Category Archives: Family

The Spiritual Qualifications of the Pastor and the Failure of the 21st Century Church (Titus 1:6-9)

One of the great failings of the 21stcentury church is men in the pulpit and positions of church leadership who are not spiritually qualified.

This past week, Josh Harris, a former mega-church pastor of the Sovereign Grace Movement (becoming pastor at age 30), former leader of The Gospel Coalition, and best known for his best-seller book on dating titled, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (published when he was only 21 years old), announced on social media, “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

Harris’ announcement of his “falling away” from the Christian faith was preceded by an announcement two weeks prior that he and his wife of 21 years were ending their marriage.  

Harris’ most recent announcement grabbed national and international headlines as he not only repudiated his book on dating and rejected Christianity, but also made an apology to the LGTBQ community writing on Instagram, “to the LBGTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry.”

Behind the latest headlines is some old news…Josh Harris and his mentor, C. J. Mahaney, the former leader of the Sovereign Grace Movement, were exposed in May 2014 for their failure to prevent or stop sexual abuse in their Maryland church, Covenant Life when they learned a youth leader was sexually abusing three boys in the church.  That same man was later convicted of sexual crimes against minors.

While the secular and Christian media, along with a legion of bloggers, are focused (and some celebrating), Harris’ rejection of Christ and the authority of God’s Word in faith and practice, I suggest there is a greater disgrace than one man’s “falling away”; the 21st century church’s failure to examine its leadership in light of the spiritual qualifications for the office of pastor\teacher (Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 3:1-12; Titus 1:6-9).  

What lesson might we take from this ecclesiastical humiliation?  A spiritually unqualified man in the role of pastor\teacher will inevitably disgrace a church, it’s ministries, and testimony in the community and world.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Church, Her Spiritual Leaders and Their Failures

On a personal note: By God’s grace I recently celebrated four decades of ministry and have been blessed to serve on the pastoral staff of Hillsdale Baptist Church for thirty-four years.  The following article is written from my perspective as a pastor and graduate of a Christian University that historically made no apology for its Bible fundamental, separatist stance.

For two decades I have pondered the waning of conservative, independent, Bible-preaching churches, schools, and colleges in our nation.  While I pray for a spiritual awakening in America, I see little hope when our own families and ministries are following the spiritual erosion of our culture. Indeed, should we who identify as Bible-believers continue our flirtation with sin, I fear Bible-preaching is at risk of being silenced within a generation.

Having experienced social media vilification in the past, I fear my perspective will offend some and is not shared lightly or with a desire to offend. Nevertheless, I am compelled to share my concerns, not as a provocation, but as an exposé of what I believe is the primary factor contributing to the failure of historic, conservative Bible-Christianity in America.

Across our nation, a millennial consortium of progressive preachers is assuming the pulpits of conservative, Bible-preaching churches, schools, and colleges.  Preaching a message of grace without a call to personal sanctification and holiness, they have spawned a pseudo-piety and tolerance of sin and carnality the generation before them decried.  

A brief history lesson on conservative, fundamental Bible Christianity

From the 1950’s to the closing years of the 20thcentury, Bible-fundamentalism inspired a Gospel awakening (not so much a spiritual revival) in America.  Veterans of World War II returned to America with an evangelistic zeal giving rise to conservative, fundamental Christian Colleges whose student bodies experienced phenomenal growth until the late 1990’s.

Tens of thousands of young men enrolled in Bible colleges and became pastors across America and missionaries around the world.  That generation inspired the School Bus Ministry movement in the 1960’s and began the Christian School movement in the 1970’s continuing through the 1990’s.  The birth of the Home School movement in the 1990’s revived the prospect of a generation of youth who might surrender their lives to the LORD and dedicate themselves to serve as pastors, teachers, and missionaries.

The 21st century; however, has proved disastrous for conservative, Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches and institutions.

Failing churches, Christian schools, Bible colleges and seminaries dot the American landscape.  Spiritual apathy has taken hold on our homes, churches, and schools.  Aging congregations, falling church attendance, and a precipitous decline in young men going into ministry now threaten the future of conservative Biblical Christianity.

While there are many explanations for the spiritual erosion we are witnessing in our Bible-believing churches and institutions, I will limit myself to a few.  The first, cultural wars within and without our homes. Some will argue the church has failed to adapt to cultural changes.  Others will argue, in an attempt to be relevant, the church lost its identity and has become irrelevant.  The disparity between what the Bible teaches and what our homes, churches, and institutions practice is another reason for the diminishing of our churches. We are hearers of the Word, but are we doers?  Christian educators fault the churches for pervasive spiritual apathy in the students, while pastors accuse those same institutions of accommodating carnality at the sacrifice of spiritual zeal.

Believing everything rises and falls on leadership, I conclude the responsibility for the spiritual failings of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and universities, and seminaries rests with the spiritual leaders of this, my generation. 

My peers have served as the spiritual leaders of our institutions for more than two decades.  Unlike any generation before, my generation has faced and grappled with an unprecedented intrusion of technology.  While the pastors of my youth sounded the alarm regarding the secular influences of radio, television, movies, and rock music; the ministers of my generation pastor congregations that, with a few clicks of a mouse, surf the internet and introduce to their families every imaginable influence… doctrinally, culturally, and socially.

Cable television, internet, social media, and cell phones are seducing the hearts of our children and empowering the parasitic nature of secularism and progressive theology.  While Christian parents prove either ambivalent or ill-prepared for the seduction of “worldliness”, their spiritual leaders are encountering a radical cultural shift and failing to address the intrusion of sin in their own homes and ministries.

Facing a spirit of rebellion in their homes, churches, and Christian schools, the spiritual leaders of my generation, in an attempt to parley peace with their own youth, have accommodated their sins. The consequence is an extra-biblical liberty that embraces the sins of the world, its pleasures, and inevitable consequences (1 John 2:15-17).

Warning: Spiritual leaders who accommodate the sins of their children will invariably compromise the core values of the ministries entrusted to their care.

To understand why Bible-believing churches, Christian schools, colleges, and seminaries are forsaking spiritual disciplines, one need only to look to the pulpits and the leaders who occupy them. My generation has failed to call the church to sanctification and holiness because we have succumbed to a paralysis induced by our own spiritual failings.

Almost without exception, the failure of churches and the compromise and eventual closure of Christian institutions in my sphere have one thing in common… leaders who sacrificed their spiritual integrity to accommodate the sins of their children.

Consider Paul’s admonition to Titus.  Having declared the virtues and spiritual qualifications of the leaders of the church (Titus 1:6-9), including “blameless”, the principal, indispensable qualification of the pastor that includes his role as the “husband of one wife” and “having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6), Paul warns:

“For there are many unruly [disobedient; rebellious] and vain talkers [empty, useless talk] and deceivers [impostors; seducers]…whose mouths must be stopped [silenced; bridled], who subvert [overturn; destroy] whole houses [families], teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake [dishonest gain]…Wherefore rebuke [reprove; convict] them sharply [cut off; severely].” (Titus 1:10, 11, 13)

Principle – Leaders deficient in the spiritual qualifications of their office will invariably lack the spiritual power and authority “to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” [opposed to Truth and sound doctrine](Titus 1:9)

I close this introductory article on spiritual leaders and their failings, urging you to take away three lessons from the failed example of my generation:  

1) Technology will seduce the hearts of your children and empower the parasitic nature of secularism and progressive theology; 2) Accommodate the sins of your children and you will invariably sacrifice your core values;   3) Compromise your convictions and you will lack the spiritual power and authority to exhort and rebuke those who oppose sound Biblical truths.

1 John 2:15-17– 15  Love not the world, neither the things that arein the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him
16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 
17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

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Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Who is Responsible? The One with the Axe over His Neck! (Numbers 29-30)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 29-30, Psalm 54, and Luke 10. Our devotional is from Numbers 29-30.

As a reminder, the geographical setting of the closing chapters in Numbers is on the east side of the Jordan River at the threshold of the Promise Land.  Israel is encamped once again where the previous generation had turned back forty years before.  Knowing his days with Israel are numbered (Numbers 27:13), Moses set his heart on the task of preparing his successor, Joshua, to lead the nation (27:16-17, 23).

Making vows and being bound by them is the subject of Numbers 30.   Vows and covenants are not to be treated lightly and once they are made, without the intervention of a superior authority, they are binding with few exceptions.

One exception is a girl or young woman living under her father’s roof.  In explanation: A father who discerns a daughter’s vow to the LORD has the right and authority to cancel the vow.  Should the father be silent, his daughter’s vow stands (30:3-6).

Another exception is the vow of a married woman.  Should a wife make a vow to the LORD, her husband is empowered to cancel the vow and accept responsibility for his decision, while his wife’s obligation to the vow is absolved (30:6-8).

Widowed or divorced women were bound by their vows to the LORD and could not cancel them (30:9).  Reminding us the husband is the head of the wife and home, the husband had authority to cancel the vow of his wife or allow it to stand (30:10-16).

Friend, it is the bent of our nature to focus on the authority aspect of this subject and fail to see the protection and accountability a father and husband bears in the sight of God.  In God’s plan, a father and husband bears not only the authority as head of his household; he is also directly accountable to God for acting as the shield, the watchman, and counselor of his family.

In other words, fathers and husbands are accountable for the vows and decisions of their households and the axe of God’s judgment will fall upon their necks.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 51; 2 Samuel 12:7-13)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 21-22 and Psalm 51. Our devotional is from Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance, and a plea for restoration.

Written after the prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation with king David (2 Samuel 12:7-13), Psalm 51 introduces us to a man brought low by sin. David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her conception of his illegitimate son, and his failed attempt to conceal his sin had led to the murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite on the battlefield.  David’s hush-hush sins were secret no more and the king’s disgrace was exposed in his court.

Many a great man and woman have found themselves in the unenviable position we find king David…at the pinnacle of success and power and unaccountable to any who might mercifully and lovingly warn, “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7).

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”   Such is true, not only of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, teachers, and pastors; but also, men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms have roles that go unchecked.

One should ponder how David falls from the innocence of a boy tending sheep in his teens, a national hero in his young-adult years (1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11), crowned king by age 30, but at 50 years of age descends to become an adulterer and murderer.

Be forewarned: Given the right provocation, the potential of such egregious sins lies within us all.   David acknowledged the nature and bent of sin within us when he writes, “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).  Indeed, the inclination for sin is within the heart of all, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

Even more disconcerting, while in the throes of sin David continued to act as judge in other men’s matters while tolerating the curse and burden of his own sins.  One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if God had not commanded his prophet to confront the king.  Remembering oriental monarchs like David held absolute authority and the power of life and death rested with them, we appreciate the tenuous position Nathan found himself.

The words, “Thou art the man!”(2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the king’s judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness… 2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3  For I acknowledge my transgressions…4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done thisevil in thy sight…”(Psalm 51:1-4a).

David prayed, “10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me… 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:10, 12a).

I find three failures in David’s life that are the haunt of men and women. 

The first, David entertained unbridled passions that inevitably led to a neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king. The second, David’s role as king had insulated him from accountability.  His moral failure occurred when he was alone.  Finally, until confronted by Nathan, David was too proud to confess his sins and humbly accept the consequences (2 Samuel 11:6-22).

Friend, if you are concealing sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time before the consequences catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).

I invite you to humble yourself before God knowing He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson in Biblical Morality (Leviticus 17-18)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 17-18, Psalm 40, and Mark 12. Our devotional is from Leviticus 17-18.

Leviticus 17 continues the LORD’s instructions to Moses concerning sacrifices the priests were to offer for the people before the door of the tabernacle.  The centrality of blood sacrifices for sin is mentioned 13 times in chapter 17 and explicit instructions are given regarding the offerings to the LORD, including the prohibition regarding the consumption of blood (17:10-14).  For those curious regarding the meaning of “Kosher” meats; they are meats derived from animals slaughtered and the blood drained according to Biblical guidelines.

Morality and the sanctity of marriage is the subject of Leviticus 18:1-30 and one I deem should be a subject of teaching in the 21st century church.  Several moral issues are addressed including the prohibition of incest (18:6-19), adultery (18:20; Exodus 20:14), homosexuality (18:22), and bestiality (18:23).

The wicked immoral practices the people remembered from Egypt and the immorality they might observe in the new land were prohibited.   In other words, the world was not Israel’s standard in conduct or lifestyle.  The people were not to follow in the ways of Egypt and Canaan (Leviticus 18:3; 24-29).

The LORD commanded His people, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God” (18:4).  Excommunication from fellowship and from living among the people was the judgment against any who chose to walk contrary to the law and commandments (18:29).

Friend, there was a time the church set the moral standards for these United States and God’s Word, HIs Law, and Commandments defined the lifestyles of His people. It is troubling to see the average Christian home in America has an appetite for the world and looks to society, politicians, judges, and liberal media for their moral judgments.

God will not bless our homes, churches, and schools until we return to the LORD and His Word becomes our guide and standard (18:30). 

Psalm 119:9-11 – 9Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

In the words of Dwight L. Moody, “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Unforgiveness: A Bitter Fruit that Steals Your Joy and Saps Your Soul (Mark 11:22-26)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 15-16, Psalm 39, and Mark 11. Our devotional is from Mark 11.

Mark 11 records the beginning of the final week of Christ’s earthly life . Tradition states Christ’s “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem occurred on Sunday (Mark 11:1-11); however, there are many who believe it likely occurred on Monday.  Christ’s cursing the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves and driving the money-changers out of the Temple are both recorded in Mark 11:12-21.

Faith” and “Forgiveness” is the focus of our devotional and the subject of Mark 11:22-26.

Following a challenge on faith and prayer, Jesus admonished: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26).

Forty years in ministry has taught me there are many believers who bear a spirit of bitterness in their souls.  In fact, one of the most besetting sins in the 21stcentury church is an unwillingness to deal with offenses in a biblical manner motivated by love for God and love for others.  Many allow bitterness to fester in their souls and, like cancer in the body, spread until family, friendships, and fellowships are spiritually, emotionally, and physically infected.

The writer of Hebrews warns the same: Looking diligently [intently; be watching] lest any man fail of [fall short of] the grace [favor and blessing] of God; lest any root of bitterness [i.e. hatred or resentment] springing up [sprouting up] trouble you, and thereby many [i.e. perhaps the majority] be defiled [tainted; i.e. like one diseased](Hebrews 12:15).

Friend, have you lost your joy because bitterness festers in your soul?  Do you harbor bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights of your youth? Are you a parent who struggles with forgiving a child who has disgraced your home with foolish, sinful actions?   Have callous words and broken vows embittered your marriage?  Have you allowed slights and offenses to embitter you toward fellow believers and pastors?

An unwillingness to forgive others is indicative of a soul who has not entered into the joy of God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” is the LORD’s will (Ephesians 4:32) and when you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no reason to be unwilling to forgive others!

Harbor an unforgiving spirit and you do so at the sacrifice of joy and unanswered prayers.

Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy When Children Are Left to Themselves (Psalm 36)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 9-10, Psalm 36, and Mark 8. Our Bible devotional is from Psalm 36.

A rising tide of lawlessness, violence and moral depravity is afflicting our society.  Fatherless homes, perpetual generations of welfare mothers and grandmothers, and children left to their own wicked devices (Proverbs 29:15) has become a scourge for our nation.

The writer of Hebrews employs the term “bastard” to describe those who profess to be believers, but whose lives continue in a pattern of sin contrary to the Word of God, showing no evidence of the chastening hand of God.  Drawing a parallel with a loving father who chastens his children to bend their will to a path of obedience and righteous living (Hebrews 12:7), the author of Hebrews states: “if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons”(Hebrews 12:8).

In other words, in the same manner a loving father bears the responsibility of teaching and chastening his children, a professing believer who continues in sin without chastening is a “bastard” and not a spiritual child of God.

Consider David’s description of the wicked in his day and how it parallels the youth of our day.  David writes,

Psalm 36:1 – “The transgression [sin; trespass; rebellion] of the wicked [immoral; lawbreakers] saith [declares] within my [his] heart, that there is no fear [dread] of God before his eyes [sight; note Romans 3:18 ].”

The sins of the wicked prove they have no fear of God.  Like the fool of Psalm 14:1, they say in their ways, “There is no God(Psalm 14:1).  Their ways are “corrupt” and their works an abomination before a holy God.

Psalm 36:2  – “For he [the wicked] flattereth [favors] himself in his own eyes [opinion; sight; note Romans 3:18], until his iniquity [sin; punishment; guilt] be found [i.e. found out] to be hateful [detest; despised].”

The wicked convince themselves their sin is not bad.

If ever there has been a generation that has an inflated sense of self-worth it is this generation.  People are full of themselves and social media has afforded them a platform to boast over sins an earlier generation would have blushed.  Rather than discipline, the parents of this generation fawn over their youth and fail to address the flaws in their character.  

They are blind to the truth that every sin bears consequences.  In the words of one of my heroes of the faith, “Every dissipation of youth must be paid for with a draft on old age” (Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.).

Psalm 36:3 – “The words of his mouth are iniquity [sin; wickedness] and deceit [fraud; treachery]: he hath left off [failed; lacked] to be wise [act wisely], and to do good [well; be pleasing].”

The wicked place no value on civility, nor speak with discretion. They have no interest in godly wisdom or righteousness.

Psalm 36:4  – “He [wicked] deviseth [imagine; fabricate; plot] mischief [sin; wickedness] upon his bed; he setteth [stand; presents; places] himself in a way [road; path; course of life] that is not good [best; right]; he abhorreth [spurns; despises] not evil [sin; wickedness].”

Finally, we note the wicked are slaves and sin is their master. Their waking thoughts plot all manner of evil. They purpose to do evil because it is their nature.

Believer, don’t allow the ways of darkness and the amusements of the wicked beguile you.  Turn to the LORD and remember,

Psalm 36:9 – 9 For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

Have a blessed day!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith