Category Archives: Children

The Tragic Consequences of Generational Sins (Job 20; Job 21)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.
(Additional languages available upon request by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.)

Scripture reading – Job 20; Job 21

Our study of the trials and troubles of Job continues with today’s Scripture reading (Job 20-21). Admittedly, the text is dark, but the insights we gain from our study are illuminating. The chapters before us are lengthy, and at best, time and space permit only a brief commentary. As you read chapter 20, remember Zophar (the third of Job’s friends) is coming from an earthly, human vantage. His purpose was not to impart spiritual wisdom, but to assert that Job’s afflictions were the reward of the wicked.

Job 20

Job 20 is the record of the second and final response of Zophar the Naamathite (his first speech was recorded in Job 11). Zophar was offended by Job’s admonition in the closing verses of chapter 19. Job had maintained his innocence, and warned his “friends” would face God’s wrath for their harsh judgments (19:28-29). Zophar’s rebuke came swift and furious (20:1-3).

Job 20:4-29 – The Fate of the Wicked

Like his friends, Zophar inferred Job’s afflictions were to be expected by those who are wicked. His contentions revealed three erroneous opinions concerning the state and reward of the wicked.

First error: The wicked always come to destruction. (20:4-11)

Zophar suggested the rejoicing of the wicked is brief (20:4), the honors bestowed on them perishes with them, and they are soon forgotten (20:5-8). Neither of those statements are necessarily true. In fact, the wicked often live out their lives enjoying ill acquired wealth, and their funerals and tombs are often grand spectacles to behold.

Second error: The wicked do not prosper. (20:12-23)

Continuing his erroneous observations, Zophar suggested the prosperity of the wicked is brief (20:12), inevitably bites like a poisonous viper (20:13-16), and he dies in want.

The error in Zophar’s observations is evident when we remember the LORD’s parable of a rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). Beguiled with the pleasures of his riches, the rich man ordered his barns be torn down to build greater barns, and said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). Rather than die in want, the rich fool died as he lived, enjoying his wealth until he heard in eternity that he was the poorest of men: “20But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20–21).

Third error: Only the wicked suffer devastating sorrows, and catastrophic losses. (20:24-29)

Zophar maintained the wicked are struck down (20:24-25), and all he has is destroyed (20:26).  He declared the wicked feels everything is against him, until his riches are consumed by God’s wrath (20:27-28). (While it may be argued how the wicked often suffer loss; I suggest it is more often true they are rewarded by the system of this fallen world, and hailed for their ill-gotten gains, John 15:19a).

Of course, the implication of Zophar’s argument was that Job’s sorrows were a wicked man’s afflictions, and such is the lot or “heritage” God has “appointed” for the wicked (20:29).

Job 21 – Rather than Suffer, the Wicked Prosper

Job 21 recorded Job’s response to Zophar’s fallacies. He demanded his friends be silent that he might speak, and challenged them, sarcastically, after he had spoken, “mock on” (21:1-2). Job confessed his struggle was with God, and not with men (21:3-6).

Contrary to Zophar’s assertions, he observed the wicked and their children often live long lives, and enjoy prosperity (21:7-13). He contended the riches of the wicked cause their hearts to be calloused, and “they say unto God, Depart from us; For we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. 15What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” (21:14-15) The wicked fail to acknowledge they deserve nothing. Indeed,  all they have is a testimony of God’s grace and longsuffering, and the prosperity of the wicked moves them to reject God (21:16).

Closing thoughts (21:17-34) – Warning: Do not assume the wicked go unpunished.

The consequences of sin are inevitable, and the wicked are “as stubble before the wind, And as chaff that the storm carrieth away. 19God layeth up his [the wicked’s] iniquity for his children: He rewardeth him, and he shall know it” (21:18-19).

Generational Sins: Children are not punished for the sins of their parents; however, they often suffer the influence of their sins (Jeremiah 31:29-30; Deuteronomy 24:16). Three times the Law stated: “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18; Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9).

Warning: The consequences of your sins may be borne by your children.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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A New World, and A New World Order (Genesis 9)

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Scripture reading – Genesis 9

Review – Genesis 8

After He fulfilled His Word of judgment, “God remembered Noah” (8:1), and commanded Him to “go forth of the ark” (8:16). Then, Noah “builded an altar unto the LORD…and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20).

Two things remained unchanged in the world after the flood. The first, God’s grace, for He accepted the sacrifices of Noah and his family (8:20), for they were “a sweet savour” to Him (8:21). A second object had not changed, and that was man’s sinful heart. Though He declared He would never again judge the earth as He had with the floodwaters, the LORD knew the heart of man, and judged it was sinful (8:21c). Yet, the LORD in His mercy, promised He would never again destroy “every thing living, as [He had] done” (8:21d). So, the earth continues to be blessed with its seasons, “seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (8:22).

A New World, A Renewed Covenant (Genesis 9:1-17)

The world was forever changed after God’s universal judgment, but in His grace, He “blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (9:1, 7). Man’s supremacy over nature was unchanged (Genesis 1:26, 28); however, animals began to fear man, and were terrified of him (9:2). Formerly, men were sustained by plant life (Genesis 1:29-30); however, after the flood they became omnivorous, consumers of the flesh of animals and the fruit of the earth (9:3-4).

Capital Punishment: Life for Life (9:5-6)

Genesis 9:5-6 repeated the value and sanctity of human life in the eyes of God, reminding us God created man in His image and likeness (9:6). Because human life is sacred, God established capital punishment to address all that shed the blood of man, whether man or beast (9:5). God’s justice required blood for blood (Psalm 9:12; Exodus 20:13; 21:12). Thus, a beast that killed a man, was to be put to death (9:5b; Exodus 21:28). Also, a murderer was to be put to death, for shedding the blood of another (9:6a). For that reason, government was instituted and empowered to enforce capital punishment (Romans 13:4).

God’s Universal Covenant (9:7-19)

The future of humanity was seeded by Noah’s three sons, and they were commanded to “be fruitful, and multiply” (9:7). Having accepted Noah’s sacrifices (8:22-23), the LORD established His covenant with him and his sons. What was the covenant? While it was to never again destroy the earth with floodwaters; it was much more.

The covenant promise was universal, and made to Noah, his sons, and his “seed after” him (all humanity, 9:9). I believe it was a renewal of God’s covenant with Adam and Eve; that her “seed” would crush the head (the seed) of the serpent (Satan, 3:15). It was a promise fulfilled through Noah’s lineage, and of whom Christ was born (Luke 3:36). The rainbow was more than a promise to never again destroy the earth by floodwaters (9:8-13). It was a sign God never forgets His covenant promises (9:14-17).

A Shameful, Tragic End (9:18-29)

The flood did not change man’s age-old problem—sin! Noah and his sons had witnessed God’s hatred of sin and judgment; nevertheless, they bore in their hearts the curse of sin, its effects, and tragic consequences. Though they believed God, and were saved by the Ark, they were still sinners! Noah was a just and upright man, and a man who walked with God (6:8-9); however, he and his sons were sinners.

Noah became “an husbandman” (farmer) after the flood, and planted a vineyard (9:20). Tragically, in his old age, Noah drank wine, “and was drunken” (9:21). Indiscreet in his intoxicated state, he was naked and “uncovered within his tent” (9:21). While the cause for Noah’s drunken state was not given, there are lessons we can take from this moment in history. (The first mention of wine in the Scriptures was associated with drunkenness, shame, and a curse that has continued to our day.)

Noah, the “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), became an object of scorn (9:21-23).

Whatever the excuse, Noah’s drunkenness was a spiritual and moral failure (9:21). Ham, who became the father of the Canaanites, “saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without” (9:22). The implication is he “saw” and mocked his father, unlike his brothers, Shem and Japheth, who took pangs “and covered the nakedness of their faither” (9:23). Ham took pleasure in his father’s shame, mocked and ridiculed him (9:22).

Noah’s Prophecy (9:24-29)

Noah, realizing Ham, “his younger son” (9:24), shamed him; pronounced a curse upon him and his lineage: Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren” (9:25). Why did Noah not curse Ham who scorned his father? Perhaps the best answer is that Ham was a true believer (for he had believed God and been saved by the Ark). Canaan, the grandson of Noah (10:6), would become the father of wicked nations who rejected God, worshipped idols, and were perpetual enemies of God’s people (10:15-19).

Closing thoughts (9:26-29) – Genesis 9 concluded with Noah prophesying the future of his sons, and their posterity (9:26-27), and closed with the revelation that is a certainty for all men: He died (9:28-29). Though not perfect, Noah should be remembered as a righteous man. He was a man of faith who believed, and obeyed God, saving not only his household, but the human race from physical and spiritual annihilation.

How about you? How will you be remembered?

* 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 © 2023 – 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
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

God Remembered Noah (Genesis 7-8)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.

Scripture reading – Genesis 7-8

Review – “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:8)

Because He “saw that the wickedness of man… [and] the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5), God determined to judge the earth. Nevertheless, He allowed 120 years before the earth and its inhabitants would be destroyed (6:3). Yet, there was one exception to this universal judgment. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (6:8).

Why Noah and his household? He was a believer, “a just man and perfect in his generations,” whose life gave testimony of his “walk with God” (6:10). Though the world of his day was given to all manner of wickedness, Noah’s testimony and influence evidenced the fruit of three sons: “Shem, Ham, and Japheth” were preserved from judgment (6:10).

God revealed to Noah his plan to destroy the earth, and in evidence of His grace, commanded him to build an Ark, and gave him the design of that great ship of salvation (6:14-17). Assuming one cubit is equal to 18-20 inches, the size of the Ark (6:15) was some 450 feet long (135 meters), 75 feet wide (22 meters), and its depth 45 feet (13 meters). (In fact, the Ark is believed to have been the largest vessel built by man until the mid-19thcentury.)

Lest there be any doubt of the extent of God’s judgment, He made Noah to understand the flood would be universal, destroying “all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die” (6:17). The LORD established a covenant with Noah (6:18), that his family would be saved from the flood waters. They were spared God’s judgment, not because they were sinless, but because they were the object of His grace (6:8), and Noah was a perfect [righteous] man “who walked with God” (6:9). Because He intended to restore the earth after the flood waters receded, the LORD directed Noah to bring two “of every living thing…into the ark, to keep them alive” (6:19-20), and to store “food that is eaten… food for thee, and for them” (6:21).

Genesis 6 concluded with Noah doing “according to all that God commanded him” (6:22). Though he had not experienced a rainfall (for the waters were still in the firmament encircling the earth, 1:7), Noah believed God and began building a massive ship, and preaching the imminent judgment of God (2 Peter 2:5).

Genesis 7 – “All Aboard!”

The day came when the preacher’s sermons fell silent, and the work on the Ark was complete; “And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (7:1). In addition to the male and female of each “kind” and “every sort” (6:19-20), Noah was commanded to lead into the Ark seven “of every clean beast,” which he sacrificed in an act of worship and thanksgiving, when the flood waters receded (7:2-3; 8:20).

Noah was 600 years old “when the flood of waters” began, and he “did according unto all that the LORD commanded him” (7:5-6, 16). With Noah, his family, and the animals safe in the Ark, “the LORD shut [Noah] in” (7:16), and unleashed the mighty powers of the waters above, and the waters reserved in the earth. “The windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (7:11-12). All was destroyed, and all “flesh died that moved upon the earth…and every man” (7:21). “Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark” (7:23).

Genesis 8 – God Remembered Noah (8:1)

After a year of devastating floodwaters, and confinement in the Ark, the Scriptures simply stated, “God remembered Noah” (8:1). In the midst of His wrath, and the greatest cataclysmic event to ever come upon the earth, God remembered one man and his family. The world Noah knew was destroyed, and every man, woman, boy, and girl perished in the waters. Three hundred and seventy days after the rains began, Noah was commanded, “Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee” (8:16).

After disembarking from the Ark, Noah’s first act was to build an altar and offer sacrifices to God (8:20-21a). The LORD’s first act was to accept Noah’s sacrifice, and establish a covenant with him and his family (8:21b-22). Noah’s sacrifice acknowledged his sin, and need of a substitute. God’s covenant served as His promise to extend His mercy, and never again destroy the earth with floodwaters (8:21-22).

Closing thoughts: With the Ark resting on the slope of Mount Aarat as a backdrop, I invite you to picture in your thoughts, Noah and his family, lying prostrate on their faces before an altar. As the smoke of the offerings ascended to heaven, Noah looked across a valley and saw a beautiful rainbow (9:12-17), with an arch reaching into the heavens and toward the very throne of God.

Noah entered through the door of the Ark by faith, and God shut the door, saving the man and his family. So it is that sinners are invited to enter another door, and be saved from the penalty of sin and eternal judgment. That door is Jesus Christ who promised, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:7, 11).

The door of salvation is opened, if you will believe and accept God’s offer of salvation through Christ. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)

* 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 © 2023 – 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
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611
You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“In the Beginning God” (Genesis 1)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.

Scripture reading – Genesis 1

An Introduction to The First Book of Moses Called Genesis

The Bible is the most influential book in history, and Genesis is its foundation. The Book of Genesis explains the origin of all things, and is the basis of our understanding of the universe, the earth, its atmosphere, and life itself. For example, Genesis 1:27 presents us with the complexity and uniqueness of man, who was created in the “image of God.” In Genesis 2:24-25, God established marriage and family as the foundation of human society.

The origin of sin and its consequences are revealed in Genesis 3. Genesis 3 also unveiled the commencement of God’s answer to man’s wickedness: A son who would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:16), of the lineage of Abraham, and through whom all nations and people of the earth might be blessed (Genesis 12).  The basis of language, culture, and the existence of the nations are all stated in Genesis. (Genesis 11:1-9).

Warning: Reject the Genesis account of Creation, and you must reject the Scriptures entirely!

The New Testament quotes from, or alludes to one hundred sixty-five passages recorded in Genesis. In fact, more than one hundred direct quotes or references to Genesis 1-11 are found the New Testament.

Genesis 1 – “In the Beginning God Created”

Creation declares the person and existence of the God of Creation (Romans 1:20-27), and what you believe regarding the existence, and origin of life shapes your philosophy of life and worldview. Accepting or rejecting the Genesis account of Creation will influence the value you place on human life. If you believe, “God created man in His own image,” meaning in His spiritual likeness (1:26-27), you must conclude that human life is sacred. Reject creation, and you will inevitably come to the conclusion human life is not sacred, and some lives are expendable (for instance, the life of the unborn, elderly, or physically dependent).

To believe God is Creator, and the Genesis account of Creation is true (Genesis 1), you must accept God is Sovereign of all things. He has authority to declare right and wrong. God alone has the right to establish that which is moral and define what is immoral (1:29-31).

When you read the Genesis account of Creation, you must come to the conclusion there is only one of two explanations for the origin of life. Either God is Creator and He has revealed Himself to man in His Word and in His creation, or life and the universe are the result of chance. It behooves us all to ask the question: “Who can be trusted in the matter of the origin of life? Is evolution an unproven theory, or a scientific fact? Can we trust the Bible when it states simply, “In the beginning God created” (1:1)? Can the Scriptures and evolution (chance) co-exist?

The Biblical account of Creation affords no compromise with evolution, and evolution offers no worthy answer to the Biblical account of creation.

If interpreted literally and without prejudice, Genesis 1 gives us an explanation for the world around us, as well as, God’s purpose for our life and existence (1:31-2:2). As Creator, God is Sovereign, and He is providentiallyinvolved in His creation, preserving and sustaining the universe. The Book of Job, believed to be the most ancient of the books of the Bible states of God: “He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven” (Job 28:24). “His eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings” (Job 34:21). Solomon warned, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).

If you believe God is your Creator, you must accept He has authority to oversee every facet of your life. He has the right to reward, or punish as He deems just. In the words of the psalmist, “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Reject God as Creator, and a man, society, and nation will be overcome by all manner of wickedness and sorrows (Romans 1:28-32).

* 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 © 2023 – 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
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Saints and Scoundrels in the Church (2 John; 3 John)

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Scripture reading – 2 John; 3 John

The Second Epistle of John and The Third Epistle of John were written near the end of John’s life, and prior to the book known as “The Revelation.” Today’s study will serve as a brief introduction to 2 John and 3 John.

The Second Epistle of John

Though not by name, the introductory verse of 2 John identified the letter’s recipient: “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth” (1:1).

While the writer of The Second Epistle of John did not identify himself by name, scholars are generally agreed the author was John. The style of the letter, its tone and theme reflect the 1st Epistle of John. Preferring the title “elder,” as opposed to apostle, John wrote to a fellow believer and her family whom he addressed as “the elect lady and her children” (1:1). That phrase has given cause for debate over the centuries. Some propose “the elect lady” had a broad implication, and the churches in general were the recipient.

Others believe, as I do, that John was writing to an individual believer (“the elect lady”) and the “children” of her household. She was obviously a believer whose testimony was respected and beloved by John and other believers (1:1b). The closing verses of this small epistle also give cause to believe the letter was penned to a specific believer and her household. As he concluded the epistle, John expressed not only his desire to soon visit the household of “the elect lady,” but also sent a greeting to her on behalf of “the elect children of thy elect sister” (no doubt her nieces and nephews, 1:12-13).

The Third Epistle of John

In his third letter, John once again introduced himself as “the elder” (1:1). The word “elder” served as a description of both an office among the churches (“elder\pastor”), and an indication of maturity (being an older pastor).

The epistle was addressed to a believer named Gaius, whom John described as “the well-beloved,” and expressed a brotherly affection writing,  “whom I love in the truth” (3 John 1:1). John’s affection and admiration of Gaius was both a friend and brother in Christ. Remembering the apostle’s challenge to love the brethren “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18), and to “love one another” (1 John 3:7, 11), John’s epistle to Gaius effused with sincere, agape’ (self-sacrificing) love (3 John 1:1-8).

Of course, not all in the churches were loving, and John identified one enemy in particular… Diotrephes. Diotrephes was the antithesis of brotherly love, and the apostle spared no words in condemning him (3 John 1:9-11).  John identified Diotrephes’ hypocrisy, exposed his shameless self-promotion (1:9) and spiritual insubordination (1:10a). He documented his criticisms, accusations, and opposition to John’s leadership as an apostle and elder (1:10). John left no doubt regarding the fate of Diotrephes, and identified him as one who “doeth evil [and] hath not seen God” (1:11).

John closed his third epistle with a note of affirmation for a believer named Demetrius.  He wrote of that believer: “Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true” (1:12).

Closing thoughts – An old adage goes, “Times have changed, but people have not!”

Like the 1st century church, the church of the 21st century has its “well-beloved Gaius” (1:1) and faithful Demetrius (1:12). Their testimonies are tried, faithful and true. Nevertheless, the timidity of pastors and the shallowness of church leaders in the 21st century has allowed a proliferation of men and women of the stripe of Diotrephes. Even the most faithful churches will have their share of “Diotrephes” who in their desire to have the preeminence, will attack even the most faithful pastors with “malicious words” (3 John 1:9-10). Of such a one, the church must recognize them by their works and words, and cast them out (3 John 1:10).

Are you a “wellbeloved Gaius,” a “Demetirus” known for your testimony and love for the truth, or a “Diotrephes” functioning like a spiritual cancer in the midst of the congregation?

When there is a Diotrephes in the midst, church leaders are obligated to identify and confront him; if he will not repent, cast him out! (3 John 1:10; Matthew 18:17).

* 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.

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

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotional.

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.

The Character and Qualifications of Christ’s Ministers (Titus 1; Titus 2)

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Scripture reading – Titus 1; Titus 2

Continuing our chronological reading of the Scriptures, we come to The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus.Before us is one of four letters written by Paul to individual believers (the others being to Philemon, and the first and second letters to Timothy). The book of Titus was probably written following Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, and his visit to the churches on the island of Crete. Paul was freed from prison sometime after his epistle to the believers in Philippi. (The cause for Paul being set at liberty was not revealed, although some speculate his accusers failed to come to Rome and appear before Caesar to bring a witness against the apostle.)

Characteristic of his style, Paul introduced himself as the author in the first verse, and identified his calling and authority, writing: “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (1:1). As with Timothy, the apostle had a loving bond with Titus and addressed him as “mine own son after the common faith” (1:4). Titus was a Greek convert, and uncircumcised (Galatians 2:3). He was also a member of Paul’s inner-circle, whom the apostle identified as a “partner and fellow helper” (2 Corinthians 8:23). While the letter was addressed to Titus, it was likely read to the churches in Crete where he ministered (1:5).

Paul’s Charge to Titus (1:5)

Paul left no doubt that Titus was empowered to act upon his authority. The young preacher was charged with the responsibility of setting “in order the things that are wanting [needing attention], and ordain elders in every city,” as Paul had directed him (1:5). The office of the pastor is defined in two terms in chapter 1: The title “elder” (1:5)  defines the dignity of the pastoral office as “pastor and teacher,” as opposed to a novice (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:6). The title, “bishop” (1:7), defined the duties and authority of the pastoral office as an overseer. In my opinion, the titles are interchangeable for the office of pastor (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7).

The Pastor’s Character and Household (1:6)

Bearing the sacred responsibility of ordaining “elders [pastors] in every city” (1:5), Paul defined for Titus the spiritual qualifications of men who would serve the congregations.

The principal, and indispensable requirement of the pastor is he “must be blameless, as the steward of God” (1:6, 7a; 1 Timothy 3:2). “Blameless” does not mean he must achieve sinless perfection, but that his life is free of scandals (for instance, the qualifications that follow in verses 6-8 define the character of his personal life). In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he mandated the pastor “must have a good report” (1 Timothy 3:7). He must be “blameless,” because he is the steward of God,” meaning the overseer of God’s household (1:7; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

When choosing a pastor, a church must also consider his family life (1:6). He is to be morally chaste, “the husband of one wife” (1:6b). The minister cannot be divorced, nor have more than one wife. Should he have children, they are to be “faithful not accused of riot or unruly” (1:6c). A pastor cannot have children living at home in opposition to the Gospel. Though not perfect, the pastor’s children are not to be riotous (implying drunkenness or moral debauchery), or “unruly” (rebellious or insubordinate).

Five Disqualifications from the Pastorate (1:7)

In addition to being “blameless,” Paul listed five things that disqualify a man from the pastorate. He must not be self-willed, meaning dogmatic, arrogant, and self-seeking (1:7b). He must not be easily provoked to anger (1:7c). A pastor must not be “given to wine” (1:7d), nor a “striker” (contentious, 1:7e). Lastly, a minister of the Gospel is “not given to filthy lucre” (not a lover of money or possessions; 1:7e; 1 Timothy 3:3).

Six Positive Qualifications for the Pastoral Office (1:8)

Having listed five disqualifying traits, Paul followed with six qualifications required of those who serve the congregations. A minister is to be “a lover of hospitality” (1:8a; hospitable to saints and strangers; Galatians 6:10). A pastor is to be a “lover of good men” (1:8b; literally, a lover of all that is good; Philippians 4:8). He is to be “sober” (1:8c); sensible, exercising good judgment, and not given to silliness or ruled by urges (1 Timothy 3:2).

The shepherd of God’s people is to be “just” (1:8d), morally upright, and a man of integrity. He is an example to the church, and “holy” in conduct (1:8e; devout, pious, and dedicated to God, Romans 12:1-2). Finally, the man ordained to the pastorate must be “temperate” (1:8f), spiritually disciplined in his affections and desires (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Closing thoughts (1:9) – So much more could be written regarding the qualities that must be true of men called to pastor the churches, including their duty and devotion to God’s Word (1:9). I close with a word of warning:

Failure to hold ministers to God’s standard invite His judgment, and the eventual ruin of churches, Bible schools, and institutions. Tragically, one need not look far to see the evidences of that failure.

* 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.

Women in the Church, and God’s Blueprint for Church Leadership (1 Timothy 2-3)

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Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 3 addresses two ministering offices of the church. The office of the bishop defines the function and qualifications of a pastor as overseer of a local congregation of believers (3:1-7). The second church office is that of the deacons (meaning servant; 3:8-13).). Notice the bishop\pastor and deacons’ offices were defined by personal, spiritual, and family qualifications (3:1-13). The focus of this devotion will be the office of the bishop\pastor; however, I will first set the context for our study by examining the role of women in the church.

The Women of the Congregation (2:9-15)

While there are many controversies challenging the 21st century church, I suggest the role of the sexes, and leadership is the most hotly debated. Beginning with the conviction believers accept the authority of the Scriptures in faith and practice, the teachings regarding the role of women becomes simple and straightforward.

After writing regarding the importance of prayer (2:8), Paul addressed the adorning and decorum of women in public worship. As he commanded men to “pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (2:8), the apostle commanded women to be adorned “in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (2:9-10).

Dress Matters: A Principle for Women’s Dress and Decorum (2:9-10)

Contrary to the “come as you are” invitation of many churches, Paul taught believers to dress in a manner that befits God’s holiness (2:9a). With reverence and restraint, women are to dress in a manner that would not distract from public worship (2:9b). Modeling godly character, a woman’s works (her outward deeds) are to be a reflection of her dedication to the Lord (2:10).

The Attitude and Demeanor of Women in the Church (2:11-12)

Then, Paul’s attention turned to the attitude and demeanor of women in public worship. The apostle wrote: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection” (2:11).

The church is graced with women who are wonderful examples of spiritual piety and Biblical knowledge. Nevertheless, in public worship women are to be learners, and not teachers. Indeed, the role of women in the church is one of subjection (Paul had written the same to believers in Corinth, stating: “It is a shame for women to speak in the church,” 1 Corinthians 14:35). Paul taught the same principle in his letter to Timothy, stating, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (2:12).

Two Spiritual Foundations for Paul’s Instructions Regarding the Role of Women (2:13-15)

The apostle Paul needed no justification for the limits he placed on the role of women in the church; nevertheless, he identified two principles for his instructions (2:13-14). The first, God’s creative order: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (2:13; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9). The second principle arose from the historical fact concerning the fall of the human race (2:14). Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord’s commands; however, it was the woman, not the man who was “deceived” and transgressed (2:14; Genesis 3:1-6a). Adam sinned of his own volition, and disobeyed God. Eve, however, usurped her husband’s authority, and was deceived by the serpent (2:14).

Having clearly, and unequivocally defined the role of women in the church (2:9-15), Paul then set in order the leadership offices of the church (1 Timothy 3). For today’s study, the focus with be the office of the bishop\pastor (3:1-7).

1 Timothy 3 – The Bishop\Pastor

The Person and Office of the Pastor (3:1)

Accepting the Scripture’s authority in both faith and practice, the Bible is clear: The office of bishop, meaning overseer, is to be occupied by a man. Of those who aspire to the calling of pastor, it is “a good work” (3:1). The word “desire” indicates a strong urgency to pastor and oversee the work of the ministry. Such a calling is a “good,” and honorable work. Yet, desiring the office and work of the bishop is not enough; for a man must also be qualified to hold such a high calling.

The Qualifications of the Pastor (3:2-7)

I might suggest various outlines for the qualifications of the pastor, but I will limit myself to four categories. The first is a personal qualification: “2A bishop then must be blameless (3:2a). That is not implying perfection (for I can ascertain no man would qualify). “Blameless” indicates the necessity of the pastor’s personal life passing scrutiny. The pastor’s moral character must be above reproach, and must not be chargeable with a moral offense (adultery, fornication, or any other reprehensible conduct disqualifies a man from the pastorate).

The second qualification of the pastor concerns his marriage and relationship with his wife (if married). He is to be “the husband of one wife” (3:2b), in thought and deed (or as many have observed, he must be “a one-woman kind of man”). Other than death, which ends the covenant of marriage in the sight of God and man, a pastor is to be devoted to one-woman. A moral failure or divorce disqualifies a man from the pastorate.

Thirdly, notice the pastor’s character is an essential qualification, and he is to be “vigilant (watchful), sober (disciplined), of good behaviour (honest; well-behaved), given to hospitality, apt (qualified) to teach; 3Not given to wine (not a drinker), no striker (violent or combative), not greedy of filthy lucre (lover of money); but patient (gracious), not a brawler (contentious), not covetous (lover of possessions) (3:2-3).

The fourth essential for the pastor is he is to demonstrate godly leadership in his home (3:4-5). He is to be “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (3:4). Notice the essential nature of a pastor’s household leadership is stressed as the background for the following proposition: “5For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (3:5)

To be spiritually qualified for overseeing the body of Christ, a pastor must not be a “novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (3:6). Regarding his public testimony, “he must have a good report of them which are without [secular society]; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (3:7).

Closing thoughts – With the Scriptures as my authority, I state unequivocally: Women are not to usurp men in teaching or preaching the Scriptures. Women have their place and role in teaching women (Titus 2:3-5); however, they should never exercise authority over men and aspire to teach or preach the Scriptures. To do so is a violates the clear teachings of Scripture.

A Personal Observation: Tragically, many spiritual leaders have accommodated the sins of their children and violated Paul’s instructions (3:5). From my vantage, it seems every failed ministry (Bible-preaching church, Bible college, and Christian institution) has one thing in common:

Spiritual leaders have compromised the spiritual precepts of their institutions, and invited God’s judgment upon those ministries.

* 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.

An Introduction to the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 1; 1 Timothy 2)

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Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 1; 1 Timothy 2

A personal note: Of all Paul’s epistles, his first letter to Timothy is my favorite. As a young man, I found the apostle’s counsel to his “son in the faith” (1:2) to be invaluable as I framed my own ministry philosophy. Now that I am an elder minister, I reflect on Paul’s manner and rapport with Timothy, and desire the same with those who serve with me. This is a bonus devotional, and serves as an introduction to our study of Paul’s 1st epistle to Timothy.

We first met Timothy when he was a young believer, and was privileged to be a part of Paul’s missions’ team. He was, according to Acts 16:1, “the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek.” The implication was Timothy’s home was a spiritually divided home; his father apparently a Gentile unbeliever, and his mother a woman of Jewish lineage and a follower of Christ.

In spite of what might have been the divisive nature of his household, Timothy’s mother and grandmother were women of faith and had a profound influence on him. Paul wrote, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned [sincere] faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (1:5).

Timothy’s passion for spiritual truth was inflamed from his childhood, and in his second letter to Timothy, Paul reminded the young pastor of his godly heritage. Paul wrote, “from a child [very young child] thou hast known [growing knowledge of] the holy scriptures [instructed in the Old Testament Scriptures], which are able to make thee wise [understanding] unto salvation through faith [assurance; belief] which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Of course, Timothy became a devoted companion on Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 16:3), a co-worker in the churches, and finally the pastor of the church in Ephesus (1:3a).

1 Timothy 1

Paul mentored many; however, his relationship with Timothy was especially rewarding to the old apostle. Considering himself that young preacher’s spiritual father, his affection for Timothy is evidenced throughout the letter in both affirmations and admonitions (1:2, 18; 4:6-16; 6:11-13, 20-21).

Paul had commissioned Timothy, and charged him to continue ministering in Ephesus after he departed by ship for Macedonia (1:3a). Paul’s letters seem to indicate a certain timidity on Timothy’s part, and in his absence, the apostle was mindful to encourage Timothy to be bold in his ministry (1:3b), and give no tolerance to false teachers and their heresies (1:4). I conclude this introduction, taking liberty to close with Paul’s charge to Timothy (1:5).

1 Timothy 1:5 – “Now the end of the commandment is charity [self-sacrificing love] out of a pure heart, and ofa good conscience, and of faith unfeigned [sincere faith; without hypocrisy].”

* 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.