Category Archives: Faith

At the Risk of Being Misunderstood

John McCain’s death has drawn tributes from all quarters of the world…political and religious; however, I fear we too easily overlook the one lasting lesson we might take from his life … “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Lest I be accused of callousness, I extend to John McCain’s family sincere condolences, being reminded the grief and sorrow of death is a universal certainty. Indeed, death is no respecter of persons and we all, great and small, live under the shadow of death, “For all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

I am not privy of John McCain’s spiritual relationship with God at his death.  Commended by many for his service to our country, the only commendation that has lasting, eternal value is whether or not God received him on the basis of his faith in the redemption found in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

Of all the acclamations expressed to a man for a life-time of service, the most important is not one he deserves, but one promised as an expression of God’s grace: “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

United States Naval Academy graduate, naval aviator, tortured prisoner of war, and life-time politician…all earn the acclaim of an adoring public, but I wonder if God received John McCain as a believer saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  After all, “there is no respect of persons” before God’s judgment (Colossians 3:24-25).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

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

“Honor all men…” (1 Peter 2:17)

I observed in an earlier post that America cannot be great again if “We the People of the United States of America” fail to bind ourselves to the idea of “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.   

 For a half-century, “We the People” have pursued a path of self-destruction and I fear we might be nearing the tipping point of no return. Should we continue defying God’s Laws, we cannot with a sincere conscience pray, “God bless, America.”  Should we continue to sacrifice patriotism and love of country for partisan politics and political expediency, we will never be indivisible.  Should we entertain the demand, “equality for all” (equal pay, equal reward), we do so at the sacrifice of the individual and our liberties as a free people.  Should we make every man and woman a victim, we prejudice the judicial system and render justice for none.

How did America get to this sorry state? I believe Christians bear responsibility for this nation’s decline and its moral decay.  We have failed God and our nation.

The founders of our nation aspired to the highest ideals of self-rule and gave us a Republic to inspire the noblest qualities in her citizenry.  Should we desire our nation to become great again, we who call upon the LORD must dare embrace four mandates of Christian citizenship:

1 Peter 2:17 – “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”

This is my second post on the first mandate, “Honour all men(1 Peter 2:17a).  “Honor” ascribes worth to an individual by one’s words and actions.  I made the following observations in my earlier posts: 1) “Honor” is universal in scope and blind to race and ethnicity; 2) Honor is not without discretion; 3) Honor another does not negate the fact some are more deserving of honor than others; 4) Finally, the nature of virtue calls for honor.

That brings me to another consideration.  While all men are to be honored, some are purposely and specifically honored.  Consider three instances where the scriptures charge God’s people to honor others.

The first, children are to honor their parents. The fourth commandment reads, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORDthy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12; Deut. 5:15).  Indeed, to honor one’s parents was so fundamental to Hebrew society that the penalty for dishonoring one’s parents was death (Mt. 15:4; Mark 7:10).  The command to obey and honor one’s father and mother comes with a conditional promise, “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Husbands are commanded to honor their wives.  Men make much of the wives submitting to them; however, as much should be made of the husband’s duty to honor his wife.  Peter instructed believers, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [wives] according to knowledge [understanding]giving honourunto the wife, as unto the weaker [i.e. physical strength] vessel [because she is a complement to her husband]…”  (1 Peter 3:7a).  Wise is the husband who cherishes and honors his wife.

Thirdly, we are to honor our elders.  Too many families warehouse their Senior citizens in institutions and make too little effort to oversee the care of their loved ones.  The gray head (i.e. “hoary head”) saints are to be prized and valued.  Paul instructed Timothy to give particular attention to widows, especially those who are “widows indeed” (meaning those having no children, grandchildren, or family).

The honor due “widows indeed” was personal, practical, and even sacrificial.  In a day when there was no social welfare system, the cares and financial needs of the widows fell upon their families.

Another aspect of honoring one’s elders is the instruction to stand up in the presence of an elder.  The children of Israel instructed their chidlren, “Thou shalt rise up [lit. stand up; i.e. indicating value] before [in the presence of] the hoary head[old, gray-haired], and honour [favor; respect; defer; value] the face presence] of the old man, and fear [be afraid; revere] thy God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32).

I close today’s challenge to “Honour all men” with a story from the life of George Washington, the commander of America’s revolutionary army, father of our nation, and first president of the United States of America.

One morning while riding his horse on his plantation in the company of the French General Lafayette, a slave approached Washington on foot and greeted him with “Morning, Sir.” 

Washington, acknowledging the slave’s greeting, tipped his hat and said, “Good morning, my dear friend.”

Lafayette was astounded and asked, “Why is it that you, General and President George Washington would speak and tip your hat to a common slave? 

Washington replied, “Why sir, I could not allow him to be the better man!”

What an inspiring outlook on life; to live in such a way you aspire to be the better man or woman.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Resolutions for 2018

Happy New Year!

An old adage suggests, “Aim at nothing and you’re bound to hit it!”  

I am afraid that statement is, for many, a reality.  An aimless, pointless existence is no doubt a great contributor to the depression and anxiety that plagues 21st century society.  Sadly, that same malady is found in the lives of many professing Christians.

On Sunday I shared Ten New Year’s Resolutions with my church family I hope you might consider adopting as your own.  The first five are Spiritual Resolutions; the latter five are Personal Resolutions.

Five Spiritual Resolutions for 2018…I resolve to:

Read God’s Word daily (Psalm 1:2; 119:11, 15-16; 2 Timothy 2:15)

Psalm 1:2 – But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Live a holy, consecrated life (Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-22)

Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Be unwavering in my faith and walk with the LORD (Hebrews 10:23)

Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised😉

Love, serve, and encourage others (Hebrews 10:24)

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider one another [give continuous care] to provoke [to incite; prod; stimulate] unto love [agape’] and to good works [honest labor]:

Make congregational worship a priority for my family (Hebrews 10:25)

Hebrews 10:25  – Not forsaking [leaving or neglecting] the assembling [gathering] of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day [Second Coming of Christ]  approaching.

Five Personal Resolutions for 2018…I resolve to:

To be a better steward of my life, body, and health – To lose weight; Eat healthier (i.e. eat less; eat nutritional foods)Exercise regularly

Read more and watch less TV (Romans 12:2)

To be less involved on social media and more involved in people’s lives

To “love my neighbor” and show compassion for lost souls (Luke 10:27; Galatians 5:14)

In summary, to be more Christlike (Matthew 5:3-16; Romans 13:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

 

The Journey’s End

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 27-28

Our scripture reading today is Acts 27-28 and chronicles the apostle Paul’s journey to Rome as a prisoner where he will inevitably give his life as a martyr for Christ.

Paul’s journey to Rome was by ship and he was in the company of other prisoners under the escort of “one named Julius, a centurion of [Caesar] Augusts’ band [regiment]” (27:1).  The ship would stop at several ports on its journey to Rome, including Sidon where Paul notes the centurion’s favor in allowing him to fellowship with other believers (27:3).

Departing from Sidon enroute to Myra, the centurion transferred Paul and the other prisoners to a “ship of Alexandria” [i.e. Egypt] that was sailing directly to Italy (27:4-6).  The sailing was slow (27:9) and knowing storms would soon make sailing dangerous, “Paul admonished” the captain of the ship and the centurion guard to seek safe harbor until the stormy season was past (27:9-11).

Dismissing Paul’s warning, the ship set sail and the vessel was soon caught up in a great storm so that, in Paul’s words, “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (27:12-20).

Acts 27:21-44, Paul turns from prisoner to encourager and tells the men, although the ship would be lost, God revealed to him no lives would perish (27:21-24).  Blown several hundred miles off course and hearing the roar of waves landing upon rocks on the shore, some shipmen prepared to abandon the ship and its passengers and were preparing to cast off in a small boat (27:30).  Heeding Paul’s warning that any who abandon ship would be lost, the soldiers cut away the ropes of the small boat (27:32).  Acts 27 closes with Paul and all 276 souls on the ship being saved alive (27:33-44).

The ship ran aground on the island “called Melita”, our modern-day Malta (Acts 28:1).  Warming themselves around a fire, God miraculously spared Paul’s life when a poisonous viper took hold of his hand (28:3). Those who witnessed the viper’s attack wondered if Paul was not being punished for his wickedness, but then marveled he did not perish (28:4-6).

We often wonder why God allows His people and choice servants to go through difficult trials…sickness, disappointments, accidents, sorrows, losses.  In the immediate we may not rightly see God’s purpose; however, we are surely no different from the apostle Paul.  What a great example of a suffering, faithful servant Paul gives us as we witness him arrested and tried, but turning the occasions to an opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Festus (Acts 25) and Agrippa (Acts 26).

As a prisoner on a ship setting sail for Rome, Paul turned the storm into an opportunity to share God’s revelation He had the LORD’s assurance their lives would be saved for he “must be brought before Caesar” (27:23-25).  Finally, bitten by a viper, God spared Paul’s life as a testimony that the power of God rested upon him (28:6).

Acts 28 concludes with Paul’s safe travel and arrival in Rome (28:11-31) where he had freedom to visit with fellow believers (28:11-16). 

In an incredible testimony of God’s providence and Paul’s passion for preaching the Gospel, Paul’s “house” imprisonment in Rome opened the door for him to not only share his own conversion and calling with Jewish leaders (28:17-22), but also declare to all who would listen that Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited suffering Messiah foretold by the prophet Isaiah (28:23-31).

Acts 28:30-31 – “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31  Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”

My friend, if you have followed our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year schedule, today marks the end of your journey for it is our 364th daily reading assignment of 2017.   It is easy to begin a spiritual discipline; however, there are few who know the joy of persevering to the end!  Congratulations on this blessed milestone in your spiritual walk with the LORD.  I bid you God’s blessings and wish you a Happy New Year!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith