Category Archives: Christian Schools

Earnestly Contend for the Faith

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jude 1:1-25

The theme of the book of Jude, only 25 verses in length, is summed up in two words, exhortation and admonition:  Jude exhorts believers to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3) and admonishes the church to beware of apostasy.

A century ago, the pulpits of most Baptist and Protestant churches in America unapologetically preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There were differences in the mode of baptism and church government; however, the preaching of the cross was almost a universal theme in America’s churches.

By the 1920’s a spiritual apostasy crept into many denominational churches and began eroding fundamental Bible doctrines.  Bible colleges and Seminaries became hotbeds of liberalism and apostasy.  In a generation, mainline Protestant churches departed from the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Christ taught His disciples a sign of His Second Coming would be, “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Matthew 25:5, 11).

The apostle Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when they [professing believers in the church] will not endure [tolerate] sound doctrine; but after their own lusts [sinful desires] shall they heap [invite] to themselves teachers, having itching ears [desiring to hear something that tickles, scratches or pleases the ear]; 4 And they shall turn away their ears [stop listening] from the truth, and shall be turned [aside] unto fables [myths; false teaching]” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The book of Jude, written to the late 1st century church, warned believers apostates were already in their midst.  Sounding a warning reminiscent of a bugle playing “Charge” for the Calvary, Jude challenged believers to engage in spiritual warfare.

“Earnestly contend for the faith” is a call to spiritual battle (1:3). To wage war for the faith is to be intolerant of doctrinal error and compromise.   Some argue, “Times have changed and Christians should not be so dogmatic about their faith.”

Times have changed; however, the Truths and Doctrines of the Word of God are timeless!

Psalm 119:160 – “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.”

1 Peter 1:23 – “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”

1 Peter 1:25 – “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.  And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

To “earnestly contend for the faith” is to stand and agonize unapologetically for the TRUTH.

Paul challenged Corinthian believers, “Watch ye [Stay awake; be alert], stand fast [persevere; adhere] in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Paul exhorted Timothy, “Fight [agonize; be disciplined] the good fight of faith…” (1 Timothy 6:12).

The balance of Jude’s epistle describes the challenges confronting the churches at the end of the 1st century.  Jude described the character of apostates: Denying the truth (1:4-7), immoral (1:8b), rejecting spiritual authority (1:8c), and irreverent (1:8d-10).  The apostasy of the 1st century church is a mirror image of the decadence found in many 21st century churches.

Vigilance is the cause of the hour; however, rather than “contending for the faith”, I am afraid the majority of believers and churches are in full retreat.

The greatest threat to the Church is not persecution without, but false teachers within. 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences

Monday, December 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 26-28

Our scripture reading is Deuteronomy 26-28 and continues Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure.  As noted in previous devotional commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is charging Israel with laws and spiritual principles that are to guide the people as they become a nation in their own land (Deuteronomy 26:1).

Moses reminds Israel when they come into the land God has promised, they are to give tithes of the fruit (or profit) of their labor.  Remembering the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (Dt. 26:1-11), the firstfruits offering was taken to the place of worship, given as a sacrifice and supported the priestly tribe of Levi and their households.

In the third year, a special tithe was given coinciding with tither’s confession he had honored the LORD’s commandments and obeyed them.  The tithe given in the third year was used locally to meet immediate needs in one’s own community and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16 and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounds to the nation the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments.  With the promise God had chosen Israel “to be His peculiar people…and to make thee high above all nations…” (Dt. 26:16-19), Moses admonished the people to “be an holy people unto the LORD thy God” (Dt. 26:19b).

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were to erect a memorial pillar of stones on the west side of the Jordan River serving as a reminder of LORD’s promises and commandments (Dt. 27:1-2).  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place and the laws and commandments were to be inscribed on the stones as a lasting testimony (27:2-10).

Reminding the people “Choices have Consequences”, the elders of the twelve tribes were charged to teach the people obedience to the Law brought the LORD’s blessing and disobedience His curse and judgments (27:14-26).

Moses pronounced a series of twelve curses should the people disobey the LORD and reject His Law and Commandments (Dt. 27:15-26).  The following sins invited God’s judgment:

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments is cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents is cursed (27:16), a violation of the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit is cursed, a violation of the sixth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled is cursed (27:18).

5) The fifth curse is upon one who is unjust in how they treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses address sexual purity, a violation of the  seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother is cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality is cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings and parents is cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother is cursed (27:23).

The fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), is the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (Dt. 27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor is cursed (Dt. 27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another is cursed (Dt. 27:25).

The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed God’s Law and Commandments (Dt .27:26).

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them…”

Deuteronomy 28 enumerates God’s blessings for the people and nation who obey His Laws and Commandments (Dt. 28:1-14).  The promise of God’s blessings on Israel if the people obeyed His Law and Commandments is stunning!  The nation had so much to aspire to, if only they obeyed the LORD.

If Israel “observe and to do all His commandments”, God promised He would “set thee on high above all nations of the earth” (28:1).  The blessings of the LORD are described as so great Israel would be overtaken by them (28:2)!  Every area of the nation’s life would be blessed… “in the city…in the field” (28:3).  Universal fruitfulness was promised to Israel…the womb of women, cattle, sheep and the fruit of the fields would reap a harvest of God’s blessings (28:4-6).

Israel’s enemies would fall before them and their storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:7-14).  All this was promised to Israel, if the people obeyed the LORD’s Law and Commandments.

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicts the curses that would come upon Israel should the nation turn from the LORD and disobey His Law and Commandments (28:15-68).  In the same way God promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobey Him.

If the nation continued in the LORD’s Law and Commandments, the LORD promised His blessings would overtake them (28:2); however, should they disobey the LORD they were assured “all curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (28:15).  The city, fields, storehouses, wombs of wives and livestock…all cursed (28:16-18).  The coming and going of the people…cursed (28:19)… “until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly” (28:20).  The promise of God’s judgment for disobeying His Laws and Commandments continues another forty-eight verses!

Sadly, Israel would turn from the LORD and all the curses noted in today’s scripture reading befell the nation!

Friend, it is not popular and few preachers have the courage to state it so, but “Choices Have Consequences” and no nation, people, or family should expect to disobey the LORD’s Law and Commandments and be blessed!

The message of the scriptures is one of redemption through the blood of Christ!  The Gospel is a message of God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness…and there is nothing required of a sinner to be saved than believing Christ, the sinless Son of God died for their sins, was buried and raised from the dead victorious over sin and the grave. The apostle Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus,

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace [God’s unmerited favor] are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

However, “Choices Have Consequences” and ignoring that truth does not change it. 

 The pulpits of fundamental churches, schools and Bible colleges are filled with a generation of preachers failing to remind the saints while salvation is “by grace”, God’s blessings are conditional.  “Good works” is evidence of the genuineness and sincerity of our salvation.  Paul writes,

Ephesians 2:10 – “For we [believers] are his workmanship [product; result of God’s grace], created [made and renewed] in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them [i.e. our life in Christ is to be a testimony of good works].

I close with a reminder of the manner of people believers are to be:

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Remember When Preachers Warned God’s Judgment Was Imminent?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Zephaniah 1-3

Our devotional reading in 2 Chronicles 29-32 (see October 31, 2017) was timely, given today’s scripture reading in the Book of Zephaniah follows chronologically my commentary on King Hezekiah’s reign in Judah.  The introductory verse of Zephaniah sets the time of this prophetic book during the reign of King Josiah, the grandson of Hezekiah.  A brief lineage of the prophet Zephaniah is given in the opening verse of this book that bears his name.

Zephaniah 1:1 – “The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.”

Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah and served as prophet to Judah during the reign of Josiah (1:1b).  Some suggest the “Hizkiah” mentioned in Zephaniah 1:1 is King Hezekiah; if so, Zephaniah was born of royal lineage.  King Josiah, like his grandfather Hezekiah, sought to lead Judah back to the LORD and perhaps it was the influence of Zephaniah that was the impetus for the king’s longing for revival.

The prophecies of Zephaniah not only warn Judah of God’s approaching judgment (1:2-2:15), but prophetically warn the day is coming when God will judge all nations.  Zephaniah declared the severity of God’s wrath in terms that left no doubt the time of judgment was imminent.  Quoting the LORD, Zephaniah prophesied:

Zephaniah 1:2-3 – “I will utterly consume all things…man and beast…fowls of the heaven, the fishes of the sea…I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.”

In spite of the prophet’s warnings and King Josiah’s effort to call the nation to repent, the revival was short-lived.   Following Josiah’s death, the people returned to idolatry and soon after the armies of Babylon plundered the land, destroying the Temple and Jerusalem, and leading the people into captivity.

The prophecies of Zephaniah, though imminent for Judah, foretold God’s judgment not only against Judah, but all nations of the world.  Having herald God’s warning of judgment against Judah, Zephaniah turned his message toward other nations, prophesying God’s judgments against the Philistines (2:4-8), Moab and Ammon (2:8-11), and Ethiopia and Assyria (2:12-15).

Judah, specifically the capital city of Jerusalem, becomes the prophet’s focus in Zephaniah 3.  The inhabitants of Jerusalem were privilege to have the Temple in their midst and priests and prophets ministering among them.  In spite of God’s grace and mercies, the citizens of Jerusalem worshipped idols and took pleasure in wickedness.

Zephaniah describes Jerusalem as “filthy and polluted” (3:1), disobedient, incorrigible [“she received not correction”] and faithless (3:2).  Her rulers like “roaring lions” (3:3), her judges like “evening wolves”, her spiritual leaders “light [reckless] and treacherous [deceivers]” (3:4) and her priests “polluted [defiled; desecrated] the sanctuary…have done violence [violated; wrong] to the law” (3:4).

Lest some say the LORD is unjust, Zephaniah testifies, “The just LORD is in the midst…every morning doth He bring His judgment to light” (3:5).

Having prophesied God’s judgment of Judah and the nations, Zephaniah foretells God would one day gather the nations of the world for a universal judgment… “all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy” (3:8).

Zephaniah concludes with a prophecy yet to be fulfilled, promising the LORD will one day gather Israel, restore His people to their land, and dwell in the midst (3:14-20).

On a personal note, when I was a young believer I often heard preachers heralding the prophecies of God’s final judgment on the nations and humanity.  Knowing the wickedness and violent straits of today’s world, I am surprise the pulpits of Gospel preaching churches have grown silent regarding the wrath and final judgment of God.  [Perhaps the word “surprise” is an overstatement since sissy preachers hardly have the stomach or the courage to preach against sin, let along a lukewarm congregation tolerate preaching on God’s judgment.]

To the church of Laodicea, which I believe is the church of the last days, the LORD commanded the apostle John to write…

Revelation 3:15-16 “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

I am afraid a “lukewarm” generation is filling the pulpits and occupying the pews of churches and schools that were once leaders of Bible fundamentalism, but have become “neither cold nor hot…[and are] rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:15-16).

We need a generation of preachers who have the zeal, courage and devotion to call believers to repent and warn the nations of the earth the judgment of God is imminent!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Preachers who lack the courage of spiritual convictions and discernment will lead their ministries to ruin.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 29-32

Our study of the histories of Israel and Judah continues with 2 Chronicles 29.  As a reminder, Israel is a divided kingdom.  Following the reign of Solomon, the ten tribes in the north rebelled and became known as Israel or Ephraim; the two remaining tribes in the south, Judah and Benjamin, united as one kingdom, became known as Judah with Jerusalem serving as the capital city.

It is Judah, during the reign of Hezekiah, that is the subject of 2 Chronicles 29-32.  Permit me to set the stage for the spiritual revival that takes place in today’s devotional. 

The reign of Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, had been a curse to Judah for “he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father” (2 Chronicles 28:1).  That a man born of David’s lineage could commit such wickedness is a testimony to the tragic nature of sin that indwells the heart of man apart from God.   Ahaz not only turned from the LORD, but also “burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen” (28:3).

We read, “For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD” (28:19).  Rather than repent, Ahaz did all he could to destroy the LORD’s Temple, cutting in pieces vessels used in the Temple and shutting up the doors (28:24).

When Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah began to reign and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (29:2).  Rather than follow in his father’s sins, Hezekiah turned to the LORD and began repairing the Temple (29:3) and set his heart to “make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel” (29:10).

Hezekiah’s first command was to summon the Levites and direct them to cleanse the Temple (29:4-11).  Having cleansed the Temple (29:12-17), the priests reported to Hezekiah who “went up to the house of the LORD”, offered sacrifices (29:18-25) and commanded the Levites to lead the congregation in worship with musical instruments and song (29:26-30).

Restoring the observance of the Passover, Hezekiah invited all Israel and Judah to turn to the LORD and come to Jerusalem and worship (30:1-9).  While some in Israel heeded the king’s call to humble themselves and worship the LORD, there were many who “laughed them to scorn, and mocked them” (30:10-11).

Notice revival in Judah began with the king and the nation’s spiritual leadership.  Heeding the king’s invitation to return to the LORD, the people assembled in Jerusalem to observe the Passover and tore down altars of idolatry in the land.   When the Passover lamb was killed, those who ministered the Passover were pricked in their hearts and “were ashamed, and sanctified themselves” (30:15) because they “had not cleansed themselves” (30:17-18).

On a personal note, rather than bemoaning the backslidden state of our churches and schools, might it not be the crux of the problem, the reason our churches are spiritually dead and our schools, colleges and seminaries are carnal is best addressed to those who stand in the pulpits? 

In the manner of a pastor calling sinning saints to come home to the LORD, “Hezekiah prayed for them [the Levites], saying, The good LORD pardon every one” and “spake comfortably unto all the Levites” (30:18, 22).  The phrase, “spake comfortably”, might mislead some to think the king made the Levites comfortable; however, the word translated “comfortably” is the Hebrew word for the heart or mind.  In other words, the king did not appeal to their emotions, but to their hearts.

Judah’s revival continues in 2 Chronicles 31 as the places of idol worship are destroyed (31:1) and the sacrificial offerings brought by the people was so great there was a problem in how to dispose of the tithes and offerings (31:2-10).

An enemy of Judah, “Sennacherib king of Assyria” (32:1), invades Judah in chapter 32 and began to undermine the nation’s confidence in the king and the LORD (32:2-19).   Responding as spiritual men, Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah “prayed and cried to heaven, 21  And the LORD 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).

2 Chronicles 32 closes with a stunning account of Hezekiah becoming ill because he failed to render to the LORD the glory He alone was due (32:25) for Judah’s victory over Assyria.  The king’s illness was terminal, “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26) God restored his health.

Permit me to close with a personal observation.  King Solomon taught his son who would be king, When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

I have observed that precept validated many times in my lifetime.   In contradiction to the assertion of some that a leader’s character doesn’t matter; I suggest the evidence is overwhelming… A leader’s character does matter!   Whether the leader of a nation, state, city, church or school…a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on a people.  Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin.

Don’t take my word.  Examine the devastating influence of past presidents or the destructive influence of pastors or administrators who, lacking the courage of spiritual convictions and discernment, lead their ministries to ruin.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Preachers Catering to Carnality Is the Curse of 21st Century Christianity

Monday, October 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 7-9

Having challenged Israel to remember and rehearse the providences and promises of the LORD, and reminding the people to obey the commandments and teach them to their sons and daughters, Moses challenged the nation to not commune or assimilate with other nations (Deuteronomy 7).

Assuring Israel the LORD was them and would drive the heathen nations out of Canaan, Moses reminded the people God chose them to be a distinct people.  Realizing how easily Israel could be turned aside from the LORD by the sinful ways of the heathen, God commanded the nation to “smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them” (Deuteronomy 7:2).

Antagonists of 21st century Christianity take the commands given to Israel in Deuteronomy 7 out of historical context and foolishly equate them to our day.  Adversaries of believers and the Church declare the Bible is a violent book and Christianity is as evil as militant Islam.  Those who assert such are either disingenuous or ignorant!

It is true the LORD commanded Israel to not covenant with other nations or tolerate intermarriage of their children with heathens (7:3-4), as was the custom of enemies who sought peace through marrying and giving in marriage their sons and daughters.  However, the LORD is jealous of His people and knew the influence of idol worshippers would invariably turn the hearts of their children from the LORD and His covenant (7:4).

The LORD’s covenant required Israel to be intolerant of the ways of the heathen (7:5) for He had chosen them and commanded the nation to be a “holy people” (7:6).  Assuring the people of His love, grace and mercy, the LORD commanded the nation to keep His commandments, hearken to His judgments, promising to bless them “above all people” (7:7-14).

God’s love for Israel was unconditional; however, His promise of blessings was conditioned upon Israel trusting God and purging the land of its idols and those who worshipped them (7:15-26).

Moses’ challenge to Israel continues in Deuteronomy 8.  Not wanting the people to forget God’s faithfulness, Moses rehearsed how the LORD blessed and sustained them during Israel’s forty years in the wilderness (8:1-2).  Reminding the people of God’s loving care and miraculous provision (8:3-4), Moses challenged them to know the LORD will chasten His people as a loving father chastens his son (8:5).  As the people obeyed the LORD and His commandments, God promised to bless them (8:6-10); however, should the people become proud and forget His commandments, He promised to bring His judgment upon the nation (8:11-20).

Lest the people’s heart be lifted up in pride, Moses reminded the nation the land the LORD promised Abraham and his lineage was occupied by nations “greater and mightier” (9:1-2) than Israel.  Israel would be victorious over the nations, not because the people were more righteous or powerful than their enemies, but because the LORD was with them (9:3-5).

Moses reminded the people when he was receiving the commandments of the LORD they returned to the sinful ways and idolatry of Egypt and God would have destroyed them in His wrath if He had not heeded Moses’ intercessory prayer for their sakes (9:6-29).

Permit me to close with a few applications of truths we have seen in today’s scripture reading.

The first, like Israel, we are saved from the curse of sin, not because we are good, but because God is merciful and gracious.   In his letter to Titus, Paul writes,

Titus 3:5-7 – “Not by works [deeds] of righteousness [i.e. by keeping the law] which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
6  Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
7  That being justified by His grace [undeserved, unmerited favor], we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

A second truth seldom taught or preached today is the LORD has commanded His people and church to be holy, a reflection of His holiness.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

The doctrine of Sanctification, the LORD’s command for His church to separate from the ungodly and their sinful ways was the hallmark of Biblical fundamentalism in the 20th century; however, separation is almost universally neglected by 21st century fundamental churches in preaching, principle and practice.   As it was commanded of Israel, it is no less commanded of the church.  In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes,

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together [by contract or covenant; an alliance in business or marriage] with unbelievers: for what fellowship [partnership; common interests] hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion [harmony] hath light with darkness?
15  And what concord [harmony; business] hath Christ with Belial [wickedness]? or what part [business] hath he that believeth with an infidel?”

2 Corinthians 6:17 – “Wherefore come out from [lit. get out from] among them [unbelievers], and be ye separate [exclude; limit; sever], saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”

Moses was aware of the temptations God’s people faced in Canaan if they failed to obey the LORD’s commands and tolerated sin and wickedness in their midst.  I am afraid the same cannot be said of the majority of my peers in Bible fundamental pulpits.

Fearing the wrath of a generation who trifle with the LORD’s call to holiness, a generation of preachers catering to carnality has failed to call the church to holiness and sanctification.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A History Lesson for Bible Fundamental Churches, Colleges, and Their Leaders

Monday, October 16, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 1-3

To those who faithfully follow this pastor’s daily meanderings through the scriptures, thank you for your patience.  Ministry demands, sermon preparation and travels often interrupt my capacity to write daily commentary.  I am sure many find the demands of life crowding out your readings of the same.  If my count is accurate, we are beginning our forty-first week of devotions with eleven weeks to go before the end of this year.  Let us persevere and complete this expedition through the scriptures!

Our journey through the Bible in one-year continues today with the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch.  Whereas Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers chronicled Israel’s journey in the wilderness giving us a record of God’s Law, the book of Deuteronomy begins at the journey’s end at the threshold of the Promise Land.  With the exception of Moses, Joshua and Caleb, the generation that was twenty years old and older and followed Moses out of Egypt was dead.

Deuteronomy is a record of Moses’ final words and exhortations to the people he had shepherd for forty years.  We read:

Deuteronomy 1:3 – And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;”

It was important for Moses to rehearse with that generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for the nation (Deuteronomy 1:8).  Much like you might search your ancestral family tree to know your physical lineage, Moses recognized his days were numbered among the people and he wanted them to know not only their physical lineage, but more importantly, their spiritual lineage as God’s chosen people.

The people who were 19 years old and younger when Israel refused to cross into the Promise Land, were now in their late fifties and Moses feared their children and grandchildren would be tempted to turn back from the challenges of the new land.   Knowing many were either too young to remember or not yet born when the people rebelled against God, Moses rehearsed the failure of their forefathers to trust God and cross the Jordan River into the Promise Land (Deuteronomy 1-2).  Concerned they lacked an understanding of what faithlessness cost their parents and grandparents, Moses made certain the people appreciated the tragic consequences of disobedience and understood the challenges before them (Deuteronomy 2).

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

I am old enough to remember well the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp and Dr. Bob Jones Jr. in “Preacher Boys” during my Bible college years at Bob Jones University.   Those men had fought spiritual ecumenical battles, sometimes open warfare, against the progressives of their day who compromised their ministries fellowshipping with men and institutions that denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Thirty, forty, even fifty years passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith; however, their passion had not abated, nor their determination to pass on to the men of my generation not only knowledge of the past, but a warning and exhortation.   I graduated Bob Jones University knowing compromise with those who trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness or reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith would eventually be a cancer destroying ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

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

The result of ignorance or leadership contemptuous of the past is the same; those institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Warning: When the leadership of a Bible fundamental church, Bible college, or ministry distances itself from its heritage, it will invariably sacrifice its identity and forget God’s providences.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Failure to Thrive

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 119

Today’s scripture reading is Psalm 119.  With the exception of Psalm 23, Psalm 119 may be the favorite psalm of saints down through the centuries.  Its celebration of the Word and Law of God might seem out of step with many 21st century believers’ emphasis on grace [which is in danger of becoming “lawless grace” that knows little of the holiness of God]; however, its truths are eternal and its lessons regarding what manner of people the saints ought to be timeless.

I preached a series of messages on Psalm 119 in January 2016 and authored a brief series of devotions on the chapter during that time.  Today’s devotional commentary was first posted on this blog, January 25, 2016.

Psalm 119:129 – “Thy testimonies [witness; admonitions; ordinances] are wonderful [marvelous]: therefore doth my soul [life; person] keep [preserve; guard] them.”

“Failure to thrive” is an ominous term I have heard doctors use for both the very young and elderly patients.  The terminology is not a disease, but a description of a patient who is failing; failing to gain weight, failing to grow and failing to mature.  It is a state of being undernourished despite heroic actions taken to encourage physical weight gain and well-being.

The term, “failure to thrive”, is a fitting diagnosis for many church members.  They come to church faithfully and sit in pews year after year with no visible signs of spiritual life, health or growth.  

American Christians are hardly undernourished when it comes to physical weight; however, there are too many who are spiritually undernourished…failing to grow and mature.

The writer of Hebrews observed the same malady in the 1st century church when he wrote:

Hebrews 5:12-14 – “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers [Instructors], ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God [Old Testament sayings]; and are become [having degenerated] such as have need of milk [unable to chew solid food], and not of strong meat [solid food; advance doctrines].
13  For every one that useth [drink] milk is unskilful [ignorant; inexperienced] in the word [doctrine; preaching] of righteousness: for he is a babe [spiritually immature].
14  But strong meat [solid food] belongeth to them that are of full age [mature], even those who by reason of use [exercised in the Word and Law of God] have their senses [discernment] exercised [train; workout; disciplined exercise] to discern both good and evil [moral and immoral].”

anorexic ChristiansFailure to thrive” is the malady of the 21st century church.   Although we live in a day of mass communication and modern technology has put within our reach opportunities of studying and hearing God’s Word taught 24\7; the reality is there is a gross ignorance of the scriptures.  Like the 1st century, there are Christians who should be faithful students and teachers of the Bible, but are content with being spoon-fed the puree of elementary truths in churches more focused on entertaining the masses than the faithful exposition of God’s Word.

A spiritually anorexic Christian is the portrait of 21st century Christianity in America!  No wonder sin and lawless liberty abounds within our churches; we have fostered a generation of carnal Christians who demand pandering because they are spiritual babies desensitized to sin by their ignorance of the Truth!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith