Category Archives: Fear

Do You Have Faith? (Hebrews 11; Hebrews 12)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 11; Hebrews 12

Hebrews 11 and 12 are pivotal chapters in our study of the Epistle to the Hebrews.  While earlier chapters have been heavily weighted with the great doctrines of our faith, the two chapters before us are historical, practical, and inspiring. Our devotional will be taken from Hebrews 11.

Hebrews 11 is known to people of faith as the Bible’s “Hall of Faith.” Though only forty verses in length, some of the great giants of faith are recorded here. The faith of Abel, Enoch, and Noah are given to encourage believers in extraordinary faith (11:4-8). The legacy of Abraham’s faith, his obedience, patience, and enduring faith are described for all to have confidence in what the Lord promises, He will perform (11:8-19).

We find the character of true faith. (11:23-28)

The fearless faith portrayed by the parents of Moses, who refused to be “afraid of the king’s commandment” (11:23). Then, Moses, following their example, placed his faith in the God of Israel, rejected the world, and refused “to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (11:24). The faith of Moses also instructs us regarding the sacrificial, hopeful, and abiding nature of faith (11:25-27). He “forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king,” for his eyes were upon the Lord (11:27). When the death angel came to slay the firstborn of Egypt, Moses instructed the people to keep the Passover, “and the sprinkling of blood” (11:28).

Hebrews 11:29-31 reminded believers that people of faith trust God, even when circumstances seem unreasonable.

With the Red Sea before Israel, and Pharaoh’s army behind them, Moses called upon Israel, and said, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord…The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:13-14). What powerful lessons in faith we find recorded here! From Israel passing through the Red Sea (11:29), to the walls of Jericho collapsing, sparing only the harlot Rahab and her family because she “received the spies [of Israel],” and believed God. (11:30-31)

Examples of heroic faith (11:32-40) are given, and all they suffered and endured (11:35-37). They were courageous, and trusted God would provide the salvation He promised (11:39). They believed the Lord would provide them better than this world could afford (11:40).

Closing thoughts – Before I conclude today’s devotional, it behooves me to define faith, and ask the question:

Do you have faith? (11:1-3)

To my knowledge, the only definition of faith in the Scriptures is found in the first three verses of Hebrews 11. Verse 1 gives us a twofold aspect of faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1).

Faith encompasses confidence and conviction.

First, faith is “the substance (a settled confidence and assurance) of things hoped for” (a lively expectation). Secondly, faith is “the evidence (conviction) of things not seen” (not yet seen or come to pass). Faith, then, is not something I hope might come to pass, but a settled conviction of something I have assurance will come to pass (11:1).

Notice also how faith will be rewarded. We read, for “by it (faith) the elders” (meaning the ancient patriarchs whose names and examples will follow, 11:4-38), “obtained a good report” (11:2, 39). The names of the “elders” recorded in the verses that followed were given as a testimony and encouragement to all people of faith.

Finally, we are given the foundation and object of our faith:

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (11:3). A man’s faith is only as good as the object of his faith. Some men put faith in an idol of stone, clay, wood, or precious metals. Others put faith in themselves (intellect, reasoning, and works). Some put faith in other men, their promises and assurances. Others put faith in religion, their church, and traditions.

The believer’s faith is in His Creator, who spoke the world into existence by His Word (11:3a; Genesis 1). How can we know God exists, and He created the world? By faith. We believe God revealed Himself to man by His creation (Psalm 19:1-3). We did not see the world created, but we see everywhere His handywork. Lastly, it is by faith that we believe God has a place prepared for His children, “an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1; John 14:1-3).

I urge you to be a student of God’s Word (Romans 10:17). Listen to faithful men who believe, and preach God’s Word. But remember, God alone is worthy of your faith.

Do you have faith?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Spiritual Principles for Employees and Employers in an Entitlement Age (1 Timothy 6)

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Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 6

Our brief study of Paul’s 1st Epistle to Timothy concludes with today’s Scripture reading. Readers will notice Paul continues a broad sweep of issues that have confronted believers since the 1st century. Arguably, times have changed, but the prevailing sins and spiritual challenges of mankind are the same. Today’s devotional will consider 1 Timothy 6:1-6.

The Culture of the 1st Century Church (6:1-2)

Paul’s letter was addressed to a culture where slaves and masters were members of the church. In fact, the membership of the 1st century church had some slaves who found themselves serving “believing masters” (6:2). Paul did not tackle the moral or ethical nature of slavery, as slavery was a common way of life in the first century. Nor did he urge Timothy to lead an uprising against slavery. Instead, the apostle addressed the dynamics of believing slaves and their masters (whether unbelieving or believing).

Author’s note – Before I consider an exposition of 1 Timothy 6:1-2, I hope you might give me liberty for a personal observation.

Mirroring the attitude of the 21st century world, I have observed the growing presence and influence of a rebellious spirit of entitlement even among believers. Sadly, our families, churches, and Christian institutions have embraced entitlement as a right, of which few are willing to challenge. Entitlement arises from a self-focused heart, in essence, from those who would espouse employees’ rights and privileges above all else. I believe the pendulum has swung so far in favor of employees, that they now abuse their employers thus driving corporations to the edge of fiscal insanity, if not bankruptcy.

What is the Believer’s Duty to An Unbelieving Employer? (6:1)

Paul challenged Timothy to teach slaves and servants to be characterized by the same attitude of which he wrote, namely – Respect. Whether a slave served a master who was an unbeliever or a believer, the requirement was the same: Servants were to treat their masters with honor and respect, knowing their actions and attitudes reflected on their faith and profession in Christ. Paul wrote, “1Let as many servants as are under the yoke [the yoke of bondage or slavery] count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed” (6:1).

In his epistle to believers in Ephesus, Paul challenged servants and slaves to obey their masters, and fear and honor them out of a sincere heart, “as unto Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). Peter commanded, “18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward” (1 Peter 2:18). The heart attitude of a believer is to serve, honor, and obey an employer to the end they will give them no cause to have an ill opinion of God and the Scriptures (6:1).

What is the Believer’s Duty to a Believing Employer? (6:2)

Today, many believers bring a spirit of entitlement when they are employed by believers or a ministry. Some believers become so offensive in their expectations, they become a sorrow to fellow believers that employ them.

There were some in the congregation Timothy pastored who were masters (6:2). Surely, salvation so transformed the lives of some that they evidenced love and Biblical virtues toward their slaves (2 Corinthians 5:17). Perhaps, some believing masters even divested themselves of slavery entirely.

Nevertheless, slavery was a component within the culture of the 1st century church. Therefore, Paul commanded Timothy teach and exhort believers regarding the relationship of the servants and their masters (6:2). What was Timothy to “teach and exhort” servants? (6:2) Paul wrote: “they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit” (6:2).

While the servants and some masters were believers, the believing servants were to remember their place and role, and treat their masters with respect (“not despise them,” 6:2b). A believing servant was to “do them service,” meaning serve them with a right heart attitude and spirit (6:c). Because the master was a believer, the believing slave was to value the privilege of serving a fellow believer, knowing both were “partakers of the benefit,” meaning the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ (6:2d).

Closing thoughts (6:3-6) – I close today’s devotion, exhorting you to not entertain any other spirit or attitude that arises and hinders your testimony in the world. There are believers who justify a belligerent, divisive spirit toward their employers. If believers were to exercise an honest self-examination, some would find a spirit of entitlement contrary to the Spirit of God, and the teachings of the Scripture.

If believing slaves were commanded to honor and obey their masters, surely no less can be expected of us.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Are you a Legalist, or a Believer in Progressive Sanctification? (Colossians 3; Colossians 4)

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Scripture reading – Colossians 3; Colossians 4

We continue our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, and conclude our two-day study of the book with an examination of Colossians 3 and 4.

“Progressive Sanctification” may be the most neglected topic of the 21st century church. Tragically, few preachers teach this principle for fear of going into an arena where carnal believers will hurl accusations of extremism or legalism. Nevertheless, “Progressive Sanctification” is a Biblical principle, and I dare not overlook this important instruction on spiritual growth. The focus of this devotional will be Colossians 3.

Colossians 3 – New Creature, New Life

The Focus of the New Life (3:1).

In two words, the “new life” is the subject of Colossians 3, as Paul painted a portrait of the believer’s “new life” in Christ. Paul wrote, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (3:1). The new believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ changes everything: His desires, focus, affections, and perspective on life, death, and eternity. When a sincere believer identifies with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (3:1a), he experiences a radical change in his affections. He begins to “seek” and desire “things which are above” (3:1b).

The Desires and Affections of the New Life (3:1c-4)

Rather than seek the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17), the believer’s desires are heavenly, “where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (3:1c). His thoughts and “affections” are “set…on things above, not on things on the earth” (3:2). As a result, he is “dead” to sin, because he treasures the things “hid with Christ in God” (3:3).

Kill the Old Man (3:5-8)

With an eternal perspective and heavenly affections, a sincere believer will be progressively putting to death (“mortify”) sinful attitudes and deeds that have no place in the members of the body of Christ, which is the church. Paul named several sins that are all too familiar: “fornication” (immorality; sexual sins) “uncleanness” (impure thoughts), “inordinate affections” (sexual, vile, forbidden lusts), “evil concupiscence” (sinful desires), and “covetousness, which is idolatry” (greed; an insatiable appetite for more). (3:5)

Then, Paul paused in his litany of sins, and warned, “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (3:6). He admitted, the Colossian believers were no different than others, for they were all guilty of some of the sins, for they had both “walked…and lived in them” (3:7).

Paul exhorted the believers, “put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (3:8-9). To “put off” was an expression we would associate with changing clothes. To put on a new set of clothes, one must “put off,” (take off) the old; the same is spiritually true of the believer.

“Legalist!” you say? No, not if you live the “new life.” (3:9-11)

If we are to put on the likeness of Christ, we can have no tolerance for “anger, wrath, or malice” (malice representing a deep-seated root of hate and bitterness). Not only does a right relationship with Christ change our spirit, it will change our vocabulary. Blasphemy (insulting God, or slandering others), “filthy communication”(obscene, filthy jests), and lying must be put away, if we are to live the new life in Christ (3:8-9).

Believers are expected to “put off the old man with his deeds” (the sinful ways he named in 3:8-9). We are to “put on the new man” (whose ways, attitudes, and actions he will define in 3:12-14). We are to do all this, because we are members of one body in Christ (3:11).

The Portrait of the New Man in Christ (3:12-14).

Having removed the sinful ways of the unsaved man, Paul challenged believers to “put on” those things that are becoming a believer who is “the elect of God, holy and beloved” (3:12a). Paul identified 8 spiritual traits or qualities characteristic of a spiritually growing, mature believer (3:12-14).

A Christlike believer will be compassionate and sympathetic (“bowels of mercies”) and kind (“kindness”).  A believer will evidence humility (“humbleness of mind”), “meekness” (gentleness), and be patient (“longsufferings”). He will suffer slights (“forbearing one another”), and be forgiving (“forgiving one another…even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye,” 3:13).

Closing thoughts (3:14-15) – The quality that binds and unifies those spiritual attributes (3:12-13) was summed up by Paul in verse 14: “14And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness (3:14). “Charity,” self-sacrificing love is the perfect bond, that unifies and holds everything together! (3:15) Believer, if you will identify and put off your old sinful ways and attitudes (3:5, 8-9), and replace them with the spiritual character of Christ (3:12-14, you will be able to “let the peace of God rule in [your heart]” (3:15a).

If the “peace of God” does not rule your heart, put off your sinful ways, and put on the spiritual attitudes of Christ!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Praise God for His Sovereign, Providential Care (Acts 23)

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Scripture reading – Acts 23

Claudius Lysias (23:26), the “chief captain” and commander of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, had saved Paul from a riotous mob that would have killed him (21:30-35). When the chief captain learned Paul was a citizen of Rome, he was afraid, knowing “he had bound him,” and violated his civil rights (22:25-29). The next morning, the captain determined he would investigate the cause for the tumult against Paul (22:30).  Summoning the members of the Sanhedrin (“the chief priests and all their council to appear,” 22:30), the captain “brought Paul down, and set him before them” (22:30).

Acts 23

Paul’s Courage and Defense (23:1-5)

With the Roman garrison as his backdrop, and the captain of the Roman guard his judge, Paul was given opportunity to address his accusers (the chief priests and the Sanhedrin). Paul began to speak to the council (of whom there were at least 70 members), and said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (23:1). Paul’s speech was suddenly interrupted when “the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him [Paul] to smite him on the mouth” (23:2). Then, Paul rebuked his antagonist, and declared, “God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?” (23:3) Some who stood near, challenged Paul, saying, “Revilest thou God’s high priest?” (23:4)

The apostle’s response to that question has been a subject of debate, for he answered, “I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest” (23:5a). Perhaps Ananias was not adorned in the robe of the high priest, and therefore Paul did not recognize him. (An interesting fact of history recorded by Josephus, the Jewish historian, is that there was a vacancy in the office of the high priest at the time Paul was tried. Ananias had served as high priest, but was succeeded by another priest named Jonathan. Soon after he became high priest, Felix, the Roman procurator of Judaea, became a bitter enemy of Jonathan. Felix plotted Jonathan’s assassination, and the office of the high priest was vacant at the time Paul was tried.)

Sadducees vs. Pharisees (23:6-10)

Knowing two factions of the Sanhedrin were bitterly divided over the doctrine of the resurrection (23:6), Paul provoked the Sadducees (who rejected the resurrection), and pitted them against the Pharisees. Identifying himself as a Pharisee, Paul said, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question” (23:6). Suddenly, there arose a bitter clash between the two Jewish factions, until the scribes of the Pharisees declared Paul was innocent, saying, “We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God” (23:9). The conflict became so threatening, the chief captain ordered Paul be taken to the castle (23:10).

A Comforting Assurance from the Lord (23:11)

Lest Paul wonder what would become of his life, the Lord came to him in the night, and “stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (23:11). With the assurance the Lord was with him, Paul was commanded to not be afraid, and be a ready witness in both Jerusalem, and eventually in the city of Rome.

A Conspiracy to Kill Paul (23:12-22)

The next day, more than forty Jewish men plotted to kill Paul, and with a solemn curse, invoked God’s judgment on themselves should they fail (23:12-13). Those same men came to “the chief priests and elders,” and revealed their plot to kill Paul (23:14). They intreated the help of their religious leaders, and requested a meeting with Paul that they might lie in wait and kill him (23:15).

Somehow, a young man identified as Paul’s nephew (his “sister’s son), learned of the plot and told Paul (23:16). Paul then sent for “one of the centurions,” and requested his nephew be taken to the chief captain, and the plot to kill him be divulged (23:17-22). When he learned of the plot, the chief captain called for two centurions (each a commander of 100 men), and ordered, “Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night” (23:23). The chief captain, identifying himself as Claudius Lysias, penned a letter to Felix the Roman governor, and explained the cause for Paul’s transport to Caesarea.

A Military Escort of Nearly 500 Soldiers (23:23-35)

With nearly 500 soldiers escorting him, Paul and his company were conveyed to Antipatris (23:31), a town thirty-five miles from Jerusalem. The next morning, Paul was escorted to Caesarea, and delivered to Felix along with the letter of explanation from the chief captain (23:33). Far from the volatility of Jerusalem, Felix, governor of that province, promised Paul a speedy trial, and determined to hear the matter when his accusers were come to Caesarea (23:35).

Closing thoughts – So much more might be written concerning the events recorded in today’s Scripture reading. Let us acknowledge that purveyors of truth are not exempt from trials and persecution. Paul had done no wrong, but his testimony and bold preaching of the Gospel and grace of God, provoked bitter hatred. If not for the intervention of Roman soldiers, Paul would have been killed by the ones he identified as his brethren. Praise God for His sovereign, providential care of His servants.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Promise of Grace (2 Corinthians 12)

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Scripture reading – 2 Corinthians 12

Our devotional study of Paul’s epistles to the believers in Corinth is nearing its end. I have been encouraged by the transparent nature of both 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and reminded the church has always faced challenges from within and without the congregation.

Of necessity, Paul’s first letter to Corinth was strong as he addressed sins and schisms in their midst, with some taking offense and verbally attacking the apostle. Some questioned his calling and authority as an apostle, and inferred he was a coward in person, but bold in his letters (10:1). Lest some be discouraged, Paul reminded believers they were in a spiritual battle, and one that must be waged with spiritual weapons (10:4-5).

Answering those who challenged his apostleship, Paul denounced them as “false apostles, deceitful workers,” for they pretended to come as “ministers of righteousness” (11:13-15). Because some had been led astray by those who pretended to be apostles, Paul was forced to declare his heritage (11:22), and all he had suffered for Christ (11:23-33).

1 Corinthians 12

The nature and practice of false prophets in Paul’s day was as it is in our day. There were some who bolstered their religious credentials, and claimed to have received some unique vision or revelation from God. (Unfortunately, the internet has afforded false prophets an opportunity to have a perpetual presence in our lives and homes. Tragically, shallow preaching and teaching, and an ignorance of truth, have exacerbated the void of spiritual discernment.) Though reluctant to say anything of himself, the attacks on Paul’s character and calling had made it necessary for him to prove his apostleship (12:1-10).

Paul’s Heavenly Revelation (12:1-6)

Paul did not name himself, but writing with humility in the third person, he described a heavenly vision of the Lord: “2I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)” (12:2-3). Paul could not write with certainty that his vision was in body or in spirit, but he was snatched or “caught up to the third heaven” (12:2). The first heaven being the sky above our heads; the second heaven the planets and stars; the third heaven was the place of the throne of God (12:2).

Paul recalled hearing words too wonderful to convey in human language (12:4). Yet, though he might have cause to boast of God’s special revelation, he did not want that experience to be the defining moment of his ministry in the churches (12:5). With characteristic humility, he desired to be judged by what others had seen and heard as they observed his response to his sufferings and infirmities (12:5).

Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh (12:6-10)

Paul was blessed with a vision of “the third heaven” (12:2), but the Lord in His infinite wisdom permitted “a thorn in the flesh” (12:7). The “thorn” was not identified (perhaps because believers of the time knew what it was), but the apostle did identify its effect in his life: “lest I should be exalted above measure” (12:7). In other words, lest he be given to pride and glorying (12:6), the “thorn in the flesh” served to humble Paul. (There have been a myriad of speculations concerning what the thorn was, and I need not add my own to them; yet, I suggest the thorn might have been a “messenger” or demon of Satan that troubled him, 12:7).

Three times Paul asked the Lord to remove the thorn, but the answer to his prayer was God promising His grace: “9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (12:9a). The Lord would not remove the thorn, but promised His apostle grace (God’s favor and blessings) to endure it. Accepting the thorn was God’s plan, to the end Christ might be glorified in his life, Paul determined to be content, writing: “10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (12:10).

Closing thoughts – The key to Paul’s spiritual victory was faith, and an eternal perspective. He did not flee the thorn, or become embittered by it. He endured weakness, insults, distress, persecutions, and difficulties “for Christ’s sake” (12:10b). Knowing the Lord was accomplishing His purpose, in his weakness Paul found the promise of God’s strength (12:10c; Philippians 4:13).

I close today’s devotional, knowing there may be some going through a struggle with a “thorn,” trial or time of trouble. Remember–though you pray for deliverance, it may be God’s answer to your prayer is the grace to endure.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Don’t Threaten Me with Heaven! (2 Corinthians 5-6)

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Scripture reading – 2 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 6

Our study of the Second Epistle to Corinth continues with a reminder, this earthly life is temporal, while the spirit of man springs eternal after the likeness of his Creator. The closing verses of 2 Corinthians 4 reminds us our physical bodies fail as they grow old, but believers have the hope and promise of eternal life (John 3:16). Though Paul had suffered persecutions and afflictions, he was not without hope. With confidence in the promises of the Lord, the apostle wrote, “we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (4:16).

In light of eternity, the troubles Paul suffered were, in his words, “our light affliction…but for a moment” (4:17). In fact, as he considered the rejections and persecutions he suffered, he believed the eternal reward far outweighed that which he experienced (4:17). He looked past the temporal (“the things which are seen”), and set his focus on “the things which are not seen” (4:18).

2 Corinthians 5 – An Eternal Home

After reminding his readers this life is temporal, he challenged the congregation with the hope of a heavenly, eternal home: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (5:1).

The “earthly house of this tabernacle” was an analogy to our physical bodies. The word tabernacle, is essentially a tent, a temporal dwelling. So, while our bodies are being dissolved (growing older and frail), Paul promised God will give His people a glorified body, “a building of God [a spiritual body], an house not made with hands” (5:1b). Unlike our “tabernacle” of flesh, God has promised us an “eternal in the heavens” (5:1c). No wonder Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Paul acknowledged, as long as we are clothed in a body of flesh, we will “groan, being burdened” with many cares and sorrows (5:2-4). Nevertheless, we should not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We must pass through the veil of this mortal life, until the day our “mortality might be swallowed up of life” (5:4b). Finding himself in the midst of trials and afflictions, Paul confessed he longed for the day when he would lay aside his frail body, and be clothed in his eternal, resurrected body.

Confident Faith (5:6-8)

The apostle found himself in a dilemma. On one hand, he longed for heaven and to be in the presence of the Lord; but on the other, he was “at home in the body…[and] absent from the Lord” (5:6). He took solace, writing, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (5:7). Though facing persecution, rejection, and threats, Paul assured believers: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (5:8).

The word “confident” means full of hope, and courage; in fact, it might be defined as a “courageous hope.” There are some who claim to believe there is no hope, and no life after death. The lives of those poor souls are defined by a fatalism, that believes in soul-annihilation. That is, there is no hope, nor life, beyond this mortal world. What a tragic concept! Paul, however, assured believers, “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord” (5:8). Believer, death is not the end, it’s the beginning!

Closing thoughts (5:9-17) – Paul challenged believers in Corinth to live and labor for the Lord with an eternal focus (5:9). He warned, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (5:10).

God’s judgment is certain, and His justice is sure. Knowing the promise of God’s judgment and the “terror of the Lord,” should motivate us to share the Gospel, and “persuade men” (5:11). We are “constrained,” and compelled by “the love of Christ” who “died for all…and rose again” (5:14-15). Not only does His death and resurrection promise eternal life, it gives us an assurance of a transformation that is promised and possible only in Christ:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (5:17).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Transfiguration of Christ, and the Power of Prayer (Matthew 17)

Scripture reading – Matthew 17

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to within six months of Christ’s appointment with the cross. The crowds following Jesus are growing, and the fear of His enemies is inflamed. Some of the people are aware the Pharisees, Sadducees, and High Priest have plotted Christ’s arrest, even as His disciples debate among themselves who would be the greatest in His earthly kingdom. Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9 record the transfiguration of Christ.

The Transfiguration: A Vision of Christ’s Heavenly Glory (17:1-13)

Words and imagination fail me to describe the transformative moment when Peter, James, and his brother John witnessed Christ’s transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:1-13). Jesus invited those disciples, identified by believers as His inner circle, to go “up into an high mountain apart” (apart from the other disciples, 17:1). Suddenly, the LORD “was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (17:2). As the disciples looked on, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, and “talking with Him” (17:3). Why those two great men of the Old Testament? Many have suggested, and I believe the same, that Moses was representative of the Law and Elijah the prophets.

Peter, never at a loss for words, interrupted the moment (can you imagine interrupting a private conversation between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah) and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias [i.e. Elijah]” (17:4). Even as the words were leaving his lips, Peter was interrupted by an overshadowing cloud and a voice that struck fear in him and the other two disciples when they heard, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid” (Matthew 17:5–6).

With a touch of compassion (17:7), Jesus bade Peter, James, and John to rise, and challenged them to tell no man what they had seen, “until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (17:9). Peter would write later of his experience on the mount, “[We] were eyewitnesses of his [Christ’s] majesty. 17For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him [Christ] in the holy mount” (2 Peter 1:16–18).

A Father’s Love, A Savior’s Compassion (17:14-21)

Descending the mount after His transfiguration, Jesus found His other disciples in the midst of a crowd and “the scribes questioning with them” (Mark 9:14). In His absence, the disciples became embroiled in a controversy with the scribes (experts in the Law of Moses), who were mocking their failure to cast a demon out of a father’s son (Mark 9:14; Matthew 17:14-16). Rebuking His disciples for their lack of faith (Matthew 17:17), Jesus commanded the demon to depart from the son, “and the child was cured from that very hour” (17:18). The disciples, embarrassed by their failure and humbled by Jesus’ rebuke (Mark 9:19), later questioned, “Why could not we cast him out?” (17:19; Mark 9:28)

Revealing the power and necessity of faith, prayer, and fasting, “Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29; Matthew 17:20-21).

Closing thoughts – Jesus, having delivered the father’s son of the evil spirit, had a profound effect on those who witnessed it, for “they were all amazed at the mighty power of God” (Luke 9:43). The disciples had failed to cast the demon out of the boy because they faltered in both their faith and prayer.

Jesus taught, even a small amount of faith can grow and overcome obstacles as great as a mountain (I believe the idea of moving a mountain was figurative or symbolic of great obstacles, and not literal mountains). To overcome a great obstacle, like that of the possession and influence of a demon, required both faith (believing “nothing shall be impossible” – Matthew 17:20) and “prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29).

Remember, “without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Are you facing obstacles that seem to tower over you like mountains? Are you struggling to believe and trust God? Set your heart to seek the LORD in prayer, and desire Him more than you crave food!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Hope for the Hopeless (Mark 5)

Scripture reading – Mark 5

We continue our study of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and our focus today is Mark 5. Once again, we have the story of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee and arriving on the other side in an area identified as the Gadarenes (5:1). Matthew 8:28 recognized the same region as Gergesenes (Gadara was the name of a nearby city, while Gergesenes was the name of a lake on that side. There was also a city in that area named Gergesa). Another difference between Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels is the prior states there were “two possessed with devils” that met Jesus (Matthew 8:28), and the latter states the LORD encountered “a man with an unclean sprit” (5:2). The difference in the two accounts is not a contradiction, but only that Mark chose to record the event of one man, not two.

Let us consider, that harmony in content is one of the great testaments to the inspiration of the Gospels. While the Holy Spirit used different human authors, and employed each man’s unique perspective and language, nevertheless the accounts harmonize as a whole (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Together, the Synoptics give us a deeper dimension of the same events.

Today’s devotional will focus on Mark 5:1-20, and the terrible toll sin took upon one man’s life. Jesus and His disciples had crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat, and arrived on the eastern shore. There, they were met by a hopeless, tormented, demon possessed man described as having an “unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).

The Condition of a Desperate Sinner (5:1-5)

Consider the physical appearance of the demon possessed man: The man was described as having “fetters” (ropes) and chains that hanged about his body, showing the desperate attempts family and friends had made to control him (5:3-4). His body was scarred with self-inflicted wounds for he had cut “himself with stones” (5:5).

He was a troubled man, socially isolated from his family, friends, and neighbors. He had made his abode among the caves and tombs of the hillsides in the area (5:5). Imagine the sorrow his condition had brought upon his loved ones, for he had been driven into the desert leaving behind his family to bear the sorrow and shame of his condition. His emotional condition was exhibited in his tormented screams that echoed off the hillsides “always” (5:5). “Night and day” the wild, tormented screams of his anguish were heard (5:5).

Salvation and Transformation (5:6-15)

He was “possessed with the devil, and had the legion” (a legion was a Roman name of a company of soliders that might number in the thousands, 5:9, 15).  We are not told how the man came to be possessed by demons; however, sin had overtaken every part of his affections and thoughts. The evil, unclean spirit had degraded and destroyed his life, family, and future (James 1:14-15).

In a fleeting moment of desperation, the man ran to Jesus and worshipped Him (5:6); however, the demons that ruled his soul wanted nothing to do with Jesus (5:7).  Jesus, evidencing His power and authority over evil spirits, cast the demons out of the man and permitted them to enter a herd of swine that could not abide the indwelling of such wickedness (5:10-13).

Rather than the protracted steps and methods of “reformation” that is the methodology of secular psychologists and psychiatrists, the demon-possessed man’s life was immediately changed by his spiritual encounter and faith in Jesus. His life gave evidence of his conversion and the radical transformation was undeniable (5:8, 15). The change was so transformative his family, friends, and neighbors observed him “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (5:15). He was “sitting,” at peace, and no longer bound by sin or needing chains and ropes.  They found him “clothed,” no longer a violent man crying and cutting himself. He was “in his right mind,” repentant and rational (5:15), and longed to go with Jesus (5:18). God’s power not only overcame his rebellious, evil spirit, it transformed his thoughts, mind, and affections.

Closing thoughts – Tragically, and in spite of the undeniable transformation in the man’s life, the citizens of Gadara begged Jesus to “depart out of their coasts” (5:17). They would not embrace Him as LORD, nor would they welcome Him in their homes or country. Jesus, knowing the man of Gadara could go where He would not be welcome, commanded him to, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (5:19). The change in the demon-possessed man’s life was undeniable evidence of his salvation. Can that be said of you?

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. 2And 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.”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Peace In the Midst of the Storm” (Luke 8; Mark 4)

Scripture reading – Luke 8; Mark 4

Luke 8

Our study of the Gospels continues, and you will notice parallel accounts of the same events in today’s Scripture reading. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels.” Synoptic suggests the same or similar; thus, the “synoptic gospels” record the same events, albeit from each human author’s perspective. Together, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us a greater depth and broader perspective on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Briefly, as we read in our study of Matthew 13:1-23, we find the Parable of the Sower and Soils recorded in Luke 8:5-15 and Mark 4:3-20. Luke 8:16-18 and Mark 4:21-25 records the Parable of the Candlelight. Remember, not all events recorded in the Gospels are in chronological order. For example, Luke places in chapter 8 when Mary, the mother of Jesus and His half-brothers (sons born to Joseph) came to Jesus requesting a word with Him (8:19-21). The same incidence was recorded earlier in Matthew (12:46-50) and Mark (3:31-35).

Mark 4 – A Storm and a Revelation

As already noted, Mark 4 reprises the Parable of the Sower and Soils (4:3-20). Mark also gives us the record of the Parable of the Candlelight (4:21-25), Parable of the Growing Seed (4:26-29), and the Parable of the Mustard Seed(4:30-32).

Christ’s Authority Over Nature (Mark 4:35-41)

Jesus was exhausted from teaching (for though He was Divine, He was human with the physical challenges of hunger, thirst, and fatigue), Jesus urged His disciples, “Let us pass over unto the other side” (4:35). Knowing the far shore was seven miles away, Jesus laid down in the “hinder part of the ship” (meaning the stern or the latter part of the boat), and went to sleep (4:38).

The Sea of Galilee, 14 miles long and 7 miles wide, lies 700 feet below sea level, and has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round.  Surrounded by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the area is part of the Jordan rift.  When cold winds from the snow-covered mountain peaks to the north, funnel through the hillsides, the cold air collides with the warm sub-tropical air and can produce sudden, violent storms on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.

On this occasion, the disciples found themselves caught in a violent storm so intense, the waves of the sea filled the ship (4:37). Matthew writes concerning the occasion in his Gospel: “there arose a great tempest in the sea,insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

Though four of the disciples were experienced fisherman (James, John, Peter, and Andrew), those veteran seamen were unable to salvage the desperate situation. With cold winds whipping, and waves crashing, the exhausted disciples cried out to Jesus, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

Such a question was a faithless affront to their Master, and He “arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (4:39-40).

Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith, and their failure to place their trust in Him (Luke 8:23-24). The sudden stillness of the winds and waves left the disciples wondering among themselves, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (4:41). They were struck by a sense of fear, awe, and respect. The disciples had heard Him teach, but they had not understood His person. They had witnessed His miracles, but had not recognized His power.

Closing thoughts and observations – The psalmist writes, “O Lord God of host…Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8a, 9). Storms in life are inevitable, though they often take us by surprise. Yet, all storms (troubles, trials) come as part of God’s plan for growing our faith and dependence on Him. The Lord knew the disciples would face a storm when He commanded them to launch out into the sea. It was His plan to challenge their faith, that He might prove He was Sovereign and LORD of creation.

Another lesson concerns our response to trials and troubles, for they evidence our faith, or lack of faith, in God and His plan for our lives.  The disciples did not fully know Who Jesus was, and when He commanded the wind and the waves to cease, “they feared [and asked], What manner of man is this?” (Mark 4:41).

Finally, I don’t know what storms or troubles you may be facing, but I encourage you to see them as opportunities to know and trust God personally and intimately. You must learn to accept that God’s plan for your life will lead you into trials that will test your faith. The storms of life challenge us to assess our priorities, and also reveal our limitations apart from Him.

Remember: The safest place in the world is in the will of God, even in the midst of a storm.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Quitting is Not An Option! (Nehemiah 3; Nehemiah 4)

Scripture reading – Nehemiah 3; Nehemiah 4

Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Temple in 586 BC. Sadly, for nearly 150 years the ruins of the city remained as a testimony of God’s judgment. Cyrus, king of Persia, decreed the Temple be rebuilt in 538 BC, yet nearly 100 years passed before Nehemiah set his heart to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in 446 BC.

With king Artaxerxes’ blessing and authority, Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, and found the walls of the city in ruins, “and the gates…consumed with fire” (2:12-13). Declaring God’s blessings upon him, and the king’s authority, Nehemiah challenged the people, “Let us rise up and build” (2:18), and they enthusiastically joined him in the work (2:18b). Rebuilding the walls and gates would not be without its enemies, for some men mocked the Jews, and accused them of rebelling against the king (2:19). Undeterred, Nehemiah declared, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us” (2:20a).

Nehemiah 3

Demonstrating the skills of an administrator, Nehemiah assigned sections of the wall to men and families. Others were tasked with rebuilding the gates of the city. It is noteworthy that Nehemiah made a point of recording the names of men, families, and villages that rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. In fact, Nehemiah 3:5 reminds us God takes notice of those who labor, and those who refuse to work. We read concerning the citizens of Tekoa (a village 11 miles south of Jerusalem), “the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord” (3:5).

Ten gates were named by Nehemiah, and each served a particular purpose. The prominence of the Sheep Gate is especially significant for it served as both the first and last gate that was named (3:1, 32). The sheep that would be sacrificed on the Temple altar passed through the sheep gate. The sheep gate serves as a reminder that, like the sacrificial lamb which passed through the gate, Jesus Christ was not only the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36), but the Gate (Door) through which all sinners must pass if they will come to the Father (John 10).

In addition to the Sheep Gate, the most important gate was the East Gate (3:29), for it is historically and prophetically important. The East Gate led to the Temple, and in Hebrew was the Mercy Gate. The East Gate was described as the “Beautiful Gate” in Acts 3 (Acts 3:1-10). You may remember how Ezekiel saw the glory of the LORD leave the Temple, and pass out of the city through the East Gate in Ezekiel 10:18-22 and 11:22-25. Ezekiel also foretold the “glory of the God of Israel,” would one day come “from the way of the east” (Ezekiel 43:1-3). He prophesied the LORD will enter the East Gate and His glory fill the Temple (Ezekiel 44:1-4) in His Millennial Kingdom.

Nehemiah 4

Rebuilding the walls and restoring the gates of Jerusalem was a work pleasing to God, but it was not without its opposition. As the work began, the enemies of God’s people were provoked to anger, and began mocking the laborers and ridiculing their work on the walls (4:1-6). The enemies of the Jews “conspired all of them together” (4:8), and surrounded the city on all sides (4:7-8).

Once again, we find Nehemiah was a man of prayer. When the enemy derided the work, saying, “Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall” (4:3), Nehemiah prayed (4:4-5). When the enemy threatened “to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it” (4:8), Nehemiah writes, “we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night” (4:9). When the strength of the people failed, and the enemy threatened to slay them (4:10), Nehemiah challenged, “Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight” (4:14).

Closing thoughts (4:15-23) – When Nehemiah faced opposition, he prayed. When the enemy threatened to attack the city, Nehemiah challenged every man to gird a sword to his side, and continue to build (4:17-18). They worked on the walls during the day, and at night they stayed by the walls. Nehemiah wrote, “So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing” (4:23).

Believer, serving the LORD is not predicated upon convenience, but conviction. We who serve the LORD, must prepare for opposition. The enemy of God’s people will employ ridicule, mocking, and scorn. With a prayer on your lips, and the sword of the LORD in your heart, take courage and never quit!

For Nehemiah, quitting was not an option!

Copyright – 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.