Category Archives: Friends

“I will…I will…I will!”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 99-101

Three psalms or hymns of praise, is the scripture reading for today.  Like all the psalms, these were songs sung by Levite singers and musicians in the Temple and cherished by Jews and Christians down through the centuries.

Some psalms commemorate special events in Israel’s history.  Many of the psalms are deeply personal for their authors and reflect times of sorrow and joy, conviction and repentance, distress and thanksgiving.  The majority of the psalms are, as the name of the book implies, written for the purpose of praising the LORD by focusing on His holy character and attributes.

Psalm 99 reminds the people, “The LORD [Jehovah] reigneth” (99:1), He is King and Sovereign of the earth.  “The LORD…is high above all the people” (99:2) and His “name” [is] “great and terrible…for it is holy” (99:3).   Psalm 99 concludes with an exhortation to “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His holy hill [the setting of the Temple and sacrifices]; for the LORD our God is holy” (99:9).

Psalm 100 is perhaps one of the most beloved of the psalms and has inspired many great anthems, hymns and choruses of praise.  For the sake of this brief devotional, I will take the liberty of adding my amplification of the text.  As you read the following, join me and the throng of God’s people who are entering the outer courts of the Temple.  Listen as the singers and musicians call the people to worship the LORD.

Psalm 100:1-5 – 1 Make a joyful noise [shout; sound an alarm; ] unto the LORD [Jehovah; Yahweh; Eternal God], all ye lands [earth; country; world].
2  Serve [work; labor; become servants] the LORD with gladness [joy; rejoicing; pleasure; delight]: come [enter; pass; come in] before his presence [face] with singing [joyful voice; triumph; shout for joy].
3  Know [perceive; understand] ye that the LORD he is God [mighty God]: it is he that hath made us [wrought; prepare; squeeze or mold], and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4  Enter [come] into his gates with thanksgiving [praise; offerings; i.e hymns of thanksgiving], and into his courts [towns; villages] with praise: be thankful [give thanks] unto him, and bless [praise] his name [i.e. Person – character; attributes].
5  For the LORD is good [better; best; pleasant; pleasing]; his mercy [lovingkindness; favor; steadfast love and grace] is everlasting [perpetual; always; eternal]; and his truth [faithfulness; ] endureth to all generations [ages].

While the focus of Psalm 100 is on the LORD’s attributes (He is mighty, good, merciful and faithful), Psalm 101 is filled with assertive statements of David’s vows and devotion to the LORD.  The spiritual principles found in this chapter are as timely and applicable to our day as they were when David penned them 3,000 years ago.

Giving no room for ambiguity, David states his vows to the LORD in a series of emphatic, life guiding principles and convictions, many beginning with the words, “I will…”

Psalm 101:1-8 – 1 I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing.
2  I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
3  I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
4  A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.
5  Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.
6  Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.
7  He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.
8  I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD.

I close by inviting you to meditate on David’s vows and realize each of them should be true of you and me. 

Vs. 1 – I will proclaim the LORD is merciful and just.

Vs. 2 – I will conduct myself in a godly manner and what I am in public I will be in the privacy of my home and before my family.

Vs. 3 – I will guard my eyes and thoughts from wickedness and will not look upon or allow the way of the wicked to shape my heart and thoughts.

Vs. 4 – I will not allow the wicked to be numbered among my friends nor employ any who are dishonest.

Vs. 5 – I will not fellowship with those who gossip or slander their neighbors nor tolerate the proud.

Vs. 6 – I will seek the fellowship and company of those who walk in righteousness.

Vs. 7 – I will not tolerate liars and deceivers.

Vs. 8 – I will not tolerate the wicked or give them a safe place in my life, family or home.

Friend, are those statements true of you?  They should be and can be if you are willing, like David, to assert them in your soul and engrave them upon your heart.   Write them down in your own words and place them in prominent places in your daily life.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Cherish the Best Things”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 17-18

Today’s scripture reading is Proverbs 17 and Proverbs 18.  The following devotional commentary, originally written January 17, 2014, is an exposition and application of the “Better…than” principle found in Proverbs 17:1.

Proverbs 17:1 – Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.

Americans have become a money-hungry, pleasure-seeking, self-indulgent people.  I believe the entitlement attitude that divides our nation and is turning us into a socialist-welfare state has its roots in my generation—the baby-boomers.   Our Depression/World War II era parents and grandparents lived through two decades of sacrifice, hardship and war, and determined to give their children “everything they never had”.   That they did, but at the sacrifice of something more important…instilling character, discipline and an appreciation for hard work and sacrifice in their children.

The “baby-boomers” have perpetuated the aspiration of their parents and instilled in their children (Generations X, Y, and the Millenniums) a spirit of indolence, self-gratification and entitlement that has brought our society to the brink of economic collapse.   Our homes are bigger, our possessions are greater; we have more time for recreation and self-indulgence than any generation before us; however, unhappiness, disappointment and family conflict abounds.

Solomon taught his son a “Better…than” principle we would be wise to heed. The king illustrated in a brief proverb the hollowness of riches and possessions when a family is torn by strife:

Proverbs 17:1 – “Better is a dry morsel [parched piece of bread], and quietness [peace; security] therewith, than an house [family] full of sacrifices [feastings] with strife [quarrels; hostilities].”

Application: It is Better to be poor, enjoy a quiet, simple life nourished by nothing more than a piece of dry crusty bread, than dwell in a home of plenty that is filled with hostility.  That proverb echoes a similar sentiment found in Proverbs 15:17.

Proverbs 15:17 – “Better is a dinner of herbs [green leafy vegetables] where love is, than a stalled ox [fat and ready for slaughter] and hatred therewith.”

Putting that verse in a modern context: It is better to enjoy a plate of greens and vegetables at Cracker Barrel with those you love, than dine on Prime Rib at Ruth Chris Steak House with family and friends who are the source of strife in your life!

Friend, money and possessions might buy you temporal joy and satisfaction, but lasting peace and joy cannot be purchased at any price! Be content with the simple life; cherish family and friends who genuinely love you.   Life is too short to chase passions that leave you empty and frustrated.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 – “But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Salute and Challenge to Gray-headed Saints

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 69-71

Note from the author of “From the Heart of a Shepherd”:  Today’s post is the 900th blog post by this simple shepherd.  I pray the thoughts and spiritual ponderings of this pastor continue to be a blessing.  

Our scripture reading for today is a gold mine of truths and spiritual principles found in Psalms 69, 70 and 71; however, for the sake of brevity my focus will be two golden nuggets of truths taken from Psalm 71:9, 17 and 18.

Some believe king David is the author of Psalm 71 and I am inclined to lean that way; however, others make an argument its author is the prophet Jeremiah.  I will leave the debate of its authorship to others and am content it was written by a man of faith; a man who by God’s grace was young in spirit, but chronologically old in years.  The psalmist, confident in God’s providential care, had faith God’s hand had been upon him from his mother’s womb (71:6), through his youth (71:5) and was with him in the frailty of his old age (71:18).

Of the many fears that potentially haunt the elderly, surely the fear of being forgotten and forsaken is foremost.  The dynamics between youth and the aged presents a challenge; however, the technological revolution of the past 30 years with computers, iPads, cell phones and social media has made the generational divide a precipice.  The fast pace mobility of our 21st century society and an attitude of narcissism that dominates this generation has strained family ties and sadly, left as its victims millions of elderly who feel forgotten and forsaken.

Complicating the interaction of familial generations and contrary to what some aged might think, one is never too old to sin!   Many elderly fall into a sinful pattern and become cantankerous and difficult.  Because a negative, critical spirit only exasperates our loved ones and caregivers, let us who are grey-headed consider the prayer of the ancient psalmist to the LORD.

Psalm 71:9 – Cast me not off [down] in the time [season] of old age; forsake me not when my strength [power; vigor] faileth [consumed; finished].

The aged psalmist petitions the LORD for two things in verse 9. The first, “cast me not off in the time of old age” (71:9a).  Strength of youth inclines one to pursue independence…independent of family, friends and sadly, independent of God.  However, when the vigor of youth fails and the frailty of old age advances, we are reminded how much we need the LORD’s grace.

The second petition expressed by the psalmist is, “forsake me not when my strength faileth” (71:9b).  Visiting the elderly in nursing homes has been a pattern of my life from childhood.  I remember fondly accompanying my maternal grandparents, Roland and Sadie Whitley, in their Saturday visits to family and friends in nursing homes.  It comes as no surprise that, when they found themselves in those same beds, the Whitley’s were never lacking in visits from family and friends.

As a pastor\shepherd, my calling has me making frequent visits to hospitals, nursing homes and homes of shut-ins.  Sadly, there are many in those places that not only feel forsaken, they are all but forgotten.  At a time when their strength is gone, their eyesight is dim and hearing has failed…they are alone.  What a tragedy that our society looks upon its elderly as a burden rather than a blessing!

The elderly psalmist continues his prayer:

Psalm 71:17-18 – O God [Elohim; Mighty God], thou hast taught [instructed; goad or disciplined] me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared [tell as a messenger] thy wondrous works [miracles; acts that surpass human skill or works]. 18  Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed [declared; informed] thy strength [power] unto this generation, and thy power [might] to every one that is to come.

The psalmist declares in his old age, LORD, the things you taught me in my youth I continue to declare in my old age!  My elderly friend, when life affords you an opportunity to praise the LORD, whether in private or public, be among the first to declare God’s love, salvation, mercy and grace.

The psalmist’s prayer moves from affirmation and adoration in verse 17 to petition and purpose in verse 18.  Unlike the old sassy commercial that declared, “I’m going to wash the gray right out of my hair”, the psalmist acknowledges, “I am old and grayheaded” and petitions the LORD for His power and presence in his life (“forsake me not”).

Finally, the psalmist declares his purpose for living: “until I have shewed [declared; informed] thy strength [power] unto this generation, and thy power [might] to every one that is to come” (71:18b).  The old psalmist’s thoughts turned to his spiritual legacy.  Thirty-eight years of ministry has brought home to me the sad realization that few give any thought to the spiritual legacy they are leaving for the next generation.  They have their wills written, their possessions planned for parceling, but the urgency of declaring a lifetime testimony concerning God’s faithfulness and blessings seems forgotten.

Elderly believer, I know you and I share the sentiment of the psalmist…Oh Lord, don’t forsake me when I am old and frail; however, will you also purpose to declare to all who will listen God’s faithfulness? I close with an appropriate quote and challenge:

“How many people in our churches, at an age when they ought to be tearing the world apart, are instead sliding home?” – Dr. Howard Hendricks

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Having a midlife crisis?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Kings 10-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Betrayed!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 54-56

The kiss of betrayal is a bitter experience for any who place their trust in others.  Betrayal thrusts its point deep into the soul and, contrary to the adage, “Time heals all wounds”, leaves its victims feeling hurt, vulnerable, and often bitter.  I find in Psalm 54 four different responses that victims of betrayal entertain:  Fear (55:1-5), Flight (55:6-8), Funk or frustration (55:12-14), and Faith (55:16-18, 22).

Author Warren Wiersbe writes concerning Psalm 55:  “It’s likely this psalm was written early in Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam. 15-17), when David was still in Jerusalem (vv. 9-11) and the revolt was gathering momentum. If so, then the “friend” of verses 12-14 and 20-21 had to be David’s counselor Ahithophel who had sided with Absalom.”

Given the content of Psalm 55, I side with Wiersbe, believing the rush of emotions and contemplations David was feeling are those of a broken man whose son has stolen the affections of his people and his closest advisor, Ahithophel, is confederate with Absolam in the rebellion (2 Samuel 15:31).

David’s first response to betrayal was Fear and the broodings that accompany that emotion (55:4-5). David writes:

Psalm 55:4-5 – “My heart [mind; thoughts] is sore pained [troubled; tremble] within me: and the terrors [fear] of death are fallen upon me. 5  Fearfulness [terror] and trembling [shaking] are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.”

Flight is the second response David contemplated as he came to terms with betrayal (55:6-8).  If he could, David would have retreated and found a hiding place far from his troubles.

Psalm 55:6-8 – And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away [flee], and be at rest [i.e. find shelter]. 7  Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. 8  I would hasten [hurry] my escape from the windy storm and tempest.”

Funk or frustration is the third reaction I recognize in David’s response to betrayal (55:12-14, 20-21).  Other words that describe the king’s emotional state are despair, disbelief, and dismay.  David writes:

Psalm 55:12-14 – “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: 13  But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. 14  We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.”

Psalm 55:20-21 – “He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant. 21  The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.”

Fear, Flight and Funk are natural reactions to betrayal and troubles.  We fear consequences.  We long to flee hurts and put as much distance as we can between those who have wounded us and ourselves.  When we are unable to flee, we are tempted to retreat into depression and nurse our wounds.

David was king and, though he might retreat from his throne for a season, he could not escape the responsibility that he was God’s anointed and the challenges he faced were “God-size” problems from which only the LORD could deliver him.  That brings us to David’s fourth response, Faith.   David turned his thoughts from his hurts and disappointments and prayed (55:16-18).

Psalm 55:16-18 – “As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. 17  Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. 18  He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.”

I close with David’s invitation to all who suffer betrayal and bear the scars of disappointment.

Psalm 55:22 – “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Christian Leaders are Often No More Than a “Flash in the Pan”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 1-4

As we open our Bibles to 2 Samuel, we find David and the nation of Israel entering into a new era.  King Saul and his son Jonathan are slain in battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 31) and news of their deaths reach David in Ziklag a Philisitine town where he and his men had found refuge from Saul’s threats.   An Amalekite soldier came to David fabricating 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 that Saul had fallen upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4).

Three times David lamented the deaths of King Saul and his sons (2 Samuel 1:19, 25, 27).   Rather than rejoicing in the death of Saul, David mourned the death of the king and ordered the man who claimed to have slain him put to death (2 Samuel 1:11-16).

The closing verses of 2 Samuel 1 express in poetic tones the grievous loss of Jonathan, David’s confidant and friend (2:25-27).  There are some who try to paint David’s lament for the loss of his friend as a twisted validation of sodomy…it is not!   The Old and New Testament scriptures condemned homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27) and it was surely not a practice to put to music for people to sing.  David’s love for Jonathan was one of mutual trust; such a friend is rare indeed!

Israel has been a divided nation and 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 Samuel 2:1). With the LORD’s blessing, David went up to Hebron and the men of Judah crowned him king (2:2-4).

David faced opposition immediately 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.  In spite of the opposition, God blessed David and he “waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker” (2 Samuel 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 principle, truth will triumph!  Men like Abner and Ishbosheth play the fool and when they oppose the will of the LORD are doomed .

A third principle is an admonition: Lust for power, position, and influence is self-destructive…whether it is in politics, business, or religion.

Three manner of men rise to power and position in our world: the weak who, like Ishosheth, 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.

It is my experience that churches and Christian institutions fall prey to a fallacy in leadership that bloodlines (a man’s sons) or relationships (a man’s friendship) somehow assure success.  Too often churches and boards of Christian 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 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Sunday Services at Hillsdale and You’re Invited

I am continuing my series, “Innocence: Tried, Condemned and Crucified” in the Gospel of Matthew this Sunday morning.  Tomorrow’s study is from Matthew 27:26-37 and my topic is “Perspectives on Christ’s Crucifixion”.  Time allowing, we will review the perspectives of Pilate, the Sanhedrin and continue our study examining the perspectives of Barabbas, of Christ Himself, the callous soldiers, the spectators in the street on the road to Golgotha and the soldiers who nailed Jesus to the Cross.

In the 6:00 PM service I will be sharing with Hillsdale a ministry vision “From the Heart of the Shepherd” for two potential ministries.

The first is the possibility of Hillsdale serving as an “Online Distance Learning ‘Bridge’”, a satellite site, for live classes from an accredited Bible College\University.

The second potential ministry grows out of my burden for a Medical\Patient Advocacy Committee for our church membership.  I have observed a diminishing in medical care as a result of ObamaCare policies and the guidelines of Health Insurance companies.  Too many of us accept without question the advice of doctors and hospitals and fail to challenge the care our loved ones are receiving.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Two Sins That Will Bring a Man to Ruin

Monday, April 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Job 31-32

Job 31 records the conclusion of Job’s defense against his three “friend’s” accusations that his sufferings are the consequence of unconfessed sin.

The opening verse of Job 31 is one every man should vow before God: I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1)

What a powerful statement for 21st century believers to embrace and commit themselves to…purity in heart, thoughts and emotions!  The violation of moral and marital fidelity is one of the greatest sins of the 21st century church and I doubt there is a pastor who comprehends the degree to which his members have titillated their lusts and emotions with lewd and pornographic images in the privacy of their homes and hearts.

I remind my readers of the following commands and principles regarding adultery; the first, our Lord’s summation on this subject reminding us that to look on another with lust is adultery.

Matthew 5:27-28 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: [Exodus 20:14 – 7th Commandment] 28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

God’s people are not to tolerate adultery and its punishment under the law was severe:  “the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10).

Adultery destroys a man’s reputation, scars his life, brings reproach he will carry to his grave and wrecks his marriage, home and family.

Proverbs 6:32-33 – “But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding [without moral principle]: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul [life]. 33 A wound and dishonour [disgrace] shall he get; and his reproach [shame] shall not be wiped away.”

Declaring his innocence and integrity, Job asserts, let me suffer the dreadful consequences of my sin if I have lusted after another man’s wife (Job 31:9-12).

Job 31:12 – “For it [adultery] is a fire that consumeth [eats; devours; burns up] to destruction, and would root out [pluck up; uproot] all mine increase [good; income].”

Elihu, a fourth and younger “friend” of Job, joins the others in Job 32, not only condemning Job, but also his “friends” who had failed to convince Job of his sin. It is interesting that the youngest of the five, Elihu, begins a monologue of judgment and condemnation that will continue for six chapters (Job 32-37).

Elihu’s introductory statements to his elders are sadly familiar for they are reflective of the proud, untempered spirit of inexperienced youth (32:1-3, 5).  In his own words, Elihu confesses, “I am full of matter…my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst” (32:18-19).  That statement, dear friend, is the gushing of unrestrained pride.  In the words of Solomon, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).   When the LORD addresses the contention that rose between Job and his “friends”, He will disregard everything Elihu said.

In a parting observation, the sins I have addressed in this devotional commentary are prevalent, not only in our culture, but also in our churches and homes.  Adultery is destroying lives, marriages, and families.  Webroot.com estimates that 40 million Americans visit pornography sites regularly and 2.5 billion emails a day contain pornography.  That same website estimates pornography is a problem in 47% of American homes.  In other words, you, your spouse, your children, or your friends are struggling with the putrid effects of pornography.

The other sin in today’s devotional is the besetting sin of today’s youth…Pride!  Pride has been the curse of man from the fall; however, this Millennial generation is enslaved to it like no other before it.   The pride of this generation is manifest in their self-centered, unteachable, demanding, narcissistic spirit…a sin that will inevitably bring them and our nation to ruin.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Remember the Good Old Days?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Job 29-30

Do you remember the “Good Old Days”?   You know, the days when you were young, strong, carefree and naïve?   Remember what life was like before you learned how much life could hurt?

In today’s scripture reading (Job 29-30), Job continues his argument against the insinuations of his “friend” Bildad (Job 25) that the losses he has suffered are a result of a hidden, unconfessed sin he is harboring in his soul.   Job began his defense in chapter 27 and continues his sad monologue through chapters 29, 30 and 31.

Preacher and author Warren Wiersbe writes of Job’s defense:   Job “climaxed his speech with sixteen ‘if I have…’ statements and put himself under oath, challenging God either to condemn him or vindicate him.  It was as though Job were saying, “We’ve talked long enough!  I really don’t care what you three men think, because God is my Judge; and I rest my case with Him.  Now, let Him settle the matter one way or another, once and for all.” [The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry].

Like many elderly I have known in my lifetime, Job began reflecting on what many call “the good old days”.  He recollected the blessings and joys he took for granted before trials and troubles robbed him of everything…his family, possessions and health.  He remembered the days of his youth and how God had favored him (29:2-4a).   He remembered the sweetness of fellowship he had with God and the joy his children brought to his life (29:4b-5).  He looked back on the standing he once had in the city; how young men retired from his presence, old men stood to honor him (29:5-8), and nobles weighed his counsel with gravity (29:9-11, 20-25).  He cherished with joy the opportunities he had to bless those less fortunate (29:12-16).

Job 30 marks a decided turn from cherished reflections of the past to the horrid reality of Job’s present condition.  Though his character had remained unaltered, he had lost everything that once defined his outward man.   Facing the challenge we all invariably face, Job made a wise choice; he refused to dwell on past memories and honestly assessed his present condition.  He faced the derision of the very men who once honored him (30:1-15).  He had been charitable to others, but now faced his own poverty and helplessness (30:16-25).  He had ministered to others, but was now in need of pity and help (39:26-31).   Job’s life had become fodder for fools and sorrows threatened to drown his soul in tears (30:27-29).

The state of hopelessness is a miserable place to abide for when hope is lost, all seems lost.  Such should never be the case for believers!   Paul challenged believers living in Rome to be “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:11-12a).  To believers in Corinth, Paul wrote, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:19-20).

Those who put their faith in Christ and trust His promises have the potential of enduring, abiding hope.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Love Has Everything to Do With It!”

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Daily reading assignment: 1 Corinthians 13-14

Aging rock\pop star Tina Turner, known for her screaming, gritty voice, in one of her songs belts out, “What’s love got to do with it?”  The biblical answer?

“Love has everything to do with it!”

The world has many ideas and definitions for “Love”. Greek philosopher Plato suggested, “Love is a serious mental disease.” Robert Frost, the famous American poet wrote, “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” Author E. Joseph Cossman described Love as “a friendship set to music.” One Thomas Dewar suggested, “Love is an ocean of emotions entirely surrounded by expenses.” Another, Pauline Thomason wrote, “Love is blind — marriage is the eye-opener.”

We find three forms of love in the Greek language: 1) “Eros”, the word for sexual desire (moral or immoral) from which our English word “eoritc” is derived; 2) “Phileo”, defines the affection between friends; a relationship that is mutually beneficial; a “give and take” love; 3) “Agape’” love is expressed as a sacrificial love and based, not on what one can get, but can give to a relationship.

“Agape’ Love” is translated “charity” in 1 Corinthians 13 and is the greatest and highest expression of love.  God’s love for sinners is “Agape’ love”.

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

John 3:16 For God so loved [agapao] the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 15:13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

A husband’s love for his wife is “agapao love” (self-sacrificing, unconditional love): “Husbands, love [agapao] your wives, even as Christ also loved [agapao] the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).

Love is also the first fruit, the root out of which all the other “fruit of the Spirit” grow.

Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

Love is the foundation of the Law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).

Matthew 22:37-40 – “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38  This is the first and great commandment. 39  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40  On these two commandments hang [hinge; depend; sum of all the other laws and commandments] all the law and the prophets.”

Finally, love is the greatest, most enduring and indispensable quality that can be expressed by a Christian.

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Friend, as you worship the LORD with His church this Sunday, your love for the brethren is to be a sacrificial, patient, kind, honest…rejoicing in the truth, and enduring… “never faileth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)!

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

* I was unable to post Saturday’s devotional reading. Mark 7-8 was the scheduled reading for those who missed it.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith