Category Archives: Church

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

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

Hipster, Skinny-jean Worship Leaders are the Trend, But Who is Their God? (Exodus 37-40)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 39-40, Psalm 33, and Mark 5. Our Bible devotional is from Exodus 37-40.

Because the Tabernacle was a constant reminder of the LORD’s presence in the midst of His people, He gave precise details of its design and furnishings; including the construction and exact dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant that represented God’s heavenly throne on earth (37:1-9; note – Psalm 80:1; 99:1).

The Ark would be transported by means of “staves” (i.e. rods) overlaid with gold (37:3-5).  Gold overlaid the entirety of the Ark, including the “mercy seat” upon which two cherubim faced with their wings outstretched toward one another (37:7-9), reflecting the purity and holiness of God’s throne of judgment.

Exodus 37:10-28 itemizes other furnishings employed in the tabernacle including a table overlaid with gold, and dishes, bowls, spoons, an elaborate candlestick and “altar of incense” (37:25-29), all of pure gold.

Exodus 38:1-20 gives the design of an “altar of burnt offering” and the vessels of brass used in offering sacrifices (38:1-8).  The outer court of the Tabernacle, including its construction, curtains, and rings on which they were to hang is given in exacting detail (38:9-20).  The enormous sacrifice of the people reflected in the vast amount of gold, silver and brass they gave for the furnishings of the Tabernacle is recorded (38:24-26).

The stunning colors of the “holy garments” worn by the high priest is described (39:1-2) as well as the breastplate embedded with twelve precious jewels, each engraved with the names of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (39:8-14).  The bindings of the breastplate worn by the high priest is given as well as other articles of clothing worn by him (39:15-31).  Fastened to a turban worn by the high priest was a plate of gold engraved with the words, “Holiness to the LORD” (39:30-31).

Moses directed the construction of the Tabernacle, the forging of its implements, and the dedication of the high priest, his sons and the garments worn by them (Exodus 40).  Insuring all was done “as the LORD had commanded” (39:43), Moses dedicated the work (40:33) and the outward manifestation of God’s approval was “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (40:34)!

I close drawing your attention to the phrase, “as the LORD commanded Moses”.  That phrase, repeated thirteen times in Exodus 39 and 40, reminds us that worship was not treated in some loosey-goosey, half-hearted manner. There was a preciseness in the preparations of the place of worship and the order and conduct of the spiritual leaders was to reflect God’s holy character.

Compare that to what most American churches call worship today where the bold declaration of God’s Word has decayed into an entertainment venue of strobe lights,  deafening music and tight-jeaned, tattooed spiritual leaders who are more concerned with reflecting the carnal culture of the masses than the holy character of the God they portend to serve!

Let’s remember what God requires of His servants!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which isin you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

God restores failures and uses imperfect people. (Mark 1-2)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 29-30, Psalm 30, and Mark 2. Our devotional is from Mark 1-2.

I have heard it said, “Bible believers are the only ones who shoot their wounded!”

If true, that is a tragic statement!   We should be compelled to forgive and restore others by the reality we have been forgiven much by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:8).

I fear many who grew up in church or have known the LORD for years forget the sinful muck out of which God saved us.  We forget the command to forgive others to the extent we have experienced forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).

Today’s Bible reading takes us to the Gospel of Mark and the ministry of John the Baptist; however, before we plunge into that study, let us take some lessons from the life of its human author, John Mark.

Who was John Mark?   Unlike the authors of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, Mark was not one of the twelve disciples.  He was a citizen of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and some believe he was the young man who fled into the night when Jesus was arrested in the Garden (Mark 14:50-52).  He was also a traveling companion of Paul and Barnabas when they set out on their first missionary journey to Antioch (Acts 13:1-5).

Mark’s journey with Paul and Barnabas came to an abrupt end when we read, “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing [going away; deserting] from them returned [turning his back] to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13).  The cause for John Mark’s sudden departure is not revealed (I speculate the hardships and threat of persecution was the cause).

John Mark reemerges in Acts 15 and his desire to travel once again with Paul and Barnabas becomes a source of conflict and division between the two (Acts 15:36-39).  We read “Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 15:37); however, Paul “thought it not good [desirable] to take [John Mark]…” (15:38).  The dispute became so great Barnabas and Paul went their separate ways (Acts 15:39-41).

That brings us to the question:  “How did John Mark go from being a man with whom Paul was unwilling to travel to the author of the Gospel of Mark?   We do not know what transpired in John Mark’s life after he departed with Barnabas; however, we know he went on to distinguish himself as one of God’s faithful servants.

It is believed Mark penned his Gospel while in Rome, leading me to ask,“What brought John Mark to Rome?”   The answer to that question is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  Paul writes, “…Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable [good; worthy] to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

When Paul viewed John Mark as a disappointment; Barnabas looked through the eyes of a Mentor and, at the risk of his friendship, lovingly restored Mark to ministry.  Perhaps it was this lesson that moved Paul’s heart when he penned:

Galatians 6:1-2– “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

As you read the Gospel of Mark, remember one of the great spiritual lessons we take from its author:  God restores failures and uses imperfect people.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Does A Casual, “Come as You Are” Style Reflect the God of the Bible? (Exodus 27-28)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 27-28, Psalm 29, and Mark 1. Our devotional is from Exodus 27-28.

Having given the people His Law and Commandments, the LORD instructed Moses to collect materials necessary to forge implements used in worship including gold, silver, bronze, spices and oils, and cloth for priestly robes.

While the Tabernacle served as the visible symbol of God’s presence in the midst of Israel’s encampment (Exodus 25:8), the “Ark”, its top known as the “Mercy Seat” and adorned with two cherubims facing one another represented the throne of God (25:17-22) and served as the central place of worship within the Tabernacle.

A beautiful veil (Exodus 26:31) divided the interior of the Tabernacle and the innermost place beyond the veil was “the holy place and the most holy” (26:33) where the Ark of the Covenant sat.  The veil of the Tabernacle symbolized the separation between man and the Mercy Seat that represented the presence of the LORD (26:34).

Aaron, the brother of Moses, and his sons were sanctified (set apart) for serving as priests to Israel (28:1).  Priestly garments are described in detail (28:2-43) and great attention was given to the robes of the priesthood.  There was meaning and purpose in every detail, from the breastplate over the priest’s heart that represented God’s judgment (28:15-30) to the bells about his robe whose sound gave witness to the movement of the priest within the Tabernacle and his acceptance in the LORD’s presence (28:31-26).

I close with an observation of a sad irony I see in the casual nature of pastors and preachers in today’s 21stcentury church.  While pastors most assuredly do not serve as priests for the New Testament Church, Christ being our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:26; 9:11), we nevertheless do bear in our demeanor and appearance a reflection of the God we worship and His person.

Surely the LORD is no less holy today than He was in Israel’s day!  “Dressing down” has become the style of those who occupy the pulpit and its influence reflects not only in the pew, but in the whole atmosphere of contemporary worship. 

Friend, if your idea of acceptable dress and demeanor for worship is shorts, sandals and a t-shirt, I am left wondering what became of the God who demanded beautiful robes, holiness and sanctification of His priests!

What is the nature of the God you worship so casually?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith