Category Archives: Children

The Church, Her Spiritual Leaders and Their Failures

On a personal note: By God’s grace I recently celebrated four decades of ministry and have been blessed to serve on the pastoral staff of Hillsdale Baptist Church for thirty-four years.  The following article is written from my perspective as a pastor and graduate of a Christian University that historically made no apology for its Bible fundamental, separatist stance.

For two decades I have pondered the waning of conservative, independent, Bible-preaching churches, schools, and colleges in our nation.  While I pray for a spiritual awakening in America, I see little hope when our own families and ministries are following the spiritual erosion of our culture. Indeed, should we who identify as Bible-believers continue our flirtation with sin, I fear Bible-preaching is at risk of being silenced within a generation.

Having experienced social media vilification in the past, I fear my perspective will offend some and is not shared lightly or with a desire to offend. Nevertheless, I am compelled to share my concerns, not as a provocation, but as an exposé of what I believe is the primary factor contributing to the failure of historic, conservative Bible-Christianity in America.

Across our nation, a millennial consortium of progressive preachers is assuming the pulpits of conservative, Bible-preaching churches, schools, and colleges.  Preaching a message of grace without a call to personal sanctification and holiness, they have spawned a pseudo-piety and tolerance of sin and carnality the generation before them decried.  

A brief history lesson on conservative, fundamental Bible Christianity

From the 1950’s to the closing years of the 20thcentury, Bible-fundamentalism inspired a Gospel awakening (not so much a spiritual revival) in America.  Veterans of World War II returned to America with an evangelistic zeal giving rise to conservative, fundamental Christian Colleges whose student bodies experienced phenomenal growth until the late 1990’s.

Tens of thousands of young men enrolled in Bible colleges and became pastors across America and missionaries around the world.  That generation inspired the School Bus Ministry movement in the 1960’s and began the Christian School movement in the 1970’s continuing through the 1990’s.  The birth of the Home School movement in the 1990’s revived the prospect of a generation of youth who might surrender their lives to the LORD and dedicate themselves to serve as pastors, teachers, and missionaries.

The 21st century; however, has proved disastrous for conservative, Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches and institutions.

Failing churches, Christian schools, Bible colleges and seminaries dot the American landscape.  Spiritual apathy has taken hold on our homes, churches, and schools.  Aging congregations, falling church attendance, and a precipitous decline in young men going into ministry now threaten the future of conservative Biblical Christianity.

While there are many explanations for the spiritual erosion we are witnessing in our Bible-believing churches and institutions, I will limit myself to a few.  The first, cultural wars within and without our homes. Some will argue the church has failed to adapt to cultural changes.  Others will argue, in an attempt to be relevant, the church lost its identity and has become irrelevant.  The disparity between what the Bible teaches and what our homes, churches, and institutions practice is another reason for the diminishing of our churches. We are hearers of the Word, but are we doers?  Christian educators fault the churches for pervasive spiritual apathy in the students, while pastors accuse those same institutions of accommodating carnality at the sacrifice of spiritual zeal.

Believing everything rises and falls on leadership, I conclude the responsibility for the spiritual failings of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and universities, and seminaries rests with the spiritual leaders of this, my generation. 

My peers have served as the spiritual leaders of our institutions for more than two decades.  Unlike any generation before, my generation has faced and grappled with an unprecedented intrusion of technology.  While the pastors of my youth sounded the alarm regarding the secular influences of radio, television, movies, and rock music; the ministers of my generation pastor congregations that, with a few clicks of a mouse, surf the internet and introduce to their families every imaginable influence… doctrinally, culturally, and socially.

Cable television, internet, social media, and cell phones are seducing the hearts of our children and empowering the parasitic nature of secularism and progressive theology.  While Christian parents prove either ambivalent or ill-prepared for the seduction of “worldliness”, their spiritual leaders are encountering a radical cultural shift and failing to address the intrusion of sin in their own homes and ministries.

Facing a spirit of rebellion in their homes, churches, and Christian schools, the spiritual leaders of my generation, in an attempt to parley peace with their own youth, have accommodated their sins. The consequence is an extra-biblical liberty that embraces the sins of the world, its pleasures, and inevitable consequences (1 John 2:15-17).

Warning: Spiritual leaders who accommodate the sins of their children will invariably compromise the core values of the ministries entrusted to their care.

To understand why Bible-believing churches, Christian schools, colleges, and seminaries are forsaking spiritual disciplines, one need only to look to the pulpits and the leaders who occupy them. My generation has failed to call the church to sanctification and holiness because we have succumbed to a paralysis induced by our own spiritual failings.

Almost without exception, the failure of churches and the compromise and eventual closure of Christian institutions in my sphere have one thing in common… leaders who sacrificed their spiritual integrity to accommodate the sins of their children.

Consider Paul’s admonition to Titus.  Having declared the virtues and spiritual qualifications of the leaders of the church (Titus 1:6-9), including “blameless”, the principal, indispensable qualification of the pastor that includes his role as the “husband of one wife” and “having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6), Paul warns:

“For there are many unruly [disobedient; rebellious] and vain talkers [empty, useless talk] and deceivers [impostors; seducers]…whose mouths must be stopped [silenced; bridled], who subvert [overturn; destroy] whole houses [families], teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake [dishonest gain]…Wherefore rebuke [reprove; convict] them sharply [cut off; severely].” (Titus 1:10, 11, 13)

Principle – Leaders deficient in the spiritual qualifications of their office will invariably lack the spiritual power and authority “to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” [opposed to Truth and sound doctrine](Titus 1:9)

I close this introductory article on spiritual leaders and their failings, urging you to take away three lessons from the failed example of my generation:  

1) Technology will seduce the hearts of your children and empower the parasitic nature of secularism and progressive theology; 2) Accommodate the sins of your children and you will invariably sacrifice your core values;   3) Compromise your convictions and you will lack the spiritual power and authority to exhort and rebuke those who oppose sound Biblical truths.

1 John 2:15-17– 15  Love not the world, neither the things that arein the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him
16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 
17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

* For future posts by the author, you are invited to subscribe to http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Who is Responsible? The One with the Axe over His Neck! (Numbers 29-30)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 29-30, Psalm 54, and Luke 10. Our devotional is from Numbers 29-30.

As a reminder, the geographical setting of the closing chapters in Numbers is on the east side of the Jordan River at the threshold of the Promise Land.  Israel is encamped once again where the previous generation had turned back forty years before.  Knowing his days with Israel are numbered (Numbers 27:13), Moses set his heart on the task of preparing his successor, Joshua, to lead the nation (27:16-17, 23).

Making vows and being bound by them is the subject of Numbers 30.   Vows and covenants are not to be treated lightly and once they are made, without the intervention of a superior authority, they are binding with few exceptions.

One exception is a girl or young woman living under her father’s roof.  In explanation: A father who discerns a daughter’s vow to the LORD has the right and authority to cancel the vow.  Should the father be silent, his daughter’s vow stands (30:3-6).

Another exception is the vow of a married woman.  Should a wife make a vow to the LORD, her husband is empowered to cancel the vow and accept responsibility for his decision, while his wife’s obligation to the vow is absolved (30:6-8).

Widowed or divorced women were bound by their vows to the LORD and could not cancel them (30:9).  Reminding us the husband is the head of the wife and home, the husband had authority to cancel the vow of his wife or allow it to stand (30:10-16).

Friend, it is the bent of our nature to focus on the authority aspect of this subject and fail to see the protection and accountability a father and husband bears in the sight of God.  In God’s plan, a father and husband bears not only the authority as head of his household; he is also directly accountable to God for acting as the shield, the watchman, and counselor of his family.

In other words, fathers and husbands are accountable for the vows and decisions of their households and the axe of God’s judgment will fall upon their necks.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy When Children Are Left to Themselves (Psalm 36)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 9-10, Psalm 36, and Mark 8. Our Bible devotional is from Psalm 36.

A rising tide of lawlessness, violence and moral depravity is afflicting our society.  Fatherless homes, perpetual generations of welfare mothers and grandmothers, and children left to their own wicked devices (Proverbs 29:15) has become a scourge for our nation.

The writer of Hebrews employs the term “bastard” to describe those who profess to be believers, but whose lives continue in a pattern of sin contrary to the Word of God, showing no evidence of the chastening hand of God.  Drawing a parallel with a loving father who chastens his children to bend their will to a path of obedience and righteous living (Hebrews 12:7), the author of Hebrews states: “if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons”(Hebrews 12:8).

In other words, in the same manner a loving father bears the responsibility of teaching and chastening his children, a professing believer who continues in sin without chastening is a “bastard” and not a spiritual child of God.

Consider David’s description of the wicked in his day and how it parallels the youth of our day.  David writes,

Psalm 36:1 – “The transgression [sin; trespass; rebellion] of the wicked [immoral; lawbreakers] saith [declares] within my [his] heart, that there is no fear [dread] of God before his eyes [sight; note Romans 3:18 ].”

The sins of the wicked prove they have no fear of God.  Like the fool of Psalm 14:1, they say in their ways, “There is no God(Psalm 14:1).  Their ways are “corrupt” and their works an abomination before a holy God.

Psalm 36:2  – “For he [the wicked] flattereth [favors] himself in his own eyes [opinion; sight; note Romans 3:18], until his iniquity [sin; punishment; guilt] be found [i.e. found out] to be hateful [detest; despised].”

The wicked convince themselves their sin is not bad.

If ever there has been a generation that has an inflated sense of self-worth it is this generation.  People are full of themselves and social media has afforded them a platform to boast over sins an earlier generation would have blushed.  Rather than discipline, the parents of this generation fawn over their youth and fail to address the flaws in their character.  

They are blind to the truth that every sin bears consequences.  In the words of one of my heroes of the faith, “Every dissipation of youth must be paid for with a draft on old age” (Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.).

Psalm 36:3 – “The words of his mouth are iniquity [sin; wickedness] and deceit [fraud; treachery]: he hath left off [failed; lacked] to be wise [act wisely], and to do good [well; be pleasing].”

The wicked place no value on civility, nor speak with discretion. They have no interest in godly wisdom or righteousness.

Psalm 36:4  – “He [wicked] deviseth [imagine; fabricate; plot] mischief [sin; wickedness] upon his bed; he setteth [stand; presents; places] himself in a way [road; path; course of life] that is not good [best; right]; he abhorreth [spurns; despises] not evil [sin; wickedness].”

Finally, we note the wicked are slaves and sin is their master. Their waking thoughts plot all manner of evil. They purpose to do evil because it is their nature.

Believer, don’t allow the ways of darkness and the amusements of the wicked beguile you.  Turn to the LORD and remember,

Psalm 36:9 – 9 For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

Have a blessed day!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Saying, “I’m Sorry”, is Not Enough! (Exodus 21-22)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 21-22, Psalm 26, and Matthew 26. Our devotional is from Exodus 21-22.

Moving beyond the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) that are the foundation of God’s Law, we find specific applications of God’s judgment and the bases of democratic law and order in Exodus 21:1-23:19.

In matters of servitude, Exodus 21:1-11 states God’s Laws for masters, slaves, and indentured servants.  Regarding the sanctity of human life, Exodus 21:12-17 draws a distinction between murder (21:14-16), a violation of the sixth commandment (20:13), and manslaughter (taking a human life without intent).

Violating the commandment to honor one’s parents (the fifth commandment, 20:12) was such a grave offense that to curse a parent was a capital crime mandating death of a son or daughter (21:17).

In case of accidental injury, the law mandates proper compensation and punishment (Exodus 21:18-32).  Should a beast cause injury or death and the owner be proved negligent, the beast and its owner could be put to death.

The agricultural nature of ancient societies meant one’s livestock were an essential part of a man’s livelihood and the well-being of his family (21:33-36). The negligent injury or theft of oxen or sheep was a serious crime requiring compensation (22:1-4) as was damage to a man’s crops (22:5-6).  Personal responsibility and liability were important issues among God’s people and He demanded fair compensation (22:7-15).

The closing verses of Exodus 22 address other moral and societal issues including rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).

In the matter of borrowing, the law condemned “usury” (charging excessive interest) because it imposed an unnecessary hardship on the poor (22:25-27).

I close stating an important principle in the matter of personal integrity;  Saying, “I’m Sorry”, is not enough when someone has suffered loss or personal injury (22:14-15).

An illustration: A farmer borrows another man’s ox and the beast is injured or dies.  Under such circumstance the borrower is debtor to the lender and under obligation to “make it good” (22:14); in other words, repay or replace.

In summary: God’s law requires honesty and integrity. Borrow or rent another’s property or goods, you are under obligation to make whole any damages or loss suffered by the lender.

In other words,“I’m sorry” is not enough!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Innocence Lost (Genesis 34)

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 33-34, Psalm 13, and Matthew 13.  Our devotional is from Genesis 34.

One wonders if Shakespeare, the great English playwright, did not take his inspiration for “Romeo and Juliet” from today’s love tragedy found in Genesis 34.

The desire for popularity and acceptance is universal among youth.  No matter the culture, the teen years breed a mix of excitement and danger.  Independence, new life experiences, physical growth, raging hormones…and temptations before one’s values are grounded shadow the teen years.

Genesis 34 is a story of opposites attracting and the all-too-often tragic ending.  It is the stuff of love novels…lust, sex, bitterness, revenge, and murder.

Now Jacob was the father of eleven sons (the twelfth son, Benjamin, not yet born) and at least one daughter named Dinah, the central figure in Genesis 34.  The sons of Jacob were chronologically in their late teens to early 20’s in this chapter.

Perpetual strife and jealousies filled Jacob’s home brought on by his having sons of four different wives and concubines.  Growing up in the midst was Dinah, Jacob’s daughter born to Leah, his less favored wife (Gen. 30:21; 34:1).  Dinah’s wandering ways and her involvement with Shechem, a Canaanite prince, introduced into Jacob’s home the first great sorrow upon his return to Canaan.

A wealthy and powerful man (Genesis 33), Jacob made the fateful decision to live in the land among the heathen, a choice that had far-reaching consequences for his household.  Dinah, perhaps no more than 13-15 years old, decided to “spread her wings” and “went out [from her father’s household] to see the daughters of the land” (Genesis 34:1).  Young, beautiful, innocent and naive, Dinah was taken by “Shechem the son of Hamor” and “defiled” (34:2).

Hearing the news, Jacob waited until his sons came from the fields to tell them how Dinah had fallen prey to Shechem’s lust (34:5-7).  Pretending to save face and make peace, the decision was made for Dinah to become Shechem’s wife and the sons and daughters of Jacob’s and Hamor’s households to become one on the condition that Hamor’s men accepted circumcision (34:8-16).

Hamor accepted the stipulation and convinced the men of his household to accept the rite of circumcision, reasoning they would inevitably be enriched by Jacob’s possessions (34:20-23).

The circumcision of Harmor’s household was a ruse by Jacob’s sons who were bent on revenge (34:25-29).  Knowing the men would be incapacitated, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s full brothers, attacked Hamor’s household, killing the men (34:25-26).  Their brothers, Jacob’s other sons, joined them claiming the wives and possessions of the city for spoil.

Genesis 34 ends with Jacob rebuking Simeon and Levi (34:30).  The brothers; however, defended their lies, murder, and pillaging for spoils as honorable acts in light of their sister’s shame (34:31).  On his death-bed, Jacob would remember their sins against them (Genesis 49:5-7).

Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

God is My Shield! (Genesis 15-16)

* Today’s Bible Reading is Genesis 15-16, Psalm 8, and Matthew 6.

God had assured Abram he would have an heir (Genesis 12:1-3), a son born to him and his wife Sarah (15:2-4) and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5).   Though he oft faltered in his faith, we read, “[Abram] believed the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (15:6).

God revealed Abram’s heirs would be “strangers”, foreigners, in another country for 400 years (15:13) and would return to Canaan with great possessions (fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude, Exodus 12-14).  Genesis 15 closes with God marking the boundaries of the land He would give Abraham and his lineage (15:18-21).

Genesis 16 introduces a crisis of faith for Abram when we read, “Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children”(16:1).  Eight-five years old (16:16) and his wife seventy-five, Abram’s faith waned. Sarai’s never-ending complaints (the word “voice” in Genesis 16:2 indicates they were constant), like the bleating of sheep) and her barrenness moved the man to make a faithless decision. Abram turned his back on God’s promises and yielded to Sarah’s proposal he have a son by her Egyptian servant Hagar (16:1-3).

Instead of joy, the news Hagar was with child by Abram, brought division and sorrow into the home (16:4-10). Rather than validate Saria’s failure to bear a son was Abram’s fault, Hagar conceived a son by Abram and looked upon Sarai’s barrenness with disdain. Sarai reproved Abram (Genesis 16:5) and then drove Hagar from the home (Genesis 16:6-7).

Ishmael, son of Abram born to Hagar, would become father to a great people (Genesis 16:8-11).  His character is described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”];his hand will be against every man [i.e. a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren”(Genesis 16:12).  The fulfillment of that prophecy is evident in today’s world as we see the perpetual turmoil afflicted on Israel and the world by Ishmael’s lineage.

I close today’s devotion with an observation:  God assured Abram he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield”, his protector and defender (15:1).  Abram not only had God’s promises, but His assurance He was with him!

My friend, God is no less to us.

Psalm 56:3– “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD Hears the Cry of a Broken Heart (Psalm 3)

You will notice in your Bible an editor’s note identifying Psalm 3 as a psalm of David composed when his son Absalom rose up against him forcing the king to flee his throne and the capital city of Jerusalem.  Recorded in 2 Samuel 15, this event is the culmination of years of rebellion on the part of Absalom against his father.  Absalom conspired against his father and stole the affection of the people by implying his father the king cared little for them (2 Samuel 15:3-6).  Psalm 3:1-4 records David’s cry to the LORD.

David, once the champion of Israel, finds himself surrounded by enemies who had once shouted his praises. The loneliness of the king and his desperate cry to God rouses the heart of any who have been in leadership and felt the blow of betrayal and the burden of humiliation.  The king’s flight emboldened his enemies to deride, “not even God will deliver him!” (Psalm 3:2)

Betrayed by his son and rejected by his people, David took solace in the character and promises of God (Psalm 3:3).   He remembered the LORD was his “shield”, Defender, and Sovereign.  Though driven from the throne by his enemies, the king was confident God would exact vengeance and justice would prevail.  Humiliated and discouraged, but not defeated; David was confident God saw his plight and heard his cry (Psalm 3:4).

My friend, I am afraid the delusional, wicked spirit of David’s son, Absalom is characteristic of our generation.  As Absalom was devoid of a son’s natural affection and respect for his father (Romans 1:30-31), this generation mirrors the same disregard of its elders in its lusts for rights and privileges it has neither earned nor deserves.  Like Absalom, too many of this day are a grief to their parents.

No doubt there are parents reading this devotional who, in their own circumstance, identify with David’s sorrow.  To face an enemy is sorrow enough, but when that enemy is your own son or daughter, mere words fail to express the grief and anguish of a parent’s broken heart.

I close with a word of encouragement—God hears and answers the cry of His people in the night.  The LORD is for you, Who he was for David, your Shield and Defender.

Psalm 3:8 – 8  Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith