Category Archives: Hillsdale Baptist Church

The Fury and Death of Herod, Enemy of God (Acts 12; Acts 13)

Scripture reading – Acts 12; Acts 13

Acts 12 begins with the phrase, “about that time,” and gives us cause to consider “the time” that was the setting for today’s devotional. Putting our Scripture reading in its historical context, it was “the time” that followed Peter learning the Gospel was to be preached to all men, Jew and Gentile (Acts 10:1-48). Peter had given a defense of his doctrine before the believers of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18), and they “glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (11:18).

The church in Jerusalem commissioned and “sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch” (11:22). The work was so great that Barnabas determined to travel to Tarsus, and invite Saul to minister with him in Antioch (11:25-26). It was also at the time when a believer named Agabus prophesied the world would experience a “great dearth” (a time of famine, 11:28). Exercising love and compassion for their brethren in Jerusalem, the believers in Antioch “determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea,” and “every man [gave] according to his ability” (11:29). Barnabas and Saul were sent with an offering for believers in Jerusalem (11:30).

Acts 12

Perhaps for political reasons, and to distract the people from the famine, king Herod (the grandson of Herod the Great), began a systematic pattern of persecuting the church. The king “killed James the brother of John with the sword” (making him the first of the apostles to be martyred, 12:2). When he realized his actions “pleased the Jews” (12:3), he determined “to take Peter” and would have put him to death had God not intervened (12:3-4).

With Peter in prison, the believers of the church began to pray “without ceasing” (12:5). While they prayed, “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison” (12:6). What faith, and confidence Peter had in God’s care and providences. Then, God miraculously intervened, and sent an angel who struck Peter in his side to awaken him, and commanded him, “Arise up quickly” (12:7). So deep was his sleep, the angel instructed him to put on his shoes and his garments. Even then, Peter believed it wasn’t so, and he was having a vision (12:8-9).

Peter was delivered from the prison by the angel, and then made his way through the streets to where believers were gathered to pray at the home of Mary, whose son was named “John, whose surname was Mark” (12:12). (This is the same John Mark who would be the author of the Gospel of Mark).

Arriving at the house, Peter knocked and a young lady named Rhoda, answered the door (12:13). Hearing and recognizing his voice, Rhoda was so excited she neglected opening the door for Peter to enter the house (12:14). She told the believers Peter was outside the gate, but they accused her of being “mad” (literally out of her head or mind, 12:14). Some suggested she had seen Peter’s angel, though Peter continued to knock (12:16).

Finally opening the door, the believers rejoiced to find Peter standing before them! (12:16) He quieted their enthusiasm, and explained how he had been delivered from the prison (12:17). He then instructed them to send a message to “James, and to the brethren” (this is probably James, the half-brother of Jesus, and the son of Joseph and Mary, 12:17b). By this time, James appears to be the leader of the believers in the church in Jerusalem. Wisely, Peter departed from Jerusalem, “and went into another place” (12:17c).

Herod’s Fury and Death (12:18-23)

When it was day, the soldiers and keepers of the prison discovered Peter was missing (12:18). Those who slept in his cell, and those who stood guard at the door of the prison, had no explanation for Peter’s absence (12:19). Herod then ordered the execution of those men who failed to keep Peter prisoner (12:19).

The king then departed for Caesarea (a city on the Mediterranean Sea), and remained there (12:19b). Proud of his position and power, the king set a day of pageantry for himself, and “arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them” (12:21). The people flattered the foolish king, “saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man” (12:22). Herod accepted their blasphemy, and even as they praised him, an “angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (12:23). Imagine the horror of seeing the king struck down, and worms consuming him till he was dead! (12:23).

Closing thoughts (12:24-25) – While the persecution of believers increased, so did the reach of the “Word of God,” which increased more and more (12:24). Acts 12 concluded with Barnabas and Saul departing Jerusalem and returning to Antioch, and this time in the company of “John, whose surname was Mark” (12:12, 25).

Though today’s Scripture reading continues with Acts 13, and the historical record of the beginning of modern missions, I must leave that study for another time.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Only Solution to Racial Prejudices (Acts 10; Acts 11)

Scripture reading – Acts 10; Acts 11

We are continuing our study of the Acts of the Apostles with today’s Scripture reading, Acts 10 and 11. What exciting times those were following the ascension of Christ (Acts 1), and the coming and baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The powerful, unapologetic preaching of the Gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, 3:12-22)) spawned a movement that saw thousands trust Christ as Savior, be baptized and added to the church (2:41).

Yet, that same message of hope enflamed a conviction among the enemies of Christ, who determined to silence the preaching with threats and persecution (Acts 4-5). While persecution brought sorrow and physical suffering, it was the martyrdom of Stephen that was the catalyst for believers at Jerusalem to be “scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria” (8:1). Saul, the great persecutor of believers, was the instrument God used to thrust believers out of Jerusalem, preaching Christ wherever they went (8:3-4). Of course, Saul’s salvation and transformation (Acts 9) became a powerful testimony of the Gospel to believers and the unsaved. Those with whom Saul once consulted in his persecution of believers, then “took counsel to kill him” (9:23).

Acts 10

A Centurion Named Cornelius (10:1-8)

Acts 10 opened a new era in God’s redemptive plan, as a “man in Caesarea called Cornelius” (10:1) received a vision from God (10:3). Who was Cornelius? He was a Roman soldier, a centurion, an officer over 100 soldiers (10:1). Though a Gentile by birth, Cornelius had come to believe and “feared God with all his house” (10:2). He was “a devout man” who cared for the poor, and “prayed to God always” (10:2).

To Cornelius, a man of faith, God gave a vision of an angel who affirmed the Lord had not only seen his good works, but heard his prayers (10:4). The angel commanded Cornelius to send men to Joppa (modern Tel-Aviv), where they were to go to the house of “Simon, a tanner,” and find Peter (10:5-6). He was assured Peter would tell him “what thou oughtest to do” (10:6). Obeying the angelic messenger, Cornelius sent two servants and a “devout soldier” to Joppa (10:8).

God Prepares Peter’s Heart (10:9-23)

Unbeknownst to Cornelius, God was preparing Peter’s heart with a vision that forever changed not only his heart, but also the preaching of the Gospel. We find Peter praying on the housetop about the noon hour (10:9), and as he became hungry, he witnessed heaven open and a “great sheet” being lowered on which there “were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” (10:12). Then, the Lord spoke and commanded him, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat” (10:13). But Peter answered, saying, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (10:14). The Lord spoke again, and then a third time, saying, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (10:15-16).

Providentially, as Peter wondered what the vision meant, the men sent by Cornelius arrived at the house where he was staying. Standing at the gate of the house, they “asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there” (10:18). Peter, not knowing men were at the gate, was commanded by the Spirit, “Behold, three men seek thee. 20Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them” (10:19-20).

Peter went down from the housetop as he was told, and found three men waiting as he had been told. Remember, though he knew he was commanded to go with the men, he did not know they were Gentiles until he saw one of the three was a soldier of Rome. They introduced themselves as men sent by Cornelius, a centurion whose testimony was great “among all the nation of the Jews” (10:21-22). No doubt taking a lesson from his vision of the unclean animals on the sheet, Peter invited the three men to lodge with him that night, promising “on the morrow” he would accompany them to Joppa (10:23).

Cornelius’ Preparation (10:23-33)

The next day, Peter and six other Jewish witnesses traveled to Caesarea, and came to Cornelius’ home where he waited with “kinsmen and near friends” he had called to hear Peter (10:23-24). Even “as Peter was coming in [into the house], Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him” (10:25). Peter, evidencing humility, said to him, “Stand up; I myself also am a man” (10:26). Peter, reflecting on his vision of the unclean beasts and the command, “kill and eat” (10:13, 28), understood the interpretation of the vision and said, “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (10:28).

Cornelius shared the vision he had received, and the command for him to send for Peter (10:30-33). In a wonderful testimony to the working of God’s Spirit, Cornelius humbly confessed, “we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God” (10:33).

The Breadth and Power of the Gospel Message (10:34-43)

Peter began to teach the Gentiles who had gathered in Cornelius’ house, and confessed, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (10:34-35). Declaring Jesus Christ “is Lord of all,” Peter realized the Gospel was not for Jews only, but was a message for all sinners, Jew and Gentile (10:36). He reminded his audience how Christ’s coming was first published among the Jews by the “baptism which John preached” (10:37), and the ministry of “Jesus of Nazareth” was manifested by good works (10:38).

Peter’s message reached its pinnacle when he declared he was a witness “of all things which [Christ] did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: 40Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly” (10:39-40). Confirming Christ’s bodily resurrection, Peter declared he “did eat and drink with [Jesus] after He rose from the dead” (10:41). Even the prophets were witnesses of those things, “that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (10:43; Isaiah 53:11; Jeremiah 31:34; Zechariah 13:1).

The Salvation and Baptism of Cornelius’ Household (10:44-48)

As Peter concluded his message, the Holy Ghost fell upon Cornelius and his household, for they had not only heard his words, but believed (10:44). The Jewish witnesses with Peter were astonished, as Gentiles began to manifest the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, speaking with tongues and glorifying God (10:46). Peter then, commanded Cornelius and his household “to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (10:48). The hunger for truth was so great, the young believers begged Peter to stay with them for several days (10:48b).

Closing thoughts – Take time to read Acts 11, and consider Peter’s glowing defense and declaration that salvation had come also to the Gentiles (11:1-18). Acts 11:22 gives us the record of the first missionary sent out by the church, and once again it is Barnabas who was chosen (Acts 4:36; 11:22-25).

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Amazing Grace: From Saul the Persecutor, to Paul the Preacher (Acts 9)

Scripture reading – Acts 9

Our previous devotional concluded with Stephen being martyred for Christ (Acts 7:54-60). Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, records those who participated in the stoning “laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul” (7:58). We next read, “Saul was consenting [approving] unto his death” (Acts 8:1). Yet, the persecution of believers had the effect of not only seeing them “scattered abroad” (8:4), but also “preaching the word” everywhere they went (8:4).

Coming to Acts 9, we find “Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, [and going] unto the high priest” (9:1). Under the deluded pretense he was serving God, Saul requested letters of authority to go to Damascus synagogues, and arrest men or women who identified with “this way” (9:2).  (The “way” being the name of any who identified Jesus Christ as the Messiah.) Driven by a religious zeal contrary to the Law and Commandments (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:16), Saul planned to drag followers of Christ out of the synagogues of Damascus, and take them bound by ropes and chains to Jerusalem, a journey of 175 miles.

As Saul “came near Damascus” (9:3), he encountered a light from heaven” (9:3). Blinded by the light (9:8), he fell to the earth “and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (9:4a). With humility, Saul answered, “Who art thou, Lord?” Then Jesus revealed Himself to Saul by name, and identified his persecution of believers as an offense against Himself.

“The Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (9:5b). Like an ox that is goaded with a long stick to prod it to obey its master, Saul had foolishly been goading God. “Trembling and astonished [amazed]” (9:6), he realized he had been persecuting the Son of God. Blind and shaken, Saul surrendered his will to God, and acknowledged Christ as Lord, saying, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”(9:6a).

Unable to see, Saul was guided to Damascus by the very men he had chosen to persecute the followers of Christ. Though rendered “speechless” (for they had heard a voice, but saw no man), they were unchanged by the experience that transformed Saul’s heart and life (9:7). Saul arrived in Damascus; with the Lord’s promise he would be told what he must do (9:6c). For three days, the great persecutor of believers found himself blind, and with no appetite for food or drink (9:9).

While Saul waited, the Lord moved on the heart of Ananias, a devout man, and a follower of Christ (9:10). He learned the LORD had chosen him to restore Saul’s sight. He resisted the LORD, for he knew Saul’s reputation, and the path of death and destruction he had blazed. Ananias prayed, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name” (9:13-14). Then, the Lord revealed to Ananias how Saul was “a chosen vessel” and would bear Christ’s name “before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (9:15). As he had persecuted believers, Saul would himself become an object of persecution, for the Lord would reveal to “him how great things he must suffer for [His] name’s sake” (9:16).

Ananias obeyed the Lord, “and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized” (9:17-18).

Closing thoughts – Because he was a Pharisee and trained in rabbinical schools, Saul had extensive knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures. With not only his physical eyes restored, but his spiritual eyes open, he believed and began to preach Christ “is the Son of God” (9:20). The Jews of his day were amazed at the transformation in Saul’s life.

The transformation in Saul’s life was nothing short of radical. He had been transformed from the great persecutor of the followers of Christ, to a faithful apostle and preacher. What a testimony of saving, transforming grace! No wonder Paul would later write, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Be Strong in the LORD and Bold in Your Witness! (Acts 7; Acts 8)

Scripture reading – Acts 7; Acts 8

Recorded in Acts 7 and 8 are two of the great pivotal points in the maturing of the early church: The death of Stephen, the first martyr of the church (Acts 7); and the conversion of Saul the great persecutor of the church (Acts 8).

We first met Stephen in Acts 6 when he was named among the seven men chosen to assist the apostles in the rapidly growing congregation. Though there is some debate, I believe the seven were the first Deacons, one of only two Biblical offices in the New Testament church, the other being the Pastor\Elder (1 Timothy 3).

The role of the seven was defined as serving tables (Acts 6:2), meaning the menial, but intimate care of the members of their assembly. Particularly noteworthy was the spiritual character that was demanded of those who would be Deacons. Those men were to be “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).

Of the seven chosen, Stephen, was specifically distinguished as a man, “full of faith and power, [who] did great wonders and miracles among the people” (6:8). His testimony and boldness in faith, spiritual wisdom, and power in the spirit made him a formidable witness among those in the synagogues (6:9-10).

As it was with Christ, so it was for Stephen; the enemies of the Gospel were determined to silence him. After arresting Stephen, evil men were employed to bring false accusations against him (6:11-13). Hurling lies against his character, those who sat in the council were amazed, for his countenance was “as it had been the face of an angel” (6:15).

Having heard the charges of his accusers, Stephen was asked by the high priest, “Are these things so?” (7:1).

Stephen’s defense reflected a breadth and depth of knowledge in the Old Testament Scriptures, that made his argument before the council powerful and convicting (7:2-53). He systematically set forth a historical case for Christ beginning with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon (7:2-50). Concluding his defense, Stephen fearlessly rebuked the council, exposed their hypocrisy, and charged them and their fathers with the deaths of the prophets (7:51-53).

Rather than answer Stephen’s indictment, the lawless members of the council broke their laws, and without an answer or passing judgment, stoned him to death (7:54-58).

The religious hypocrites were guilty. They were guilty of the blood of the prophets, and having already rejected Jesus Christ, they added to their condemnation the blood of Stephen. There was, however, one exception in that crowd of mockers: “the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul”(7:58). Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the church, would soon come face to face with the reality of a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

Closing thought – I trust Stephen’s knowledge of the Scriptures, and his courageous example will stir your heart to study the Old and New Testament Scriptures, and embolden your faith to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Join me for tonight’s final “Uncommon, Common Sense” lesson from Proverbs 31

You are invited to join me for tonight’s final lesson from the Book of Proverbs.

This verse-by-verse, proverb-by-proverb study began in 2020 (of course, with many interruptions along the way). To my knowledge, it is a “one of a kind” study that is “Uncommon, Common Sense.”

Tonight’s study will be taken from Proverbs 31:13-31, and the subject is The Virtuous Woman. The class will begin at 6:30pm, and be broadcast live on www.DailyTestify.com and www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

In the near future, I hope to publish this study of Proverbs in a format that will be a useful  resource for personal and family devotions, and group Bible studies.

See you tonight at 6:30!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Rejoicing in Suffering and Persecution (Acts 5; Acts 6)

Scripture reading – Acts 5; Acts 6

Our Scripture reading in the “Acts of the Apostles” continues with today’s study, Acts 5 and 6. Acts 4 chronicled the early stirrings of persecution against followers of Christ, and concluded with a testimony of love, unity, and selfless, sacrificial giving among the believers (4:32-35). One prominent example of generosity was displayed by Barnabas, a Levite of Cyprus, and a wealthy man. We read concerning Barnabas, he, “having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (4:37). (This is the same Barnabas who will be Paul’s fellow missionary.) Our devotional is taken from Acts 5.

Acts 5

There was a man in the Jerusalem congregation named Ananias, whose wife was Sapphira. Perhaps not to be outdone by Barnabas and others, it appears Ananias and Sapphira vowed to sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the apostles. Tragically, they determined to portray they were giving all the earnings from the sale, and deceive other believers. Peter, though, discerned the disingenuousness of Ananias, and asked the man, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” (5:3)

Ananias did not deny the deception, and Peter continued, “4Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (5:4). God’s judgment was swift, and when “Ananias [heard those] words [he] fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things” (5:5). We are not told the physical cause of his death, but the spiritual cause was that he lied to the Holy Ghost (5:3).

Three hours past, and unknowingly Sapphira, now the widow of Ananias, entered the meeting. Sadly, it was apparent she was complicit in her husband’s sin (5:7-8), and Peter asked her, “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out” (5:9). Because her sin was public, so was Peter’s judgment, who publicly denounced her sin, and Sapphira fell dead (5:10).

The effect on the congregation concerning the consequences of lying to the Holy Ghost, was immediate and understandable. We read, “great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things” (5:11).

The balance of Acts 5 chronicled a single-hearted, vibrant growing body of believers (5:12-15). Yet, the blessing of the Spirit on the congregation was also accompanied by a growing persecution (5:17-27). Once again, the apostles were arrested, brought before the Sanhedrin, and questioned by the high priest (5:27). Stirred with indignation, the high priest asked, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (5:28).

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men!” (5:29) What a great model of courage, faith, and fortitude! Fearless and faithful, the apostles condemned those religious hypocrites, and ascribed to them the slaying of Jesus, and declared: “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (5:31-32).

Closing thoughts (5:33-41) – What was the effect of that bold, unapologetic confrontation with the men who were guilty of the blood of Christ?

We read, “they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them” (5:33). They were convicted, but rather than humility, they were infuriated and renewed their determination to add to their guilt the blood of the apostles. There was no reasoning with calloused-hearted, wicked men of Jerusalem. They were murderers, and the spirit of murder was in their heart (John 8:44). Confronted by a message of truth that was powerful and unapologetic, they were incensed, and beat the apostles, warning them “they should not speak in the name of Jesus” (5:40).

How did the apostles respond? “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (5:41-42).

Lesson – If you find yourself suffering for your faith in Christ, remember to rejoice that God has chosen you to suffer for His name (5:41).

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

We Will Obey God! (Acts 4)

Scripture reading – Acts 4

Our chronological study of the Scriptures is taking us through the first days and months of the early church following Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1). Christ’s final words to His apostles (literally, His messengers) comprised a promise, command, and the scope of their mission: “But ye shall receive power [might; strength], after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses [more than messengers; literally, martyrs] unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). With that command, known by believers as “The Great Commission,” Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9)

It was on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days following the Passover, when the promise of the Holy Ghost’s coming was fulfilled (Acts 2). The filling of the Holy Ghost empowered the men from Galilee to “speak with other tongues [languages], as the Spirit gave them utterance” (2:4). Simon Peter had denied Jesus three times, but after witnessing the bodily resurrection of Christ, He was so transformed He would not be silent (2:14-21). He called upon the Jews to, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (2:37-38).

In Acts 3, we find Peter and John making their way to the Temple as was their custom (3:1). Sitting in the gate of the Temple, they found a “man lame from his mother’s womb” (3:2-5). With the command, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk,” the man leaped to his feet and entered the Temple “walking, leaping, and praising God” (3:8). The miraculous healing of the man whom everyone knew as a cripple, gave Peter an opportunity to confront those who were guilty of denying Christ, and demanding He be put to death (3:12-15). While none denied their guilt, Peter revealed Christ’s suffering and death were necessary that the prophecies be fulfilled (3:17-22).

Acts 4

The miraculous healing of the lame man (Acts 3), became the catalyst for stirring opposition to the apostles preaching the Gospel (Acts 3:2; 4:22). As Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were suddenly confronted by “the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees” (4:1).  Those men, all adversaries of Jesus and guilty of His blood, were stirred to indignation, knowing Peter and John “preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (4:2). (Remember, the Sadducees taught there was no resurrection.)

Because it was late in the day, the religious leaders decided to arrest Peter and John, and hold them in prison for the night as they debated what they would do with them (4:3). In spite of the abuse, and opposition to the Gospel, we read “many of them which heard the word [the Gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection] believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (4:4).

The Interrogation (Acts 4:7-16)

The next day, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin to be tried by the same men who not long before presided over Christ’s trial, and demanded His crucifixion (4:5-7). The apostles were asked, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” (4:7). Rather than fear and cower before Christ’s enemies, Peter and John were bold, and being “filled with the Holy Ghost” (4:8), declared their authority and power to heal the “impotent man” was done “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole” (4:10).

What a powerful moment in the Scriptures! Peter not only declared the power and authority Jesus promised they would be given, he dared to confront the wickedness and sin of those who crucified Him (4:10). Peter’s faith evoked boldness and courage (4:9-11). He did not shy from identifying Christ as the source of his power to heal the lame man. He leveled against his enemies the weight of their guilt in crucifying “Jesus Christ of Nazareth… whom God raised from the dead” (4:10).

Then Peter, revealing an aptitude for the Scriptures exceeding a mere fisherman of Galilee, quoted a messianic prophecy from the Psalms: “22The stone which the builders refused Is become the head stone of the corner” (Psalm 118:22). With fortitude, Peter declared, Jesus “is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner” (4:11). Leaving no doubt forgiveness of sin is in Christ alone, Peter declared, “12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (4:12).

The religious leaders were amazed at “the boldness of Peter and John,” and marveled that “unlearned and ignorant men” (men who lacked rabbinical schooling, 4:13), would have insight and discernment into the Scriptures. What could explain their wisdom? The leaders, “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (4:13).

The Intent of the Adversaries (Acts 4:16-18)

Unable to deny the miraculous healing of the man who had been lame since his birth (4:16), the Sanhedrin were pressed to agree on a solution to address Peter and John, and the spread of the Gospel (4:17). They finally determined to threaten them, and “commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (4:18).

A Righteous Response to An Enemy of the Gospel (4:19-21)

Unwilling to be silenced by threats and intimidation, Peter and John answered their interrogators saying, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (4:19-20).

Closing thoughts (4:21-32) – God is the Judge of right and wrong, and His authority exceeds all human authority. Because Christ had commissioned, and empowered Peter and John to preach (1:8), they would not, and could not be silent. Rather than silencing them, Peter and John’s faith propelled many believers to glorify “God for that which was done” (4:21).

When Peter and John reported what had been said to them by “the chief priests and elders,” other believers “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (4:23-24). They prayed, acknowledging the LORD as Creator and Sovereign. They trusted Him, and prayed, “do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (4:28).

Acknowledging the threats of their enemies, they prayed God would give them boldness to speak (4:29). As they prayed, the LORD confirmed His blessing, shaking the foundations of the place, and filling them with the Holy Ghost so that “they spake the word of God with boldness” (4:31).

Let us be so filled, and given over to the Holy Ghost, that we will speak with boldness even when men might seek to silence us.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Turn Your Sickness or Trial Into a Backdrop for God to Display His Glory (Acts 3)

Scripture reading – Acts 2; Acts 3

Attitudes toward the physically handicapped have evolved over the years, as has our vocabulary to define them.  The words crippled, lame and physically challenged evoke mental pictures of men and women who overcome extraordinary obstacles to live productive lives.  Fortunately, 21st century society has accommodated the infirmed and given them opportunities of independence never dreamed of only a century ago.

Accommodating favor has not been the case throughout history. From first century culture and throughout successive generations, those with maladies and deformities were looked upon negatively by every generation. In the first century a physical handicap was often seen as a judgment from God, and the Greeks considered the sick inferior. So when we come to the passage in John 9:1-3, we see the disciples questioning Jesus regarding a man “blind from his birth.” They asked Jesus, “who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1-3).

The subject of our reading in Acts 3 had no doubt experienced the self-righteous judgment of many who passed through the gates of the Temple.  Some pitied him, but many gave little notice and considered him scarcely more than a daily nuisance when they made their way to the Temple for worship and prayer.

Consider what we know about the man whose miraculous healing caused a great stir among the Jews and their religious leaders.

He was forty years old and “lame from his mother’s womb” (Acts 3:2; 4:23).  He had never known the joy of walking, running or playing with his peers.  He was a burden to his family, who carried him to the gate of the Temple where he begged for coins to feed himself and his family (Acts 3:2).  He was well known in Jerusalem. Begging daily at the gate of the Temple (Acts 3:9-10), he was an object of charity for some and scorn for others who wondered out loud if his malady was not caused by sin.

There is much we might consider in this man’s healing and the events that followed it; however, let us ponder one question and some principles we can derive from it.:

Why was he born a cripple and what good did his life serve?

God allows afflictions in our lives as opportunities for His power and glory to be displayed.  Job said of his afflictions, “[the LORD] knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).  For some, the will and glory of God are accomplished through healing; for others, sickness, suffering and even death.

The miraculous healing of the man who was a paralytic from birth gave undeniable proof of God’s power and anointing on Peter and John’s lives and ministry (Acts 3:6-7; 4:14-16). Seeing a man whose paralysis had made him an object of pity or scorn for forty years suddenly walking, leaping and praising God filled the people “with wonder and amazement” (Acts 3:10).   They were dumbfounded, stupefied, astonished and “all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.” (3:11).

Closing thoughts (3:11-19) – First, consider the powerful testimony of loving compassion.  Peter and John lacked “silver and gold;” however, they gave what they could and declared, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (3:6).

Notice also the powerful testimony of sincere gratitude: “And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John…” (3:11).  The man who was healed “held” to Peter and John…meaning he clung to them, held fast with all his might.  They might have slipped away unnoticed, however, the man would not release them from his grip!

The backdrop of loving compassion and sincere gratitude opened an opportunity for Peter and John to deflect attention from themselves, and put the focus of the miracle where it belonged…Jesus Christ. We read, “[Peter]answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? 13The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go” (3:12-13).

Peter used the opportunity to glorify God and declare Jesus Christ holy, just, crucified and raised from the dead (3:13-15).  Enumerating their sins, Peter declared the Jews guilty, and called them to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ (3:13, 19).

Challenge – When you are tempted to complain about some infirmities, sickness, or sorrows, take time to pray, and ponder how God might use them as a testimony of His grace and for His glory.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Are you ready for Christ’s coming? It may be today! (Acts 1)

Scripture reading – Acts 1

The “Book of Acts,” also known as the “The Acts of the Apostles,” is a pivotal book in the New Testament. The book is, as its name implies, a record of the actions and activities of the Apostles following Christ’s bodily resurrection.

 Jesus appeared to His followers on at least ten separate occasions following His resurrection from the dead.

He first appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18; Mark 16:9), and other women who came and found His tomb empty (Matthew 28:8-10).  He then appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; I Corinthians 15:5), and later to two followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). He then appeared to ten of the disciples, less Thomas who was not present (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-29).  Eight days later, He appeared in the midst of the eleven disciples, and Thomas was present (John 20:24-29). Jesus also appeared to seven of His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, which was known to the Jews as the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23).

In his epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul chronicled Jesus’ appearance to five hundred followers at one time, and then to James (I Corinthians 15:6-7). Lastly, before He ascended to heaven, Jesus appeared to His disciples, and commissioned them to “be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Observations – The literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central hope of believers (Luke 24:39-40; 41-43; Acts 1:3). Therefore, Jesus stayed with His disciples 40 days after His resurrection, and emboldened them with “many infallible proofs,” that forever changed their lives (Acts 1:3). After exhorting His disciples to “WAIT for the promise of the Father… [and] ye shall be BAPTIZED with the Holy Ghost” (1:4-5),  Jesus “was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (1:9).

Then, two angels appeared to the disciples, and assured them with a promise that has been the hope of believers for 2,000 years: “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (1:11).

Closing thoughts – The resurrection and promise of Christ’s imminent return forever changed the disciples’ perspective on their lives and ministry. They lived, ministered, and died in anticipation He would come again, and His coming would be sudden and unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

 Are you ready for His coming? It may be today!

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“Back to the Future” – Your invitation to Hillsdale’s 10:30 AM worship service.

You are invited to join Hillsdale for today’s 10:30 AM worship service. Pastor Smith is continuing his prophetic series in the Book of Daniel.

Missionary Amanda Baker (England) will be speaking to the ladies at a 9:00 AM Ladies & Teens Girl’s Breakfast.

Live broadcast is on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Smith

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith