Category Archives: Church

The Cry of a Wounded Soul (Psalm 41)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 23-24, Psalm 41, and Mark 13. Our devotional is from Psalm 41.

Psalm 41 challenges believers to consider their relationship with others and how they respond to them who disappoint and betray.

King David was at a low point in his life, physically and emotionally, when he composed this psalm. Rehearsing the LORD’s promise to hear and heed the cries of His people in their hour of need (41:1), David remembered God keeps watch over His people and delivers them out of trouble in His time (41:2).  David writes,

Psalm 41:1-4 – “Blessed [Happy] is he that considereth [understands] the poor [weak; needy]: the LORD will deliver [save] him in time of trouble [sin; wickedness; evil]. 2  The LORD will preserve [keep; guard] him, and keep him alive [sustain]and he shall be blessed [prosperous] upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver [abandon] him unto the will  [desire] of his enemies [adversary; foe]3 The LORD will strengthen [support; uphold] him upon the bed [couch; canopy] of languishing [sorrow]: thou wilt make [turn; overthrow] all his bed in his sickness [disease; malady].  4  I said, LORD, be merciful [gracious; show favor] unto me: heal [cure; purify] my soul [life]; for I have sinned [committed sin; guilty] against thee.”

David tossed and turned upon his bed; as sorrow and disappointment washed over his soul.  He spent sleepless nights praying and waiting on the LORD (41:3).  Searching his soul, David confessed his sin and believed God would show Him favor and restore him (41:4).

Psalm 41:5-6 – “Mine enemies speak [charge] evil [sin; wickedness] of me, When shall he die [be slain], and his name [fame; honor] perish [destroyed]6  And if he [enemy; adversary] come to see [look; behold] me, he speaketh [declare] vanity [deceit; lies]: his heart gathereth [collect; heap; take up] iniquity [sin; wickedness] to itself; when he goeth [go forth] abroad [in the streets], he telleth [speak; say; talk] it.”

Every saint who strives to serve the LORD and walk with integrity will inevitably face the bitter distress of betrayal.   When you feel the sorrow of duplicity, remember the LORD felt the caress of Judas’ kiss upon His own cheek.

Psalm 41:7-8 –  “All that hate me whisper [mumble] together [i.e. in chorus] against me: against me do they devise [imagine; fabricate] my hurt.8  An evil [wicked] disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth [lays down] he shall rise up no more.”

It is a terrible way when embittered souls wait the day they can take satisfaction in the fall of a pastor or a fellow believer (41:8).

Psalm 41:9 gives us insight into the personal nature of the betrayal that befell David.

Psalm 41:9 –  “Yea, mine own familiar [close] friend, in whom I trusted [a confidant], which did eat [devour; consume] of my bread [food; meal], hath lifted up his heel [foot] against me [magnified himself].

David’s adversary wanted to grind the king under his heel and humiliate him.  His enemy waited for the satisfaction of the king’s demise.  Although not identified by name, I believe David’s enemy was either Absalom, the king’s own son (2 Samuel 15) or Ahithophel, the king’s trusted counselor (2 Samuel 16:23).

Let’s take a lesson from David’s life and remember betrayal and sorrow is the affliction of saints who walk with integrity and minister to others with abandon.

Be watchful you do not become embittered when you suffer injustices and betrayals; after all, the LORD suffered the same and He will never abandon you (Psalm 41:10-13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Hey Millennial Pastors: God has not called you to be “real”; He has called you to be “holy”! (Leviticus 21-22)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 21-22. Our devotional is from Leviticus 22.

Leviticus 21 reminds us God’s calling to ministry is a sacred calling.  Whatever laws God commanded His people, the priests ordained to minister sacrifices and offerings were to strictly observe in their homes, marriages, and families (21:5-15).  Indicating God’s demands for his ministers to be holy and unblemished, no sons of the Aaronic priesthood could serve as priests if there was a physical blemish (21:16-24).

The opening verses of Leviticus 22 remind 21st century ministers and believers that God sets forth the highest ideals for those who minister before Him on behalf of His people.  I understand the context of Leviticus 22 is in its immediate application guidelines for the priesthood; however, we find enduring principles for those who serve the LORD.

The first, priests were to treat as sacred the sacrifices brought to them by the people (22:2).   The work of continually offering sacrifices might have easily become routine for priests and, rather than treat their duties as a sacred responsibility, a sense of doldrums and lethargy might set in that would treat the offerings as less than holy.

There is also a danger of failing to take account of one’s spiritual standing before the LORD (22:3).  Samuel’s rebuke of king Saul’s pretentiousness in offering sacrifices echoes this same principle when we read, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).  The people bringing sacrifices might not have known the priest ministering before them was merely going through the motions; however, the LORD knows the hearts of those who serve Him and requires holiness.

A third example of treating the priesthood with less than the holiness God demanded was a laxness in who might share the portions set aside for the priest and his immediate family (22:10-16).  In other words, the heart of a priestly father might be to give a portion of meat to family members and guests who did not qualify to partake of the portions God set aside for priests and their families.

Finally, sacrifices offered to the LORD were to be of the highest standard (22:17-32).  Like those who offer the LORD less than a tithe, there was the temptation to offer animals for sacrifice that were deformed, ill or injured.  God’s standard was “there shall be no blemish therein”(22:21).

Pastors who fail to live above reproach and take the high road when it comes to so-called “gray areas” in life are a leprosy in the 21st century church.  Projecting an ideology of being “real” and approachable, our pulpits are sacrificing holiness, embracing carnality, and our church members are following the same (1 John 2:15-17).

I close reminding pastors and believers, God’s call for holiness is for us all.

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

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson in Biblical Morality (Leviticus 17-18)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 17-18, Psalm 40, and Mark 12. Our devotional is from Leviticus 17-18.

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.  The centrality of blood sacrifices for sin is mentioned 13 times in chapter 17 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 I deem 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 remembered from Egypt and the immorality they might observe in the new land were prohibited.   In other words, the world was not Israel’s standard in conduct or lifestyle.  The people were not to 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 from 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 set the moral standards for these United States and God’s Word, HIs Law, and Commandments defined the lifestyles of His people. It is troubling to see 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.

God will not bless our homes, churches, and schools until we return to the LORD and His Word becomes our guide and standard (18:30). 

Psalm 119:9-11 – 9Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

In the words of Dwight L. Moody, “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Is a “Strange Fire” in Your Place of Worship? (Leviticus 10:1-7)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 9-10, Psalm 36, and Mark 8. Our Bible devotional is from Leviticus 9-10.

Our study in Leviticus continues with the ordination and consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood.  While Moses offered sacrifices to the LORD, Aaron and his sons remained at the Tabernacle for seven days (8:31-36) and on the eighth day began ministering before the LORD offering sacrifices on behalf of the nation (Leviticus 9:1-24).

What a glorious day for Israel when “the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people” (Leviticus 9:23) and “there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (9:24).

One would hope the visible display of God’s favor would induce a perpetual spirit of humility and obedience; however, such was not the case.  Tragedy soon befell the tribes of Israel when “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron…offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1).

We are not told why the eldest sons of Aaron offered strange fire; however, I suppose the privilege of the priesthood incited pride.  Whatever the motive, the LORD was swift to judge and “there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD” (10:2).

No doubt the sinful actions of his sons and their deaths devastated Aaron and Moses reminded him how the LORD sanctified the priesthood (Exodus 19:22) and demanded He alone be glorified before the people.  Of Aaron we read, he “held his peace” (10:3), meaning he was silent.

To add a greater solemnity to the tragedy, the LORD commanded the bodies of Nadab and Abihu be taken outside the camp of Israel for burial (10:4-5) while Aaron and his younger sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, remained at the “door of the tabernacle” (10:7).  Lest the people be tempted to sorrow and grieve over the deaths of those who sinned against the LORD, Moses warned Aaron and his sons to not make a public display of their grief (10:6-7).

I close today’s devotional wondering if there is a “strange fire” (10:1-7) in your place of worship. 

 “I lost my church sitting in the pew”, has become a familiar refrain from saints longing for the days when, in the words of evangelist Dr. Ron Comfort, “Preaching was king and music was queen”.  With rare exception (in fact, I cannot think of an exception), those saints point to a subtle change in music as the commencement of their churches drift from its historical conservative, Biblical roots.

I believe the “strange fire” of our day is music and pastors of my generation and the one following have failed God and His church.  We have given “worship leaders” a prominence in our ministries akin to the pastoral office, but failed to require of them Biblical virtues and spiritual discernment requisite of elders in the church (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9).

Our failure has permitted a flood of music from ministries whose doctrine we would never tolerate in our fellowships and associations, let alone in our pulpits!  We allowed an integration of music from those movements, albeit repurposed and arranged to make it palatable to churches and institutions historically fundamental, but the slow creep of carnality and the erosion of spiritual values has followed.

“Strange fire?”

Do you remember when the “new music” was introduced to your church?  Do you remember the sensitivity in your spirit that something was not right?  Do you remember being told, either verbally or tacitly, “You’re being an old fuddy duddy!” and the church needs to adapt for the sake of the youth?

I have come to realize music is and has been the catalyst for a drift in the culture and doctrine of our families, churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.  (I highly recommend a new book on the subject of worship music by Evangelist Ben Everson titled “Fusses, Fights, and Funerals”).  Like Nadab and Abihu, we are offering “strange fire” from religious movements foreign to the historical character of our fundamental churches and institutions.  Unlike the swift judgment of fire experienced by Israel (Leviticus 10:2), I fear our compromise in music and preoccupation with the taste of the masses has resulted in God removing His power from our pulpits and blessings from our ministries.

“Be Holy!”

God commands His people to be holy, because He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  We are to be imitators of Christ and not imitators of the world (1 Peter 1:14; Romans 12:2).  If what we call worship finds its origin in religious movements that look, sound, and mimic the world, it is not holy.

Like Israel bewailing “the burning which the Lord has kindled” (Leviticus 10:6), I fear there are many who too late, mourn the decline of our fundamental churches and the erosion of institutions that once sang with passion, “Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry”.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Invited for a Special Sunday at Hillsdale Baptist Church

 

This Sunday, February 17, 2019, Hillsdale Baptist Church will welcome to our ministry evangelist Dr. Ron Comfort and his wife Joyce.  The Comforts will be ministering to our church family throughout the day beginning with a split session for our Adult Bible Fellowship at 9:15am.  

Mrs. Comfort will be teaching a combined class of our ladies and teen daughters in our Friendship Hall.  Dr. Comfort will teach our men and teen sons in Cox Hall.  A lobby fellowship with pastries and coffee will precede our 9:15am ABF classes.

Dr. Comfort will be preaching in both the 10:30am and 6:00pm services.  His wife, an accomplished pianist, will be playing and she and Dr. Comfort will be singing before each message.

Dr. Comfort has been an evangelist for 58 years, beginning his ministry in 1961.  In 1989 he founded Ambassador Baptist College (ABC) in Lattimore, North Carolina.  Dr. Comfort serves today as ABC’s Chancellor and the college continues its mission of preparing young men for the Gospel ministry under the leadership of its second president, Dr. Alton Beal.  ABC is best known as an “old-fashioned, preacher-training Bible college” and is dedicated to the task of training men and women for ministry.  

Dr. Comfort recently published his autobiography, “A Fire in My Bones”, sharing his testimony of salvation and his lifetime of experiences as an evangelist serving the LORD faithfully as a preacher of the Gospel from 1961 to our day.

You are not only invited to our services this Sunday, but also encouraged to bring family and friends with you to what I pray will be an old-fashioned day of revival.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

Unmasking Hypocrites (Mark 7)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 3-4, Psalm 35, and Mark 7. Our devotional is from Mark 7.

An oft criticism of churches and one of the primary excuses given by non-believers for not attending church is, “There are too many hypocrites in the church!” After 40 years in the ministry, I have to agree:  “There are too many hypocrites in the church!”

Hypocrisy, however, is not limited to the church or Christianity. Indeed, I am certain all religions and belief systems have their hypocrites, including non-religious institutions and associations.

The word “Hypocrite” comes from the Greek word for a stage actor – someone who plays a part or role in a play.  Actors in ancient plays would portray more than one character by wearing masks that identified a character’s role.  When playing a comedic character, an actor would wear a mask with a silly smile.  For a sad character the actor would wear a large frowning mask and quote tragic lines inducing sorrow and weeping from the audience.

In effect; a hypocrite is an actor who wears a mask playing one part while in reality being another.

Mark 7 records one of Christ’s most stinging rebukes of the Pharisees, the religious legalists of the day whom He exposed as hypocrites. I invite you to join me in an honest and transparent study of Mark 7.

Jesus’ growing popularity incited a backlash among his enemies. Thousands were following Him in Galilee and the situation for the scribes and Pharisees was intolerable. While the scribes were experts in the Law of God; the Pharisees were its enforcers and the most influential religious group in Israel (Mark 7:1).  Outwardly zealous in matters of the Law, the Pharisees instituted hundreds of man-made laws in an attempt to interpret the Laws and Commandments.

The Pharisees came to Jesus criticizing His disciples’ failure to “wash their hands” before eating (Mark 7:2-3).  The issue was not that the disciples were eating with dirty hands, but they had failed to practice “the tradition of the elders” in ceremonial cleansing (7:4).

Jesus answered His critics quoting the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13) and accusing the Pharisees of being hypocrites (7:7-9).  While professing to be teachers of God’s commandments, they were in fact, advocates of man-made rituals and traditions (7:7-9).

Exposing their hypocrisy, Jesus addressed the Pharisees’ violation of the fifth commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exodus 20:12).  Allowing a man to pronounce an oath, It is Corban”, meaning it is an offering, the Pharisees applauded men who dedicated their wealth to the Temple at the neglect of their parent’s material and financial welfare.  Such an oath, they argued, freed a son from honoring and caring for his parents.

What hypocrites!  To enrich the Temple treasury, they applauded men violating the fifth commandment, but judged the disciples harshly for failing to conform to petty traditions. They supplanted God’s Law, hiding behind their traditions.

Friend, are you hiding behind a mask of religion? Are you judging others by your self-imposed standards, while failing to keep the precepts and principles of God’s Word?

Don’t forget “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Psychology Attempts to Reform What Salvation Promises to Transform (Mark 5)

A devotional bonus from Mark 5.

The Christian radio broadcast, Unshackled”, is the longest continually running radio program in history.   Produced by the Pacific Garden Mission of Chicago for over 69 years, “Unshackled” has conveyed the real life stories of thousands of sinner’s whose lives were transformed by trusting Jesus Christ as Savior!

The great validating testimony of the Christian faith above all the world’s religions is not reformation but transformation!   For more than a century doctors have practiced “psychology” attempting to address the ailments of man’s mind and soul. Medications, rehab centers, and mental institutions have all failed to “fix” troubled souls.  Today’s “bonus devotional thought” from Mark 5:1-20 tells the story of the terrible ravages sin takes on a man’s life.

Crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the eastern shore known as Gadara where they were met by a man with an “unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).  We are not told when the man gave his soul over to demons; however, sin had taken every corner of his thoughts and affections, degrading and destroying his life.

Notice three visible details about the man.  The first, his pitiful physical appearance:  His body scarred by self-inflicted wounds; ropes hanging around his ankles and chains about his neck and wrists, all evidencing the desperate attempts of loved ones to control him (5:3-4).  The second characteristic of this troubled man is his social isolation: cut off from family, friends, and neighbors, he made his abode among the caves and tombs (5:5).  The third detail is his emotional condition exhibited by his tormented screams echoing off the hillsides “always, night and day” (5:5).

Seeing Jesus, in a fleeting moment of desperation, the man ran out of the hills and came to Him and worshipped Him (5:6).  Jesus, evidencing His authority over demons cast them out of the man and they entered swine that could not abide the indwelling of such wickedness (5:10-13).

Rather than the protracted steps and methods of “reformation” that is the methodology of psychologists and psychiatrists, the demon-possessed man’s life immediately gave evidence of his conversion and transformation (5:8, 15).   The change was so transformative that his family, friends, and neighbors observed he was “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (5:15).  Sitting”… he was at peace, no longer needing to be bound with chains and ropes; clothed”… no longer a wild man crying and cutting himself;  in his right mind… repentant and rational.

How great was this transformation?  In Mark 5:7 he wanted nothing to do with Jesus; however, in Mark 5:18 his love and gratitude for Jesus moved him to want nothing more than to be with Jesus.

Everything about the maniac of Gadara changed: His attitudes— he was “in his right mind” (5:15); His actions— he was “sitting” with Jesus (5:15); His appearance— he was “clothed” (5:15); His affections— “prayed Him that he might be with Him [Jesus]” (5:15).

God’s power not only overcame his rebellious spirit, it transformed his thoughts, mind, and affections.  The power of the Gospel of Christ promises not only reformation; it promises total transformation!

2 Corinthians 5:17 – 17 Therefore if any man bein Christ, he isa new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith