Category Archives: Depression

Attitudes are an External Indicator of the Bent or Direction of One’s Heart and Thoughts

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 13

Our society defines attitudes from an emotional perspective and deflects personal responsibility.  If someone exhibits a bad attitude, psychologists deem them victims—victims of poverty, neglect, rejection or abuse. Rather than taking responsibility and self-correcting one’s bad attitude, people find it easier to cast dispersion upon a peer or an authority figure they feel has failed them.  In the process of deflecting responsibility for one’s attitudes, they dig a deeper emotional and spiritual rut!

Today’s devotional will challenge you to look into your own heart for the cause of attitudes that beset you.  More than emotions, attitudes are an external indicator of the bent or direction of one’s heart and thoughts.

Proverbs 13:1  “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction [correction]: but a scorner [scoffer] heareth not rebuke [firm reproof].”

Notice the heart attitude of the “wise son”—he hears and heeds his father’s correction, reproof and rebuke.  His attitude toward his father’s discipline is that of a learner, unlike the scorner. The scorner “heareth not rebuke”—he mocks the authorities in his life and holds them in derision. He blames others for his attitudes and justifies his rebellion by focusing on what he perceives as their failures. He is a slave to “stinking thinking”, a pattern rooted within the bent of his heart and thoughts. Allow me to illustrate this truth with a childhood memory.

I remember NASA illustrating the entry of space capsules into earth’s atmosphere in the 1960’s and emphasizing the attitude of the nose of the capsule.  Attitude was the word NASA used to define the direction of the top or nose of the capsule as contrasted with the heat shield at its base. If the attitude of the nose were right, the heat shield at the base of the capsule would deflect the fiery heat of earth’s atmosphere. If the attitude of the capsule were wrong, the capsule and its occupants would burn up upon re-entry. Life and death were directly related to the attitude of the capsule’s nose.

That same principle is true concerning our attitudes. A pattern of bad attitudes will drive one emotionally and spiritually down a path of self-destruction.  However, the answer to a life of bad attitudes [anger, rebellion, resentment, jealousy, etc.] is not to merely confess and correct negative attitudes or emotions…it is to get to the heart of the problem, which is the problem of a sinful heart! In other words, as goes the heart so goes the attitude!

A Right Heart/Mind/Pattern of Thoughts = A Right Attitude

A Wrong Heart/Mind/Pattern of Thoughts = A Wrong Attitude

My friend, if you are waging war with sinful attitudes, the solution is not for others to change, but for you to change. Too many look outside themselves for a solution to enslaving attitudes…a different spouse, different school, different job, different church…foolishly thinking different will make a difference! Not so!

If you are weary of battling with enslaving attitudes, look to the bent and direction of your own heart and “stinking thoughts”.  Take a few minutes and do an honest, spiritual heart check-up and take responsibility for your attitudes! Get control of your thoughts and you will overcome your attitudes (Philippians 4:8; Proverbs 23:7).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Who You Gonna Blame?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 13-18

We continue our reading of the prophecies of Ezekiel with a reminder he is a prophet and priest, numbered among the Jews who are captives in Babylon.  The LORD has charged Ezekiel with the unenviable task of delivering a message of woes and judgments against Israel and his own people.  God commanded Ezekiel, “prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man” (11:4); however, the people would not repent.

False prophets become Ezekiel’s focus in chapter 13 when the LORD commanded the prophet, “prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy” (Ezekiel 13:2).   Lying prophets and prophetesses pretended to be the LORD’s prophets; however, their prophecies were lies pacifying the people’s lusts and belying the inevitability of God’s judgment against the nation (13:1-23).

Some elders of Israel living in Babylonian captivity come to Ezekiel in chapter 14 feigning a desire to hear the Word of the LORD; however, the LORD revealed to the prophet they were idolaters and not sincere worshipers of the God of Israel (14:1-5).  Rather than entertain the hypocrisy of the elders, Ezekiel called them to repent of their idolatry and warned them concerning the false prophets (14:6-11). The LORD charged Ezekiel to declare a series of four judgments He would send upon Israel (14:12-21), but also promising He would spare a remnant of the city (14:22-23).

With the elders of Israel serving as his audience (note 14:1), the LORD reveals to Ezekiel three prophetic pictures of judgment (Ezekiel 15-17).  The first is a vine (15:1-8), often a symbol of Israel in the scriptures (Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:1).  The destruction of the vine by fire is a prophetic picture of God’s judgment against Jerusalem and Judah (5:6-8).

The second prophetic picture portrays Israel as an abused woman whom the LORD out of His mercy chose to be His wife (16:1-7) and out of His love and grace showered with jewels and fine robes (16:8-14).   Rather than serving her husband out of love and gratitude, the wife repaid her husband’s favor heaping shame and humiliation on him with her gross immorality.  Israel, like an unfaithful wife, had turned from the LORD Who chose her.  The sins committed by Israel are staggering and the evidence of her wickedness are named by Ezekiel.  The nation had played the harlot (16:15-16), made idols (16:17) and the people offered their sons and daughters as sacrifices to idols (16:20-21).

Rather than repent and turn to the LORD for His protection and blessings, Israel turned to her heathen neighbors (Egypt, vs. 26; the Philistines, vs. 27; the Assyrians, vs. 28; the Chaldeans, vs. 29) and her compromise was akin to the wife playing a harlot on street corners (16:22-34).

Having stated the sins of God’s people, Ezekiel was charged with declaring God’s judgment (16:35-43).   Those nations (i.e. “thy lovers”, vs. 36) with whom Israel had compromised would despise her and be the instruments God would use to punish His people.  Israel’s sin and rebellion against God was greater than the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah because she had enjoyed God’s favor; however, she despised the LORD, rejected His Law, and committed the same abominations as the heathen (16:44-52).  In spite of the nation’s wickedness, God promised to not forget His covenant with Israel and to restore her (16:53-63).

The third picture of God’s judgment against Israel is a riddle of two eagles and three vine shoots (i.e. “twigs”) planted in Israel (17:1-24).  As discussed earlier, the vine, and in this chapter the cedar of Lebanon, are pictures of Israel; while Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon is pictured as an eagle in the Bible.  The prophet Jeremiah writes concerning Nebuchadnezzar, “he shall fly as an eagle” (Jeremiah 48:40; 49:22).  Leaving no doubt Nebuchadnezzar is the eagle and Israel and her king are the objects of God’s approaching judgment, we read:  “Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon” (Ezekiel 17:12).

In spite of the utter destruction and devastation of Jerusalem and Judah, the LORD promises to take a “twig” and replant it in Israel (17:22-23) and exalt “the low tree” (17:24).  Bible scholars believe, and I am inclined to agree, the “twig” represents the humble birth of Jesus Christ who will one day return as the King of kings and LORD of lords.

I conclude today’s devotional commentary with a passage of scripture from which I will be preaching this Sunday morning, Ezekiel 18.

There was no debate over the question of God judging Israel for sin; however, a question of responsibility for the calamities facing the nation rose among the people.

The younger population said,  “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2).  In other words, some were blaming the nation’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their forefathers.  In our day when “blame shifting” is epidemic and everyone is a victim, Ezekiel 18 is applicable to the homes of believers and non-believers .

The universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin are declared by the LORD: Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).  While all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and He blesses the man who chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).

Herein is a spiritual lesson for us all: Every generation bears responsibility for its sins and God does not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13) no more than he holds a son accountable for the sins of his father.   When a son see his father’s sins, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17); however, the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

So, who you gonna blame for your troubles?

I close with a challenge to parents who, though not perfect parents, are loving parents but find themselves burdened with an adult child that is a sorrow to their hearts.  Guard your heart against false guilt!  Don’t allow a child wallowing in the mire of self-pity give you cause to despair.  No man or woman has the privilege to blame others for the consequences of their own sinful choices.

God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30).   A family will suffer consequences for a family member’s sinful choices; however, the key is in how you respond to those troubles and sorrows.

Remember:  “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). 

 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

An unabridged devotional commentary on 1 Kings 19-22 for Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Kings 19-22

We conclude our reading of 1 Kings, reminding you that Elijah has, in the power of the LORD, withstood the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18).  Jezebel, the wicked wife of Ahab, learns Elijah had slain the prophets of Baal and sends a messenger to threaten the prophet with the same end (19:2).  Learning of the threat against his life, Elijah fled into the wilderness for fear Jezebel would make good on her threat (19:3).

Remembering this great prophet was but a man, we suspect he was physically exhausted and emotionally spent from the spiritual contest with the prophets of Baal.  In spite of his great victory, Jezebel’s threat against his life caused Elijah to despair (19:4).  In a moment of irony, the prophet fled to save his life, but also “requested for himself that he might die” (19:4)!

Rather than rebuke His prophet, the LORD sent an angel to minister to Elijah while he slept (19:5-8).  When Elijah awoke, he found food to eat and water to drink. Awaken a second time, Elijah was instructed to eat and drink and prepare for a long journey of 40 days (19:8).

Arriving in Mt. Horeb and dwelling in a cave, the LORD came to Elijah and asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:9).  Elijah complained to the LORD that of all the prophets, he alone was alive and all Israel had forsaken the LORD (19:10).  The LORD came to Elijah a second time and asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:13).  The LORD encouraged Elijah there were “seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (19:18).

Elijah departed Mt. Horeb as the LORD had commanded him, but along the way the LORD gave him Elisha, a man who would be an encouragement to the old prophet and ultimately his successor (19:19-21).

1 Kings 21 records a story familiar to all Bible students.  King Ahab coveted the vineyard of a man named Naboth; however, Naboth refused to sell his vineyard to the king (21:1-4).  Jezebel, learning of what she perceived to be Naboth’s slight against her husband the king, determined to take the vineyard and had two witnesses bring false accusations against Naboth declaring he had blasphemed God and punishing him by stoning (21:5-13).  Hearing Naboth was dead, Jezebel encouraged Ahab to rise and take possession of his vineyard (21:14-15). Ahab took possession of Naboth’s vineyard (21:16).

The LORD commanded Elijah to go and confront Ahab and prophesy the king would die in the place the “dogs licked the blood of Naboth” (21:19).  Knowing the calling of a prophet is to faithfully and fearlessly proclaim the Word of the LORD, it comes as no surprise that Ahab and Jezebel looked upon Elijah as their adversary.  Ahab said Elijah was “he that troubleth Israel” in 1 Kings 18:17.  Evidencing the regressive nature of sinners who reject God’s Word, Ahab greets Elijah saying, “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” (21:20).

Rather than retreat, the old prophet faithfully delivered the message of the LORD, declaring the king’s death, the end of his lineage as king, and prophesying the ignoble end of his wife, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel” (21:21-23).  Hearing the prophesy of his death, Ahab responded in an act of repentance and humility, tearing his robes and fasting (20:27).  Although his repentance was short-lived, God spared Ahab for a season and Elijah prophesied his son would suffer die in his stead (20:28-29; 2 Kings 9:14-37).

We conclude our study of 1 Kings with Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah allying himself with king Ahab against the king of Syria.   This final chapter records Ahab’s death on the battlefield against the king of Syria and the fulfillment of Elijah’s prophesy that the dogs would lick his blood as they had Naboth’s (22:37-40).   However, rather than focus on Ahab’s death, I draw your attention to the confrontation between Ahab and a prophet identified as “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (22:8).

Evidencing the nature of a godly king, Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, desired the LORD’s direction before going to battle (22:5).   Ahab complied with Jehoshaphat’s request and gathered nearly four hundred prophets who falsely prophesied the LORD would give Israel and Judah victory on the battlefield over the king of Syria (22:6).   In spite of the prophesies of nearly four hundred men, godly Jehoshaphat was not satisfied and enquired if there was not another prophet in Israel (22:7).

Now there was one prophet in Israel who had not received the invitation to prophesy before the kings, “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (22:8).   Ahab explained Micaiah had not been invited to prophesy saying, “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (22:8).

King Ahab complied with Jehoshaphat’s request and Micaiah was summoned to stand before the kings and prophesy (22:9-10).  Sitting in the “gate of Samaria”, the most public venue in the capital, Ahab’s prophets, led by one named Zedekiah, agreed in their prophesy that the LORD would give Israel and Judah victory over Syria (22:10b-12).  The servant Ahab sent to invite Micaiah to prophesy warned him the other prophets were of “one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good” (22:13).

In a moment of irony, Micaiah prophesied exactly what Ahab wanted to hear (22:15); however, the king rebuked him and demanded, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?” (22:16).

Micaiah answered, prophesying Ahab would die and Israel would be “scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd” (22:17).  Acknowledging his own self-fulfilling sentiment, Ahab said to the king of Judah, “Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?” (22:18).

Micaiah completed his task as God’s prophet, boldly confronting Zedekiah and the four hundred men who prophesied lies with him (22:19-23), declaring the true prophet would be revealed by whose prophesy came to pass (22:24-25).  As prophesied, Ahab died in battle and the people were scattered (22:36-40)

I close today’s devotional commentary noting Ahab’s disdain and reluctance to invite Micaiah to prophesy, because “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (22:8), has become, in my opinion, the malady of Bible fundamental churches, schools, and institutional boards.

Is that not the nature of sinners?  Pulpits of what were once thriving Bible fundamental churches are being filled with preachers dedicated to soft-pedaling God’s Word, appeasing the masses and giving them what they want to hear.  Pulpit committees, deacon boards, and boards of Christian schools and institutions are dedicated to insuring the voices heard in boardrooms and pulpits are those that will “prophesy good” while they dismiss and silence pastors, administrators, and faculty who are willing to give a clarion call concerning the way of sin and compromise.  Like Micaiah, because their voices are not in harmony with the sentiment of the majority, they are undesirable and unwelcome.

While Jehoshaphat desired to hear a true word of prophecy; Ahab was committed to the prophets that would tell him what he wanted to hear and he and all Israel suffered failure.

The same is no less true of our churches, schools and institutions.  Dismiss the warning of faithful men and you do so to your own demise.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Feel Like Complaining, “Life’s Not Fair”?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 72-74

Three psalms make up our scripture reading today.  Psalm 72 is believed to be David’s prayer for God’s blessings on the reign of his son Solomon; however, a careful study of the psalm brings me to believe it is ultimately a psalm describing the universal kingdom over which Christ will reign and is therefore a prophetic psalm to be fulfilled when Christ returns and sets up His righteous kingdom upon the earth (72:1-3, 7).

Solomon’s kingdom was a great kingdom; however, Christ’s future kingdom will span “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” (72:8).  His will be a compassionate kingdom, “For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. 13  He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (72:12-13).

Psalm 73, introduced as “A Psalm of Asaph”, is followed by ten additional psalms attributed to him.   Asaph was a priest and musician in David’s court (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7) and the author of Psalms 50 and Psalms 73-83.

Psalm 73 is a psalm of praise to the LORD and a testimony of Asaph’s own journey of faith in the God of Israel.  Asaph opens the psalm with an affirmation of God’s goodness:  Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (73:1).  Unlike sinful man of whom it is said, “there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:12), God is wholly, absolutely good and there is no evil or sin present in Him.  God is always and only good to Israel and to those who are of “a clean heart” (meaning pure, innocent and sincere heart).

In his heart, Asaph remembered the promises of God and the goodness of the LORD; however, in the midst of trials he struggled when he saw the wicked prosper (73:2-14).  The ungodly appeared to prosper while he faltered (73:13-14).  In other words, Asaph’s heart told him one thing (“trust the LORD”), while his feelings cried, “It’s not fair!”

Asaph appeared ready to quit his ministry as the king’s musician until he weighed the consequences of his decision and the offense it might be to the younger generation (73:15-16).  However, when Asaph entered the “the sanctuary of God” his perspective of the wicked and their end changed (73:17-20) and he confessed “my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins” (73:21).  Understanding the prosperity of the wicked is temporal (73:27), Asaph’s faith in the LORD and his desire to serve Him were renewed (73:28).

“Maschil of Asaph” is the subtitle of Psalm 74 and is an instructive or reflective poem.   Although attributed to “Asaph”, the content of the psalm describes the destruction of Jerusalem and temple (74:3, 6-8) that took place many years after David’s Asaph was dead.  Psalm 74 was most likely penned by a descendant of Asaph.

While Psalm 73 described Asaph’s personal struggles, the focus of Psalm 74 is on Israel’s struggles as a nation.  In the midst of numbering the nation’s sorrows and devastation (74:1-11), the psalmist recounts how God delivered Israel in past days (74:12-17) and cried out for the LORD to deliver His people (74:18-23).

Allow me to close by reflecting on Psalm 73 and Asaph’s renewed commitment to serve the LORD.

Although few will admit it, there are many who have known the temptation to say, “I quit!” and walk away from the burdens of marriage, family, friends, church and ministry.    In fact, for a season the ones who walk out on responsibilities appear happy, giving little thought to the ripple of consequences that might follow in the wake of their decision.   Driving Asaph’s motivation to continue his ministry was not only his love for the LORD and the king, but also his concern for how his decision would affect the next generation.  Surely that is a concern every pastor, teacher and parent should share.

May the LORD, our family, friends and the generation to follow us find us faithful!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Salute and Challenge to Gray-headed Saints

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 69-71

Note from the author of “From the Heart of a Shepherd”:  Today’s post is the 900th blog post by this simple shepherd.  I pray the thoughts and spiritual ponderings of this pastor continue to be a blessing.  

Our scripture reading for today is a gold mine of truths and spiritual principles found in Psalms 69, 70 and 71; however, for the sake of brevity my focus will be two golden nuggets of truths taken from Psalm 71:9, 17 and 18.

Some believe king David is the author of Psalm 71 and I am inclined to lean that way; however, others make an argument its author is the prophet Jeremiah.  I will leave the debate of its authorship to others and am content it was written by a man of faith; a man who by God’s grace was young in spirit, but chronologically old in years.  The psalmist, confident in God’s providential care, had faith God’s hand had been upon him from his mother’s womb (71:6), through his youth (71:5) and was with him in the frailty of his old age (71:18).

Of the many fears that potentially haunt the elderly, surely the fear of being forgotten and forsaken is foremost.  The dynamics between youth and the aged presents a challenge; however, the technological revolution of the past 30 years with computers, iPads, cell phones and social media has made the generational divide a precipice.  The fast pace mobility of our 21st century society and an attitude of narcissism that dominates this generation has strained family ties and sadly, left as its victims millions of elderly who feel forgotten and forsaken.

Complicating the interaction of familial generations and contrary to what some aged might think, one is never too old to sin!   Many elderly fall into a sinful pattern and become cantankerous and difficult.  Because a negative, critical spirit only exasperates our loved ones and caregivers, let us who are grey-headed consider the prayer of the ancient psalmist to the LORD.

Psalm 71:9 – Cast me not off [down] in the time [season] of old age; forsake me not when my strength [power; vigor] faileth [consumed; finished].

The aged psalmist petitions the LORD for two things in verse 9. The first, “cast me not off in the time of old age” (71:9a).  Strength of youth inclines one to pursue independence…independent of family, friends and sadly, independent of God.  However, when the vigor of youth fails and the frailty of old age advances, we are reminded how much we need the LORD’s grace.

The second petition expressed by the psalmist is, “forsake me not when my strength faileth” (71:9b).  Visiting the elderly in nursing homes has been a pattern of my life from childhood.  I remember fondly accompanying my maternal grandparents, Roland and Sadie Whitley, in their Saturday visits to family and friends in nursing homes.  It comes as no surprise that, when they found themselves in those same beds, the Whitley’s were never lacking in visits from family and friends.

As a pastor\shepherd, my calling has me making frequent visits to hospitals, nursing homes and homes of shut-ins.  Sadly, there are many in those places that not only feel forsaken, they are all but forgotten.  At a time when their strength is gone, their eyesight is dim and hearing has failed…they are alone.  What a tragedy that our society looks upon its elderly as a burden rather than a blessing!

The elderly psalmist continues his prayer:

Psalm 71:17-18 – O God [Elohim; Mighty God], thou hast taught [instructed; goad or disciplined] me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared [tell as a messenger] thy wondrous works [miracles; acts that surpass human skill or works]. 18  Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed [declared; informed] thy strength [power] unto this generation, and thy power [might] to every one that is to come.

The psalmist declares in his old age, LORD, the things you taught me in my youth I continue to declare in my old age!  My elderly friend, when life affords you an opportunity to praise the LORD, whether in private or public, be among the first to declare God’s love, salvation, mercy and grace.

The psalmist’s prayer moves from affirmation and adoration in verse 17 to petition and purpose in verse 18.  Unlike the old sassy commercial that declared, “I’m going to wash the gray right out of my hair”, the psalmist acknowledges, “I am old and grayheaded” and petitions the LORD for His power and presence in his life (“forsake me not”).

Finally, the psalmist declares his purpose for living: “until I have shewed [declared; informed] thy strength [power] unto this generation, and thy power [might] to every one that is to come” (71:18b).  The old psalmist’s thoughts turned to his spiritual legacy.  Thirty-eight years of ministry has brought home to me the sad realization that few give any thought to the spiritual legacy they are leaving for the next generation.  They have their wills written, their possessions planned for parceling, but the urgency of declaring a lifetime testimony concerning God’s faithfulness and blessings seems forgotten.

Elderly believer, I know you and I share the sentiment of the psalmist…Oh Lord, don’t forsake me when I am old and frail; however, will you also purpose to declare to all who will listen God’s faithfulness? I close with an appropriate quote and challenge:

“How many people in our churches, at an age when they ought to be tearing the world apart, are instead sliding home?” – Dr. Howard Hendricks

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Forgiveness: What a blessed promise!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 66-68

Of the three psalms assigned for our scripture reading today, the best known is probably the first, Psalm 66; a psalm of praise and adoration inviting the nations of the earth to “Make a joyful noise unto God” (Psalm 66:1).

Lest someone is tempted to draw a parallel between today’s style of worship music and singing with the phrase “joyful noise” (66:1), I hasten to educate you that the “noise” is the sound of trumpets and shouts of victory and triumph.   David exhorts all people to praise the God of heaven in songs that honor His name (66:2) and invites “All the earth” to worship and sing praises to the LORD (66:4).

The focus of Psalm 66 moves from an invitation to all people to worship the LORD to God’s chosen people, Israel, praising Him (66:8-12).   David’s praise recalls how the LORD had preserved His people and brought them through times of trial and trouble (66:9-12).

Beginning with Psalm 66:13, David’s focus becomes personal: “I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows” (Psalm 66:13).

The psalm concludes with David inviting the people to hear his adoration of the LORD and “what He hath done for my soul” (66:16).  David writes of the LORD’s mercies, grace and willingness to hear his prayers and forgive his sin.

Psalm 66:17-20 17  I cried unto Him [the LORD] with my mouth, and he was extolled [exalted] with my tongue.
18  If I regard [see; perceive; observe] iniquity [sin; wickedness] in my heart, the Lord will not hear [hearken; listen] me:
19  But verily [surely] God hath heard [hearken; listen] me; he hath attended [hear] to the voice [sound] of my prayer.
20  Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy [loving-kindness; love; grace] from me.

David’s life and testimony remind us the LORD is longsuffering, patient and willing to forgive our sins if we will confess and forsake them.  The king had experienced the silence of heaven and the fate of men who “regard iniquity” and continued in sin (66:18).   With praise and confidence, David rejoiced in God hearing his prayer and extending to him His grace (66:19-20).

Some reading this brief devotional might find they are where David was–bearing a weight of sin that has left your soul listless and your heart despondent.  You are too aware of the sorrows and consequences that accompany sin.  Friend, please don’t stay there and risk a seared conscience and a calloused heart.

The apostle John promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Take Some Time and Pray

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Luke 5-6

There are numerous spiritual truths found in today’s Bible reading assignment that are so profound books alone, indeed, whole libraries could not contain the vast riches of wisdom found in today’s verses.  To summarize the whole found in Luke 5-6 is well beyond this pastor’s ability; however, that is my task as we continue to read through God’s Word this year.

Christ calls His first disciples in Luke 5 and we find Simon Peter, “James, and John, the sons of Zebedee” leaving their fishing nets to “catch men” (Luke 5:10-11).  Of those three we read, “when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him” (Luke 5:11).  Can you imagine Peter, James and John attempting to follow Jesus dragging behind them their fishing nets and boats?  You see, there are no half-hearted followers of Jesus and those He calls to “catch men” are required to forsake all.

I invite you to also consider another trait in the LORD’s conduct; the times He comes apart from His public ministry for solitude, prayer and rest.  We read, “He withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed” (Luke 5:16).  We find the same in Luke 6:12, “And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”

On a personal note, one of two extremes afflicts the 21st century pastoral ministry: Pastors who are spiritually indolent, mentally lazy, and physically undisciplined; and pastors who “work themselves to death”, taking little time for rest, solitude, prayer and study.

Looking back over 38 years of ministry, I confess I am guilty of the latter and many of my peers are the same.  The daily grind of ministry and the tacit expectations of a congregation coupled with a lack of rest, solitude, prayer and personal enrichment in the scriptures invariably leads to a tired, broken and uninspired pastor.

Pastor friend, the yoke of ministry is heavy and if you are waiting for the deacons or church to encourage you to get some rest, you are going to wait a long time!  I exhort you as I exhort myself; follow Jesus’ example, find a quiet place, pray and rest.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith