Category Archives: Elderly

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 128-130

Today’s scripture reading consists of three brief songs of worship in the Book of Psalms, chapters 128, 129 and 130.  As noted in previous devotions, we are in the midst of a set of Psalms known as, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134) and believed to have been psalms pilgrims sang as they approached Jerusalem and the Temple for feasts days celebrated by the Hebrews.  My focus for today’s commentary is Psalm 128.

Psalm 128 is a song of rejoicing in the LORD for His many blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears and walks in the ways of the LORD (128:1).

What does it mean to fear the LORD?

The fear of the LORD is not a fear that, like Adam, flees or cowers in God’s presence (Genesis 3:8-9).  It is a reverential fear; a fear that moves a man to conduct himself in a manner that is upright, honest and just.  Such a man is “blessed” (i.e. happy; joyful; satisfied) because he “walketh in His ways” (the ways of the LORD’S commandments).

Drawing upon a picture that is rural and agricultural (128:2-3); the man who fears the LORD is promised he will enjoy success in his labor, be happy in his pursuits, and fare well in life (128:2).

Wow; what a picture of a rewarding, satisfying life!  However, it gets even better!  It is one thing to be well-off, have money in savings and enjoy material success; however, it is quite another to have family in whom you take pleasure.

The world might say such a man lives a “charmed life”; however, nothing could be further from the truth!  He is not lucky; he is blessed because he fears the LORD and walks in His ways!

Unlike the wicked whose lives are cursed with the ways of sin that never satisfy, the life of a man who fears the LORD and walks in His ways is not choked with the weeds of ungodliness.  God blesses his labor (128:2) and his household enjoys the fruit of God’s blessings upon his life (128:3).

His wife is “a fruitful vine” and finds her strength in him and his children are “like olive plants”, a source of joy to his soul.  Leaving us no doubt the way of the LORD is blessed, the psalmist repeats his assertion, the man be blessed that feareth the LORD (128:4).

The closing verses of Psalm 128 serve as a benediction for those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways (128:5-6).

Psalm 128:5-6 – “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. 6  Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

We have seen the family portraits of three generations in this psalmThe first is a portrait of a young man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), is like “a fruitful vine” …a source of joy and blessing to her household.

The second portrait is that of the man’s children who, sitting around his table, are trained and cultivated to grow up “like olive plants” and prosper (128:3).

The third portrait is one of contentment (128:5-6) and was taken in the latter years of the godly man’s life.  He is old, his back stooped in age; however, his heart aspires to see God bless his nation (128:5).  He rejoices in seeing his “children’s children”, and prays for peace (128:6).

Many reading this devotional aspire to the same.  We long for success and to be a blessing to our spouse and children.  We pray for God to pour out His blessings on our nation and, when we are old, to grant us the joy of seeing and loving our grandchildren.

My friend, those are admirable goals; however, they are the blessings of those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways.

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

Don’t Quit…God is With You!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 9-12

We pick up our reading in the Book of Numbers by reading Numbers 9-12 today.  I stated in two earlier commentaries that the early chapters in Numbers are dedicated to Moses taking a people who served as slaves of Pharaoh for 400 years and instructing and organizing them into a nation.

Numbers 1-4 records a census of the tribes of Israel.  Numbers 5-6 state the specifics for addressing disease and sin among the people.  Because worshipping, serving and offering sacrifices were central to Israel’s individual and corporate life, the Tabernacle of the LORD was located in the heart of the encampment (Numbers 7).   Numbers 8 established the character and bloodline of the Aaronic priesthood.  A perpetual observance of the Passover is commanded in Numbers 9, serving as a memorial to the LORD for delivering Israel out of Egypt (Numbers 9:1-14).

When Israel journeyed in the wilderness, the people found security in the LORD’s presence by a cloud that was present in the day and a fire that was present at night (9:15-23).  Making it clear the LORD alone dictates the “starts and stops” of His people, the people followed the movements of the cloud and fire in their journey (9:21-23).

Friend, there is much to learn in today’s scripture reading; however, I would be remiss to not remind you the LORD, though He no longer leads His people with a cloud or fire, nevertheless leads, directs and guides His children by His Word and the wooing of His Spirit.   Should Numbers 9 appear irrelevant or inapplicable to 21st century Christians, I remind you we have this history for a reason…that you and I might be reminded of the abiding, perpetual presence of the LORD!

Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul challenged believers there are spiritual lessons we should derive from our study of the saints of the Old Testament.  Paul writes:

1 Corinthians:1-2 – “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2And were all baptized unto Moses [united under Moses in the same way believers are united in Christ by baptism] in the cloud and in the sea;”

Symbolizing the expressions of God’s grace in types or symbols, we read:

1 Corinthians 10:3-4 – “And did all eat the same spiritual meat [manna miraculously provided by God]; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink [water that came from the rock]: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Illustrating God’s judgment against those who lacked faith and those who sinned:

1 Corinthians 10:5-10 – “5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust  [set our heart upon sin] after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters [setting their affection and priorities on things before God], as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ [refusing to trust God], as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur [grumbling and complaining] ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.”

And why is it important to know the ways and manner the LORD dealt with Israel?   Paul explains:

1 Corinthians 10:11-1211 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [setting an example; a pattern]: and they are written for our admonition [warning; rebuke], upon whom the ends of the world are come [a special warning to those living in the last days]. 12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

Reading and understanding the way the LORD guided and protected Israel’s journey in the wilderness gives us confidence in this promise:

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [trial; test] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. many others have faced the same]: but God is faithful [trustworthy; true], who will not suffer [permit; allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [i.e. pass through], that ye may be able [possible] to bear it [endure].”

What a blessed promise!   Whatever test or trial you may face, be assured God is faithful!  You will face times of testing (for these are “common to man”); however, the LORD is with you and will tenderly care for you, protect, strengthen and be with you through your trials.

Don’t quit…God is with you night and day as He was with Israel!

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

Having a midlife crisis?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Kings 10-13

With the Temple built and his palace and homes finished, Solomon became an international sensation in 1 Kings 10 when we read, “the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions” (10:1).  Solomon’s wisdom, the wealth and splendor of his kingdom, and God’s blessings became known far and wide.

There are many fables and legends that surround the visit of the Queen of Sheba; however, this is a devotional commentary and we will consider the only reputable source we have…the Word of God (1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1; Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31).

The kingdom of Sheba is believed to have been in the southern end of the Arabian peninsula known today as Yemen.  The Queen had received news of the remarkable wisdom of Solomon and the wonders of his kingdom and set upon a journey from her kingdom in the south to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel in the north.  Rather than travel via ship on the Red Sea, the scriptures indicate she came with a “very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones” (10:2a).

The purpose of the queen’s visit is summed up in this, “she communed with him of all that was in her heart” (10:2b).  Whatever questions she proposed to Solomon, he was able to answer (10:3).  She was amazed at the beauty of all he had built (10:4), the splendor of the meals served in his palace, his boundless wisdom, the rich raiment worn by his servants (10:5) and their privilege to serve a king of such wisdom (10:6-8).   1 Kings 10:10-13 records the wealth the queen bestowed on Solomon as well as the gifts he bequeathed to her out of his royal treasury.

The lavish wealth of the king’s palace, the tributes paid to him by other nations, his shields of gold, his throne made of ivory and overlaid with gold (10:18-20), gold vessels and exotic animals, chariots and champion horses are all detailed (10:21-29).

The grandeur of Solomon’s kingdom is tarnished when we read in 1 Kings 11, “Solomon loved many strange women” (11:1).  Disregarding the LORD’s admonition concerning the danger of wives who worship “after their gods” (11:2), Solomon’s “wives turned away his heart” (11:3).

The king’s sins provoked God’s wrath (11:9) and his family and nation suffered for his apostasy (11:10-13).  Israel became a troubled nation with enemies without (i.e. Pharaoh and Egypt – 11:14-25) and enemies within (i.e. Jeroboam, a “mighty man of valour” who Solomon recognized too late as a threat to his kingdom – 11:26-40).   Jeroboam fled Israel into Egypt where he stayed until Solomon died and “Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead” (11:40-43).

Learning that Solomon was dead (12:1-2), Jeroboam returned to Israel and petitioned king Rehoboam on behalf of the tribes of Israel that the heavy burden of taxation and servitude placed upon the people by Solomon’s ambitious construction projects be lightened (12:3-4).  Rehoboam, though having the advantage of his father Solomon’s wise men as his counselors (12:6-7), foolishly dismissed them and heeded the advice of his peers who stoked his pride and ambition (12:8-11) setting in motion a rebellion that divided the kingdom (12:12-33).

1 Kings 13 gives the history of a divided Israel, the ten tribes of the north rebelling against Rehoboam and ceding from his reign as king.  The rebellious tribes followed Jeroboam into idolatry and all manner of sin and wickedness (13:1-34).

I invite you to consider in closing the great and tragic end of Solomon’s reign.  The wisest man who ever lived, when he was old, disobeyed the LORD.   “His heart was not perfect with the LORD his God” (11:4) and he “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (11:6).  Notice the statement concerning Solomon in 1 Kings 11:4, “it came to pass, when Solomon was old.

Old enough to know better!  Old enough to not play a fool!  Old enough to understand the consequences of sin, wicked choices on himself and his family.

Sadly, there is a great possibility someone reading this devotional commentary is doing the same.  Some might call it a “mid-life crisis”.  Call it what you will; however, if you fail to abide in God’s Word, saturate your heart with spiritual principles, and sit under the faithful preaching of God’s Word; it may one day be said of you, “when he was old…his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God” (11:4).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Behold thy Mother!”

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Luke 1-2

We continue our “Read-thru the Bible” scripture reading today focusing on the Gospel of Luke chapters 1-2.  Written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the human author of the Gospel of Luke is “Luke, the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14).  Luke’s occupation was that of a medical doctor; however, his writings in the Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts reveal he was a historian and travel companion of the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys (Acts 16:10).  The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts are historical letters penned by Luke to a friend named Theophilus (Luke 1:1-3; Acts 1:1) and the opening verses of each reflect the passion of a historian who was a well-educated man.

Given the length and historical character of Luke 1-2, I will limit this devotional commentary to an overview of the chapters and close with a brief focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Luke 1 introduces us to the miraculous conception of John the Baptist, the long-awaited forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:5-25).   Destined for greatness from his conception; however, it was not the greatness men thrust upon one because of his lineage (John’s father Zacharias was a priest who lived in relative obscurity).   It was prophesied of John he would be “great in the sight of the LORD” (Luke 1:15) because of his mission.  He would be the messenger of the LORD dedicated to heralding the coming of Jesus Christ, the “Lamb of God”.

Luke 1:26-38 is the record of the miraculous incarnation of Jesus Christ, conceived in the womb of the virgin named Mary of Nazareth, a child of the Holy Ghost, the only begotten Son of God (Luke 1:35-37).

Luke 1:39-56 is the record of the expecting Mary’s retreat from Nazareth to the home of her elder cousin Elisabeth whom Mary found great with child as the angel Gabriel had told her (Luke 1:36).  Luke 1:57-80 records the birth of John the Baptist and his divine mission.

The historical events surrounding the birth of Jesus and the angelic announcement of His birth are found in Luke 2:1-20.  The circumcision of Jesus (2:21-24), the prophesies of Simeon and Anna (2:25-38), and a brief insight into Jesus’ childhood are found in Luke 2:39-52.

I am taking my sermon for this Mother’s Day,  Sunday, May 14, 2017 from the dramatic moment Jesus’ gaze fell upon his mother who was standing near the cross.  When Mary visited the Temple with her eight-day-old Son (Luke 2:25-35), she received a prophecy from the elder Simeon who, taking Jesus up into his arms said to Mary, “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul” (Luke 2:35).  I believe those words haunted Mary’s thoughts throughout the years Jesus was growing from a child to a man in her home.  Standing at the foot of His cross, untold sorrows pierced Mary’s soul as she watched her sinless Son become the object of curses and scorn.

Through her tears, Mary understood Jesus was the Son of His Heavenly Father and the suffering He endured on the cross was as much for her sins as the sins of those who crucified Him (note Luke 1:46-47).   The cross severed all human ties with this physical world; however, Jesus, bearing the burden and penalty of the sins of the world, did not forget his mother.  Gazing through swollen eyes nearly closed from abuses He has suffered, His lips bruised and bleeding, Jesus speaks to His mother, “Woman, Behold thy son!” (John 19:26).  Jesus was not referring to Himself, but to John who stood at her side.  Turning His gaze to John, Jesus said, “Behold thy mother!” (John 19:27).  We read concerning John, “from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:27b).

On this Mother’s Day eve, contemplate Jesus’ example.  He remembered to provide for His mother by doing the one thing He could do…He entrusted her to the care of the one disciple who stood near the cross.   Jesus knew John shared Mary’s zeal for the LORD and would care and provide for her as though she were his mother.

In the hour of His greatest agony; He did not forget His mother!   What a wonderful lesson for us all who have mothers and grandmothers!

Friend, whether you are a mother or not, you are blessed if there are men and women in your life who love and care for you!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God Never Punishes Children for the Sins of Their Parents; however, Children Often Suffer the Consequences!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Job 21-22

Poor Job, in his distress he answers the judgments of “friends” who, like Zophar’s statements in Job 20, imply his sorrows and losses are attributable to some sin he has not confessed to God.

In Job 20:4-29, Zophar stated the wicked suffer calamities because of their sins:  Their lives cut short (20:4-11); their joys  temporal (20:12-19); and their end full of sorrow (20:20-29).   Zophar’s observations concerning the fate of the wicked assumed a tacit implication that Job’s sorrows mirrored that of wicked men.

Job answered Zophar’s conclusions in chapter 21, contradicting his assertions that the path of the wicked concludes with a shorten life, suffering, and sorrows.  Job observes the way of the wicked often appears to succeed in this sinful world:  The wicked appear to live long prosperous lives in spite of their sins (21:7-21) and their deaths differ little from that of other men (21:22-34).

How many of my readers have beheld with wonder that the wicked appear to flourish while the righteous are left impoverished?  I have often observed that liars, cheats, and swindlers prosper, while their victims languish in the wake of their path of destruction.  I have seen trusting widows deceived, single moms impoverished, and the naïve swindled out of their inheritance…by wicked men who evidenced no guilt of conscience or visible consequences for their sins.

Friend, do not be hasty in your judgment and think God is not just!  God is “longsuffering…not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9) and His patience exceeds our own; however, He is just and sin always demands its payday.  Job’s friends implied the deaths of his children were a result of his sins (Job 21:19); however, that assertion is contrary to the scriptures.

Children are not punished for their parent’s sins (Jeremiah 31:29-30; Deuteronomy 24:16); however, they often bear the consequences of a parent’s sin for three and four generations (Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9).  A man’s ill-gotten wealth often proves a sorrow and curse to his children and his children’s children.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith