-18

We continue our reading of the prophecies of Ezekiel with a reminder he is a prophet and priest, numbered among the Jews who are captives in Babylon.  The LORD has charged Ezekiel with the unenviable task of delivering a message of woes and judgments against Israel and his own people.  God commanded Ezekiel, “prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man” (11:4); however, the people would not repent.

False prophets become Ezekiel’s focus in chapter 13 when the LORD commanded the prophet, “prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy” (Ezekiel 13:2).   Lying prophets and prophetesses pretended to be the LORD’s prophets; however, their prophecies were lies pacifying the people’s lusts and belying the inevitability of God’s judgment against the nation (13:1-23).

Some elders of Israel living in Babylonian captivity come to Ezekiel in chapter 14 feigning a desire to hear the Word of the LORD; however, the LORD revealed to the prophet they were idolaters and not sincere worshipers of the God of Israel (14:1-5).  Rather than entertain the hypocrisy of the elders, Ezekiel called them to repent of their idolatry and warned them concerning the false prophets (14:6-11). The LORD charged Ezekiel to declare a series of four judgments He would send upon Israel (14:12-21), but also promising He would spare a remnant of the city (14:22-23).

With the elders of Israel serving as his audience (note 14:1), the LORD reveals to Ezekiel three prophetic pictures of judgment (Ezekiel 15-17).  The first is a vine (15:1-8), often a symbol of Israel in the scriptures (Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:1).  The destruction of the vine by fire is a prophetic picture of God’s judgment against Jerusalem and Judah (5:6-8).

The second prophetic picture portrays Israel as an abused woman whom the LORD out of His mercy chose to be His wife (16:1-7) and out of His love and grace showered with jewels and fine robes (16:8-14).   Rather than serving her husband out of love and gratitude, the wife repaid her husband’s favor heaping shame and humiliation on him with her gross immorality.  Israel, like an unfaithful wife, had turned from the LORD Who chose her.  The sins committed by Israel are staggering and the evidence of her wickedness are named by Ezekiel.  The nation had played the harlot (16:15-16), made idols (16:17) and the people offered their sons and daughters as sacrifices to idols (16:20-21).

Rather than repent and turn to the LORD for His protection and blessings, Israel turned to her heathen neighbors (Egypt, vs. 26; the Philistines, vs. 27; the Assyrians, vs. 28; the Chaldeans, vs. 29) and her compromise was akin to the wife playing a harlot on street corners (16:22-34).

Having stated the sins of God’s people, Ezekiel was charged with declaring God’s judgment (16:35-43).   Those nations (i.e. “thy lovers”, vs. 36) with whom Israel had compromised would despise her and be the instruments God would use to punish His people.  Israel’s sin and rebellion against God was greater than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah because she had enjoyed God’s favor; however, she despised the LORD, rejected His Law, and committed the same abominations as the heathen (16:44-52).  In spite of the nation’s wickedness, God promised to not forget His covenant with Israel and to restore her (16:53-63).

The third picture of God’s judgment against Israel is a riddle of two eagles and three vine shoots (i.e. “twigs”) planted in Israel (17:1-24).  As discussed earlier, the vine, and in this chapter the cedar of Lebanon, are pictures of Israel; while Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon is pictured as an eagle in the Bible.  The prophet Jeremiah writes concerning Nebuchadnezzar, “he shall fly as an eagle” (Jeremiah 48:40; 49:22).  Leaving no doubt Nebuchadnezzar is the eagle and Israel and her king are the objects of God’s approaching judgment, we read:  “Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon” (Ezekiel 17:12).

In spite of the utter destruction and devastation of Jerusalem and Judah, the LORD promises to take a “twig” and replant it in Israel (17:22-23) and exalt “the low tree” (17:24).  Bible scholars believe, and I am inclined to agree, the “twig” represents the humble birth of Jesus Christ who will one day return as the King of kings and LORD of lords.

I conclude today’s devotional commentary with a passage of scripture from which I will be preaching this Sunday morning, Ezekiel 18.

There was no debate over the question of God judging Israel for sin; however, a question of responsibility for the calamities facing the nation rose among the people.

The younger population said,  “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2).  In other words, some were blaming the nation’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their forefathers.  In our day when “blame shifting” is epidemic and everyone is a victim, Ezekiel 18 is applicable to the homes of believers and non-believers .

The universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin are declared by the LORD: Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).  While all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and He blesses the man who chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).

Herein is a spiritual lesson for us all: Every generation bears responsibility for its sins and God does not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13) no more than he holds a son accountable for the sins of his father.   When a son see his father’s sins, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17); however, the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

So, who you gonna blame for your troubles?

I close with a challenge to parents who, though not perfect parents, are loving parents but find themselves burdened with an adult child that is a sorrow to their hearts.  Guard your heart against false guilt!  Don’t allow a child wallowing in the mire of self-pity give you cause to despair.  No man or woman has the privilege to blame others for the consequences of their own sinful choices.

God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30).   A family will suffer consequences for a family member’s sinful choices; however, the key is in how you respond to those troubles and sorrows.

Remember:  “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). 

 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith