Category Archives: Church

Don’t Give Up Hope!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 37-42

Not only is today’s reading a lengthy one, it also has details with numbers and measurements that are sure to leave the average reader wondering what possible application could this have to a 21st century student of God’s Word.   For the sake of brevity, I suggest a simple outline of chapters 37 through 42.

Ezekiel 37 is a prophetic illustration of Israel’s resurrection as a nation (remember, the prophet is ministering to the Jews in Babylon after the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem).   My younger readers might enjoy watching a video\audio clip of “Dry Bones” (I avoid referring to it as a “gospel song” since there is hardly a gospel lesson in the recording; however, the classy style of the “Delta Rhythm Boys” compared with today’s “recording artists” is worth the watch).   Ezekiel 37 is not only a prophetic picture of Israel’s resurrection as a nation, but also the unification of the people divided into two nations since Solomon’s reign.

Ezekiel 38 prophesies events that are yet to occur on an international scale against Israel.  There is neither time or space to enter into the debate of the nations portrayed in this chapter; however, it is my opinion this is a prophecy there is a day when the ruler of the north (38:14) which I believe is Russia (38:2 – “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal”) will lead an invasion of Middle Eastern nations (identified as “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya” – 38:5) against Israel.   Ezekiel 38:14-39:18 details the invasion of the armies and their defeat.  The LORD intervenes and Israel’s victory will be so overwhelming that the burial of the dead will take seven months (39:14).

Israel’s captivity in Babylon was 70 years less one and the time of the writing of Ezekiel 40 was in “the five and twentieth year” of the Jewish captivity (40:1).   Ezekiel 40-42 gives us a prophetic time not yet fulfilled when Israel, safely restored in her land will set her heart as a nation to build a new temple (the last destroyed in 70 AD) and worship the LORD.  The plans, dimensions, physical attributes and future construction of the future temple are given in Ezekiel 40-42.

Our scripture reading today concludes with Ezekiel 42; however, chapter 43 continues the narrative concerning the future temple with the promise the heavenly glory of the LORD Himself will fill the temple (Ezekiel 43:2-4).

As I close, consider this: The LORD wanted His people to never give up hope!

Remember Ezekiel’s immediate audience was His own people who were captives in Babylon.  Many had witnessed the devastating destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem.  Humanly speaking, all was lost and apart from divine intervention, the Jews would be numbered among those nations that had come and gone; their cities covered by the sands of the desert and the people assimilated into the populations of the earth and forgotten.

However, such was not the case with God’s chosen people with whom He covenanted to be their God.  God promised Abraham he and his descendants would be a blessing to all the earth (Genesis 12:1-3), a promise not fulfilled until the coming of Jesus Christ.  The Jews rejected Christ at His first coming as a suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53); however, at the end of the Tribulation they will see Him come as a conquering King and He will rule from Jerusalem and the people will worship Him during the Millennial in a new temple.

In the midst of reading the numbers and dimensions of a future temple, consider the revival of joy and hope among God’s people when they were reminded God had not forgotten them and all was not lost!  The day was coming when a new temple would be built and God’s glory would once again fill the temple and the world would know the LORD is in the midst of His people!

Friend, don’t give up hope…remember, this same LORD promised His disciples He was going away to “prepare a place” for them and “will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-4).

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

The Blessed Ministry of the Doorkeepers (Greeters)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 84-86

Today’s scripture reading is Psalms 84, 85 and 86; however, I will limit my devotional commentary to Psalm 84, a psalm of praise, thanksgiving and worship.

I am not certain what occasioned the psalmist to be in a place of longing for the “tabernacles” of the LORD (84:1); however, he yearned to be where the saints called upon the LORD (84:2, 4).

How sad the same cannot be said of many who profess to be Christians today!  Far too many church members forgo blessed opportunities to worship the LORD for some of the most trivial reasons…a sniffle, a headache, a dark cloud or a raindrop often proves excuse enough to forsake worshipping the LORD (Hebrews 10:25).

Continuing his private worship, the psalmist petitions the LORD to hear his prayer and in his meditations reminds himself that the LORD is “God our Shield [small shield]” (84:9)

Psalm 84:10 – “For a day in thy courts [residence; i.e. Temple; House of worship] is better [more precious or delightful] than a thousand [i.e. other places]. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

What an admirable statement of a who man loves the LORD!  Given his choice, the psalmist would choose one day in the house of the LORD over a thousand places of ease and temporal pleasures.  Few 21st century Christians have that devotion to the LORD!   What a tragedy that many living in Central Florida (and other places of amusements) choose the “courts” of Mickey Mouse and the beauty of the beach over the LORD and His Church on Sunday.  As one who is soon to take a much-needed vacation, I appreciate the need for rest; however, too many lack a passion and devotion for worship and serving!

Permit me the liberty of a few memoriam observations regarding Psalm 84:10b – “…I had rather [chose to be] be a doorkeeper [gatekeeper; porter; also a janitor] in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness [i.e. place of ease and temporal pleasures].”

Hillsdale Baptist Church has had many “doorkeepers” (we call them greeters) over the years whose ministry to church members and guests earned them a place in the hearts of our members and the gratitude of this pastor.   There are too many to name, but a few “doorkeepers” with the LORD come to mind when I read Psalm 84:10:  Charter members, Cliff and Frances Linderman, Stan Hooker, Jim Munro, Mary Cooper, Ken Iverson, and Gaylon Johnson.  Add to that number, Mr. Fern Horton, who served at the door until his failing health forced him to pass the task to others.  Praise the LORD for the doorkeepers who stand faithfully at the door of our churches and choose to be no other place!

I close today’s devotional commentary with the promise the allures of the world might tempt you to feel you have given up something to love and serve the LORD; however, He promises you His best if you choose to walk before Him and others as a man or woman of integrity.

Psalm 84:11 – “For the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] God [Elohim; Mighty God] is a Sun [i.e. brilliant or a battlement] and Shield [small shield used for close combat]: the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] will give grace [favor; kindness] and glory [honor; splendor]: no good [better; sweet; pleasant] thing will He withhold [keep back; restrain] from them that walk uprightly [with integrity; perfect; without a blemish or spot].”

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

Beware Wolves in the Midst of Sheep

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Luke 19-20

Today’s devotional reading brings us to Jesus’ last days before Judas’ betrayal, the abandonment of His disciples and His crucifixion.

Luke 19 is rich in much that characterized our LORD’s earthly ministry.  His love for sinners, seen in the story of His meal in the home of Zacchaeus, a despised tax collector of Jericho (19:1-10); His challenge to be faithful and vigilant in His parable of the pounds (19:11027); and His love and sorrow for the citizens of Jerusalem knowing God’s judgment would come on the people and city after they rejected Him (19:28-44).

We find Jesus teaching in the Temple in the opening verses of Luke 20.  His antagonists, the religious leaders of Judaism, confronted Him in the Temple demanding by whose authority He performed miracles and taught the people (20:1-2).  Our beloved LORD, evidencing divine wisdom and insight into the heart of sinners answered their question with a question: “I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: 4  The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?” (Luke 20:3b-4). When the Jewish leaders refused to answer, Jesus responded, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (Luke 20:8).

Turning from hypocrites masquerading as devout religious men, Jesus taught the people the Parable of the Vineyard (20:9-19) and told the story of servants laboring in their master’s vineyard while he was away on a prolonged journey.  When the master sent trusted servants to collect the profit he was due from the vineyard, those laboring in the vineyard refused them and sent them away.  Finally, the owner of the vineyard sent his son (20:13); however, the laborers in the vineyard rose up and slew him (20:14-16).

Quoting Psalm 118:22, Jesus made it clear the application of that parable was those who rejected the son would themselves be rejected (20:17-18).   The chief priests and scribes realized the parable described their own wicked designs against Jesus and renewed their plot to kill Him (20:19-26).

I have had some ask over the years about the relationship of husband and wife and if they are bound in heaven.  This is an important concern to those who have, whether by death or divorce, had more than one husband or wife.   I believe the saints of God will know one another in heaven and am also convinced there will be no marriage in heaven.  We read in Luke 20:35, “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [heaven], and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:35).

Having silenced the scribes by His answers and questions (20:39-40), Jesus warned His disciples, 46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47  Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation” (Luke 20:46-47).

As it was then, so it is today–religious leaders, rather than serve the people as shepherds and servants, often burden their churches with an expectation they should be favored while they ravage the poorest and weakest to enrich themselves and make a pretense of religious piety.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is Jealous for His People!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 25-30

The historical context of today’s reading finds both Israel and Judah in captivity after God’s people rebelled and turned away from His law and commandments.   Having rejected the warnings of His prophets, the LORD judged those nations as He promised; however, He never forsook them.  Ezekiel 25 reminds us God is jealous for His people.

After destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar’s army took the people of Judah captive to Babylon.   Witnessing the calamity of God’s people, the heathen nations rejoiced in their sorrows and sufferings.  The LORD, however, took no pleasure in judging Judah and despised the heathen’s joy in the sorrows of His people.

Through His prophet Ezekiel, God warned the Ammonites (25:1-7), Moabites (25:8-11), Edomites (25:12-14) and Philistines that His judgment of Judah should serve notice of His wrath against the nations that found pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel and Judah (25:15-17).

Ezekiel 26-30 continues the prophet’s warning to the nations that their pleasure in the sufferings and sorrows of Israel would be rewarded with their own judgment.  Tyrus, the sea capital of Phoenicia would fall to Babylon (26:1-21; 27:1-36; 28:1-19).  Zidon, a city north of Tyrus, would also suffer the calamity and destruction that was the fate of Tyrus and neighboring nations who reveled in the destruction of Jerusalem (28:20-24).   Ezekiel 28 ends with the blessed promise God would gather His people from Babylonian exile and restore them to their land (28:25-26; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1).

Egypt too would be judged for her sins against Israel and her treasures would be the reward of Nebuchadnezzar (Ezekiel 29:1-16) as Babylon served God’s purpose for bringing judgment against that nation (29:17-21) and her neighbors (30:1-26).

There is a lesson in today’s reading that nations of the 21st century would be wise to heed:

There are grave consequences for those people and nations that take joy in the sorrows and sufferings of the Jews and Christians.

The atrocities committed against the Jews in the Second World War and the virtual annihilation of those nations that perpetrated them (Nazi Germany and fascist Italy) stands as a testimony that God loves His own, even when His people turn from Him.

Many reading this brief devotional are unaware those nations and people occupied by the Soviet Union and overwhelmed by Communist oppression in the years that followed World War II were guilty of crimes against the Jews on a scale that is unfathomable.   Eastern European nations that fell into the Soviet bloc of nations and suffered under communism were themselves guilty of murderous acts against the Jews and suffered their own sorrows until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

I close with illustrative verses of God’s love for Israel and a warning for all who harm His people.

Zechariah 1:14 – “…Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.”

Zechariah 2:8 – “…he that toucheth you [Israel] toucheth the apple [pupil] of His eye[meaning the eye of the LORD].

Zechariah 8:2 – “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.”

Warning: Mistreat God’s people and take pleasure in their sorrows and you will inevitably suffer the same, for God is a jealous God.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Workshop”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 10

The following study is taken in part from my devotional commentary post on the Book of Proverbs dated December 10, 2014.

Today’s study in proverbs features what I will call three “stand alone proverbs” – three proverbial statements of “Uncommon Common Sense” communicating three distinct observations.

Proverbs 10:15  “The rich man’s wealth [property; possessions; savings] is his strong city [a fortified city]: the destruction [ruin; dismay; terror] of the poor [needy; helpless] is their poverty.”

“You didn’t build that!”, was an adage employed by liberal politicians in the 2012 election cycle in the United States.   Hoping to stir up class envy, the statement taunted the successful while dismissing the sacrifices and risks taken by employers and business owners.  I accept the statement if the intent is to acknowledge divine providence; however, an ideology that taunts hardworking entrepreneurs, spawns an expansive welfare state, inevitably makes citizens debtors and slaves of big government.   How tragic!   While excoriating the successful, the poor are left weak, dependent and one crisis from destitution!

Proverbs 10:15 is a statement of fact—a rich man finds comfort and security in his wealth.   In the same way citizens of a medieval city found refuge behind the walls of a city, a rich man finds security in riches providentially provided to him by God.   By contrast, the working poor are often a crisis away from desperation (an incentive to be a “saver” and not a “spender” or “debtor”).

Proverbs 10:16 – “The labour  [wages; reward] of the righteous [just; law-abiding] tendeth to life [strength; satisfaction]: the fruit [result; reaping] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] to sin [punishment; i.e. leads to greater sin].”

Though the curse of sin left man laboring for food by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3:19),  the reward of an honest day’s labor brings its own satisfaction.   I am not sure who to credit with the quote, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; however, there is a lot of truth in that statement.   The prevalence of depression in our society is, I believe, directly related to the gross amount of leisure time we enjoy as a society.  Too few of us come to the end of a day and enjoy the reward of having accomplished anything that is lasting!

Proverbs 10:17 – “He is in the way [path] of life that keepeth [heeds] instruction: but he that refuseth reproof [refuses to hear and heed correction] erreth.”

Solomon continues a common theme in verse 17—God blesses a man who heeds correction and rebuke; however, a rebel will inevitably follow a path to his own destruction.

As Solomon challenged his son to take the path of righteousness, it is the duty and responsibility of parents and spiritual leaders to challenge men and women with the same enduring truths from God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2)!

Two questions to ponder: What path are you taking?  Is your heart open to correction? 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith