Category Archives: Friends

Pay Day Someday! (2 Chronicles 10-12)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 10-12

You will find that today’s Scripture reading in 2 Chronicles parallels events that are recorded in our preceding reading assignment (1 Kings 12-14).

2 Chronicles 10 – A Tragic Time in Israel’s History

Following the death of King Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31), his son Rehoboam ascended the throne and all Israel came to Shechem to make him king (10:1).

Unfortunately, all was not well in Israel. Though not yet physically divided, the nation was spiritually duplicitous and Solomon’s “heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4). The LORD had warned Solomon that his failure to keep the Law and Commandments would be punished by Israel being divided by one of his own servants. The identity of that servant is revealed as Solomon’s old adversary, Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 10:2-3).

Evidencing the foolishness of his youth and inexperience, Rehoboam faced the grievances of Israel, lacking both grace and humility (10:4-5).  Rejecting the counsel of his father’s older and wiser advisors (10:6-7), Rehoboam heeded the counsel of his peers and the king’s harshness provoked the people to rebel (10:8-14).

Remembering the LORD is sovereign, we read, “So the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God” (10:15).  The ten northern tribes of Israel, after hearing the king’s words, “went to their tents” (10:16) and “rebelled against the house of David” (10:19).

2 Chronicles 11 – A Nation Divided

Under Jeroboam, the ten northern tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of the south, Judah and Benjamin, became one nation known as Judah. King Rehoboam had thought to raise an army to seek the unification of Israel through war; however, the LORD sent a prophet named Shemaiah and deterred him from provoking war against his brethren (11:1-4). Dissuaded from civil war, Rehoboam set about building fortresses (11:4-12) to strengthen Judah against the battles that would be provoked by a divided kingdom.

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates the swift decline of a nation that rejects God (11:13-15).

We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts [borders; i.e. cities and lands in Israel]… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off [i.e. cut them off] from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD” (11:13-14).

True to the character of a godless politician, Jeroboam consolidated the northern ten tribes not only politically, but spiritually. He instituted a new religion worshipping calves, ordaining “priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15). Thankfully we read that there were a few left in Israel who “set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel” and they continued to worship in Jerusalem (11:16).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised the wisdom passed on to him by his father; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:17-23).

2 Chronicles 12 – The Menace of Pride and Arrogance

Comfortable in his palace and with Judah secured and strengthened, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).

The LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah. The prophet Shemaiah declared that the sins of Rehoboam were to be punished by the LORD delivering his kingdom over to serve Egypt (12:1-5). Hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, the king and his leaders humbled themselves before the LORD, Who in His mercy, spared Judah from destruction (12:5-8).

Adding to Judah’s humiliation, Shishak removed “shields of gold which Solomon had made” from the walls of the palace (12:9).  Rehoboam, perhaps to save face in front of his people, contented himself with a counterfeit of the glory that once belonged to his kingdom, and “made shields of brass” to replace the “shields of gold” (12:10).

What a tragedy! Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, masked the miserable state of the nation!

I close pondering what lessons we might take from today’s Scripture.

Is it possible that, like Judah of old, our nation’s wealth and prosperity has deceived us? In the same way Rehoboam became servant to Egypt and counterfeited the loss of his “shields of gold” with brass shields, I fear we have become a nation enslaved to a mounting debt we owe to enemies committed to our own demise.

The United States has rejected the LORD, His Word, Law and Commandments. Is it possible our nation’s pursuit of the pleasures of sin has blinded us to the warnings of the evangelists of old… There is a pay day someday!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Uncommon, Common Sense (Proverbs 22-24)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 22-24

We are continuing our study of the Proverbs of Solomon, chapters 22-24. Today’s devotional commentary, Proverbs 22:1-3, is appropriated from earlier posts at http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Proverbs 22:1 – “A Good Name: Better Than Silver and Gold”

(Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is one of my heroes. Born in 1809 on the western frontier of the United States in the state of Indiana, Lincoln’s life story is inspiring. The son of a farmer, Lincoln’s childhood home was a log cabin. He was homeschooled and largely self-educated.

This man of the most common stock would challenge a nation to confront its soul and weigh its fundamental declaration that, “all men are created equal.” Honest AbeThe Rail SplitterThe Great Emancipator was mocked by his enemies; however, even they admired his character and reputation for honesty.

Proverbs 22:1 calls you to consider the reputation associated with your name.

Proverbs 22:1 – “A good name [honorable reputation] is rather to be chosen than great riches [wealth]and loving favour [grace] rather than silver and gold.”

A good name is not something you can purchase with silver and gold. Your reputation is something you earn. Your parents named you when you were born; however, your character and life choices have shaped and colored the hue of your name. What character qualities come to mind when someone hears your name?

Solomon challenged his son that it was better to be an honorable man, than to possess wealth, but be cloaked with dishonor.

Proverbs 22:2 – A man’s worth is not defined by what he owns, but by what or who owns him.

Parable 22:2 – “The rich and poor [destitute] meet together [concur; encounter]: the LORD is the maker [Creator] of them all.”

There is little difference between the rich and the poor; with the exception the rich man has much goods. We are all God’s creatures.  The rich man is no better than the poor man, and a poor man is no less than a rich man.

Whether rich or poor, we are sinners in need of a Savior Redeemer—Jesus Christ. Regardless of the designer label in our clothes, we need God’s mercy and grace. In the end, death is the great equalizer of both the rich and poor.

We read in the Book of James:

James 1:9-10 – “Let the brother [believer] of low degree [poor circumstances] rejoice in that he is exalted [rich in Christ]10  But the rich, in that he is made low [humbled]: because as the flower of the grass he [rich man] shall pass away.”

Romans 5:8 – “But God commendeth [demonstrated] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Proverbs 22:3 – A Word to the Wise and a Warning to the Foolish

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

We are living in dangerous, uncertain times and Proverbs 22:3 challenges believers to be wise and discerning in a world that is no friend of the spiritually-minded. Consider the contrast between two men who are polar opposites when it comes to discernment—the Prudent and the Simple.

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

The Simple are not learners.  They are stubborn, and ignore the admonitions of their parents and have disdain for godly counsel. They pursue the pleasures of sin, giving no thought to their tragic end. The Simple rush past moral restraints and headlong down the path of self-destruction. This same proverb is repeated in Proverbs 27:12, thus magnifying the need to read and heed its truth.

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

Truth – Men who are wise will seek and heed godly counsel.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Biblical Perspective on Class Envy and Friendships (Proverbs 13-15)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 13-15

Our study of King Solomon and the wisdom he expressed in his proverbs continues with today’s Scripture reading, Proverbs 13-15. Our devotional commentary will consider two proverbs from Proverbs 13 that are taken from my devotions posted at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. As a reminder, brackets are used by this author to amplify meanings and definitions.

 “A Biblical Perspective on the Cause of Class Envy” (Proverbs 13:4)

Proverbs 13:4  “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”

Honest hard labor has fallen out of favor in our nation.  Rather than encouraging employees to give employers an equal measure of labor for wages paid, politicians and socialists provoke class envy asserting the “working class” is oppressed. Proverbs 13:4 reminds us that nothing has changed about the heart of an indolent man when it comes to fruit for his labor. His lot is to always be in want.

Proverbs 13:4 – “The soul [mind; heart; appetite] of the sluggard desireth [craves], and hath nothing [lazy, foolish men are never satisfied]: but the soul [mind; heart; appetite] of the diligent [one who acts decisively] shall be made fat [be satisfied].”

Notice the sluggard (lazy) desires and craves what others afford only through labor.  He wants the same things, but he is too indolent to work and save to satisfy his passions. He “hath nothing” and becomes a burden to his family and society.

The contrast to the sluggard is the diligent man.  The diligent man is by definition, decisive and quick to act.  He is industrious, using his time, talents and resources wisely. While the sluggard is left wanting, the hardworking are made fat, satisfied and content with the fruits of their labor.

If your parents imparted to you the discipline of hard work in your youth—thank them!  They have given you a gift that has shaped your life and character in a way you will only appreciate when you are older.

“A Friend’s Character Will Either be a Blessing or a Curse” (Proverbs 13:20)

The theme of Proverbs 13:20 is Influence [the sway or effect one has on another]. Notice the truth Solomon imparts regarding the influence of friendships:

Proverbs 13:20 – “He that walketh with [befriends; is a companion of] wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Every good parent will be concerned and vigilant about the friends and influences in their son or daughter’s life. Why? The power and responsibility to influence others is a fact we all share!  People influence us Verbally by what they say or communicate [examples–letters, emails, social media].  In addition, a friend’s Actions and Attitudes have an influence on us.

Too few parents are willing to accept the responsibility of examining honestly their child’s friendships and understanding that friends have a powerful influence on a child’s character and ultimate destiny.

Solomon’s proverb is direct: A wise man will seek the company of likeminded men–those who evidence wisdom and discernment; however, a “companion of fools shall be destroyed” [the picture drawn by the word “companion” is of cattle that graze together. Ever notice how a herd of cattle grazing in a large pasture stand together, often feeding in the same direction?].

The apostle Paul warned believers in Corinth: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The word “communications” can also be translated “companions”; the word “manners” can be translated “morals”. Literally, don’t be misled: wicked, sinful friends will defile one’s moral judgment [i.e. spiritual discernment; the ability to discern right and wrong].

Lesson – The character of one’s friendships is a mirror of one’s own character. 

Friendships have the power to edify or destroy. If you run with fools, you are a fool! If you choose the company of those who have godly wisdom and discernment, they will influence you to be the same.

Reflect on the people who bear influence upon your life, thoughts and values. Are your friends spiritually minded men and women? Is their influence edifying? Do your friends strengthen you spiritually?  Are you under sound Biblical exposition and influenced by godly relationships?

Psalms 1:1 – “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

Copyright – Travis D. Smith

The Life of a Blessed Man (Psalms 1-2, 15, 22-24, 47, 68)

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 1-2, 15, 22-24, 47, 68

Today’s scripture reading consists of eight psalms. Our devotional commentary will focus on Psalm 1:1-3.

Psalm 1

Psalm 1 is the first recorded Beatitude in the Bible and offers a contrast of two lives: the “blessed” man (Psalm 1:1-3) who walks in the way of God’s Law and prospers and the “ungodly” who defy God, oppose His Law and “shall perish” (Psalm 1:4-6).

Before we study this beautiful psalm of promise and instruction, let us first consider what it means to be “blessed” (1:1).

In essence, the word “blessed” means happy or prosperous. Men often seek happiness in all the wrong places. They pursue pleasure, only to find it fleeting. They seek riches, but find money cannot buy happiness. They look for fulfillment in relationships, only to be disappointed.

So, what is this “blessed” state of the Psalm 1 man?

It is more than fleeting happiness. It is an enduring satisfaction, a contentment not rooted in or based upon one’s circumstances. The “blessed” man finds his joy in the LORD, His Word and His promises. In other words, he is blessed because his trust is in the LORD and not in man or favorable circumstances (Deuteronomy 33:29; 2 Chronicles 9:7; Psalm 34:8; Proverbs 8:32; 29:18).

David begins Psalm 1 advising us where the “blessed” man will not find happiness. Happiness will not be found in the counsel of the ungodly…in the way of sinners, [or]…in the seat of the scornful” (1:1).

A blessed man does not seek thecounsel of the ungodly whose philosophy is “eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19).

A blessed man does not abide in the “way of sinners” whose spiritual GPS is set on a destination of wickedness and “shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

A blessed man does not lift up his voice in chorus with “the scornful,” for they disdain God and His Law (Psalm 14:1).

What is the source of the blessed man’s contentment?

His joy and “delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (1:2).

I invite you to contemplate two reflections on the blessed man’s life. The first, he delights, meaning he values and finds pleasure in, “the law of the LORD” (the Commandments, Laws, principles, and precepts of God’s Word).

The second quality we find in the blessed man is his discipline: He meditates [ponders; mulls it over; lit. “chews the cud”] in the Law of the LORD “day and night” (1:2). He saturates his heart and thoughts with the eternal, immutable truths of God’s Word.

Such a man is “like a tree planted by the rivers [stream] of water, that bringeth forth [deliver; give]his fruit in his season [time; appointed time]; his leaf [foliage; branch] also shall not wither [fade away; drop down]; and whatsoever he doeth [make; wrought; commit] shall prosper [succeed; be profitable] (1:3).

The blessed man is “planted” (1:3a). He is not a wild volunteer sapling. No, this man has chosen to cultivate his heart in God’s Word, and his life is a testimony of spiritual fruit.

What is his “fruit in his season?” (1:3b) While not identified, I believe it is the “fruit of the Spirit” Paul identifies as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. 23 Meekness, temperance…” (Galatians 5:22-23).

This tree, symbolic of the blessed man’s life, has leaves that “shall not wither” (1:3c). The foliage of a natural tree is an indicator of its health and wellbeing. So it is with the blessed man; his life evidences the spiritual health and vibrancy of a man who lives and walks in the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:25).

Lastly, “whatsoever he [the blessed man] doeth shall prosper” (1:3d). Remember, we are focusing on the inner, not outward man. The “blessed” man’s focus is eternal and not limited to immediate, visible fruit. The legacy of a blessed man is not only the immediate fruit borne by his life and works, but also the seeds he plants that will live long after his earthly sojourn has ended.

What about you? Where are you planted?

Someone has observed, “A Bible that’s falling apart probably belongs to someone who isn’t.” —Christian Johnson. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.; Today’s Best Illustrations.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Passing the Torch: Lessons in Leadership Succession (2 Samuel 1-4)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 1-4

As we open our Bibles to 2 Samuel, we find David and Israel entering a new era.  King Saul and his son Jonathan have been slain in battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 31).

An Amalekite soldier fabricated a claim that he had slain Saul in an act of mercy to spare him the indignity of falling into the hands of the Philistines (2 Samuel 1:1-10).  The truth was, Saul had fallen upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4).

Rather than rejoicing in the death of Saul, David mourned his death and ordered the man who claimed to have slain him put to death (1:11-16). Three times David lamented the deaths of King Saul and his sons (1:19, 25, 27).

The closing verses of 2 Samuel 1 express in poetic tones the grievous loss of Jonathan, David’s confidant and friend (1:25-27). 

Some have tried to paint David’s lament for the death of his friend as a twisted validation of sodomy…it is not!  Not only is sodomy condemned in God’s Law (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27); it would never be rendered in a song for the people to sing.  David’s love for Jonathan was one of mutual trust; such a friend is rare indeed!

2 Samuel 2

David has waited more than a decade to be king.  With Saul dead, David turned to the LORD for wisdom, asking, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?”  (2:1).  With the LORD’s blessing, David went up to Hebron and was crowned king by the men of the tribe of Judah (2:2-4).

David immediately faced opposition from Abner, Saul’s nephew who moved to make Ishbosheth, a surviving son of Saul, king (2:9-10).  Abner’s opposition to David, coupled with Ishbosheth’s weak character, plunged the nation into a civil war (2:10-11) that would last over 7 years.

2 Samuel 3 – Three Principles for Leadership Succession

In spite of opposition, God blessed David and he “waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker” (3:1). Three principles are evident in David’s patience in the midst of conflict.

The first: Time is always on the side of the righteous.  The prophet Isaiah assured God’s people:

Isaiah 54:17 – “No weapon that is formed [fashioned; made] against thee shall prosper [succeed]; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn [show to be in the wrong]. This [triumph of righteousness] is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness [vindication; victory; success] is of me, saith the LORD.”

The second: Truth will triumph!  Men like Abner and Ishbosheth play the fool and are doomed when they oppose the will of the LORD.

The third: The lust for power, position, and influence is self-destructive in politics, business, and ministry. 

It seems to me that three manner of men rise to power and position in our world: the weak who, like Ishbosheth have connections; the strong who, like Abner are driven by greed and manipulate others to promote themselves; the third, God’s anointed who, like David are called, equipped, and dependent on God for promotion.

I have found churches, Bible colleges, and other religious institutions tend to fall prey to the same fallacies for a succession of leadership.

Some believe bloodlines (family) and relationships (friendships, peers, colleagues) will somehow assure success.

Churches, pulpit committees, and boards of institutions look for flashy, well-spoken, charismatic leaders and learn too late they chose the proverbial “flash in the pan” and failed to choose God’s anointed.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Caution: Revenge straight ahead! (1 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 11; Psalm 59)

Today’s Bible reading is 1 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 11; Psalm 59; 

An explanation on our Chronological Reading Plan: Today’s Scripture reading covers not only 1 Samuel 18-20, but also Psalm 11 and Psalm 59. This latticework that pulls together various passages   will become a pattern as we read the Scriptures chronologically. For instance, the events in 1 Samuel 18-20 are patterned in both Psalm 11 and Psalm 59. Because the Scripture passages are long, I will limit the length of my devotional commentary.

1 Samuel 18-20

We find David residing in the king’s palace, befriended by Jonathan, the son of Saul (18:1-4; 19:1-2).  The slaying of the Philistine giant Goliath had propelled David from shepherd and court musician to national hero. David’s fame as a warrior, and the affection of the people, had stirred jealousy in the heart of the king.  Believing David was a threat to his reign, Saul determined to kill him (18:5-30).

Nevertheless, the bond between Jonathan and David was never broken in spite of Saul’s attempts to kill him (1 Samuel 20:1-23). Jonathan, believing David was God’s anointed and the heir to the throne, vowed to befriend, support, and love David to the end of his life (20:35-42).  Thrust out of the kingdom by the king’s attempts to kill him, David began a ten-year journey of hardship and loneliness. Separated from his friend and his father’s household, the future king would live in the wilderness, hiding and seeking refuge in caves.

A Lesson from David’s Life: Serving God does not come with a guarantee of comfort or favor. Faithful servants of God are not insulated from criticism.

Psalm 11 – There are times when retreat is the wiser choice. 

David fled from Saul when the king attacked him. In Psalm 11 we do not know if the foe David faced was within or without his kingdom; however, the threat was significant and the king’s counselors advised him to flee (11:1b-2).  David answered his frightened counselors saying,

Psalm 11:1 – “In the LORD put I my trust [confide; flee for protection; make refuge]: how say [speak; command] ye to my soul [life; person; mind], Flee [disappear; remove] as a bird to your mountain?

The counselors reminded the king the plot of the wicked was to destroy the just and upright (11:2), and as king, he was the moral pillar, the foundation of the nation (11:3).

Psalm 11:2-3 – “For, lo, the wicked  [ungodly; immoral; guilty] bend their bow, they make ready [prepare; set up; fix] their arrow upon the string, that they may privily [secretly] shoot at the upright [right; just; righteous] in heart [mind].  3 If the foundations [purpose; support; moral pillars] be destroyed [thrown down; broken in pieces], what can the righteous [just] do?”

David’s counselors reasoned, not only was his life at risk, but so also were the lives of the people and the future of the kingdom (11:3b).  In other words, what will become of the righteous should the king fall?

We find David’s response in Psalm 11:4-7.

Psalm 11:4-5 – “The LORD is in his holy [sacred; hallowed] temple, the LORD’S throne [seat] is in heaven: his eyes behold [perceive; look; gaze], his eyelids try [examine; prove], the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth [proves; examines] the righteous [just; law-abiding]: but the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] and him that loveth violence [injustice] his soul hateth [as a foe].”

What a great reminder! Regardless the threats of an enemy or his demands, we must not compromise our integrity. The LORD has not abdicated the throne of heaven; the ways of the righteous will not go unrewarded, nor the ways of the wicked unpunished!

Our devotion ends with the assurance, “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright” (Psalm 11:7). The righteous are the objects of the LORD’s love!

Is there is an enemy who haunts your life with threats, maligning gossip, or with disapproving gazes?  Take confidence in this…the LORD loves the righteous and He is just. Trust the LORD!

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Put a Smile On Your Face! It’s Contagious!” (Proverbs 15:13)

Proverbs 15:13- A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Readers, I am blessed to have a loving family, great co-workers, and a loving church family whom I have served for nearly 35 years. I have dear friends whose friendships encourage laughter and remind me to make my physical health and well-being a priority. 

There are many not so fortunate and I am writing to encourage you with a devotional reminder taken from Proverbs 15:13. Don’t fall victim to an assault of negative news! Take charge of your health and well-being during the Coronavirus Crisis..

Today’s proverb gives us a lesson on matters of the heart and challenges us to take note—a man’s countenance is often a reflection of his heart. Solomon writes:

Proverbs 15:13 – “A merry [glad; joyful] heart maketh a cheerful [pleasing, good] countenance: but by sorrow [hurt, emotional wounds] of the heart [mind, thoughts, emotions] the spirit [breath, courage] is broken [afflicted; wounded].”

I remember visiting Myrtle Beach, SC as a child and walking though the old pavilion where full-length mirrors were configured to distort the image of the ones who took time to pose.  The exaggerated images reflected in the carnival mirrors were hilariously funny–extremely tall and skinny, squat and plump, a gargantuan head supported by a pea-size body—all distortions of reality.

I have also found family photos, especially when displayed in a succession of years, to be a fascinating study in the dynamics of a family’s life.  Old black and white photos bear the image of childhood faces reflecting the purity, trust and innocent abandon of youth.  However, that same child in later photographs may reveal a countenance that is altogether different—bright, cheerful eyes replaced by hollow, lifeless eyes.  A happy, youthful grin had fallen prey to a sneer and smirking glare.  One wonders, what dynamics in that child’s life and family had altered their countenance in so dramatic a form?

Capture the countenance of a man or woman in a sincere, unguarded moment and you will have a proof test of the emotional and spiritual inclination of their heart.  A joyful heart will reflect itself in a happy countenance!

The countenance that can be a mirror capable of reflecting a merry heart, can also be a canvas that bears the image of a broken heart, burdened with sin and depression.  Sorrows, disappointments and unresolved conflicts weigh heavy on a man’s heart and can break his spirit.  An unforgiving spirit can proverbially, “suck the wind out of your sails”.

Feel like you need a facelift? Take the following principles and I promise you—they will improve your countenance!

Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32  “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27  Neither give place to the devil…31  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hype, Hysteria, and Hope (in the midst of uncertainty)

March 16, 2020

Dear Heart of A Shepherd readers,

I have been away from Tampa for only one week, however, the world and our nation have dramatically changed in that short span of time.

While I am not generally a conspiracy theorist, I believe there is a dark purpose behind what is happening in our nation. I think there are unseen, dark figures driving the present crisis and I wonder if this is a “dry run” for something diabolical and more malicious. Knowing the spiritual character of this generation is far different than the faith of our nation a century ago, I fear the potential of violent societal conflict.

The hype around the Coronavirus is a potential catalyst for an overreach of government that is, in my opinion, the perfect stage for a socialist agenda. The draconian measures that are being suggested and taken by federal and state governments (closing schools, churches, restaurants, and businesses; threatening curfews and outlawing gatherings of more than 50) threatens to ruin the economy and plunge our nation and world into an economic depression. Unless sanity prevails, businesses, ministries, and families will soon be forced into bankruptcy. (I do not write that sentence lightly).

No one could have foreseen the events of the past two weeks, nor can we predict the future ripple effect across our lives, families, and ministries. I have many concerns that I am sure are shared across our nation.

What impact will current events have on employers and employment?  What is the economic impact on businesses and families who survive paycheck to paycheck?  With hoarding on a scale never witnessed in my lifetime, how secure are our food supplies and staple goods?

In the immediate, I offer you counsel and encouragement:

Pray – Someone has said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

Mark 11:22-24 – “22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Plan – The distance between a panic attack and confidence is a plan.

Definition of “Plan” – “Since God knows exactly what would happen in every situation, He plans for the best thing to happen. God takes counsel, puts all things under advisement, and chooses the best way.” – Practical Word Studies in The New Testament.

Purpose – Put your trust in the LORD and hope in Him.

Isaiah 26:3-4 – “3  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 4  Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Character of a Holy People” (Leviticus 19-21)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 19-21

* This is the first of two devotionals for today’s scripture reading.

Leviticus 19 introduces a detail review of the commandments of the LORD beginning with the sum of all the commandments: Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).

From that command flows a series of laws that define the essence of what it means to be a holy, sanctified, people. For brevity, I will offer a summary of three series of commandments (19:9-37).

Leviticus 19:9-18 – Moral Guidelines Concerning One’s Neighbor

A holy people will:

19:3 – Fear and revere father and mother and keep the Sabbath holy.

19:4 – Not worship idols

19:9-10 – Be compassionate to the poor

19:13 – Pay day laborers their earned wages at the close of a work day

19:14 – Show kindness to the disadvantaged (deaf and blind)

19:15 – Be impartial in judgment

19:16-17 – Not gossip, slander, or hate another

19:18 – “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Leviticus 19:19-32 – Natural Laws

A holy people will:

19:20-22 – Not disgrace a slave

19:29 – Shelter and protect a daughter’s virtue

19:32 – Stand in reverence and honor the elderly

Leviticus 19:33-37 – Judicial Matters

A holy people will:

19:33-34 – Be compassionate and loving to a stranger and a foreigner

19:35-36 – Be fair and just in business and commercial matters

God’s command for His people to be holy is practical, instructive, and clearly stated. 

21st century believers would do well to recognize the LORD’S command for His people to be holy touches every area of life…marriage, family, neighbor, employee\employer, even business principles of just and fairness.

How do you measure up to God’s holy standard?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Closing Thoughts on Life’s Trials, Fair-weather Friends, and the LORD’s Unfailing Grace (Job 40-42)

Daily reading assignment: Job 40-42

The LORD continues His interrogation of Job in chapter 40; however, he is now given an opportunity to respond  (40:3-5).  The first words from Job’s lips confessed his unworthiness (“Behold I am vile” – 40:4).  Humbled and at a loss for words, he is silent (40:4-5).

The LORD responds to Job, speaking to the man from the midst of the storm, Job is asked why he questioned His dealings as anything less than just (40:6-8). To summarize the LORD’s questions to Job in a modern context, “Who do you think you are to question me?” (40:9-14).

The beast described as the “behemoth” (40:15) is highly debated among scholars. Given the early writing of the book of Job, it is possible a dinosaur is described. Others suggest the behemoth was a hippopotamus, elephant or perhaps a water buffalo.

The LORD continues to question Job in chapter 41 and invites him to consider the “leviathan” (Job 41:1).  The identity of this great creature is also uncertain; however, some suggest it to be a giant saltwater crocodile.  Perhaps a giant creature of the sea that is extinct, but whose remains are identified today as those of a dinosaur.

Either way, the analogy is meant to draw Job to conclude that man is foolish to question his Creator when he pales in size and strength to the majestic beasts of His creation (41:1-9). The Lord challenged Job, if man cannot tame a “leviathan,” he has no right to question God (41:10-34).

Having heard the LORD’s revelations of Himself and pondered the evidences of His power and might as sovereign of creation, Job confessed, I abhor [despise] myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Accepting Job’s humble confession and repentance, the LORD turned the focus of His wrath upon Job’s “friends” (42:7-9) and commands “Eliphaz the Temanite” (perhaps the elder of the friends) to go to Job with sacrifices, humble themselves, and ask the very man they had condemned to pray for them (42:8-9).  [An additional observation: It is interesting that Elihu, the youngest “friend” of Job’s friends, is not named among those who went to Job in humility.  Elihu had been the most vociferous of Job’s judges; however, he fails to be named among those who sought to be restored to his fellowship].

Evidencing the grace and humility of a sincere repentant man of God, Job “prayed for his “friends” and God blessed him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10).

Consider with me a few closing thoughts on “Fair-Weather Friends”:

Job 42:11 Then[i.e. the trials now passed and God having prospered Job “twice as much”] came there unto him all his brethren [kindred], and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance [i.e. friends and neighbors] before [before Job’s trials], and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned [i.e. showed sympathy] him, and comforted [pitied] him over all the evil [troubles] that the LORD had brought [i.e. allowed to enter] upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”

Where were these “brethren” and “sisters” when Job lost everything?  Where were Job’s acquaintances when he lost his sons and daughters, servants, home, physical health and possessions?  Why appear now to show sympathy and comfort?  Why wait to bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings after the LORD has begun to pour out his blessings on him and he has need of nothing?

I close our study of Job’s life rejoicing in how the LORD blessed him and he lived another “one hundred and forty years.” Job lived to witness the birth of “his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations” and“died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 16-17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith