Category Archives: Education

The Conception, Birth, and Life of Samson (Judges 13-15)

Daily Reading Assignment – Judges 13-15

The story of Samson, the judge and champion of Israel (Judges 13-16), is a familiar one to the majority of Bible students. For that reason, I am focusing on the less known details of his conception and the revelation of his person to his mother and father (Judges 13).

The national cycle of sin, suffering, repentance, and restoration continues in our study of the Book of Judges. Israel had been oppressed by the Philistines, and the people had suffered the consequences of their sin and rebellion for forty years (13:1). Hearing the cries of His people, the “angel of the LORD” appeared to a barren woman who was the wife of Manoah, of the tribe of Dan.

Manoah’s wife was told she would bare a son, but not just any son. From the moment of his conception, his mother was to set herself and her son apart for the LORD (13:3-5).

She and her son were to follow Nazarite guidelines (Numbers 6:1-8) and its three prohibitions: She was not to drink wine or any strong drink (13:4, 7), nor eat anything unclean (13:4, 7), and her son’s hair was not to be cut (13:7).

Telling her husband she had been visited by “a man of God” (13:6), Manoah prayed to the LORD, “teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born” (13:8). God answered his prayer and the “angel of the LORD” appeared a second time (13:9-11). Manoah asked, “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” (13:12)

Eager to be a good host by Eastern traditions and not understanding his guest was no ordinary man (13:16), Manoah desired to prepare a meal for his visitor (13:15). The “angel of the LORD” refused his invitation, but encouraged Manoah, “offer a burnt offering” (13:16).

Still blind to the identity of his guest, Manoah asked, “What is thy name?” under the pretense that when his son was born he would honor his guest (13:17).

The “angel of the LORD” answered Manoah with a question that was in fact a revelation saying, “Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” (13:18) The word “secret” might better be translated, “Wonderful.” In other words, too “Wonderful” to speak, one of the names of the Messiah revealed by Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 9:6.

Isaiah 9:66  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

A flame suddenly came from within the rock and consumed the “kid” (young goat) Manoah offered as a meat offering. Revealing He was more than a man, “the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar” (13:20).

When Manoah realized his visitor was not a man, he said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God” (13:22).  Manoah’s wife, having a greater understanding of the LORD’s character than her husband, replied, “If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands” (13:23).

Manoah’s wife gave birth to Samson and we read, “the child grew, and the LORD blessed him” (13:24) setting the stage for Samson to be moved by the “Spirit of the LORD” (13:25).

Judges 14-15 are familiar chapters for most, and I encourage you to read those passages in the absence of an extended commentary.

A Closing Thought: A Model of Godly Parenting

Consider the significant responsibility of child-bearing and child-rearing that were impressed upon the hearts of Samson’s mother and father. While he was in her womb, Samson’s mother was instructed to live a sanctified life and follow the same Nazarite guidelines her son would live under (13:4, 7).

Manoah, Samson’s father, understood the significance of the prophetic announcement of his son’s conception and birth. He desired to know what he was to teach his son (13:8) and his responsibility to prepare Samson for the LORD’S calling on his life (13:12).

All parents should bear the privilege and responsibility for their child’s spiritual and physical well-being.

Set a godly example by your lifestyle and choices. Search the Scripture to know not only how you should “order the child,” but also how you should “do unto him” (13:12).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Two New Sermon Series to Begin a New Year at Hillsdale

After a couple of weeks of vacation, I look forward to beginning two new sermon series for the New Year this Sunday at Hillsdale Baptist Church.

In the 10:30 AM worship service I will introduce a new verse-by-verse study of Paul’s Epistle to the churches in Galatia titled, “Freedom That Lasts.”

Unlike the majority of his letters to the early churches, the Epistle of Galatians is short and direct.  In Paul’s absence, false teachers had entered the churches in Galatia, not only questioning his authority as an apostle, but attacking the very heart of the Gospel of Christ which he had taught and preached while he was in the churches.

What was the heresy that had disrupted the churches and threatened the Gospel? Judaizers had entered the churches teaching believers that salvation was not only a matter of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death, burial and resurrection; but also required works of righteousness [observing the ordinances of Judaism and obeying the Law] contrary to what Paul had taught when he was among them (Galatians 2:16, 21).

I am also beginning a new series in the Book of Proverbs in our 6:00 PM worship service. The theme of the series is “Heavenly Wisdom for Earthly Problems” (my subtitle is, “Uncommon Common Sense”).

This Sunday’s introductory message is titled, “Common Sense is Dead.”

I am not sure when “Common Sense” died, but I am convinced she was buried in an unmarked grave and an impostor named “Political Correctness” has usurped her place in our society.  Common Sense has been expelled from our schools, demonized by politicians and scorned by adherents of godless ideologies promoting progressivism, socialism and liberalism.

Join us Sunday evenings as Hillsdale resurrects Common Sense in our study of Proverbs!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

“The Fear of the Lord, That is Wisdom” (Job 24-28)

Daily reading assignment: Job 24-28

Contrary to Eliphaz’s assertion that the trials Job has suffered are characteristic of the reward of the wicked, Job states the opposite has been his observation (Job 24:2-16).

Job 24:2-4 –  “2  Some [i.e. the Wicked] remove the landmarks [property boundaries]; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof [upon what they have stolen]. 3  They drive away the ass [donkey] of the fatherless [orphan], they take the widow’s ox for a pledge [i.e. a surety; as an insurance guaranteeing repayment]. 4  They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together [mistreat the poor and helpless].”  Indeed, sometimes the wicked seem to escape punishment!

“Bildad the Shuhite”, one of Job’s “friends”, pretends to speak words of wisdom concerning the person and nature of God in Job 25.  Only six verses in length, Bildad devotes the first three verses to God’s dominion and power (25:1-3), followed by verses 4-6 that focus on God’s justice and man’s natural, wretched state (25:4-6).

Job’s response to Bildad’s empty counsel begins in Job 26.   After answering his accuser (26:1-4), Job begins a discourse declaring not only the nature of God as Creator, but stating facts about creation that were not fully proved until the emergence of modern science.

Consider the following revelations found in Job 26: 1) The earth hangs on nothing (26:7); 2) God gives and withholds water in the clouds as it pleases Him (26:8-9); 3) God has determined the boundaries of the oceans (26:10, 12a; Proverbs 8:29).

Job’s defense to Bildad’s judgments continues through Job 28.

Professing he had searched his heart and found no sins that would invite God’s judgment, Job is at a loss to understand why God has allowed so great a sorrow to shadow his life.  Seeking answers, Job asks,

Job 28:12, 20 – “But where shall wisdom be found?… 20  Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?”

Friend, knowledge might be obtained for the excessive price of an Ivy League education; however, wisdom is priceless and cannot be purchased (28:15-19)!   In the words of Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century English Baptist preacher, “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

What is the repository of wisdom and how might it be acquired?  The answer: “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).

I am witnessing a generation of pastors, teachers, and evangelists who preach “GRACE” and “LIBERTY” to the neglect of instructing sons and daughters in the precepts of God’s Law and Commandments. I fear…

The failure to teach the statutes and judgments (Law and Commandments) of God has created a void of knowledge and fostered a liberty that has become a license to sin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A History Lesson for Bible Fundamental Churches, Colleges, and Their Leaders

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The following is a repost of a devotional I wrote for my church family, October 16, 2017. I am publishing it today as a challenge to my peers and friends to take time to review the history of 20th century Bible fundamentalist.  Read their writings and sermons.  Do not fall victim to progressives who pull a quote out of context to support a position the men they quote would have never taken.  

I am today a 63-year-old pastor who had the privilege of standing in the shadows of great fundamentalists who are now with the LORD.  Were they perfect men?  Of course not; however, the same is true of my generation and the rising millennial generation. The following is a copy of the devotional, posted two years ago.

Deuteronomy is a record of Moses’ final words and exhortations to the people he had shepherd for forty years.  We read:

Deuteronomy 1:3 – And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;”

It was important for Moses to rehearse with that generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for the nation (Deuteronomy 1:8).  Much like you might search your ancestral family tree to know your physical lineage, Moses recognized his days were numbered among the people and he wanted them to know not only their physical lineage, but more importantly, their spiritual lineage as God’s chosen people.

The Hebrews who were 19 years old and younger when Israel refused to cross into the Promise Land, were now in their late fifties and Moses feared their children and grandchildren would be tempted to turn back from the challenges of the new land.   Knowing many were either too young to remember or not yet born when the people rebelled against God, Moses rehearsed the failure of their forefathers to trust God and cross the Jordan River into the Promise Land (Deuteronomy 1-2).  Concerned they lacked an understanding of what faithlessness cost their parents and grandparents, Moses made certain the people appreciated the tragic consequences of disobedience and understood the challenges before them (Deuteronomy 2).

The late Dr. Richard Rupp who succeeded Dr. Gilbert Stenholm as the leader and mentor of the Preacher Boy’s Class of Bob Jones University in the late 1970’s and 1980’s.

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many Gospel preaching churches, Bible colleges, and fundamental Christian institutions in recent years.

I am old enough to remember well the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp and Dr. Bob Jones Jr. in “Preacher Boys” during my Bible college years at Bob Jones University.   Those men had fought spiritual ecumenical battles, sometimes open warfare, against the progressives of their day who compromised their ministries fellowshipping with men and institutions that denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Thirty, forty, even fifty years passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith; however, their passion had not abated, nor their determination to pass on to the men of my generation not only knowledge of the past, but a warning and exhortation.   I graduated Bob Jones University knowing compromise with those who trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness or reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith would eventually be a cancer destroying ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible fundamental churches, Bible colleges, and Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the fundamental spiritual heritage of those institutions.

The result of ignorance or leadership contemptuous of the past is the same; those institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Warning: When the leadership of a Bible fundamental church, Bible college, or ministry distances itself from its heritage, it will invariably sacrifice its identity and forget God’s providences.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Know That a Prophet Hath Been Among You (Ezekiel 33:33)

After enjoying a vacation in the Smoky Mountains, I look forward to being back in Hillsdale’s pulpit this Sunday.  We will return to our verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of John, taking up our study with the closing verses of John 9 and introducing one of the most beautiful and beloved passages of the Gospels… the Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

Knowing the shepherd is a metaphor for a spiritual leader and the sheep is a metaphor for God’s people throughout the scriptures, I invested several hours focusing on the role of the shepherd and his relationship with the sheep.  In the Parable of the Good Shepherd we identify not only the character of the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ), we also see the evil characteristics of Israel’s spiritual leaders portrayed as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8) and as the “hireling” who flees “and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:13).

Israel was cursed with spiritual shepherd’s like those described in John 10.  When the nation needed shepherds to boldly declare the Word of the Lord and condemn the sins of the nation, she instead promoted men to be her pastors who not only failed to lead the nation spiritually, but also exploited her vulnerable state.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the “pastors” (spiritual shepherds) of Israel, “1Woe be unto the pastors [lit. shepherds] that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD…I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1-2).

Ezekiel prophesied “against the shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:1-2), condemning the spiritual leaders for putting their self-interests before the needs of the people (34:2).  Israel’s pastors had taken the best of everything for themselves (34:3), neglected the weak and injured (34:4a), failed to seek the lost, pursued sinful pleasures, and failed to call God’s people to be a holy people (34:4).  Israel had become an immoral, lawless nation and God determined to turn the nation and their shepherds over to be afflicted (Ezekiel 34:10).  God, however, did not leave His people hopeless and promised them He would one day deliver them (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

The task of a faithful prophet is not a popular one and God warned Ezekiel he would become the object of scorn (Ezekiel 33).  God challenged the prophet, “I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:7).  Ezekiel was admonished, should he fail to warn the wicked in his sin and the wicked man “die in his iniquity”, the blood of the wicked would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8).

Ezekiel 33 closes with a malady that in my observation is present in fundamental churches and colleges of our day…a generation that is “talking against” the prophet, expressing a faux-piety of hearing “the word that cometh forth from the LORD” (33:30), and “with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31).  God warns Ezekiel, “they hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).

From a perspective of outward results, Ezekiel was a failure for Israel did not repent of her sins and her pastors continued in their wickedness.  Ezekiel was promised, when God’s judgment falls upon Israel, all would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:33).

The words of a faithful, prophetic (forth-telling), uncompromising preacher are not welcome in most pulpits and one need not look far in our churches, colleges, and seminaries to understand there are many who “hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).  I pray God might find me faithful and some “shall know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

A Failure to Stay the Course

Bob Jones University Student Handbook Changes, Fall 2018

Institutional erosion often begins slowly, perceived by only the most discerning, and too often explained and dismissed as harmless and inconsequential change.  When the signs of decay are apparent, it is often too late to correct without a major, often expensive, and sometimes impossible attempt to salvage.

Like the disaster that follows a ship at sea when its captain fails to stay the course only by degrees, so too is a Christian institution’s end when it departs from the very distinctives that instilled discipline and character in its student body.

For more than 15 years I have observed a pattern of change at Bob Jones University that is all too familiar.  Like a ship slowly, imperceptibly drifting from its course, the University is adrift from the disciplines that shaped the character of generations of Christian students in its past.

While the University has failed to stay the course in its disciplines, its alumni have failed to hold its administration accountable for its direction.  Fundamental pastors, so quick to point out the flaws and failures in other ministries in the past, have been all but silent while the board and leadership at BJU steers the University away from its fundamental moorings.  Why the silence?  Why the accommodation of changes we know are not welcome in our own ministries, but are being thrust upon us and our children by an institution we loved and trusted?

The University recently announced changes to this year’s Student Handbook that include allowing women to wear pants to class and athletic shorts raised to 2 inches above the knee.  Other changes in the clothing standard are summed up as “too many changes to write”.

Admittedly, there were some things in BJU’s Student Handbook that did not make sense in my era (for example, guys wearing ties to classes in the morning, but not in the afternoon; men wearing suit jackets to dinner and ties to go off campus; women wearing hose year round).  All of those irritants are gone now, but so are many of the disciplines that instilled distinctive Christian virtues in the student body.

In a video Facebook post, Dr. Steve Petit addresses the dress code changes that  take effect in this Fall’s 2018 Student Handbook (see pp. 29-32) and gives his reasons for the changes.  Some changes in the handbook are practical and merely an adaptation of institutional policy taking advantage of new technology.  Other changes are, in my opinion, a continuing pattern of pragmatism evidencing a drift from core principles that were once the trademark of Bob Jones University.

It is not the individual rule changes that are bothersome as much as it is the continuing pattern of change that is eroding the core values that once shaped the character of the student body at BJU.  The distinctive disciplines that set BJU apart from the likes of Furman University, Liberty University, and Cedarville University are eroding as is the polished character that was BJU’s hallmark.

The board and administration of Bob Jones University are following its smaller predecessors to its own ruin.  Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, Tennessee Temple University, and Clearwater Christian College (to name a few), all drifted from their distinctive character as fundamental Bible Colleges and because of that drift their demise became inevitable.  I am afraid their end will be sadly the same for the University. 

For too long we have given liberty to the BJU board, administration, and faculty, believing they shared the same convictions and core values as our churches and families.  It is with sorrow I confess, while many of the University’s alumni have stayed the course, the board, administration, and faculty have not.

The erosion and decay of BJU has manifested itself openly.  The institutional drift has taken the University far from its distinctive moorings.  I fear Bob Jones University is too far gone and what was once the flagship of Bible fundamentalism is a shadow of her past.

With the heart of a shepherd and a 1977 alumni of Bob Jones University,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

  • An Addendum (09\07\18) – I became aware some of the critics of my original post have tried to paint me as an old “fuddy-duddy”, anti-pants pastor; however, my article on the dress-code change at BJU was not an anti-pants rant, but a question of where the institution will draw the line in holding to its disciplines and distinctives.  I believe BJU’s decision on the matter of women wearing pants to class and chapel removes yet another discipline for teaching young women godly modesty and appropriate decorum.  BJU was at one time all about training, discipline, and developing a sharp product.  I fear that philosophy continues to be sacrificed at my alma mater.
  • On a personal note, every organization of any worth will have established policies for appropriate decorum.  While Hillsdale Baptist Church requires men on our platform to wear suit jackets and women to wear modest dresses, we do not expect the same of our audience (although the overwhelming majority of our membership follows the lead of our platform dress).

Note from the author: The concerns expressed in this blog are the latest of a series I have published expressing my concerns with the drift of our Bible fundamental institutions and churches. For more background, please refer to: 1) From the Front Pew; 2) A Travesty of Abandonment; 3) A Travesty of Abandonment: Christian Schools that Have Left the Ancient Landmarks; 4) Warning: Cater to the Carnal and You Do So at Your Own Peril; 5) What Were They Thinking?; 6) Catering to Carnality; 7) Hijacked: You Can Lose Your Church; 8) Where is the Christian Westpoint of this Generation?

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith