Category Archives: Christian Schools

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 HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com 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 HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com 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 January 11, 2022. I generally limit posts to daily devotionals on my http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com website. There are, however, some things I come across in my readings that give me pause to not only think, but to share. In light of recent deliberations at my alma mater, I am republishing 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 not only witnessing a systematic dismantling of our American culture and the broad spectrum of churches in the United States, but a decaying 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 will be honest, for the past two decades we have observed the consequences of compromise 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
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* 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 www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

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 HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com 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: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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

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