Category Archives: Christian Schools

Now That I Have Your Attention: A Renewed Appeal From Outside the Bubble

* In 2017 I penned a series of articles on this website, and stated at that time my concerns for the failings of leaders who had taken the helm of what were once flagship ministries in Fundamentalism. Sadly, my concerns have proved somewhat prophetic, for the cancer of spiritual compromise has only intensified in the past 5 years. The following is that 2017 article, and I repeat it as a timely warning…if some within the bubble do not soon speak out, historic fundamentalism will be lost to this generation, and the LORD will turn to another people to bear His immutable Word. 

I have pondered the root cause for a lack of vitality in Bible fundamentalism that is contributing not only to the failings of our institutions, but more importantly, the weakening of our churches (understanding the weaknesses observed in fundamental institutions once hailed as citadels of the faith are symptomatic of compromises within our local churches).   As much as it pains me to state it, I have observed a near universal characteristic in the senior leadership of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and seminaries that is the catalyst to compromise:

God’s Men Have Failed to Stand on Immutable Principles.

Twenty-first century Bible fundamentalism is facing a moral crisis in leadership that has given rise to a tolerance of sin and pervasive carnality in our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.

Take a lesson from the life of King David.

I suggest the failures and shortcomings of historical flagship ministries in fundamentalism reveals a pattern of compromise among Christian leaders who, facing the duress of their children’s sinful choices, have become pragmatic and weak.  A tolerance of sin has emerged in our homes, pulpits and chapel platforms that is leading our youth, churches, and schools down a path of ruin.

Consider the consequences of David’s failed leadership after his moral failures left him enfeebled and unwilling to address the sins and moral failures of his adult children.

David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, was a scandalous sin that forever damaged his reign as king (2 Samuel 11).  His notorious sins gave cause for his enemies and members of his own household to disdain him.  Confronting David with the words, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7), the prophet Nathan warned, “the sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Samuel 12:10).  The sins David had committed in secret eventually bore the bitter fruit of public humiliation “before all Israel” (2 Samuel 12:11-12).  Weakened by his own failures, David’s leadership faltered and he failed to address the sins of his sons.

When Amnon, a son of David, raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-19), we read the morally compromised king’s response was merely, “he was very angry” (2 Samuel 13:21).  David’s failure to confront Amnon’s sin gave cause to Absalom to revenge his sister’s disgrace and plot the murder of his half-brother (2 Samuel 13:20-29).  Fearing the consequences for murdering his half-brother Amnon, Absalom fled Israel and lived as an exile in Geshur for three years (2 Samuel 13:34, 37).

In spite of Amnon’s death, we read, “king David longed to go forth unto Absalom” (2 Samuel 13:30).   Every loving parent understands David’s longing for his prodigal son; however, there were issues greater than paternal affections in question.

Would the king be a man of integrity?  Would he rule his kingdom judiciously, knowing his own son was a fugitive from justice and guilty of murder?

Such is the dilemma of spiritual leadership: When our sons and daughters turn from the LORD and the instructions of their youth, we may long for peace and their love and affection, but we should not compromise our principles and convictions.

Among the qualifications of a pastor is he is to “ruleth [preside over] well his own house, having his children in subjection [under control] with all gravity [dignity; respect]” (1 Timothy 3:4).

Why is it important for Christian leaders to evidence an ability to manage the children in their households? Paul’s answer: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5). Pastor’s with children “in their households” is the topic of 1 Timothy 3:4; however, the principle found in 1 Timothy 3:5 serves as a warning to churches and Christian institutions.

Be wary of spiritual leaders who fail to rule their households for they will invariably fail to “take care of the church.”  Adult sons and daughters are no longer children under the management or rule of their parents, and as much as we are pained to accept it, they bear their choices and associated consequences.   As it was for David, so it is for all who are spiritually minded parents.

Will we be men and women of integrity if our adult children walk contrary to the Word of the LORD and spiritual principles?

For those in spiritual leadership, the cost of compromise extends far beyond our family relationships and affects our churches, schools and institutions.   I need not enumerate the tragedy that followed David’s failure to be a man of integrity and conviction.  His weak response to his son’s sins incited Absalom to lead a rebellion against David (2 Samuel 14:23-24, 33; 15:1-6), fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy and humiliating his father in front of the nation (2 Samuel 15:7-16:23). Twenty thousand men perished in battle before David took back his throne; however, even then David’s heart was such toward his son he commanded his men to, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom” (2 Samuel 18:5).

Such is the way of spiritual leaders when they promote paternal affections over eternal principles.

My generation, my peers who are pastors, administrators, and professors in Bible fundamental colleges and seminaries have, under family duress, compromised immutable spiritual principles because our children and grandchildren have rejected the guiding principles of God’s Word.

Make no mistake, our compromises have become mortal wounds for our churches and institutions. If pastors, churches, and the boards of our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries do not soon repent, the demise of Bible fundamentalism is sure.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith
Edited and revised – Copyright © 2022 – Travis D Smith

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

* The following article was published nearly a year ago, and I believe a discerning reader will find it a timely exhortation. In the words of the founder of Bob Jones University: “Do right till the stars fall.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright © 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Far-reaching Consequences of a Father’s Compromise (2 Chronicles 18)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 18

While the focus of 1 Kings 22 was primarily upon King Ahab and the northern ten Tribes known as Israel, 2 Chronicles 18 was authored after the Babylonian captivity, and gives a greater focus to King Jehoshaphat and the kingdom of Judah (consisting of the two tribes in the south known as Judah and Benjamin).  The focus of this devotional commentary is 2 Chronicles 18.

As a nation, Judah enjoyed God’s blessings during the reign of Jehoshaphat, and the king “had riches and honour in abundance” (18:1). Unfortunately, Jehoshaphat had “joined affinity with Ahab,” king of Israel, and his son Jehoram had taken one of Ahab’s daughters as his wife (2 Chronicles 21:6). Three years passed (1 Kings 22:2), and Jehoshaphat traveled to visit Ahab in Samaria, the capital city of Israel. After a great banquet, Ahab proposed for Judah to support Israel in an attack on Ramoth-gilead, a Levite city of refuge that was occupied at that time by Syria (18:2).

Jehoshaphat was willing to go to war with Ahab and Israel, for they were family by marriage (18:3). Yet, Jehoshaphat, a spiritually-minded king, requested they seek “the word of the LORD” for his will (18:4). “The king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?” (18:5). Ahab’s prophets, eager to please the king, answered his inquiry and said, “Go up; for God will deliver it into the king’s hand” (18:5).

Because the character of true prophets of the LORD is to speak independently without fear of consequences, Jehoshaphat, was concerned Ahab’s prophets spoke with one voice. Therefore, the king of Judah asked Ahab, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of him?” (18:6). Ahab admitted there was another prophet, but confessed concerning the prophet Micaiah, “I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil” (18:7).

Micaiah, whom we met in a previous devotional (1 Kings 22), came to the kings of Israel and Judah, and delivered a message the king desired, but the prophet had not attributed his words to the LORD (18:12). When Ahab realized the prophet was not speaking prophetically, he instructed Micaiah saying, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the Lord?” (18:15).

The LORD’s prophet then spoke of his vision of a heavenly council gathered around the throne of God. In the vision, Israel was scattered, “as sheep that have no shepherd” (18:16). Because the king of Israel was identified as a shepherd of the people, the prophecy left no doubt that it was a foretelling of Ahab’s death.

Micaiah went on to describe how God had requested that a messenger would go to Ahab, and entice that king to go to battle at Ramoth-gilead where he would be slain (18:19). In the vision, a spirit went out from the LORD, and put “a lying spirit in the mouth of all [Ahab’s] prophets” (18:21).

The prophet then declared, “behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee [Ahab]” (18:22). Exposed as a lying prophet, “Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah[a false prophet of Ajab] came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek” (18:23).

Ahab, hearing his death foretold, was angry and demanded the prophet be imprisoned with nothing more than bread and water, until he returned from battle (18:25-26). Emboldened and confident in his prophecy, Micaiah warned the king, “If thou certainly return in peace, then hath not the Lord spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, all ye people” (18:27).

In spite of the prophet’s warning, Jehoshaphat went to war with the king of Israel and went into battle against the king of Syria (18:28). Lest he be discovered to be the king of Israel, Ahab disguised himself that he might not be recognized, and targeted by the Syrian soldiers (18:29). Yet, in the providence of God, an arrow from a nameless soldier struck Ahab, mortally wounding him (18:33).

Elijah’s prophecy was fulfilled, for as the sun was setting that day, Ahab, the king of Israel, died (18:34), “and one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the Lord which he spake” (1 Kings 21:19; 22:37-38).

Closing thoughts – Though the consequences of Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Israel were not immediately evident, his compromise with Ahab through the marriage of his son to Ahab’s daughter introduced a great wickedness in Judah, and nearly terminated David’s royal lineage (2 Chronicles 21:6; 22:3; 22:10-12).

An observation – When spiritual leaders accommodate the sins of their children, they sacrifice not only their testimonies, but also the ministries and institutions they lead.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: Dismiss the Prophet to Your Own Demise (1 Kings 22) – A bonus devotional.

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 21; 1 Kings 22

1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18 are parallel accounts of the same historical events. The focus of this bonus devotional is 1 Kings 22.

1 Kings 22 – The Tragic Death of King Ahab

1 Kings 21 concluded with Elijah prophesying that King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, would suffer alarming deaths for murdering Naboth for his vineyard (21:17-24). Hearing the prophesy of his death, Ahab humbled himself and God mercifully spared him for a season (21:27-29).

1 Kings 22 is the climax of King Ahab’s reign over Israel.  Three years had passed since Syria and Israel warred (22:1), and in the third year Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah, visited Ahab who enquired if Judah would be Israel’s ally and go to war against Syria (22:2-4).

You might wonder what motive Judah would have to be Israel’s ally.  That answer is revealed when we read, “Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people” (22:4). You see, Jehoshaphat and Ahab had become family through the marriage of Jehoshaphat’s son with Ahab’s daughter (2 Kings 8:16-18).

Evidencing the judgment of a wise king, Jehoshaphat desired the LORD’s direction before going to battle and requested, “Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day” (22:5).

Ahab complied with Jehoshaphat’s request, and gathered nearly four hundred of his own prophets. Those prophets, no doubt in order to please the king, prophesied the LORD would give Israel and Judah victory over the king of Syria (22:6). Godly Jehoshaphat, however, was not satisfied and enquired further if there was not another prophet in Israel, one who had not compromised himself with Ahab’s prophets (22:7).

Ahab acknowledged there was another prophet whose name was “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (22: 8); however, the king of Israel confessed, “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (22:8).

Complying with Jehoshaphat’s request, Ahab sent a servant to invite Micaiah to prophesy. That servant, however, warned the prophet how the other prophets were of “one mouth: [and demanded] let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good” (22:13).

In a twist of irony, Micaiah prophesied precisely what Ahab wanted to hear (22:15). The king, however, rebuked the prophet and demanded, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is truein the name of the LORD?” (22:16).

Micaiah then prophesied how Ahab would die, and Israel would be “scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd” (22:17).  Acknowledging his own self-fulfilling sentiment, Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, “Did I not tell thee that he [the prophet Micaiah] would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?” (22:18).

Micaiah’s prophesy proved true, and Ahab was mortally wounded in battle, and died in his chariot (22:34-35). The prophecy of Elijah was fulfilled, for in the place Naboth had been murdered, Ahab’s blood was washed from his chariot and “the dogs licked up his blood” (22:38; note 21:19).

Closing thought – Ahab was reluctant to invite Micaiah to prophesy, because he said, I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil(22:8).

I fear that has become the malady of the majority of ministries in our day. Pulpits of once thriving churches, Bible colleges, and institutional boards are filled by preachers soft-pedaling God’s Word. Like Ahab, who gathered four hundred prophets willing to lie and tell him what he wanted to hear, our churches and schools have few men like king Jehoshaphat who asked, “Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides?” (22:7).

Warning: When an individual, church or institution dismisses the clarion call of God’s prophets, they do so to their own demise.

* This concludes the second of today’s devotionals. Please remember to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily chronological devotionals, and have them sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Take Courage, and Hope in the LORD! – Part 2 (1 Kings 17)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 17; 1 Kings 17

We have met Ahab, the seventh king of northern Israel, and his queen Jezebel in an earlier devotion (1 Kings 16:29-33). They were a notoriously wicked couple who reigned over northern Israel for 22 years. Ahab followed and exceeded the wickedness of his father Omri and the kings that had gone before him (16:30). His wife Jezebel did not worship the God of Israel, for she “served Baal, and worshipped him” (16:31). Her influence on Ahab ushered in a time of great wickedness, and Ahab built an altar and temple to Baal in Samaria, the capital city of Israel (16:33).

Elijah the Tishbite, The Prophet of God

1 Kings 17 gives a brief introduction to the prophet Elijah, whose life and ministry we will follow for several days in the Scirptures. He was, in my opinion, not only one of the greatest prophets, but one of the greatest men to have ever lived. The Scriptures portray him as a man of passion and faith; one who might boldly confront evil, but then take flight for fear of losing his life.

A Season of Drought (17:1-7)

We are introduced to Elijah when he entered the palace of the wicked Ahab, and delivered a message of judgment: “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (17:1; Deuteronomy 11:17; 28:23).

To provide for His prophet during the three years of drought, God commanded Elijah to retreat to the desert, and there He would provide him with water at “the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan” (17:3). The LORD then sent ravens to bring his prophet bread and meat to eat (17:4). So, the LORD provided all Elijah needed for a season, until “the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land” (17:7).

The Widow Zarephath (17:8-16)

When there was no water, the LORD provided the next place to which his prophet would retreat during the drought that was troubling Israel. God commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath of Zidon, and there he would meet and dwell in the household of a widow and her son (17:9). When he arrived in Zarephath, he met the poor widow as she gathered sticks to bake the last of her flour and oil. Elijah requested water, and she moved to “fetch it;” however, his request for bread was met by protest, for she said, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (17:12).

Confident in the LORD’s leading and provision, Elijah assured her the LORD would provide, and she would never lack for flour or oil, “until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth” (17:14). Exercising her faith in the LORD, and His prophet, she took the prophet into her home, and every day found the flour and oil replenished, as the prophet had promised (17:15-16).

The Death and Resurrection of the Widow’s Son (17:17-24)

At some time during Elijah’s stay in the widow’s household, her son became ill and died (17:17). In her sorrow, the widow cried out against Elijah as a “man of God,” and wondered if her sins were the cause of her son’s death (17:18).

Elijah was overcome with sorrow, and taking up the widow’s son to his bedchamber, he placed him upon his bed and cried to the LORD saying, “let this child’s soul come into him again” (17:21). The LORD heard and answered the prophet’s prayer, and “the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (17:22).

Closing thoughts – We know the trials Elijah faced in 1 Kings 17 were an opportunity for the prophet to become strong in his faith, and confident the God of Israel hears and answers the prayers of his people. Yes, Elijah felt the consequences of the drought in Israel, but he also experienced God’s care and miraculous provision, even when there was just enough flour and oil for a day. Elijah learned the power of prayer, that prepared him for the great contests he would soon face with Ahab and Jezebel.

Maybe you are reading this devotional and find yourself in the midst of trials, and disappointments. Perhaps you are wrestling with doubts, and wondering if the LORD will hear and answer your prayers. You might feel like the widow of Zarephath, and question if the sorrows you bear are because of your sin (17:18).

Be strong, take courage, and hope in the LORD! He still hears, and answers prayer (1 John 1:9).

* Remember to subscribe to http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com, and insure you will continue to receive these daily chronological devotionals from Pastor Smith. If viewing on a computer, you may enter your email in the subscription box to the right of this post. If viewing on a smart phone, you will notice a subscription box at the bottom of the post.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

We Need Leaders Who Inspire – Part 1 (2 Chronicles 17)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 17; 1 Kings 17

2 Chronicles 17 – A Revival in Judah

Jehoshaphat, having learned from the failures of his father Asa, became Judah’s fourth king and “walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4  But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings [sins and wickedness] of Israel” (17:3-4).

While the people of Israel suffered oppression due to the wickedness of their kings, Judah returned to a time of spiritual revival. King Jehoshaphat turned his heart to the LORD and began to walk in the way of God’s Law and Commandments (17:4), and Judah began receiving the blessings of the LORD. After removing the idol places, Jehoshaphat dispatched five “princes” (emissaries of the king) throughout Judah who were charged with insuring the people were taught in the Word, the Law, and Commandments (17:8). Two priests and nine Levites were charged with instructing the people in “the book of the law of the LORD” (17:7-9).

As God blessed Jehoshaphat, the “fear of the LORD” fell upon Judah’s neighbors who paid tribute to Judah (17:10-11). “Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly; and he built in Judah castles, and cities of store [storehouses of provisions]. 13And he had much business [trade] in the cities of Judah” (2 Chronicles 17:12–13a). The king’s love and dedication to the LORD and His Law, inspired “mighty men of valour” to rally around him in Jerusalem, and the nation experienced a season of peace and prosperity (17:13-19).

Closing thoughts: We are facing a world in trouble. Plagues, famine, the peril of a pandemic, and political corruption have become a perpetual menace. Unfortunately, in the hour when we need integrity in government and authority, we are void of strong leadership in every aspect of society. Even Bible-believing churches and Christian institutions are plagued with weak, pathetic spiritual leaders who lack both passion and conviction.

Is there hope for these troubled times?  The answer is the same as it was in Judah’s day. We need leaders who, like Jehoshaphat, will lead our churches, schools, and nation to repent of their sins, turn to the LORD, and walk in the ways of His Law and Commandments (2 Chronicles 17:3-5, 10, 12-13).  

Only then will the LORD hear our prayers, and heal our land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

* Remember to subscribe to http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com, and insure you will continue to receive these daily chronological devotionals from Pastor Smith. If viewing on a computer, you may enter your email in the subscription box to the right of this post. If viewing on a smart phone, you will notice a subscription box at the bottom of the post.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Spiritual Integrity will Choose the LORD! (2 Chronicles 15; 2 Chronicles 16)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 15; 2 Chronicles 16

Today’s Scripture reading continues a study of King Asa’s reign in Judah. Because the events in 2 Chronicles 16 were considered in our prior study of 1 Kings 15, the focus of this devotional will be 2 Chronicles 15.

The Prophet Azariah’s Exhortation to King Asa (15:1-7)

The “Spirit of God” moved Azariah, the Lord’s prophet, to meet the king, and challenged Asa with the conditions of God’s blessings. Azariah prophesied, “The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you” (15:2). Azariah continued, “3Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law5And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries” (15:3, 5).

So it is for any nation, people, or man who rejects the LORD. “Without the true God,” and without a faithful preacher, “and without the law” (15:3), a society descends into lawlessness, and there is no peace! Yet, there is still hope if men will “turn unto the LORD,” and seek Him (15:4). However, should a nation continue to reject the LORD, it will surely be vexed, and troubled (15:6).

Azariah concluded his exhortation to king Asa, saying, “7Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded” (15:7; note Deuteronomy 31:6-7; Joshua 1:6-7, 9; Ephesians 6:10).

King Asa’s Revival (15:8-15)

We have learned how Asa began his reign with a heart that was “good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God” (14:2). He had “commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law, and the commandment” (14:4).

Yet, as we come to today’s passage, the heart of Asa had waned in his commitment to the LORD. Fifteen years had passed since he became king (15:10), and like many who grow older and weary, he became less vigilant. The king and Judah had become tolerant of “abominable idols,” and the altar of the Temple had fallen into disrepair (15:8).

Who might have diminished Asa’s passion for the LORD? (15:16-19)

Sadly, I must suggest it was possibly the influence of his own family. Asa’s grandmother, Maachah the widow of Rehoboam, mother of Abijah, and the Queen Mother during Asa’s reign (15:16) would have had a prominent place and influence in the kingdom.

In his zeal to serve the LORD, Asa had to deal with his own household, and that was accomplished in this: “[King Asa] removed [Maachah] from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron” (15:16).

God rewarded Asa’s reform, and the people of Judah sought the LORD “with their whole desire” (15:15), “there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa” (15:19).

Closing thoughts – Many believers face the spiritual challenge that confronted King Asa. He had tolerated the sins of his grandmother, and failed the LORD. In accommodating his grandmother’s wickedness, he was weakened and inevitably sin robbed him and Judah of God’s blessings.

One of the greatest challenges we face is that of addressing the sins of our loved ones. A rebellious son or daughter who has rejected his or her foundational training leads parents to a heartrending dilemma: Lovingly confront the sin and wrath of a rebel, or accommodate the sin and betray the LORD and His Word.

Caution – As it was with Asa, so it is with many spiritual leaders: When a leader permits sin to go unchallenged in his household, the influence of his compromise will rob him and his ministry of God’s blessings. Sadly, the testimony of that truth is seen in the steady decline, and failure of our churches, schools, and Christian colleges to heed God’s Word.

“Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.” (15:7)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“If the foundations be destroyed, What can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

Apprehension, anxiety, and discord are epidemic in our society. We are living in a chaotic, dangerous world that is torn by division and strife over a myriad of matters. There is a concerted and coordinated effort to excite aggression, and provoke division in our communities, churches, schools, and families. Government bureaucrats, politicians, media personalities, institutions, and corporate entities are diminishing our Constitutional liberties.

Unlawful mandates attack our individual right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and are eroding the most fundamental and sacred rights of man. What our nation’s founders declared to be self-evident truths, “endowed by [our] Creator,” are being battered by an unrelenting socialist ideology that attacks “individual soul liberty.”

A Bible Challenge for 2022

More than ever, we need to “think biblically,” and exercise godly wisdom and discernment. In a world that questions and challenges the most basic, fundamental facts, we need a sure foundation, and that foundation is the LORD, and His immutable Word!

Heart of A Shepherd 2-Year Scripture Reading Schedule After listing an inventory of sins and wickedness that would characterize “the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1-7), Paul challenged Timothy: “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of…16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

I challenge you to follow the Daily Bible Reading schedule for 2022, and subscribe to this pastor’s daily devotional posts at www.HeartofAShepehrd.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://dailytestify.com/index.php/pages/59/

Warning: You Write Your Own Obituary When You Leave Your Spiritual Base (2 Chronicles 11-12)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 11; 2 Chronicles 12

I remind you that 2 Chronicles was penned after the Babylonian captivity, and was a historical record of the time of the kings in Israel, whose history was recorded prior to the Babylonian captivity in the Book of 1 Kings.

2 Chronicles 11

The events recorded in today’s Scripture reading were the subject of an earlier devotional in 1 Kings 12, and follows the northern ten Tribes’ succession from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin who were loyal to the king. Rehoboam had raised up an army to put down the insurrection, however, God had forbidden him to go to war against his brethren (2 Chronicles 11:1-4; 1 Kings 12:21-24). Rehoboam then set out to improve the defenses of the cities in Judah, and built walls to fortify his strong holds (11:5-12).

Remaining loyal to Rehoboam, and rejecting the idolatry of northern Israel, the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts,” leaving their lands and houses (11:14a). Adding to his wickedness, Jeroboam not only established his golden calves as objects of worship in Israel, he also rejected the priests of the LORD, and “ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15).

Jeroboam’s disobedience, and his rejection of God launched an exodus out of the northern tribes of those who had “set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel [and] came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers” (11:16). The departure of those faithful to the LORD left Israel weakened, for “they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon.”

A record is given in the closing verses of 2 Chronicles 11 regarding king Rehoboam’s personal life (his wives, concubines, and children). Most notably are the names found in 2 Chronicles 11:20: “20And after her he took Maachah the daughter of Absalom; which bare him Abijah, and Attai, and Ziza, and Shelomith.”

A point of explanation is necessary regarding Maachah (11:20). The Hebrew word for “daughter” described a female offspring, albeit daughter, granddaughter, or even a great granddaughter. Because we know Absalom [the rebel son of king David], had only one daughter and she was named Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27), we must conclude that Maachah was in fact an offspring of Absalom, but was most likely his granddaughter. So, we learn that Rehoboam’s favorite wife was Maachah, who was his second cousin, and the mother of Abijah who would suceed him as king (11:22; 12:16, 13:1).

2 Chronicles 12

2 Chronicles 12 is a review of the tragic events we have considered in an earlier study of 1 Kings 14. This final chapter in Rehoboam’s life serves as a reminder to all, and especially those who are leaders, of what becomes of a man, family, or organization when its leader(s) forsake the LORD, by forsaking His law and commandments. Strong, and confident in his early years as king, Rehoboam failed the most important step to success in spiritual leadership: “He did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” (12:14).

Failing to follow in the spiritual footsteps of his father, “it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him” (12:1). The tragic consequences of his failure to humble himself before the LORD and obey His law, led Israel away from the LORD, and invited God’s judgment.

The tool of God’s judgment was Shishak, king of Egypt, who came against Jerusalem with a coalition of peoples: “Lubims (i.e., Libyans), the Sukkiims (possibly a tribe of Arabia), and the Ethiopians of Africa (12:2). With 1200 chariots, and 60,000 cavalrymen, Shishak “took the fenced cities which pertained to Judah, and came to Jerusalem” (12:4; 1 Kings 14:25-26).

Prophecy Against Rehoboam and Judah (12:5-12)

The LORD sent Shemaiah who prophesied to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah that it was their sins that had given cause for the LORD to bring Shishak against Jerusalem (12:5). However, because Rehoboam and his leaders humbled themselves before Him, the LORD was merciful, and spared Jerusalem from destruction (12:6-7). Yet, He did not spare Rehoboam and Judah the humiliation of becoming servants to the king of Egypt (12:8).

“Shishak king of Egypt…took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house…[and] he carried away also the shields of gold [used in pageantry] which Solomon had made” (12:9; 1 Kings 14:26). Masking his humiliation, Rehoboam commanded “shields of brass” be fashioned to replace his father’s golden shields (12:10-11).

Closing thoughts – Rehoboam reigned 17 years in Jerusalem, nevertheless, his reign was scarred by his failure to prepare “his heart to seek the LORD” (12:14). The peace Israel had enjoyed during the reign of his father Solomon was lost, and “there were wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually” (12:15). Rehoboam the son of Solomon died, and “Abijah his son reigned in his stead” (12:16) over a nation that was now divided, and no longer sheltered by the LORD’S blessing.

A leader, institution, and nation that rejects the LORD, His law and commandments will surely be judged.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: Today’s Liberties May Seed Tomorrow’s Sorrows (Proverbs 2)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 2

Proverbs 2 is our Scripture reading, and today’s devotional will consider two subjects, taken from four verses found in Proverbs 2:12-15. [As a reminder, words and phrases in brackets are the amplification and application of the author.]

“Be Wary of Liberties Some Leaders Champion” (Proverbs 2:12-13)

Solomon advised his son that godly wisdom will induce a man to be wary of two enemies of youthWicked men and their influence (Proverbs 2:12-15) and the Adulterous woman and her ways (Proverbs 2:16-19). For this study, I will limit my focus to the influence of wicked men.

Proverbs 2:12-13 – “To deliver [rescue; save] thee from the way [path; course of life] of the evil man [wicked], from the man that speaketh [tell; say] froward things [lies and perverseness]; 
13 Who leave [forsake; abandon; depart from] the paths [way; manner] of uprightness, to walk in the ways [path; course of life] of darkness [i.e. ignorance; sorrow];”

Solomon exhorted his son to embrace godly wisdom and allow righteous discernment to set the course of his life.  Such wisdom directs youth to not only recognize the character of the ungodly, but to turn from their counsel [i.e. “froward things”].

The counsel of the wicked often comes from those who, to borrow an old adage, “should know better. Solomon exhorted his son to be cautious of those who once knew and followed the paths of uprightness, but departed to paths of darkness (2:13). The Apostle Paul challenged Timothy with a similar admonition writing, “in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1), because there will be some who would have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5).

It seems, in every generation, there are leaders who forsake “the paths of uprightness” (2:13), and entice young people to indulge in “grey areas” previous generations had steered from out of concern they might inflame lusts and induce sinful passions. Some leaders preach liberty, boast an “enlightened life,” and draw youth away from preservation and discretion. They become, what Solomon cautioned: Men who have left the paths of the upright, only to lead others astray, and walk in the way of darkness(2:13).

Closing thought – Be careful my friend! The liberties you trivialize today may enslave your children, and your children’s children.

Copyright © Travis D. Smith

“An Admonition to Parents and Youth” (Proverbs 2:14-15)

Every godly parent who shares Solomon’s concern prays that the wisdom they have imparted to their children will keep them from the path of temptation and sin.

Proverbs 2:14-15  “Who [men who forsake the paths of righteousness] rejoice [glad; merry] to do evil [sin; wickedness], and delight [rejoice; glad] in the frowardness [perversity] of the wicked;
 15 Whose ways [path; manner] are crooked [perverse; false; twisted], and they froward [depart; turn aside] in their paths [ways; trench; i.e. rut]:”

Solomon warned his son: The wicked are not content to pursue their sinful paths alone; they purpose to lure the innocent, the foolish, and naïve to follow in their sinful ways.

The wicked boast in their wickedness, and enjoy “the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25), and there are those who delight in enticing youth to accompany them in their sinful ways.

Closing thought – Wise parents must impress upon their children Paul’s admonition to believers in Corinth (a wicked, immoral city of the 1st century):

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Be not deceived [don’t be led astray]: evil communications [company and companions] corrupt [destroy; defile] good manners [morals; habits].”

Copyright © Travis D. Smith