Category Archives: Fundamentalism

Take Time to Be Holy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 5-6

When I was young and with a lifetime ahead of me, reading the Book of Ecclesiastes was a chore.   I confess; I read its verses, but did not relish its truths.  The ponderings of Solomon, his youth spent and his heart laden with the weight of sin, was depressing.

Solomon’s counsel in his old age stands out in sad contrast to the proverbs of wisdom he taught his sons when they were young.  Rather than exhortations of wisdom and cautions to walk in the way of the LORD, Ecclesiastes calls to mind the counsel of foolish parents who say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Such is the counsel of too many fathers and mothers in our day.

Ecclesiastes, the Book I found discouraging in my youth, has become a challenge for me to examine my walk with the LORD and walk in wisdom.  I hope you will find today’s reading, Ecclesiastes 5-6, will be the same for you.

Solomon stated his counsels in Ecclesiastes 5 so clearly there is little commentary you need from this country parson to grasp and apply them to your life.  Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 instructs us regarding the preparations of our heart and attitude when worshipping the LORD.

Permit me to suggest four ways we offend God when we worship Him.

The first, we offend the LORD when we open our checkbook before we open our heart to Him (5:1).  

Ecclesiastes 5:1 – “Keep [guard; watch] thy foot [i.e. be careful] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear [listen; obey], than to give the sacrifice of fools [silliness]: for they [fools] consider not that they do [commit] evil [sin; wickedness].

The definition and practice of “worship” in American churches has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  What was once a deliberate act of solemnity, conscious a holy God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b) and knows our thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 17:10), has become raucous entertainment with “worshippers” dancing to the beat of drums and the blare of deafening music.  Oh how far we have strayed from the call to, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

Secondly, we offend the LORD when we speak before we think (5:2).

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash [hasty; eager] with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty [swift; quick] to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

God may seem distant; however, He hears every word!  Too many of us are so busy making requests and “doing ministry” we fail to take time to be quiet and listen to the soft voice of God’s Spirit.

Saying one thing and doing another is a third offence committed by those who worship the LORD in haste with little thought of heart preparation (5:4-7a).

Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 – “When thou vowest [promise] a vow unto God, defer not [dont be slack] to pay [perform] it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay [render] that which thou hast vowed.
5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6  Suffer not [do not allow or permit] thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel [i.e. a messenger or servant of God], that it was an error [mistake]: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work [labor] of thine hands?   7  For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities [meaningless; no purpose]: but fear thou God.”

God remembers every prayer, every vow, and every thought.  Before you open your mouth and make a vow, remember, God will not forget the vows you make.  Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 12:36-37  – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Finally, we offend God when we fail to revere and worship Him in humility and sincerity.  We read, “but fear thou God” (5:7b).

When you come before the LORD to worship Him, whether in the quietness of your daily devotions or in the congregation of His saints on Sunday, slow down, take time to be quiet, weigh every word, and humble yourself before Him.

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God is Sovereign and The Most Powerful Monarch Bows to His Will.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 33-36

Unlike his father Hezekiah, under whose reign Judah experienced revival (2 Chronicles 30:1-9) when he destroyed the places of idol worship (2 Chronicles 31), Manasseh began to reign as king of Judah when he was twelve years old, reigning fifty-five years, but he “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (33:2).

There were no bounds to the depths of depravity to which Manasseh stooped.  He rebuilt the groves of prostitution where Baal was worshipped, desecrated the Temple, practiced human sacrifice, sacrificing his own children to idols, participated in witchcraft, and led Jerusalem to commit wickedness “worse than the heathen” (33:9).  What a horrible biography of depravity and wickedness, practiced by the young king and tolerated by his advisors and the masses!

I marvel how a godly king like Hezekiah who led Judah in spiritual revival; might have a son like Manasseh who succeeded his father as king and proceeded down a path of evil that exceeded the wickedness of the heathen (33:9).  If you will allow a personal observation (after all, this is a commentary); I am oft amazed how men in authority influence a people, spawn a movement of prejudice and hatred, and leave in their wake the destruction of families, communities, nations and the deaths of millions of men and women.

As a product of the 20th century and a student of its history, I reflect on the century past (the rise of Communism, Nazi-fascists, militant Islamists, and our present-day conflict with anarchists of all stripes…political and religious) and understand the tragic consequences that befall nations that choose wicked, unprincipled, godless leaders.  King Solomon taught his son the same, writing:

Proverbs 29:2 – “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”

In spite of his evil ways, we read, “the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken” (33:10).  What a testimony of God’s patience and longing to forgive and restore His people!  Being reminded God’s ways are not our ways, the LORD sovereignly moved on the heart of “the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks and fetters and brought him to Babylon” (33:11).  Reminding us to not give up on wayward sinners, in the throes of his suffering and humiliation, Manasseh “besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13  And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God” (33:12-13).

Having repented of his sins, God restored Manasseh to the throne in Jerusalem and he began a crusade to fortify the walls of the city, removing the traces of his own wickedness in tearing down places of idol worship,  repairing the Temple altar and commanding “Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (33:13-16).

Manasseh, by example and edict, led the nation to turn from their sins and return to the LORD; however, he was unable to reverse the effect of his sins on Amon, his son who did “evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father…And humbled not himself before the LORD” (33:21-23) until his servants assassinated him in the palace (33:24).

Being reminded of God’s grace, Josiah, the son of Amon and grandson of Hezekiah, turned from the sins of his father and followed his grandfather’s example and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 34-35:1-19).  Josiah’s death on the battlefield (35:20-24) and how the prophet Jeremiah and the people mourned his death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 35:20-27.

2 Chronicles 36 records the final days of Judah as a nation before Babylonian captivity.  Long prophesied by the prophets, the burning of the Temple, ruin of the palaces, destruction of Jerusalem, and the people being led away captive to Babylon for seventy years were fulfilled (36:1-24).

Today’s scripture reading concludes with a reminder:  God is sovereign and the most powerful monarch bows to His will.

2 Chronicles 36:22-23 – “ 22  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 23  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Called to Be Holy

Monday, November 6, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 10-12

Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure continues in today’s scripture reading, Deuteronomy 10-12.

deut-10-12.jpgLest the people believe God chose Israel because they were more righteous than the heathen nations, Deuteronomy 9 concludes with Moses reminding the people how the previous generation sinned against the LORD while he was receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.  Provoked by the wickedness of the people, Moses had cast the LORD’s Commandments to the ground (Deuteronomy 9:17) and prayed for God to not utterly destroy the nation (9:18-29).

Moses continues in Deuteronomy 10 reminding the people how the LORD showed mercy to Israel following the people’s idolatry and directed him to prepare two tables of stone on which the Ten Commandments would be written a second time (10:1-5).  The first four of the Ten Commandments establishing man’s relationship with God (Exodus 20:1-11); the sixth through the tenth commandments man’s relationship with his fellow-man (Exodus 20:12-17).

Breaking the first tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, Moses demonstrated that Israel broke the nation’s covenant with the LORD and, apart from His mercy and grace, deserved God’s judgment.  As a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness, God commanded Moses, “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. 2  And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark” (10:1-2).

The generation Moses addressed in Deuteronomy 10 were the children of those who disobeyed God, refused to enter the Promise Land, and died in the wilderness.  With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, Moses was the last of that generation and the LORD had determined he would not be allowed to enter the land with Israel.  With the urgency of a father who loves his children and knows his opportunity to teach and guide them is waning, Moses challenged the people to obey the LORD with five imperatives (10:12-13).

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 – “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13  To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

Moses then rehearsed the character of Israel’s God  (10:14-22).

The God of Israel is Creator and “the heaven of heavens…and the earth also, with all that therein is” is the LORD’S (10:14).   He is “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible [i.e. to be feared]”.  He is Just and “regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18  He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow [those who are weak and unable to defend themselves].”

The exhortation for Israel to love the LORD and keep His commandments continues in Deuteronomy 11 as Moses reminds the people of God’s past mercies; how He delivered the nation out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness (11:1-7).

Exhorting the people to obey the LORD’S commandments and keep His statutes (11:8), Moses rehearsed God’s promise to “give unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey” (11:9).  Reminding them  the promise of God’s blessings was conditional (11:10-17), he challenged them to keep the commandments and the LORD will send rain (11:10-15); “serve other gods…And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you…that there be no rain” (11:16-17).  Moses warned, “27  A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28  And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God” (11:27-28a).

Moses reminded Israel they were chosen by God and called to be a holy nation.  When they possessed the land they were to “observe to do all the statutes and judgments” which the LORD commanded them (11:31-32).

Is there a lesson for 21st century believers to take from God’s covenant with Israel and Moses’ challenge for the people to obey His commandments?

Absolutely!  To their credit, many Bible fundamental pulpits have a renewed compulsion to trumpet the “Gospel”, however, I am afraid the clarion warning of God’s judgment is falling silent.  Preachers and evangelists of this present generation herald God’s Grace and the believer’s Liberty in Christ, but neglect to remind the saints the same God Who is Loving and Merciful is also Holy and Just!

Believers are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9); however, that does not mean the LORD allows a believer to choose a middle ground between worldliness and holiness.  As Israel was to be a holy nation and obey the LORD’S commandments (Deuteronomy 12); believers are commanded to be “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).

1 Peter 1:14-16 – “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Who are the “chosen”? Who are the “elect”? Who then can be “saved”?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Peter 1-3

For those following our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year schedule, today’s scripture reading brings us to the 1st Epistle of Peter, chapters 1-3.  The task before me is an impossible one…to sum up in one devotional commentary a passage of scripture that consumed twenty weeks of study when I preached a sermon series in this epistle in 2014.  For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the opening salutation of 1 Peter.

Peter’s first epistle is one of encouragement and exhortation to 1st century Christians experiencing the first wave of persecution.  Rome ruled the known world and the infamous Nero was emperor.  The Illustrated Bible Dictionary describes the reign of Nero as follows:

“[Nero] became emperor of Rome when he was about seventeen years of age (A.D. 54), and soon began to exhibit the character of a cruel tyrant… In May A.D. 64, a terrible [fire] broke out in Rome, which raged for six days and seven nights, and [destroying] a great part of the city. The guilt of this fire was attached to [Nero] at the time, and the general verdict of history accuses him of the crime.

Tacitus, a Roman Senator and historian writes (Annals, xv. 44)] “Hence, to suppress the rumour…[Nero] falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians…in their deaths they were also made the subjects of sport; for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and, when day declined, burned to serve for nocturnal lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle…”

Among those who died during Nero’s assault on the church were the apostles Paul and Peter.  Peter identifies himself as the author and greets the intended recipients of his letter In the opening verses (1:1-2).

1 Peter 1:1-2 – “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers [sojourners; exiles] scattered [dispersed] throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia [the regions of Asia Minor/ modern Turkey],
2  Elect [favored, chosen before the foundation of the world] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father [saved in accord with God’s foreknowledge, who by divine influence, embraced Christ as Savior], through sanctification [rendered holy, consecrated, separated] of the Spirit, unto obedience [incomplete submission] and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace [favor, acceptance, goodwill] unto you, and peace, be multiplied [increased, spread].”

Let us note first of all the author: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:1a).  What a testimony of saving grace and the LORD’s favor!  Peter, a fisherman (Mark 1:16-20), brother of Andrew, not only a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ, but an apostle!  Peter, the disciple who thrice denied Jesus the night He was betrayed.  Faithful Peter, his life a testimony of forgiveness and restoration; a natural leader privileged to be named in Christ’s inner circle (Mt. 17:1-2; Mk. 5:37, 9:2, 14:23).

Writing to “the strangers [sojourners; exiles] scattered [dispersed] throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1).  Peter is an elderly man, a beloved apostle; a seasoned veteran of suffering and persecution.  The recipients of his letter were not strangers to Peter, but “strangers”, aliens, foreigners to this world (1:1).  Scattered by persecution, rejected by their family, friends, and neighbors; driven from their homes…they were sojourners…people without a home or country in this world.

The recipients of Peter’s letter were not only “strangers”, they were also “saved”… “Elect”, literally “chosen by God” (1:2a). 

The doctrine of “election” is one of the most hotly debated doctrines in churches and seminaries.  Borrowing a definition of Election from Augustus H. Strong’s Systematic Theology, we read:

“Election is that eternal act of God, by which in His sovereign pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, He chooses certain out of the number of sinful men to be the recipients of the special grace of His Spirit, and so to be made voluntary partakers of Christ’s salvation.” [Augustus H. Strong; Systematic Theology (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1907) p. 779.]

There is no doubt the Scriptures set forth the doctrine of Election; however, the debate centers around the extent of its application. 

God has chosen, according to His foreknowledge, those who would be the objects of His saving grace through faith in the sacrificial offering of Christ for sin.  The apostle Paul described “election” in Ephesians 1:4 in these words:

Ephesians 1:4 – “According as [Even as] He hath chosen us in Him [for Himself] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy [consecrated & set apart] and without blame [above reproach] before him in love:

The believer’s salvation was part of God’s divine plan in response to man’s sin: God chose us, we did not choose Him.  Jesus taught His disciples, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained [appointed] you…” (John 15:16).

Who then are the “chosen”?  Who are the “elect”? Who then can be “saved”?

Some will no doubt take me to task on this point, but my answer is, “whosoever will”.  The elect are “whosoever will”.

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

Romans 10:13 – For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I close with a simple summary on this matter of Election by quoting the great American evangelist of the late 19th century, D. L. Moody.

When asked the question, “Who are the elect?”, Moody answered: “The whosoever wills are the elect and the whosoever won’ts are the non-elect.”

I cannot remember the source, but someone else addressed the debate over “Election” and “Free Will” in this manner:  On the door to heaven, from our side, it says, “Whosoever will may enter.  When you get on the other side of the door someday in heaven, you’re going to look back, and on that door you will find written, “Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.”  (Eph. 1:4)

My heart rejoices to close this devotional commentary with this eternal truth:

 1 John 2:2 – And He [Jesus] is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

No Such Thing as A Perfect Church or A Perfect Pastor

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 11-12

“Hypocrites in the church” is an excuse the unsaved offer as cause for rejecting Jesus Christ and the Gospel; however, it is also the defense of carnal saints who neglect assembling with believers for worship (Hebrews 10:25).  Rather than defend the assertion of hypocrisy in our midst, let us acknowledge such has been the case from the beginning of the church.

The church has never been perfect because its membership and leadership is inherently imperfect!   While disputes and contentions belied the church from its inception, so too has a spirit of humility, love and self-sacrifice bonded its members like no institution the world has ever known.  The marvel is not the perfection of the church, but that a membership so fallible might continue two thousand years after its inception!

Acts 11-12 offer us four portraits of life in the early church…contentious (Acts 11:1-18), diversified (Acts 11:19-26), charitable (Acts 11:27-30), and persecuted (Acts 12:1-19).  My focus for today’s devotional will be the first portrait…contentiousness.

We read, “when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended [argued; opposed; judged; disputed] with him” (Acts 11:2).

Learning the apostle had preached the Gospel to Gentiles who “had also received the Word of God” (Acts 11:1-2), Jewish believers (“of the circumcision”) in the Jerusalem church were waiting to contend with Peter and dispute with him concerning reports he fellowshipped and ate with “men uncircumcised” (11:3).

Peter’s response to the inquisition is a wonderful illustration of humility. He might have taken offense that he, a man called to be a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ would be questioned.  Such was not the case.  Evidencing the humility of Christ, Peter calmly rehearsed how the LORD had sovereignly instructed and providentially directed him to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the uncircumcised sinners of Joppa (Acts 11:4-17).

It is good to take note of the dynamics between Peter and the members of the early church.  While some came, not to enquire, but to argue; Peter responded with humility and truth (Acts 11:16-17).  Those men might have turned the matter into a full-blown inquisition; instead, “held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (11:18).

What a wonderful illustration of humility we see in Peter’s response and a revelation that even the apostles were not above being called into question. 

One of the great maladies of the church has been pastors who act as dictators and members who give them almost “infallible” authority.  Peter was a formidable figure in the early church and leader among the apostles; however, his response to those who were contentious is a lesson in “servant leadership”.

Peter taught the members of the Jerusalem church a truth that is central to the Gospel…salvation is not “by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).

Galatians 2:16 – Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Remember When Preachers Warned God’s Judgment Was Imminent?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Zephaniah 1-3

Our devotional reading in 2 Chronicles 29-32 (see October 31, 2017) was timely, given today’s scripture reading in the Book of Zephaniah follows chronologically my commentary on King Hezekiah’s reign in Judah.  The introductory verse of Zephaniah sets the time of this prophetic book during the reign of King Josiah, the grandson of Hezekiah.  A brief lineage of the prophet Zephaniah is given in the opening verse of this book that bears his name.

Zephaniah 1:1 – “The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.”

Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah and served as prophet to Judah during the reign of Josiah (1:1b).  Some suggest the “Hizkiah” mentioned in Zephaniah 1:1 is King Hezekiah; if so, Zephaniah was born of royal lineage.  King Josiah, like his grandfather Hezekiah, sought to lead Judah back to the LORD and perhaps it was the influence of Zephaniah that was the impetus for the king’s longing for revival.

The prophecies of Zephaniah not only warn Judah of God’s approaching judgment (1:2-2:15), but prophetically warn the day is coming when God will judge all nations.  Zephaniah declared the severity of God’s wrath in terms that left no doubt the time of judgment was imminent.  Quoting the LORD, Zephaniah prophesied:

Zephaniah 1:2-3 – “I will utterly consume all things…man and beast…fowls of the heaven, the fishes of the sea…I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.”

In spite of the prophet’s warnings and King Josiah’s effort to call the nation to repent, the revival was short-lived.   Following Josiah’s death, the people returned to idolatry and soon after the armies of Babylon plundered the land, destroying the Temple and Jerusalem, and leading the people into captivity.

The prophecies of Zephaniah, though imminent for Judah, foretold God’s judgment not only against Judah, but all nations of the world.  Having herald God’s warning of judgment against Judah, Zephaniah turned his message toward other nations, prophesying God’s judgments against the Philistines (2:4-8), Moab and Ammon (2:8-11), and Ethiopia and Assyria (2:12-15).

Judah, specifically the capital city of Jerusalem, becomes the prophet’s focus in Zephaniah 3.  The inhabitants of Jerusalem were privilege to have the Temple in their midst and priests and prophets ministering among them.  In spite of God’s grace and mercies, the citizens of Jerusalem worshipped idols and took pleasure in wickedness.

Zephaniah describes Jerusalem as “filthy and polluted” (3:1), disobedient, incorrigible [“she received not correction”] and faithless (3:2).  Her rulers like “roaring lions” (3:3), her judges like “evening wolves”, her spiritual leaders “light [reckless] and treacherous [deceivers]” (3:4) and her priests “polluted [defiled; desecrated] the sanctuary…have done violence [violated; wrong] to the law” (3:4).

Lest some say the LORD is unjust, Zephaniah testifies, “The just LORD is in the midst…every morning doth He bring His judgment to light” (3:5).

Having prophesied God’s judgment of Judah and the nations, Zephaniah foretells God would one day gather the nations of the world for a universal judgment… “all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy” (3:8).

Zephaniah concludes with a prophecy yet to be fulfilled, promising the LORD will one day gather Israel, restore His people to their land, and dwell in the midst (3:14-20).

On a personal note, when I was a young believer I often heard preachers heralding the prophecies of God’s final judgment on the nations and humanity.  Knowing the wickedness and violent straits of today’s world, I am surprise the pulpits of Gospel preaching churches have grown silent regarding the wrath and final judgment of God.  [Perhaps the word “surprise” is an overstatement since sissy preachers hardly have the stomach or the courage to preach against sin, let along a lukewarm congregation tolerate preaching on God’s judgment.]

To the church of Laodicea, which I believe is the church of the last days, the LORD commanded the apostle John to write…

Revelation 3:15-16 “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

I am afraid a “lukewarm” generation is filling the pulpits and occupying the pews of churches and schools that were once leaders of Bible fundamentalism, but have become “neither cold nor hot…[and are] rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:15-16).

We need a generation of preachers who have the zeal, courage and devotion to call believers to repent and warn the nations of the earth the judgment of God is imminent!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

An Answer to the Irrelevancy of the 21st Century Church

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 125-127

Psalms 125-127 continues a section of songs in the Book of Psalms known as “A Song of Degrees”.  As a reminder, though there is some debate regarding the word “degrees”, many suggest pilgrims sang this collection of psalms as they ascended to Jerusalem and the Temple for a feast day.  The mention of Mount Zion in Psalms 125 and 126 support that theory.

We live in a sin-cursed, fallen world where the wicked often seem advantaged in the course of our journey; however, Psalm 125 exhorts us to put our faith in the LORD for our life and fate is in His hands.  Unlike the challenges of this vacillating, ever-changing world, the saints who “trust in the LORD” are stable (125:1), not moved by fear or given to flight.

Built upon the mountains of Zion, Jerusalem provided the people of that city a natural, fortified protection from their enemies.  Sitting upon the mount, Jerusalem was an impressive site from a distance and the deep ravines that cut through the mount were formidable.  As the mountains of Zion provided safety and security to Jerusalem, the LORD provides the same to His people whose trust is in Him.

Psalm 126 records the joy of the Jews as they returned from Babylonian captivity to Mount Zion.  For the Jews, it was a long-awaited prophecy fulfilled, a dream come true for the nation (126:1).   The people returned with their mouths “filled with laughter” and their tongues “with singing” (126:2a).

The heathen of the land marveled that Israel, after nearly seventy years in exile, was returning to her land (126:2) and testified, “The LORD hath done great things for them” (126:2b).  The Jews echoed the same saying, “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (126:3).

Returning to the land after captivity was fraught with challenges for the Jews.  Jerusalem was in ruins; heathen people took possession of their lands and houses in their absence and, after seven decades, thorns and thistles had reclaimed the land.  The people faced the challenge of rebuilding their cities and walls and the hardship of clearing the land; however, the law of nature promised, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (126:5).

Having the privilege of growing up on a small farm, I remember well clearing the land of rocks, pulling up briars and weeds, and breaking the ground in anticipation of planting seed.  As a child, I did not appreciate the labor and hardships necessary to plant seed; however, I enjoyed the fruit (i.e. vegetables) of my labor…sweet corn, green beans, yellow squash, juicy tomatoes, and cucumbers!

The principle for “sowing and reaping” is applicable to our spiritual lives (126:6). 

While the farmer’s plow clears the land of briars and thorns, the toil of reading, studying and meditating in God’s Word pulls up briars of worldliness and clears thistles of lusts from our hearts, preparing our souls for precious truths and sowing in our hearts principles that strengthen our character, shape our thoughts and mature us.

Psalm 126:5-6 gives us a principle that is applicable to sharing the Gospel and the work of the Great Commission.   We are promised, tears precede joy (126:5) and sowing “precious seed” promises a harvest of fruit (126:6).

Were there more tears and toil on our part in sharing the Gospel, would there not be more reason for rejoicing?  Were we to show more compassion for lost souls and hurting hearts, would we not have greater cause for joy?

I am afraid the majority of believers are cocooned in selfish pursuits and content to toil away their time, talents and life isolated from hurting hearts and lost souls.  No wonder the 21st century church finds itself irrelevant; we are entertaining the masses or huddled in our Bible studies, to the neglect of going forth weeping for lost souls and “bearing precious seed” (126:6)!

Galatians 6:7-9 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith