Category Archives: Hillsdale Baptist Church

Before you post your next crisis on Facebook, will you take time to pray? (Psalm 31)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 35-36, Psalm 31, and Mark 3. Our devotional reading is from Psalm 31.

Where do you turn when circumstances seem hopeless (Psalm 31:1, 6, 14, 19)?  Where do you flee for comfort? How do you respond when enemies attack your character and friends betray you (31:8, 13, 15, 18, 20)?

I fear many believers turn to peers for counsel, rather than to the LORD and His Word.  Some vent their anxieties on social media platforms and a host of sympathies, sad faces, and praying hands follow.  Some turn to secular counselors who lack spiritual discernment and their counsel promotes the temptation to blame shift and magnify one’s “right” to be angry and bitter.

While we might find temporal relief with friends who commiserate with our struggles, often because they are themselves caught up in the same, we nevertheless miss a faith lesson opportunity to lean on the LORD and find Him a sure support.

Take a lesson from David and his example. The king writes,

Psalm 31:1 – “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust [confidence]; let me never be ashamed [confounded; confused]: deliver me in thy righteousness [justice; virtue].”

David did not reason that he merited the LORD coming to his defense; instead, he appealed to the LORD on the basis of the LORD’s “righteousness”—knowing He is holy, just, gracious and merciful. David continues,

Psalm 31:2 – “Bow down [incline; turn] thine ear to me; deliver [rescue; save] me speedily [with haste]: be thou my strong [fortress] rock [refuge], for an house of defence [fortress; castle] to save [deliver; rescue] me.”

David was confident the LORD hears and answers prayer. I sympathize with the king’s request for the LORD to not only hear his prayer, but also hasten to save him!  The LORD, however, answers prayer in His time and His answer to prayer is never too late!

Psalm 31:14-15a – “But I trusted [hoped] in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God [Elohim; Mighty God]. 15 My times [i.e. seasons and appointed times] are in thy hand [directed; i.e. in the power of]…”

All “my times” are directed by the hand of God who is sovereign, faithful and ever-present.  The good times and the bad times; times of joy and times of sorrow.  Times of strength and health and the times of sickness and death. “My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15).

Do you believe God is at the helm and you can trust Him to direct all things according to His benevolent will? (Romans 8:28-29)

Before you post your next crisis on Facebook and garner a rush of sympathies, would it not glorify God more for you to simply pray, “I trust in thee, O LORD…My times are in thy hand”.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Face to Face (Exodus 33-34)

Today’s Bible reading and devotional is Exodus 33-34.

God called Moses to go up to the Mount and gave him the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), His governing Laws (Exodus 22:22-24:8), and His assurance He would be with His chosen people when they went up to the land He had promised them for an inheritance (Exodus 23:20-33).

God also gave instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, the Ark and the altar for sacrifices (Exodus 25-27).  The Aaronic priesthood was established (Exodus 28:6-30), the robes and ornaments of the priests defined, and Aaron and his sons consecrated for the priesthood in Exodus 29:1-37; 30:22-33.

While Moses was in the mount with the LORD for forty days, in his absence the people rebelled and returned to the idolatrous ways of Egypt (Exodus 32). Angered by the sin of the people, God vowed to judge them in His wrath (Exodus 32:7-8), but Moses interceded for them (Exodus 32:9-14).   God answered Moses’ prayer and, while there would be consequences, nevertheless, the Lord did not destroy the people altogether (Exodus 32:12-34:28).

We see several principles regarding the character of God and His divine attributes in today’s reading. The LORD’s holiness and unwillingness to tolerate sin.  While the LORD kept His promise, He also contended “I will not go up in the midst of thee” (Exodus 33:3).

Moses dreaded the thought of proceeding in Israel’s journey without the LORD.  Moses pled with the LORD, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence” (Exodus 13:15). Oh that all God’s leaders were so sensitive and dependent on the LORD.

To know the manner of man Moses was, he was not satisfied only with the LORD’s presence; he prayed to the LORD, “shew me thy glory”(Exodus 33:18). God graciously replied to Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20).

So we learn no man can see God in all His unveiled, heavenly glory; however, the LORD blessed Moses with a glimpse of His glory while He sheltered him in the cleft of the rock (33:21-22).

Exodus 34 records Moses’ second ascent to the mount and into God’s presence. Once again, he abode in the presence of the LORD for forty days where he received God’s instructions in His Law and Commandments (34:1-28).

When Moses descended the mount all Israel gathered at Sinai and the people looked upon his face realizing it shone with the brightness of God’s glory (34:28-30).  So bright was the reflection of God’s glory upon Moses’ face, he wore a vail (34:31-35) among the people; however, when he entered into God’s presence he removed the vail reminding us no matter of the heart is hidden from the LORD.

Friend, while I have never seen the brightness of God’s glory reflected in the face of a believer, I have seen the radiance of godliness reflected on the face of saints who spent their lives in the presence of God.  In the words of Fanny Crosby, someday the saints will “see Him face to face, And tell the story—Saved by grace.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

God restores failures and uses imperfect people. (Mark 1-2)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 29-30, Psalm 30, and Mark 2. Our devotional is from Mark 1-2.

I have heard it said, “Bible believers are the only ones who shoot their wounded!”

If true, that is a tragic statement!   We should be compelled to forgive and restore others by the reality we have been forgiven much by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:8).

I fear many who grew up in church or have known the LORD for years forget the sinful muck out of which God saved us.  We forget the command to forgive others to the extent we have experienced forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).

Today’s Bible reading takes us to the Gospel of Mark and the ministry of John the Baptist; however, before we plunge into that study, let us take some lessons from the life of its human author, John Mark.

Who was John Mark?   Unlike the authors of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, Mark was not one of the twelve disciples.  He was a citizen of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and some believe he was the young man who fled into the night when Jesus was arrested in the Garden (Mark 14:50-52).  He was also a traveling companion of Paul and Barnabas when they set out on their first missionary journey to Antioch (Acts 13:1-5).

Mark’s journey with Paul and Barnabas came to an abrupt end when we read, “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing [going away; deserting] from them returned [turning his back] to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13).  The cause for John Mark’s sudden departure is not revealed (I speculate the hardships and threat of persecution was the cause).

John Mark reemerges in Acts 15 and his desire to travel once again with Paul and Barnabas becomes a source of conflict and division between the two (Acts 15:36-39).  We read “Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 15:37); however, Paul “thought it not good [desirable] to take [John Mark]…” (15:38).  The dispute became so great Barnabas and Paul went their separate ways (Acts 15:39-41).

That brings us to the question:  “How did John Mark go from being a man with whom Paul was unwilling to travel to the author of the Gospel of Mark?   We do not know what transpired in John Mark’s life after he departed with Barnabas; however, we know he went on to distinguish himself as one of God’s faithful servants.

It is believed Mark penned his Gospel while in Rome, leading me to ask,“What brought John Mark to Rome?”   The answer to that question is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  Paul writes, “…Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable [good; worthy] to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

When Paul viewed John Mark as a disappointment; Barnabas looked through the eyes of a Mentor and, at the risk of his friendship, lovingly restored Mark to ministry.  Perhaps it was this lesson that moved Paul’s heart when he penned:

Galatians 6:1-2– “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

As you read the Gospel of Mark, remember one of the great spiritual lessons we take from its author:  God restores failures and uses imperfect people.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Does A Casual, “Come as You Are” Style Reflect the God of the Bible? (Exodus 27-28)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 27-28, Psalm 29, and Mark 1. Our devotional is from Exodus 27-28.

Having given the people His Law and Commandments, the LORD instructed Moses to collect materials necessary to forge implements used in worship including gold, silver, bronze, spices and oils, and cloth for priestly robes.

While the Tabernacle served as the visible symbol of God’s presence in the midst of Israel’s encampment (Exodus 25:8), the “Ark”, its top known as the “Mercy Seat” and adorned with two cherubims facing one another represented the throne of God (25:17-22) and served as the central place of worship within the Tabernacle.

A beautiful veil (Exodus 26:31) divided the interior of the Tabernacle and the innermost place beyond the veil was “the holy place and the most holy” (26:33) where the Ark of the Covenant sat.  The veil of the Tabernacle symbolized the separation between man and the Mercy Seat that represented the presence of the LORD (26:34).

Aaron, the brother of Moses, and his sons were sanctified (set apart) for serving as priests to Israel (28:1).  Priestly garments are described in detail (28:2-43) and great attention was given to the robes of the priesthood.  There was meaning and purpose in every detail, from the breastplate over the priest’s heart that represented God’s judgment (28:15-30) to the bells about his robe whose sound gave witness to the movement of the priest within the Tabernacle and his acceptance in the LORD’s presence (28:31-26).

I close with an observation of a sad irony I see in the casual nature of pastors and preachers in today’s 21stcentury church.  While pastors most assuredly do not serve as priests for the New Testament Church, Christ being our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:26; 9:11), we nevertheless do bear in our demeanor and appearance a reflection of the God we worship and His person.

Surely the LORD is no less holy today than He was in Israel’s day!  “Dressing down” has become the style of those who occupy the pulpit and its influence reflects not only in the pew, but in the whole atmosphere of contemporary worship. 

Friend, if your idea of acceptable dress and demeanor for worship is shorts, sandals and a t-shirt, I am left wondering what became of the God who demanded beautiful robes, holiness and sanctification of His priests!

What is the nature of the God you worship so casually?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

An Antidote for Enslaving Fear (Psalm 27)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 23-24, Psalm 27, and Matthew 27. Our daily devotional is from Psalm 27.

Some things warrant a good healthy dose of fear.  For instance, it is good to fear and revere authority empowered to guard us against and even punish foolish, unlawful choices.  We should also fear the deadly potential of a lightning strike, the fast approach of a train at a railroad crossing, and the penalty for failing to study for an exam.

Some fears are enslaving and harmful to the soul.  The fear of failure can paralyze and hinder prudent decisions.   Fear rejection and you will retreat from friendship and relationships.  Fear criticism and you might be tempted to quit!  In the words of king Solomon, “The fear of man bringeth a snare…”(Proverbs 29:25).

Can we overcome negative, enslaving fears?  Absolutely! Let’s take some spiritual lessons from king David’s life experiences (Psalm 27:1-3).

 Psalm 27:1– “The LORD is my light and my salvation [Deliverer]; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength [fortress; refuge] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid [fear; tremble]?”

Notice three assertions concerning David’s courage and faith in contrast with fear in verse 1.  The first, “The Lord is my Light:  David’s confidence was not in human thought or philosophy; his courage arose from his conviction that the LORD Who is Jehovah, Eternal God, was the source of light to his soul (John 1:4-5, 9; 1 John 1:5).

David’s second assertion is, “The LORD…is my Salvation”; not only his guiding light, but also the One Who is able to save his soul from the curse of sin. Having declared the LORD is his light and salvation, David asks, Whom shall I fear?” 

Is anyone too big for God?  Is anyone stronger than the LORD?  Is any circumstance greater than the LORD?

David’s third assertion is, The LORD is the Strength of my life; his Rock, Fortress and Refuge! Why be afraid of mortal man if the Lord is your Protector?

Having stated the LORD is the object of his faith; David pondered God’s providences and protection in the past (27:2).

Psalm 27:2 – “When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes [hostile], came upon me to eat up [devour; consume] my flesh [body], they stumbled and fell.”

Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past, David confidently declared he would not be overcome with fear!

Psalm 27:3 – “Though an host [great company] should encamp [lay siege] against me, my heart [mind] shall not fear [tremble]: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident [trust; secure].”

Take heart believer!  The LORD is your Light, Salvation, and Refuge; cast aside your fears and affirm with David:

I will not allow fear to overcome me or the threat of the unknown rob me of my joy; have faith and confidence in God!  

In the apostle Paul’s words, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31)

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Saying, “I’m Sorry”, is Not Enough! (Exodus 21-22)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 21-22, Psalm 26, and Matthew 26. Our devotional is from Exodus 21-22.

Moving beyond the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) that are the foundation of God’s Law, we find specific applications of God’s judgment and the bases of democratic law and order in Exodus 21:1-23:19.

In matters of servitude, Exodus 21:1-11 states God’s Laws for masters, slaves, and indentured servants.  Regarding the sanctity of human life, Exodus 21:12-17 draws a distinction between murder (21:14-16), a violation of the sixth commandment (20:13), and manslaughter (taking a human life without intent).

Violating the commandment to honor one’s parents (the fifth commandment, 20:12) was such a grave offense that to curse a parent was a capital crime mandating death of a son or daughter (21:17).

In case of accidental injury, the law mandates proper compensation and punishment (Exodus 21:18-32).  Should a beast cause injury or death and the owner be proved negligent, the beast and its owner could be put to death.

The agricultural nature of ancient societies meant one’s livestock were an essential part of a man’s livelihood and the well-being of his family (21:33-36). The negligent injury or theft of oxen or sheep was a serious crime requiring compensation (22:1-4) as was damage to a man’s crops (22:5-6).  Personal responsibility and liability were important issues among God’s people and He demanded fair compensation (22:7-15).

The closing verses of Exodus 22 address other moral and societal issues including rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).

In the matter of borrowing, the law condemned “usury” (charging excessive interest) because it imposed an unnecessary hardship on the poor (22:25-27).

I close stating an important principle in the matter of personal integrity;  Saying, “I’m Sorry”, is not enough when someone has suffered loss or personal injury (22:14-15).

An illustration: A farmer borrows another man’s ox and the beast is injured or dies.  Under such circumstance the borrower is debtor to the lender and under obligation to “make it good” (22:14); in other words, repay or replace.

In summary: God’s law requires honesty and integrity. Borrow or rent another’s property or goods, you are under obligation to make whole any damages or loss suffered by the lender.

In other words,“I’m sorry” is not enough!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Timeless Commandments (Exodus 19-20)

Today’s Bible reading and devotional is Exodus 19-20.

Three months from their exodus out of Egypt, Moses and the children of Israel arrive at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) where the LORD directs His servant to instruct the people to hear His Word and keep His covenant.  Confirming His covenant with the people, the LORD promised Israel would be “a peculiar treasure…above all people” (19:5-6).

Calling “for the elders of the people”, Moses rehearsed all the LORD had commanded him (19:7) and the people affirmed they would keep the LORD’s covenant (19:8).  In preparation for establishing His covenant with Israel, the LORD directed Moses to “sanctify” the people and command they wash their clothes (19:9-15).

On the third day, the LORD made Himself known to the people by “thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud” (19:16) and the LORD “descended upon it [the mount]in fire: and the smoke ascended” (19:18) and the “trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder” (19:19).  Witnessing the power and majesty of the LORD, “all the people that was in the camp trembled” (19:16b).

Out of the thunder, lighting, sound of the trumpet, and the fire and smoke the LORD introduced Himself saying, “I am the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] thy God [Elohim], which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”(Exodus 20:2).

As part of His covenant, the LORD set forth Ten Commandments that Israel was to hear, heed and obey (20:1-17).  For the sake of brevity, I will list the Commandments of God’s covenant with Israel.

Exodus 20:3-17 – “3  Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…7  Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain…8  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy… 12  Honour thy father and thy mother…13  Thou shalt not kill. 14  Thou shalt not commit adultery. 15  Thou shalt not steal. 16  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 17  Thou shalt not covet…”

Exodus 20:22-26 instructs the people regarding worship (20:22-23), the construction and sanctity of altars (Exodus 20:24-25), and states a principle of modesty that dictated low altars as opposed to the “high altars”:  “Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon”  (Exodus 20:26).

Contrary to the casual “come as you are” brashness of the majority of 21stcentury churches, it may come as a surprise to some believers that the LORD not only instructed His people regarding sincere and holy worship, but also went to lengths in dictating their “nakedness” not become a distraction for those who worship the LORD (Exodus 20:26).

1 Peter 3:3-4 – “3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorningof plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it bethe hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornamentof a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith