Category Archives: Education

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

Silent No More

This brief blog post serves as an introductory post to one that will follow titled, “A Failure to Stay the Course: Bob Jones University Student Handbook Changes, Fall 2018”.  I am a 1977 graduate of Bob Jones University and one who has been a loyal alumnus.  

I arrived at Bob Jones University as a 16-year-old freshman in the fall of 1973 and was overwhelmed with a culture shock like none I have experienced since.  This son of the South, born in Lancaster, South Carolina and aptly self-defined as a country-boy was unacquainted with the graces of culture and the refinements of art.  I was a rough, crude piece of coarse clay; a public-school graduate who loved and longed to serve the LORD and desired the training and polish of a Christian education.

My childhood home was loving and disciplined. I knew the rigors of rising early on a small farm, working hard, and appreciated the sacrifices of my loving parents. My desire to go to a Christian college was foreign to my family and the culture of my community; however, it was a seed planted in my heart by the visit of a missionary to Alaska.

A child of the hippy culture of the 1960’s and the anti-war, anti-establishment of the 1970’s, I was unaware of my immaturity as a believer, the deficiencies of my education, or my cultural backwardness.  I knew little of the scriptures and nothing of Christian Fundamentalism, Keeping the Faith, or Fighting the Good Fight.

The administration and faculty of Bob Jones University gave no accommodation to this southern boy’s worldly-wise ways and even less provision for my academic failings.  I found myself, in a proverbial sense, thrown into the deep-end of the pool where I found little empathy for my struggles. BJU had somehow insulated itself from college-campus riots and “panty-raids” that were dogging other college campuses. The school was not only unapologetically Christian, it was doggedly adherent to the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

There were many irritants in the BJU culture that were not only exasperating, but provoking.  There was a discipline that gave little grace and even less understanding for the excuses and failures of youth.  Outside the campus fence my generation was bold and rebellious; casting aside disciplines and morals that had shaped the “Greatest Generation”.  Inside the campus fence little had or would change for another twenty-years.

I thank God it was that culture of discipline, tough-love, and unapologetic convictions that were present to shape and prepare the pliable heart of this Christian teen.  I learned my superiors were not concerned with fairness, but rightness.  I also knew there were times they were wrong; however, the rules were the rules and institutionally the approach was “one size fits all”.

I have learned rules and regulations, often inconvenient and at times inexplicable, are necessary.  Patterns of personal and academic disciplines thrust upon us in our youth shape attitudes and strengthen character.  When we cast off or adapt rules and standards to accommodate youthful immaturity or to enhance cultural assimilation we do so at the peril of a generation that will never know the enrichment of exhortation or the powerful influence of loving correction.

I close with a brief dedicatory of names whose lives provoked me in my youth and whose influence follows me to this day: Dr. Bob Jones, Jr; Dr. Gilbert Stenholm; Dr. Richard Rupp; Dr. Gunter Salter; Dr. Walter Fremont; and Dr. Dwight Gustafson.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Note from the author: You will find the observations expressed in this blog mirrored in several posts I have published in recent years regarding 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

Is Love Really All You Need?

In July 1967 the iconic English rock band known as the Beatles released a single titled “All You Need is Love”.  The “hippy” movement embraced the song and it became the defining song of a summer that became known as the “Summer of Love”.  Abandoning the moral values of their parents and voicing an open rebellion to authority and government, a whole generation of youth embarked on a journey defined by the use of psychedelic drugs, “free love” and sex.

It is that generation, the late “baby boomers” now in their 60’s and early 70’s, that has shaped American society by their cavalier disdain of moral values, religion, and law.  They have invaded every stratum of government, education, commerce, and media.  From governing in the Oval Office of the Presidency of the United States to inculcating minds of 5-year-old kindergarteners, the influence of the “All You Need is Love” generation is pervasive.  Is it any wonder they have spawned a generation of selfish, narcissistic youth embracing a socialistic ideology that threatens our society and nation with anarchy?

The “All You Need is Love” generation has so skewed the definition of “LOVE” it has become an excuse for all manner of sin, wickedness and depravity.  Liberals in the media, government, and education would have you believe, regardless of what you do and who it hurts, all that matters is LOVE.  The measure of right and wrong is no longer immutable truth and undeniable facts, but whether or not one’s intentions were loving.

Love becomes an excuse for all manner of sin. Teens, college students, and adults defend fornication and open adultery with the excuse, “I am in love.”  Society accepts homosexuality reasoning, “they love each other.”  The LGTBQ crowd demands society accept their sin because that is the loving thing to do.  Women are counseled to abort unwanted infants because that is a loving choice.

Some quote Romans 13:8, “…love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law”; however, they fail to read Romans 13:9-10 which identifies the restraints and standards on God’s definition of LOVE.

Romans 13:9-10 – “9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there beany other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

My generation, the “baby boomers”, believed “love is all you need” and are finding too late the heartache and emptiness of a philosophy of life devoid of absolute truth and genuine LOVE.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 by Travis D. Smith

Prayer for Students and Families of Broward County, FL

The news of the senseless slaughter of innocent young lives in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, Wednesday afternoon, February 14, 2018 dominates the news this morning.  As of this morning, the death toll remains at 17 and the names of the dead, students and teachers, has not been released.

Like you, I am aware the tragedy of the loss of life reaches far beyond the dead…siblings, parents, grandparents, friends, classmates, teachers, administrators, neighbors, and yes, our state and nation…are all affected and scarred by the violence, suffering and death.

Liberal pundits will stand in their bully-pulpits and blame firearms for the loss of life.  The media and anti-liberty zealots opposed to the 2nd Amendment, will attack the NRA and conservatives, and advocate the need to limit, if not eliminate private ownership of guns and rifles.

Few will look deeper and honestly examine why this happened.  Why 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student expelled last school year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, would plan and unleash a hail of gunfire on students of his former high school?

We are learning Cruz’s life is scarred as much as the wounds he inflicted on innocent lives Wednesday.  USA Today reports, “teachers and former classmates say [Cruz] had an angry disposition that led to him being expelled and flagged as a danger on school grounds.”

Former classmates describe Cruz as a troubled soul and many say they are not surprised he unleashed his fury in an act of violence. According to Fox News, an unnamed student told a news station, “kids joked around that the student [Cruz] would be the one to ‘shoot up the school.’”

Cruz is a troubled soul and tragedy seems to have been the haunt of his life.  Fox News reports Cruz and a younger brother were adopted and both his father and mother, Roger and Lynda Cruz, are dead.  Roger apparently died of a heart attack several years ago and Cruz’s mother, Lynda, died of pneumonia November 1, 2017.  Unhappy with family members who took him in, sometime after Thanksgiving 2017, Cruz moved into a mobile home with a high school friend who is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cruz’s anger, rage and violence are pandemic in a generation educated in classrooms and nurtured in a society with an irreligious view of human life.  The doctrine that human life is sacred and every life is to be cherished is lost on a generation that mocks God, denies the Creator, and is entertained with acts of violence in video games and television programs from early childhood.

I am not surprised a 19-year-old murdered 17 classmates; I am surprised it does not happen more often.  Look into the eyes of today’s youth and you will find many who appear soulless…unloved and unloving; desensitized by bitterness, rejecting authority, angry with God, and waiting to be triggered into an act of rage that will not only destroy their lives and future, but leave countless others broken and dismayed.

Remembering Cain, the first son of Adam, murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8), we understand the problem is not guns and rifles; the problem is sin.  The invitation to this generation is the same as it was to Cain when God wrestled with his sinful soul and asked, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?…” (Genesis 4:6-7).

God warned Cain, “…if thou doest not well, sin lieth [crouches] at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire [sin drives our desires], and thou shalt rule over him [man will either master sin or sin will become his master](Genesis 4:7).

King Solomon taught his son the same truth, “[A sinner’s] own iniquities shall take [trap] the wicked himself, and he shall be holden [entrapped] with the cords [ropes] of his sins.”

Nikolas Cruz, and I am afraid many like him, is the personification of hopelessness.  Sinners have but two paths to choose in life…Remorse or Repentance.  Cruz followed the path of remorse and dejection and left in his wake 17 lost lives.

Repentance, on the other hand, assumes responsibility, admits guilt (Psalm 51:4), confesses sins, and seeks forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

Let us pray for the lives touched by the loss of 17 lives, but remember there are many Nikolas Cruz’s in our midst who feel unloved, act unloving, need to know the love of God, and our lives serve as the conduit of compassion for their lost souls.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Obedience bears the assurance of God’s blessing.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 4-6

We began reading the Book of Deuteronomy last Monday and continue in the same this day with our study focusing on chapter 4-6.  As a reminder, we are in the midst of Moses’ challenge and final words of exhortation to Israel before God takes him home to Himself.

Having rehearsed God’s providences and faithfulness to His chosen people, Moses communicated to Israel he was not allowed to enter Canaan because He had sinned against the LORD (Deut. 3:25-27).  The LORD, however, promised to give Moses a vision of the land He promised the nation.   One of the final acts of Moses’ leadership was God’s command for him “charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (Deut. 3:28).

Moses’ exhortation continues in Deuteronomy 4 when he reminds the people of their special covenant relationship with the LORD.

Deuteronomy 4:1 – “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.”

Unlike any other, the LORD chose Israel and privileged that nation to know Him personally for He revealed His character and person in His Word and “statutes and judgments”.   The people knew the LORD and were custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:7-14).

Moses exhorted Israel to not take lightly their covenant responsibility to know and obey the LORD’s commandments, warning, the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” [He will not accept second place in the lives of His people] (4:24).

Less the people be disheartened, Moses reminded the people the LORD is not only a “consuming fire, even a jealous God”, He is also merciful, longsuffering, and forgiving.

Deuteronomy 4:31 – “(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.”

Who is Israel’s God?  He is the Creator and the God of heaven (Deut. 4:21).  He is God alone and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39).

Moses rehearsed God’s covenant, the giving of His Commandments at Mount Horeb, and the commandments themselves in Deuteronomy 5.

Deuteronomy 6 states not only the responsibility of knowing, keeping and obeying the “commandments, the statutes, and the judgments” (6:1) of the LORD, but also the individual responsibility of parents imparting to their sons and daughters the LORD’s commands.

When a Pharisee asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest (Matthew 22:36-37), He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5.

Deuteronomy 6:5 – “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

Each generation was to not only obey the commandments out of a heart of love, they were also to communicate the commands, statutes, and laws of the LORD “diligently” to their children (6:7-9).  The Word of God was to be the subject of every household in Israel.   The commands, statutes, and laws were the standard and spiritual guide for every area of life…sitting down, walking, lying down at night or rising at dawn.  No area of a man’s life was to go unchecked.

Deuteronomy 6:17-18 – “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. 18  And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers,”

I close with two spiritual lessons in today’s study.  The first, remembering the providences of the LORD and how He delivered Israel out of Egypt and slavery is a frequent theme of Moses’ final address to Israel in the Book of Deuteronomy.  The same should be true of 21st century believers; we need to remember the LORD’s providences in our lives, how He saved us from the condemnation and bondage of sin through Christ’s sacrificial death, burial and resurrection (Romans 3:23-28).

A second lesson is, Obedience bears the assurance of God’s blessing.  Moses challenged Israel to obey the LORD’s instructions, assuring the people their God was intimately invested in the “good [of Israel] always” and their preservation as His chosen people (6:24).  The apostle Paul gives that same assurance to believers in Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t enable your children’s sins!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 29-30

Today’s devotional commentary focuses on one verse, Proverbs 29:3 and was first posted on this blog April 29, 2014.

As I was considering today’s devotional it occurred to me how little has changed in the world since Solomon’s writings nearly 3,000 years ago.  We share the same concerns in our day as those addressed by Solomon in his.  Granted, we are more sophisticated and enjoy the conveniences of modern technology; however, the problems of humanity are the same.  Poverty, rebellion, wickedness, oppression, heartache, sorrows and immorality are ever-present.  How can this be, you ask?

Times have changed, but the sinful nature of man is the same from generation to generation.  All humanity shares the bloodline of Adam and bear his nature and the curse of sin (“For since by man came death…For as in Adam all die” – 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Today’s proverb is timeless, as is all wisdom.

Proverbs 29:3  “Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.”

Solomon returns to contrasting a wise son with a foolish son.  Someone might mistake Solomon’s observation of a son who loves wisdom with the more recent phenomenon of what I will describe as “perpetual students”—young adults who make going to school and pursuing degrees a career rather than the means to a career.  No, this son who is a delight to his father is more than a learner—he loves and adheres to godly wisdom and counsel.   A wise son who “loveth wisdom” rejoices the heart of his father!

The contrast to a son who walks according to wisdom is the son who is a heartache to his father and walks an ungodly path where he wastes his inheritance [“his substance”] in the company of the immoral.   I believe this son was a child of privilege and grew up in a home of affluence.  Like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), he has no appetite for wisdom and, once free of his parent’s constraints, follows sinful pleasures until all is spent.

Sound familiar?  I have observed this pattern far too often over the years.  It has become commonplace for well-meaning parents longing for their child’s affections and desiring to keep peace in the family, to become enablers of an adult child’s waste and wantonness.

There may be parents and grandparents reading today’s proverb who feel as though you are looking at the reflection of your home and family in a mirror.   I know the pain of disappointments hurt, but you must accept that no amount of “substance” will earn your rebellious son or daughter’s affection.   At the same time, you must weigh your stewardship of the material possessions God has entrusted to you as a sacred trust.

Don’t enable your children’s sins!  Love them, care for their basic needs, but don’t become an enabler of sin.

I challenge sons and daughters reading this devotional to love godly wisdom, obey your parents and heed godly counsel.

Ephesians 6:1-3 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2  Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3  That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Failure to Thrive

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 119

Today’s scripture reading is Psalm 119.  With the exception of Psalm 23, Psalm 119 may be the favorite psalm of saints down through the centuries.  Its celebration of the Word and Law of God might seem out of step with many 21st century believers’ emphasis on grace [which is in danger of becoming “lawless grace” that knows little of the holiness of God]; however, its truths are eternal and its lessons regarding what manner of people the saints ought to be timeless.

I preached a series of messages on Psalm 119 in January 2016 and authored a brief series of devotions on the chapter during that time.  Today’s devotional commentary was first posted on this blog, January 25, 2016.

Psalm 119:129 – “Thy testimonies [witness; admonitions; ordinances] are wonderful [marvelous]: therefore doth my soul [life; person] keep [preserve; guard] them.”

“Failure to thrive” is an ominous term I have heard doctors use for both the very young and elderly patients.  The terminology is not a disease, but a description of a patient who is failing; failing to gain weight, failing to grow and failing to mature.  It is a state of being undernourished despite heroic actions taken to encourage physical weight gain and well-being.

The term, “failure to thrive”, is a fitting diagnosis for many church members.  They come to church faithfully and sit in pews year after year with no visible signs of spiritual life, health or growth.  

American Christians are hardly undernourished when it comes to physical weight; however, there are too many who are spiritually undernourished…failing to grow and mature.

The writer of Hebrews observed the same malady in the 1st century church when he wrote:

Hebrews 5:12-14 – “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers [Instructors], ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God [Old Testament sayings]; and are become [having degenerated] such as have need of milk [unable to chew solid food], and not of strong meat [solid food; advance doctrines].
13  For every one that useth [drink] milk is unskilful [ignorant; inexperienced] in the word [doctrine; preaching] of righteousness: for he is a babe [spiritually immature].
14  But strong meat [solid food] belongeth to them that are of full age [mature], even those who by reason of use [exercised in the Word and Law of God] have their senses [discernment] exercised [train; workout; disciplined exercise] to discern both good and evil [moral and immoral].”

anorexic ChristiansFailure to thrive” is the malady of the 21st century church.   Although we live in a day of mass communication and modern technology has put within our reach opportunities of studying and hearing God’s Word taught 24\7; the reality is there is a gross ignorance of the scriptures.  Like the 1st century, there are Christians who should be faithful students and teachers of the Bible, but are content with being spoon-fed the puree of elementary truths in churches more focused on entertaining the masses than the faithful exposition of God’s Word.

A spiritually anorexic Christian is the portrait of 21st century Christianity in America!  No wonder sin and lawless liberty abounds within our churches; we have fostered a generation of carnal Christians who demand pandering because they are spiritual babies desensitized to sin by their ignorance of the Truth!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“You Cannot Afford to Wear ‘Rose-Colored Glasses’ in a Sinful, Black and White World!”

September 7, 2017

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 22

Our scripture reading today is Proverbs 22 and is, like all chapters in Proverbs, a treasure trove of wisdom that southern folk of my youth applauded as “good old common sense”.  Unfortunate for our society, we have strayed far from God and His Word and the bits of wisdom that were guiding posts for generations of youth are unfamiliar to most in our day.

For today’s devotional commentary, I am selecting one verse especially applicable to Floridians preparing for the possibility of Hurricane Irma making landfall this weekend.   Having watched from afar the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Floridians are being prudent and exercising an abundance of caution.  Of prudence, Solomon writes:

Proverbs 22:3 – “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

We live in a dangerous world far from the “Mayberry” world portrayed in the old Andy Griffith Shows of the early 1960’s. You and I do not have the joy or luxury of raising our families with the naiveté’ of Barney Fife and Goober.   Of necessity, believers need to be prudent, wise and cunning in a world that is no friend of the Christian or his family.

Proverbs 22:3 draws a contrast between two men who are polar opposites when it comes to discernment—the Prudent and the Simple.

Proverbs 22:3  “A prudent [cunning; sensible] man foreseeth [perceive; understands] the evil [sin; wickedness; adversity], and hideth [conceal; hide; shelter] himself: but the simple [foolish; silly] pass on, and are punished [condemn; inflict a penalty].”

The Prudent man is a learner.   He is a student of the Scriptures [the Wisdom of God] and human nature.   His senses are exercised by a lifetime of experiences and he is wary of the wiles and ways of the world.  Prudence dictates he foresee the ways of the wicked and withdraw himself from the consequences of their sinful ways.

The Simple are not learners.   They are stubborn, ignoring the admonitions of their parents and godly counselors.  They pursue the pleasures of sin and the company of the foolish giving no thought to their tragic end.  The Simple rush past moral restraints and headlong down the path of self-destruction.

This same proverb is repeated in Proverbs 27:12, thus magnifying the need to read and heed its truth.

Proverbs 27:12 – “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

Be wise. Seek and heed godly counsel; after all, you cannot afford to wear “rose-colored glasses” in a sinful, black and white world!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“The end never justifies the means.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Chronicles 10-14

I stated in an earlier commentary that the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles was largely devoted to the genealogical record of Israel and Judah.  1 Chronicles 9 concluded with a brief summary of the lineage of king Saul and his sons (9:35-44).

We noted the reign and death of Saul, Israel’s first king in an earlier commentary in 1 Samuel 31:1-10.  1 Chronicles 10 gives us another perspective of Israel’s defeat at the hands of the Philistines and the tragic deaths of Saul and his sons on the battlefield (10:1-6) and their humiliation that followed (10:7-10).

1 Chronicles 11 gives us a record of the coronation and reign of Israel’s beloved king, David.  Although a brilliant strategist in war and surrounded by mighty men (11:10-47) and loyal servants (12:1-40), the secret to David’s success was found in neither.  David was a great king for only one reason… “the LORD of hosts was with him” (11:9).

Unlike leaders of our day who strive to unite a people around the strength of their personality and ideas, David sought the unity of Israel, not around himself, but around the LORD.   Heralding a call for revival, David commanded the “Ark of God” [also known as the Ark of the Covenant] be brought to Jerusalem, noting the nation had “enquired not at it in the days of Saul” (13:2-3).   The celebration of the Ark’s journey to Jerusalem was cut short when a man named Uzza “put forth his hand to hold (or steady) the ark” that was being carried on a cart pulled by oxen (13:7-10).

“WHY?” becomes a question we should address.  Why would God punish Uzza whose actions were not only instinctive, but arguably innocent?   After all, was it not a good thing that the desire of David and the elders of Israel was to have the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence in Jerusalem the capital city?

An insightful quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind when addressing the tragic death of Uzza:  “It is never right to do wrong to get a chance to do right.”   Uzza was not struck down because he was insincere or impassionate in his desire to see the Ark moved to Jerusalem.   Uzza died because the manner in which the Ark was transported was a violation of God’s instructions to the Levites (Numbers 4) and touching the sacred Ark to steady it defiled that which God had declared holy and sanctified for Himself (Numbers 1:51; 4:15, 20).

I close this devotional with a personal observation:  

I am observing a steady, progressive departure from institutional convictions and principles that were the foundation of vibrant churches, schools, Bible colleges and Christian universities in the 20th century.

Well-meaning, zealous men are stepping into the pulpits of fundamental churches and Bible colleges who, driven by a passion to see their institutions successful, adopt a pragmatic approach to ministry that is a departure from their institution’s guiding principles and core convictions.   Suggesting “times have changed” and believing their sincerity is enough, good men are leading our churches and schools down a path that inevitably sacrifices Christian disciplines and Bible convictions that are at the core of spiritual distinctives.

Like Uzza, our dying churches and Bible colleges are a sad testimony that, “The end never justifies the means.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith