Category Archives: Christian Schools

Spiritual Bullies and Silent Saints

September 2, 2017

Scripture Reading – John 10-12

Today’s Bible reading sets the final stage for Christ’s appointment with the Cross.   I am always struck by the wickedness of the religious leaders in Christ’s day.   While there were some who were sincere in their practice and a few who believed Jesus was the Christ (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea), the majority of the leaders of Judaism were wicked men who would argue ad infinitum matters of the Law, but in secret plot the murder and death of Jesus.

John 10:31 – “…the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.”

John 10:39 – “Therefore they sought again to take Him …”

John 11:8 – “His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?”
John 11:47-53 – “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles…53 they took counsel together for to put him to death…”

After the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, the Jewish leaders not only sought to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus.

John 12:10-11 – “But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11  Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.”

While many believed Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, there were many others that “believed not on him” (John 12:37).

I close today, not pondering why religious leaders would reject and plot to murder Jesus, but why there were some among them who believed and failed to openly confess their faith in Him.  The apostle John writes:

John 12:42-43 – Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:  43  For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

Some believed Jesus was the Christ; however, they remained silent when their peers plotted to murder Him fearing their confession of faith would be detrimental to their place and positions of power and influence in the synagogue and community.

I find that same dynamic in the 21st century church.  There are “spiritual bullies” in the pulpits and pews who confess a piety of faith in Christ, but deny Him with their lives loving sin and the pleasures of the world (1 John 2:15-17).

Question the conflict between their profession and the command we are to be “obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts… 15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” and they attack, slander and libel their critic (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Sadly, like the religious leaders who believed Jesus was the Christ and remained silent, there are many saints who, fearing criticism, loss of favor or position, sit silent in churches, Bible colleges and parachurch institutions as sin and carnality take hold.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Ignorance Is Not Bliss!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Hosea 1-7

Today’s scripture reading is the first seven chapters of the Book of Hosea, written by Hosea, the first of the “minor prophets”.  There is general agreement among scholars that Hosea’s public ministry spanned 58 years beginning in 748 B.C. and continuing to 690 B.C., concluding just prior to Assyria conquering Israel and leading the people away into captivity.

As God’s prophet, Hosea was tasked with the responsibility of preaching to the northern ten tribes known as Israel.  Having rejected God’s commandments, the rebellious nation had turned to worshipping and sacrificing to idols.  The Book of Hosea records the ministry of one faithful man who courageously warned his nation of God’s imminent judgment should they continue in their wickedness and rebellion.

Hosea 1 opens with a disconcerting command; comparing the spiritual condition of Israel to whoredom, the LORD illustrated His unfailing love for Israel and commanded Hosea to take a prostitute named Gomer as his wife (Hosea 1:2).  Gomer would bear three children of Hosea; a son named Jezreel (meaning “God scatters” – 1:4), a daughter named Loruhamah (meaning “love withdrawn” – 1:6), and another son named Loammi (meaning “not my people” – 1:9).  The names of Hosea’s children conveyed the spiritual condition of the nation and their estranged relationship with the LORD.

Hosea 3 uses the prophet’s scandalous marriage to Gomer, a prostitute, as a parallel portrait of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  In spite of Hosea’s tender love for his wife, she left him and returned to prostitution (Hosea 3:1), in the same manner Israel left the LORD and committed spiritual whoredom with the gods of her pagan neighbors.

Illustrating the LORD’s longsuffering and compassion for Israel in spite of her spiritual harlotry, the LORD commanded Hosea to take Gomer back as his wife (Hosea 3:2 states he purchased her out of prostitution for “fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley” (3:2).  Taking back his adulterous wife and promising to restore their marriage covenant (3:3), Hosea demonstrated God’s unconditional love and compassion for wayward Israel.

Hosea 4 paints a picture of a nation that is in the midst of a precipitous moral decline.  Preaching the “word of the LORD”, Hosea declared “there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. 2  By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood” (4:1-2).

Hosea confronted priests who had failed the people as spiritual leaders warning, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6).

God turned the nation’s “glory into shame” and warned, “I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings” (4:9);  “they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD” (4:10).

What a tragic time!  In the hour the nation was desperate for a clarion call to repent and turn back to God, the spiritual leaders were themselves engrossed in wickedness (4:6-11).  They had failed the people and doomed the nation!

Hosea warned Israel the opportunity to repent and turn back to the LORD was fleeting and the nation would soon fall victim to an enemy described as a “thief” (7:1).  “Strangers have devoured his strength…yet he knoweth not” (Hosea 7:9) describes the decline of the nation.  As the clouds of judgment approached, rather than return to the LORD, the nation appealed to Egypt to save her from Assyria (7:11-16).

On a practical and personal note, the annual readership of this devotional blog is read by citizens of some 170 nations, many of who are following the spiritual and moral decline of America in the news and from their own vantage point.  President Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” resonated with the populist of America when he was elected November 2016; however, I know of no politician who has addressed the core issue of this nation’s decline…SIN!

The spiritual harlotry of Israel and the failure of her spiritual leaders to confess and confront the sins of the nation should serve as a warning to America’s spiritual leaders.  Sadly, a generation of preachers fill the pulpits of America’s churches and Christian schools who are failing to, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).   Fulfilling the apostle Paul’s dire warning, the 21st century church has become a people who “will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The founding fathers of these United States were well aware the greatest danger to America’s future as a nation would be her own internal struggles.  Sounding more like a prophet than a politician, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, warned:  “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“The end never justifies the means.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Chronicles 10-14

I stated in an earlier commentary that the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles was largely devoted to the genealogical record of Israel and Judah.  1 Chronicles 9 concluded with a brief summary of the lineage of king Saul and his sons (9:35-44).

We noted the reign and death of Saul, Israel’s first king in an earlier commentary in 1 Samuel 31:1-10.  1 Chronicles 10 gives us another perspective of Israel’s defeat at the hands of the Philistines and the tragic deaths of Saul and his sons on the battlefield (10:1-6) and their humiliation that followed (10:7-10).

1 Chronicles 11 gives us a record of the coronation and reign of Israel’s beloved king, David.  Although a brilliant strategist in war and surrounded by mighty men (11:10-47) and loyal servants (12:1-40), the secret to David’s success was found in neither.  David was a great king for only one reason… “the LORD of hosts was with him” (11:9).

Unlike leaders of our day who strive to unite a people around the strength of their personality and ideas, David sought the unity of Israel, not around himself, but around the LORD.   Heralding a call for revival, David commanded the “Ark of God” [also known as the Ark of the Covenant] be brought to Jerusalem, noting the nation had “enquired not at it in the days of Saul” (13:2-3).   The celebration of the Ark’s journey to Jerusalem was cut short when a man named Uzza “put forth his hand to hold (or steady) the ark” that was being carried on a cart pulled by oxen (13:7-10).

“WHY?” becomes a question we should address.  Why would God punish Uzza whose actions were not only instinctive, but arguably innocent?   After all, was it not a good thing that the desire of David and the elders of Israel was to have the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence in Jerusalem the capital city?

An insightful quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind when addressing the tragic death of Uzza:  “It is never right to do wrong to get a chance to do right.”   Uzza was not struck down because he was insincere or impassionate in his desire to see the Ark moved to Jerusalem.   Uzza died because the manner in which the Ark was transported was a violation of God’s instructions to the Levites (Numbers 4) and touching the sacred Ark to steady it defiled that which God had declared holy and sanctified for Himself (Numbers 1:51; 4:15, 20).

I close this devotional with a personal observation:  

I am observing a steady, progressive departure from institutional convictions and principles that were the foundation of vibrant churches, schools, Bible colleges and Christian universities in the 20th century.

Well-meaning, zealous men are stepping into the pulpits of fundamental churches and Bible colleges who, driven by a passion to see their institutions successful, adopt a pragmatic approach to ministry that is a departure from their institution’s guiding principles and core convictions.   Suggesting “times have changed” and believing their sincerity is enough, good men are leading our churches and schools down a path that inevitably sacrifices Christian disciplines and Bible convictions that are at the core of spiritual distinctives.

Like Uzza, our dying churches and Bible colleges are a sad testimony that, “The end never justifies the means.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Who Are You Following?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – John 3-4

In the midst of our scripture reading for today are some of the most beloved verses in the Bible.

The answer to the inquiry of Nicodemus, a ruler and elder of the Pharisees, who came seeking Jesus and was told, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  Undeterred by the truths he did not understand, he asked, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9); to which Jesus spoke the words that have brought multitudes to saving faith and eternal life:

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 John 4 gives us the story of the Samaritan woman who, to avoid the mocking of those who knew her life was a scandal of sin and immorality, came to the public well in the heat of the day where she met Jesus (John 4:1-42).

For today’s brief devotional, I invite you to consider a portrait of humility embodied in the example of Christ’s forerunner, John the Baptist (John 3:22-36).  While the name and ministry of Jesus was increasing in Israel, it was inevitable that His ministry and that of John the Baptist would intersect.  Humanly speaking, one would anticipate a rivalry to rise between these two titans of faith and miracles.

Hearing Jesus had come into Judaea and was baptizing, John’s disciples came to him and said, “He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him” (John 3:26).

John’s response is one every preacher, teacher and their followers should mirror when the temptation to compete arises between churches and ministries.  We read, “John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:27).

John went on to express a truth ministers and teachers should follow; he was not “the Christ” and was not seeking his own followers (John 3:28-29).  John’s task was not to build a spiritual entourage; his task was to prepare the way and point men to Jesus Christ!   John continued, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:39).

One of the great failings of Christianity in the late 20th and now 21st century is too many Christians identify with “big name” preachers, teachers, and institutions rather than find their identity in Jesus Christ alone.   Book publishers, radio stations, Christian magazines and now the internet has perpetuated the bent and contentious nature of being followers of men!

The apostle Paul addressed the same sinful propensity in 1 Corinthians 3 when he writes, “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 5  Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6  I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:4-6).  Sadly, some Christians are so enamored with their favorite preacher or evangelist; they abandon all discernment and follow them into their errors and sin!

Friend, I hope you are not numbered among those who stoop to be followers of men and institutions rather than followers of Jesus Christ!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale Christian Academy and Preschool

Twelve years ago, August 2005, Hillsdale Baptist Church, founded in 1962, opened her heart to a new community and began an exciting new ministry…Hillsdale Preschool.   Over the years, Hillsdale Preschool grew and matured into a ministry we know today as Hillsdale Christian Academy and Preschool (HCA).

HCA has become a full-fledged academic institution offering superior classroom instruction to K2-5th Grades and an exclusive Virtual School for 6th-12th grades directed and moderated by our secondary education teacher, Mrs. Rebecca Peterman.

Under the guidance of our principal, Mrs. Tanya Henry and our Family Pastor, Pastor Eric Peterman, Hillsdale Preschool is one of the finest Preschools in Central Florida (annual testing of our K4 students matriculating to K5 has HCA in the top percentile in Florida).

With an exceptional, dedicated Christian faculty, HCA is earning its own reputation as an academic institution and is a Step UP and McKay scholarship approved institution.  Committed to being a loving, nurturing institution offering academic disciplines with a Christian worldview, HCA promotes civic responsibility and is unapologetically patriotic.

Rejoice with me as Hillsdale Christian Academy and Preschool begins her 2017-2018 school year!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

An Exhortation for Preachers, Bible Teachers and Believers

Friday, July 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 31-36

Continuing our reading in Ezekiel, we noted in prior chapters God’s love and jealousy for Israel and Judah (Ezekiel 25-30).  The rebellion of His people invited His judgment; however, the pleasure the heathen nations took in Israel’s suffering provoked God’s wrath and He warned they would fall to Babylon.  Named among those nations is Egypt whose treasures would be taken by king Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:1-21).

Ezekiel 31 continues God’s warning of judgment against Egypt.  Nebuchadnezzar and his Chaldean army’s devastating overthrow of ancient Assyria, likened in chapter 31 unto the great oaks of Lebanon, served as God’s warning to Egypt (31:1-18).

Ezekiel continues his prophecy of judgment against Egypt in chapter 32, prophesying that nation’s calamity would serve as a warning to other nations (32:1-10).   Giving no room for ambiguity, Egypt’s fall to Babylon is ascertained (32:11-15).   Picturing Hell for what it is, a place of death and torment for the lost who reject the LORD (32:17-32), the Egyptians are forewarned they will make their graves with those nations that have gone before them.

Ezekiel 33-35 moves the focus from Egypt’s imminent destruction to the prophet Ezekiel’s responsibility as God’s watchman.

The task of a prophet is not an enviable one and the message he delivers is often despised and rejected by his listeners.  While the message of an Old Testament prophet is often foretelling, his focus is never exclusively future events.  Ezekiel, like  Jeremiah, Isaiah and others, was to remind Israel of her glorious past, discern the present times and declare God’s judgment should the people continue in their sins (33:1-9).

It is the latter work of the preacher\prophet, the forth telling and unapologetic declaration of God’s Word, that has all but been silenced by the 21st century church.  I have heard of church boards and schools that purpose to depart from the Bible fundamental legacy of the church and court pastors and administrators who disavow the role of the watchman.   

Rather than confront the sins of the Church, the pulpiteers of our day offer up drops of honey and philosophical charm to a generation of professing believers given to sin.  Fearing noxious labels like legalist and mean-spirited, pastors are failing to serve as “watchmen”.  The sound of the trumpet warning the people of God’s judgment is silent and pastors and Bible teachers are guilty of soft-pedaling God’s call and command to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Lest some take my observation to task, I remind you the duty of the New Testament pastor is to, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Be forewarned my pastor peers; the blood of a generation will be on our heads should we fail as God’s watchman (Ezekiel 33:8).

Ezekiel, living as a captive in Babylon and far from Jerusalem, called His people to repent (33:1-20).  When the news of Jerusalem’s fall reached him, the LORD consoled him, though the people refuse to heed his warning, they would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

Ezekiel rebukes unfaithful “shepherds” for their failure to lead the people (Ezekiel 34).  Failing to guide and nourish them, the “shepherds” took advantage of the weak and abused their roles as the spiritual caregivers of Israel (34:1-8).  Having failed in their duty, the LORD warned, “I am against the shepherds” (34:9-10).

In spite of the dire state of His people, the LORD assured His prophet that He would gather them together as a loving shepherd gathers His sheep (34:11-31).

I close today with a charge to ministers and Bible teachers who are faithful shepherds of God’s people.

Our task as preachers and teachers of Truth is not appreciated by many and some might say we are failures.  Be faithful friend and take solace in this; one day some will “know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33)!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God’s Call to Holiness

Monday, July 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 16-18

After addressing the issue of leprosy (Leviticus 13-14), the opening verse of Leviticus 16 reminds us of a tragedy that occurred in the priesthood when two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, “offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1) and were slain for their sin against the LORD (Leviticus 10:2).

Reminding us the office of high priest was a holy office and Aaron’s ministry before the LORD on behalf of the people was a sacred duty; the LORD instructs Moses the high priest was only to enter the holy place, the “holy of holies”, once a year (16:2) on “the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month” (16:29).   The Day of Atonement, known as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, is the most holy day on the Jewish calendar and was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for nation’s sins against God.

The pattern of blood sacrifices was necessary to remind all sinners the penalty of sin is death and there is no forgiveness of sins apart from the shedding of blood, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Once a year and every year, the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people.  Under the new covenant, this annual ritual is no longer needed following Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for sin, His burial and resurrection from the dead. We read in the Book of Hebrews,

Hebrews 9:24-28 – “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25  Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28  So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Leviticus 17 continues the LORD’s instructions to Moses concerning sacrifices the priests were to offer for the people before the door of the tabernacle.   Thirteen times in chapter 17 the centrality of blood sacrifices for sin is mentioned and explicit instructions are given regarding the offerings to the LORD, including the prohibition regarding the consumption of blood (17:10-14).   For those curious regarding the meaning of “Kosher” meats; they are meats derived from animals slaughtered and the blood drained according to Biblical guidelines.

Morality and the sanctity of marriage is the subject of Leviticus 18:1-30 and one that should be a subject of teaching in the 21st century church.   Several moral issues are addressed including the prohibition of incest (18:6-19), adultery (18:20; Exodus 20:14), homosexuality (18:22), and bestiality (18:23).

The wicked immoral practices the people might remember from Egypt and the immorality that might observe in the new land were prohibited.  In other words, the world was not to be the standard of God’s people in conduct and lifestyle.  Israel was to not follow in the ways of Egypt and Canaan (Leviticus 18:3; 24-29).  The LORD commanded His people, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God” (18:4).  Excommunication from fellowship and living among the people was the judgment against any who chose to walk contrary to the law and commandments (18:29).

Friend, there was a time the church and God’s people set the moral standard for these United States and defined a godly lifestyle according God’s Word, law and commandments.   It troubles me to observe the average Christian home in America has an appetite for the world and looks to society, politicians, judges, and liberal media for their moral judgments.  Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until we allow our consciences to be disciplined by God’s Word, law and commandments (18:30).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith