Category Archives: Christian Schools

“Moral Indignation: What Stirs You to Anger?” (Genesis 34)


The following briefly highlights a message I preached at Hillsdale on Sunday, April 23, 2023. I am attaching a link to Hillsdale’s Sermon Audio page, which records the entire sermon. I also hope to provide a video of the message within the next day.

The message’s title is “Moral Indignation: What Stirs You to Anger?” 

The topic was “A Tragic Story of Ambivalence, Moral Outrage, and Revenge.” The text for the sermon was Genesis 33-35:1. This sermon is taken from a chronological study of the Bible and is part of a two-year series I have titled “Logos: A Journey of Faith, Hope, and Love.”

I’m sharing here a brief summary for you to have an introduction and provide a student outline.

01 – Moral Indignation- What Stirs You to Anger – Sunday, April 23, 2023 student half

I observed in Jacob’s life a pattern of sin and spiritual impotence that is characteristic of many fathers, pastors, and institutional leaders of our day. Like Jacob, men who are supposed to be spiritual leaders have abdicated their spiritual authority and leadership.

Pastors, teachers, college boards, and college and university presidents have endangered their ministries by resigning their authority to youth and catering to their whims. They have deferred leadership to immature, inexperienced, foolish, idealistic men and women whose ideas and opinions are unproved and untested by time.

Spiritual leaders have compromised their moral authority and preferred peace over honor and obedience to God’s Word. The tragedy of their compromise has invited God’s chastening, and we are observing the bitter fruit of their unfaithfulness. All is lost if our institutions do not return to the unapologetic, bold declaration of God’s Word.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Bob Jones University: A Reflection from the “Back Pew” and Lessons Learned from the Front Pew

From the author:

This article is a brief departure from my daily devotional commentaries; however, it is a necessary one to sound a warning knell to some of my readers. I am not publishing this piece to stir up controversy or heap sorrow upon sorrow. Yet, I dare not be silent when my beloved alma mater has come to what may be the final crossroads that I have long warned was inevitable.

Recent and shameful events at Bob Jones University (BJU), my alma mater, have brought to mind an article I penned in June 2015 on the eve of the closure of Clearwater Christian College (CCC). Therefore, I am republishing a brief revision of that article, not to heap sorrow upon the alumni of CCC but to serve as a reminder to Bob Jones University and other fundamental Bible colleges:  

Forget your fundamental legacy, and reject your base, and you guarantee your demise.

(The following was penned in June 2015 and has been edited for this post.)

Although I am not an alumnus of Clearwater Christian College (CCC), my heart was heavy on June 6, 2015, after it was announced that the college would close its doors at the end of that month. CCC’s closing followed in the wake of several former conservative fundamental Christian institutions [Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, Tennessee Temple University – to name a few examples].  I have a distant knowledge of the changes in administration and philosophy that drove those institutions to extinction; however, as a pastor in Tampa Bay for 38 years, I had the sorrow of watching the demise of Clearwater Christian College from the proverbial “front pew.”

CCC was a small, nondenominational liberal arts Bible College founded by Dr. Arthur Steele (1920-2011), who was a successful businessman, an officer in the Corps of Engineers in World War II, a seminary graduate, professor, and college president before he had a vision for a fundamental Bible college on the West Coast of Florida. In his mid-70s, Dr. Steele set his heart on finding a man who would assume the helm of his small college of 200 students and steer her into a new era while maintaining the college’s unique nondenominational, biblically fundamental stripe.

Dr. Steele found his successor in Washington, DC [Dr. George Youstra and his wife Pat were part of the Reagan administration from 1981-1987].  Dr. Youstra (a graduate of Bob Jones University and former faculty and administrator at BJU) resigned as the special assistant to the secretary of education on January 2, 1987, and assumed the presidency of CCC. Under Dr. Youstra’s leadership, the college enjoyed 15 years of consecutive growth. At its peak, the student body numbered nearly 700, necessitating renovations to existing buildings and the construction of new dorms and classrooms.

Like his predecessor, Dr. Youstra exhibited a kind, gracious, self-sacrificing spirit reflected in the administration, faculty, and student body. Under his leadership, CCC became a prominent educational Christian institution and earned respect and admiration of fundamental pastors, churches, and families [the church I pastor had as many as 17 students enrolled at one point during Dr. Youstra’s tenure. In addition, Hillsdale enjoyed the ministries of several faculty and students over the years].

CCC reflected a fundamental biblical worldview in its philosophy and practice.  Serving as a board member for a few years, I witnessed firsthand Dr. Youstra’s leadership and his ready response to the pastors’ concerns. In the summer of 2002, he transitioned to president emeritus and was a part-time professor of graduate studies while his wife Pat continued as a professor until her retirement.

Lessons learned: “From the front pew,” it became my sorrow to observe CCC’s decline.

As CCC strayed from its legacy as a fundamental Bible institution, it did so at the sacrifice of the support and following of pastors and churches. Many would cite factors that contributed to the doors of the college closing. Some will mention economics, a dwindling number of conservative churches, low student enrollment, and competition from other Bible colleges. Although all of the above undoubtedly contributed to CCC’s demise, I suggest the death knell of the institution was its leadership steering the college from its founder’s purpose, philosophy, and vision.

Rather than an institution dedicated to educating, challenging, and equipping young people to be “soldiers of Christ,” CCC evolved to a pragmatic philosophy of accommodation. Void of institutional integrity, the college leadership strayed from its founding principles, lowered its standards, and adopted and adapted CCM music in its chapels and athletic events.

I continue to sorrow eight years later because the beautiful campus by the Bay is no longer there.

A Current Application to Bob Jones University

I have observed “from the back pew,” a repetition of the same failures at Bob Jones University that initiated the demise of CCC and other Bible fundamental colleges. Unfortunately, led by the current president of the university and his administrators, the same compromised ideologies (and many of the same personalities) that drove those institutions to their demise are perpetuating the same at BJU. They have rejected the university’s fundamental Bible legacy and voided the disciplines that shaped and instilled Christian character in generations of graduates.

A Message from the “Back Pew”

I speak for scores of conservative, Bible-fundamental pastors and thousands of graduates who long to see BJU survive and thrive. We long to see the fire of an unapologetic passion for Truth thundering from the pulpit rather than the catering to carnality that has characterized the past two decades. We long to see BJU’s board demonstrate integrity, confess that the school has strayed from its separatist legacy, and return the university to its founding principles. But, finally, we cannot support the school if its leadership continues to reject and is ashamed of BJU’s unapologetic, Bible-fundamental heritage as a separatist institution. Warning:

Forget your fundamental legacy, and reject your base, and you guarantee your demise.

With the heavy heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
Alumnus of Bob Jones University

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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 for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Spiritual Principles for Employees and Employers in an Entitlement Age (1 Timothy 6)

Click on this link for translations of this devotion,

Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 6

Our brief study of Paul’s 1st Epistle to Timothy concludes with today’s Scripture reading. Readers will notice Paul continues a broad sweep of issues that have confronted believers since the 1st century. Arguably, times have changed, but the prevailing sins and spiritual challenges of mankind are the same. Today’s devotional will consider 1 Timothy 6:1-6.

The Culture of the 1st Century Church (6:1-2)

Paul’s letter was addressed to a culture where slaves and masters were members of the church. In fact, the membership of the 1st century church had some slaves who found themselves serving “believing masters” (6:2). Paul did not tackle the moral or ethical nature of slavery, as slavery was a common way of life in the first century. Nor did he urge Timothy to lead an uprising against slavery. Instead, the apostle addressed the dynamics of believing slaves and their masters (whether unbelieving or believing).

Author’s note – Before I consider an exposition of 1 Timothy 6:1-2, I hope you might give me liberty for a personal observation.

Mirroring the attitude of the 21st century world, I have observed the growing presence and influence of a rebellious spirit of entitlement even among believers. Sadly, our families, churches, and Christian institutions have embraced entitlement as a right, of which few are willing to challenge. Entitlement arises from a self-focused heart, in essence, from those who would espouse employees’ rights and privileges above all else. I believe the pendulum has swung so far in favor of employees, that they now abuse their employers thus driving corporations to the edge of fiscal insanity, if not bankruptcy.

What is the Believer’s Duty to An Unbelieving Employer? (6:1)

Paul challenged Timothy to teach slaves and servants to be characterized by the same attitude of which he wrote, namely – Respect. Whether a slave served a master who was an unbeliever or a believer, the requirement was the same: Servants were to treat their masters with honor and respect, knowing their actions and attitudes reflected on their faith and profession in Christ. Paul wrote, “1Let as many servants as are under the yoke [the yoke of bondage or slavery] count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed” (6:1).

In his epistle to believers in Ephesus, Paul challenged servants and slaves to obey their masters, and fear and honor them out of a sincere heart, “as unto Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). Peter commanded, “18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward” (1 Peter 2:18). The heart attitude of a believer is to serve, honor, and obey an employer to the end they will give them no cause to have an ill opinion of God and the Scriptures (6:1).

What is the Believer’s Duty to a Believing Employer? (6:2)

Today, many believers bring a spirit of entitlement when they are employed by believers or a ministry. Some believers become so offensive in their expectations, they become a sorrow to fellow believers that employ them.

There were some in the congregation Timothy pastored who were masters (6:2). Surely, salvation so transformed the lives of some that they evidenced love and Biblical virtues toward their slaves (2 Corinthians 5:17). Perhaps, some believing masters even divested themselves of slavery entirely.

Nevertheless, slavery was a component within the culture of the 1st century church. Therefore, Paul commanded Timothy teach and exhort believers regarding the relationship of the servants and their masters (6:2). What was Timothy to “teach and exhort” servants? (6:2) Paul wrote: “they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit” (6:2).

While the servants and some masters were believers, the believing servants were to remember their place and role, and treat their masters with respect (“not despise them,” 6:2b). A believing servant was to “do them service,” meaning serve them with a right heart attitude and spirit (6:c). Because the master was a believer, the believing slave was to value the privilege of serving a fellow believer, knowing both were “partakers of the benefit,” meaning the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ (6:2d).

Closing thoughts (6:3-6) – I close today’s devotion, exhorting you to not entertain any other spirit or attitude that arises and hinders your testimony in the world. There are believers who justify a belligerent, divisive spirit toward their employers. If believers were to exercise an honest self-examination, some would find a spirit of entitlement contrary to the Spirit of God, and the teachings of the Scripture.

If believing slaves were commanded to honor and obey their masters, surely no less can be expected of us.

* 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 for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Warning Knell: Pseudo-Fundamentalists Are Systematically Destroying the Legacy of Biblical Fundamentalism

Heart of A Shepherd followers,

The following is an article I first published on January 11, 2022. I generally limit posts to daily devotionals on my website. There are, however, some things I come across in my readings that give me pause to think and share. So, in light of recent discussions at my alma mater, I am writing this timely article. 

Bob Jones University Fashion Show – December 2021

I am currently reading a book authored by a man I do not know and, judging from his references, would probably not follow. Nevertheless, Owen Strachan’s recently published book, Christianity and Wokeness, has awakened in me a sensitivity to a frightening reality:

We are witnessing a systematic dismantling of our American culture and the broad spectrum of churches in the United States, including an erosion of what has been known for more than a century as historic Bible fundamentalism.

Owen Strachan makes the following observation in his book:

“Though fundamentalists and some conservative evangelicals earned a reputation as pugnacious, with the image of the ‘Fightin’ Fundamentalist’ enduring in our time, in actual historical fact, the fundamentalists didn’t fight nearly enough. They lost, and lost, and lost some more. They lost their churches, they lost their seminaries, they lost their missions agencies, they lost their parachurch organizations, and they kept on losing until there was very nearly nothing else left to lose.”1

If my Bible-fundamentalist peers are honest, we have observed the consequences of compromise for the past two decades when leadership fails to maintain a separatist position in both personal and ecclesiastical fellowship.

Bob Jones University Fashion Design hosted by Fashion Design Seniors, December 2021

Failing to maintain a distinct doctrine of separation has led to a precipitous loss of fundamental churches, schools (Tennessee Temple University, Pillsbury Baptist College, Northland Baptist College, Clearwater Christian College), seminaries (Calvary Seminary), and missions agencies.

Unless board members of fundamental churches, schools, universities, mission board agencies, and parachurch organizations (camps) repent for their compromises and purge the leadership leading their institutions, the losses will continue until we have “nearly nothing else left to lose.”2

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

1 Owen Strachan, Christianity and Wokeness (Washington, D.C.: Salem Books, 2021), 55.
2 Ibid.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
Live broadcast @

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

What If There was No Resurrection? (1 Corinthians 15-16)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 15-16

The central doctrine of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Corinthians 15). Paul’s exposition of the Gospel, which is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (15:1-4), makes 1 Corinthians 15 one of the greatest and most pivotal chapters in the New Testament.

Consider the heart of the Gospel (15:3-4)

1) “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (15:3; Isaiah 53:5-7).

2) “He was buried” (15:4a), thus leaving us no doubt Jesus was dead, and his body was lifeless when it was removed from the cross.

3) “He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (15:4b; Psalm 16:10; Matthew 12:40).

Eyewitnesses validated Christ’s resurrection from the dead (15:5-9).

Numbered among the eyewitnesses was “Cephas” (the apostle Peter), and “the twelve” disciples, less the traitor Judas (15:5). Jesus was also “seen of above five hundred brethren at once,” and as Paul penned the letter the majority of those witnesses were still alive (15:6). One named James was a witness of Jesus’ resurrection, and most scholars believe he was the half-brother of Jesus (15:7a), who was the head of the church in Jerusalem (15:13-21). Other witnesses were men identified as apostles (15:7b). The number of apostles is not given; however, there were seventy whom Jesus had sent out in Luke 10:1, 17.

Paul, who had been temporarily blinded by the LORD’s heavenly glory on the road to Damascus, numbered himself among the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 9:1; 2 Corinthians 12:1), writing, “last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (15:8).

The fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not only the central doctrine of Christianity, it is also the motivation for boldly, and unapologetically declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ (15:10-19).

Preaching a Savior who was sacrificed on the Cross, but did not rise from the dead, would be a hollow, lifeless, hopeless message. There is no Gospel, no good news, no hope of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life if Christ is not raised from the dead. I close with Paul’s assurance.

1 Corinthians 15:20–2220 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits [the first of many who will be raised from the dead] of them that slept [who died in faith, believing]. 21 For since by man [Adam, the first man] came death, by man [Jesus Christ, the Second Adam] came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

We are the sons and daughters of Adam, and were born with a sinful nature, and under the curse and penalty of sin (15:22a; Romans 6:23a). When we confess our sin, and believe Christ paid the penalty of our sin by His substitutionary death on the cross, we are promised we “shall all be made alive” (15:22b). To be “made alive,” is to be revived in our spirit (i.e. our inner man), and promised one day our bodies will be raised from the dead to life.

How can this be?

Romans 5:19 19 For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus Christ] shall many be made righteous. [Christ’s righteousness imparted to us by faith]

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

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, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Josiah: The Boy King with A Heart for God (2 Chronicles 34)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 34

As noticed in earlier devotionals, the books titled Chronicles in our Bibles are believed to have been written after the Babylonian captivity. They serve as a parallel historical account of the providences of God and primarily His dealings with Israel as a nation, and then as a divided kingdom (consisting of Israel, reduced to ten tribes in the north, and Judah, the southern kingdom that was made up of two tribes, Judah and the tribe of Benjamin).

Today’s Scripture reading, will consider 2 Chronicles 34, and is a parallel record of our previous study in 2 Kings 23.

2 Chronicles 34

I will not belabor the content from our devotional in 2 Kings 23, but I am reminded of God’s grace when I consider the life and reign of Josiah (34:1). Who was Josiah? He was the son of the wicked king Amon, who was slain by his servants, after reigning as king for two years (33:21-25). When he was 8 years old, Josiah succeeded his father to the throne, and reigned 31 years in Jerusalem (34:1).

A Teenage King, with a Passion for God (34:2-3)

Rather than follow the sinful footsteps of his father, Josiah determined to do “that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (34:2).  We read, “in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father” (34:3). The young king was 16 years old, and while we are not told what or whom encouraged him to “seek after God” (34:3), I believe it may have been the influence of the prophet Jeremiah.

Comparing Scripture with Scripture, we know Jeremiah’s public ministry began “in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign” (Jeremiah 1:2). The spiritual reformation led by Josiah, when he was just 20 years old, began one year before Jeremiah received “the word of the LORD” (34:3; Jeremiah 1:2),

Josiah’s Zeal for the LORD (34:4-13)

I have detailed the steps of revival that were taken by the king, and how he did not compromise his passion to rid Judah of the vestiges of its idolatry and wickedness. For Josiah, it was not enough to remove the idols and the places of idol worship (34:3b-7); the king went so far as to even burn the bones of the false priests that had led the people astray (34:5). The balance of our text reviewed the renovations the king directed regarding the Temple (3:8) and the wages that were due the laborers (34:9-13).

Renovation, Repentance, and Revival (34:14-32)

The discovery of the “book of the law” stirred both conviction and repentance in the heart of the king (34:14-19). Knowing the judgment of God was imminent (34:20-26), Josiah was promised his dedication to the LORD would spare him from witnessing the utter destruction that would befall Jerusalem (34:27-28); yet, the king’s spirit was not at ease.

Knowing the terror of God’s judgment, Josiah summoned the leaders and people to the Temple. There he “read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the Lord” (34:30). The king called upon the people to renew their “covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book” (34:31).

To the day of his death, Josiah dedicated himself to encourage the nation to keep covenant with the LORD, “to serve, even to serve the Lord their God” (34:32a). Gratefully, we read of Josiah’s efforts that, “all his days they departed not from following the Lord, the God of their fathers” (34:32).

Closing thoughts – What have we learned? Though young, a son or daughter with a tender heart, is able to make spiritual decisions that chart the course of their lives; after all Josiah was a teenager when “he began to seek after the God of David” (34:3). We have also observed the difference one believer can make when, like Josiah, he or she makes “a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written” in His Book (34:31).

Have you made a decision to trust Christ as Savior, and to seek Him? Have you set your heart to obey His Word? If not, will you make that decision today? I invite you to share your decision with me, by writing to:

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Does Character Matter? (2 Chronicles 32; 2 Chronicles 33)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 32; 2 Chronicles 33

We have considered the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah in several earlier passages (2 Kings 18:17-36; 19:35-37; 20:1-21; Isaiah 16:1-22; 17:21-38; 38:1-8; 39:1-8). Today’s Scripture reading is a condensed version of the life and times of Hezekiah, his son Manasseh, and grandson Amon.

2 Chronicles 32 – An Enemy at the Gate

Assyria’s defeat of Israel had opened the way for Sennacherib, king of Assyria, to invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem (32:1). Consulting with his leaders, Hezekiah, king of Judah, determined to re-enforce the city walls, and by stopping the streams, and pooling the water in the city, he deprived Assyria’s army of water (32:2-5).

Demonstrating his faith in the LORD, Hezekiah challenged the people: “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more [lit. greater] with us than with him: 8 With him [Sennacherib] is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8).

Addressing letters to be read by the citizens of Jerusalem, Sennacherib spoke against Hezekiah and questioned the people’s confidence in the king. The king of Assyria then spoke against the God of Israel, asserting Judah’s God was no greater than the gods of other nations whom he had defeated (32:9-14). Sennacherib warned, saying. Hezekiah had deceived the people, and led them to believe their God was greater than the gods of Assyria (32:15-20).

How did Hezekiah respond to the attacks on his character, and the offense Sennacherib had raised against God?

Hezekiah determined he would not focus on the threats of his enemy, nor his own army. Instead, “the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven” (Isaiah 37:14-17). The LORD heard the king’s prayer, and sent “an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (32:21-22).

Failing to render to the LORD the glory He was due for Judah’s victory over Assyria, (32:25), Hezekiah became ill, “sick to the death” (32:24; 2 Kings 20:1a). Yet, the LORD in His grace heard Hezekiah’s prayer, and because the king “humbled himself,” his health was restored and he lived another 15 years (32:26; 2 Kings 20:6).

2 Chronicles 33 – God is sovereign and the most powerful monarch bows to His will.

Judah had experienced revival during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:1-9; 31), and when he died, his twelve-year-old son Manasseh ascended the throne. He reigned as king fifty-five years (33:1), but unlike his father, he “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (33:2).

The Wickedness of Manasseh (33:3-10)

Stooping to unbounded and seeming unending depths of depravity, the young king rebuilt the groves of prostitution, desecrated the Temple, and sacrificed his own children to idols (33:6). He “made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel” (33:9). What a horrific commentary of decadence and depravity for a king who should have followed in the righteous path of his father!

In spite of his evil ways, “the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken” (33:10).  What a testimony of God’s longsuffering towards His people!

The Humiliation of Manasseh (33:11-13)

The LORD, because He is just, sovereignly moved on the heart of “the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh “and bound him with fetters [chains], and brought him to Babylon” (33:11). In the throes of his suffering and humiliation, Manasseh “besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God” (33:12-13).

The Restoration and Death of Manasseh (33:14-20)

After repenting of his sins, the LORD restored Manasseh to the throne in Jerusalem. Then the king began a crusade and fortified the walls of the city (33:14), and removed the traces of his own wickedness (33:15). He tore down places of idol worship, repaired the Temple altar, and commanded “Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (33:14-16).

Though he led people of Judah to turn from their sins and return to the LORD; Manasseh could not reverse the effect of his sins on his son Amon. When Amon became king, he did “evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father…And humbled not himself before the LORD” (33:21-23). Tragically, Amnon’s servants, conspired against him, and slew him in his own house” (33:24-25; 2 Kings 21:24).

Closing thoughts – In contradiction to the assertion that the character of a leader doesn’t matter; I suggest the evidence is overwhelming: A leader’s character does matter!

A leader’s character can leave an indelible print on families, institutions, and nations. Leaders may call a nation to repent and turn to the LORD, or on the contrary, spawn a movement of prejudice and hatred, leaving in their wake the destruction of families, institutions, and nations.

King Solomon observed, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

Wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin. 

Copyright 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Set Thine House in Order; For Thou Shalt Die” (2 Kings 20; 2 Kings 21)

Scripture Reading –2 Kings 20; 2 Kings 21

Having concluded our study of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, I am reminded he had prophesied during the reigns of four kings of Judah, with Hezekiah being the fourth (Isaiah 1:1). By the date of today’s text, Israel, represented by the northern ten tribes, had fallen to the Assyrians. Samaria, the capital city of Israel, had been destroyed, and the citizens of Israel taken captive. Following their pattern, Assyria had begun resettling the land of Israel with strangers from other nations, and in time they intermarried with the remnant of Israel. The descendants of the intermarriage of those people, would become known as Samaritans in Christ’s day.

2 Kings 20 – The Sinful Pride of Hezekiah and the Threat of Imminent Death

The narrative in 2 Kings 20 is familiar to “Heart of a Shepherd” readers, for it is a rehearsal of events we studied in Isaiah 38:1-8 and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26.

Our Scripture reading picks up the story of the life and times of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Hezekiah had been a beloved leader of Judah, and the LORD blessed the nation because its king loved the LORD. Leading by example and edict, Hezekiah led the people in a time of spiritual revival, and restored the teachings of the Law and Commandments. He repaired the Temple, revived worship and offerings, and destroyed the worship of idols throughout the land.

2 Kings 20 follows a great victory God had given Judah over Sennacherib, king of Assyria (2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37:36). Soon after Judah’s victory, another crisis befell Judah: King Hezekiah became “sick unto death” (20:1a). God tasked Isaiah with the responsibility of bringing to Hezekiah the news of the king’s impending death. Isaiah warned the king, “Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (20:1).

Think about it: How would you respond if you were given a terminal diagnosis?

Hezekiah modeled what should be the response of all believing saints. The king “turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (20:2). He blocked out everything and everyone, and cried to the LORD, saying, “I beseech [pray] thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked [behaved] before thee in truth [honor; integrity; faithfully] and with a perfect [complete; undivided; whole] heart, and have done that which is good [better; pleasing] in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore [lit. wept violently]” (2 Kings 20:3).

The king began to rehearse his walk with the LORD, and how he had kept God’s covenant. He claimed God’s covenant promise, and clung to the hope the LORD would heal him.

After he had delivered the news of the king’s death, Isaiah went to the Temple, where the LORD found the prophet in “the middle court,” and commanded him: “5Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord” (20:5).

Isaiah assured Hezekiah the LORD would heal him “on the third day” (20:5) and would “add unto [his] days fifteen years” (20:6). Tragically, Hezekiah made a grave decision when he greeted ambassadors from Babylon, and in pride, showed them the treasuries of his kingdom (20:12-13). Isaiah, learning of the strangers in the king’s house, confronted the king and questioned him (20:14-15). When Hezekiah confessed his actions, Isaiah condemned the king and prophesied all the Babylonians had seen would be taken away, and his own sons would be forced to serve the king of Babylon (20:16-18).

Hezekiah accepted the prophecy of God’s judgment with humility (20:19), and the chapter concludes with him dying fifteen years later, and his son Manasseh ascending to his father’s throne (20:21).

2 Kings 21

Unlike his father Hezekiah, Manasseh set a course of wickedness that exceeded even the Canaanites, the original occupants of the land (21:2). He established idolatry in the land (21:3), desecrated the Temple (21:4), and offered his son as a sacrifice to idols (21:6).

Manasseh’s sins provoked God’s wrath, and by breaking covenant with God, robbed that nation of the blessings God had promised He would pour out upon the land (21:8). Instead, the king “seduced [beguiled the people] to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel” (21:9).

The LORD sent prophets who confronted the sins of the king and Judah (Jeremiah 2:9-13; Amos 9:7; Habakkuk 1:5), but they would not hearken to their voices (21:10). The prophets warned how Jerusalem would be leveled to the ground (21:12-13) and the people would “become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (21:14). Refusing to hear the Word of the LORD and repent, “Manasseh shed innocent blood very much [the blood of the prophets and the righteous ones], till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (21:16).

Closing thought – Manasseh died, but was not buried in the tomb of the kings in Jerusalem (21:17-18). His son Amon reigned in his stead, and like his father, “walked in, and served the idols…and worshipped them” (21:19-22). Amon was slain by his servants after reigning for two years (21:23), who were themselves slain by the people (21:24).

Following the glorious reign and revival under Hezekiah, Judah had plunged into a depth of depravity that would have been unimaginable in the previous generation. In one generation, Judah went from a spiritual awakening and the overflowing of God’s blessings, to gross wickedness that included human sacrifice.

A nation, society, church, and ministry is one generation removed from a steep descent into sin that demands God’s judgment.

Are we that generation?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith