Category Archives: In the News

Scripture Reading and Hurricane Relief Teams

Dear Hillsdale family and followers of Heart of a Shepherd,

My preparation for Sunday services prevent me from posting a devotional commentary today; however, I encourage you to continue in the discipline of reading and studying God’s Word.  If you are continuing our “Read-thru the Bible” in a year format, the following are the scripture reading assignments for Saturday and Sunday, September 23-24, 2017.

Saturday, September 23, 2017 – Gospel of John 19-21

Sunday, September 24, 2017 – Book of Hebrews 1-4

Follow Up On Hurricane Irma

Truckloads of Appliances: Because of the sacrificial giving of our church family and some gifts from friends of our ministry, Hillsdale is sending two truckloads of 30 or more household appliances to Marathon, FL today.  In addition to what Hillsdale has purchased locally, Famous Tate Appliances is graciously donating refrigerators, washers and dryers from their warehouse for families in the Florida Keys.

Relief Team: Many of our members lost a week of work following Hurricane Irma, making it impossible for them to take off from work another week to assist in relief efforts.  In spite of that, we hope to send a relief team to Marathon that will leave this Sunday and return Friday night.

Volunteers: If interested in joining our relief team going to Marathon, FL, please email your contact information to: Pastor Jarrrett at jjarrett@hillsdalebaptist.org or Pastor Barber at bbarber@hillsdalebaptist.org.

Continue to pray for the Houston, TX vicinity, the Florida Keys, Port Charlotte and Naples, FL and the devastated islands in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico.  Remember to pray for believers ministering to families in Mexico impacted by this past week’s earthquake.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Hawking One’s Self and Gawking at Others has become A National Pastime”

September 21, 2017

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 25

Some of my favorite proverbs are found in Proverbs 25 and as stated in verse 1, these are the proverbs of Solomon preserved by scribes of king Hezekiah’s court nearly a century after Solomon reigned as king of Israel.

The depth of wisdom and the practical nature of today’s proverbs are such it is nearly impossible for me to settle on the one’s I would have you to not only read, but also consider in your meditations.   Nevertheless, for the sake of brevity, I must limit my focus.

Consider Proverbs 25:6-7 and a devotion I first posted March 25, 2014 on http://www.HeartOfaShepherd.com.

The Internet has opened up a world of fame and infamy for those who want to leave their mark or make a name.   Social media has given us an opportunity to put our world and face on display for all to see.

Hawking one’s self and gawking at others has become an all-consuming pastime.   I am astonished at the post and pictures people put on Facebook and similar sites.   The infatuation with self reminds me of a comment my guide in Israel made 20 years ago when he observed the national pastime of Israeli youth was “to see and to be seen”.   It is estimated that 18-34-year-olds spend 3.8 hours a day social networking!

Proverbs 25:6-7 cuts against the grain of our self-promoting society.   Solomon urged his son to exercise discretion and humility, especially in the presence of great men.  Solomon writes,

Proverbs 25:6-7  “Put not forth thyself [don’t be a self-promoter; overtly ambitious; seeking vainglory] in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: 7 For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up [ascend; go up] hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower [humbled; humiliated] in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.”  

Jesus taught a similar lesson regarding humility in Luke 14:8-10.

Luke 14:8-11  “When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9  And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room10  But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11  For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

Friend, my purpose is not to offend; however, as some say—“If the shoe fits, wear it!” 

Take a few minutes and look at your Facebook page and the pictures you have posted.  Be honest about the things you have written and pictures you have posted.   Forget how many “Likes” or “Comments” you have received and ask, “How much of what I write and post glorifies God?”

In a day of shameless self-promotion, HUMILITY is still the quality God cherishes in His people.

Matthew 5:3, 5 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… 5  Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Financial Needs and Hurricane Irma (FL) and Hurricane Harvey (TX)

Dear Followers of Heart of a Shepherd and Hillsdale families,

As you are aware, Hillsdale Baptist Church was focusing on helping churches in Houston, Texas impacted by the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey two weeks ago.   On Sunday, September 10, our own Florida experienced the impact of Hurricane Irma as she passed over the Caribbean, Cuba, the Florida Keys and Southern Florida.

We had intended to send two or more crews to Texas and our first team was in Houston last week assisting two churches and their memberships when the approach of Hurricane Irma forced them to return to Tampa Bay to prepare their homes and families.

Having witnessed the destruction in our own State, I have asked Hillsdale Baptist Church to focus our people and resources closer to home in Florida.  We are able to drive to the Keys in a few hours to serve and be a blessing to our neighbors, knowing many in the Midwest are available to go to Houston and help them in recovery.

If you know our ministry, you are aware we function with integrity and make sure we are financial stewards of your sacrificial financial gifts.  To date Hillsdale has received $13,990.51 for Hurricane Relief, the great majority of that received from our own membership.  In addition, some who follow this Blog have designated gifts for which we are thankful.  Less the expenses used by Hillsdale’s first relief team to go to Texas, the balance of your financial gifts are being directed to Operation Renewed Hope (ORH) for that organization to use as it gives assistance in Texas and FL.

I am writing this blog post on Friday afternoon not only to be accountable to you who have given, but also alert you to the fact there are four truckloads of goods (food, water, blankets, etc) waiting in Jacksonville, FL for shipment to a church in the Keys.  That church will act as a staging ground for other churches in the Keys to pick up goods and distribute them to their neighbors.  The estimated cost for shipping is $2,000\truckload or a total of $8,000.

Hillsdale will continue to raise funds for Hurricane Relief and refocus our membership and resources in FL in the weeks ahead.

There is also a need for men to hang drywall, lay tile and carpet in two Houston, Texas churches.

If you want to direct your funds to and through Hillsdale for our Hurricane relief efforts, go to our website, www.HillsdaleBaptist.org, click on the Donations button, create your profile with pertinent information, and beside “Other Designated Funds” type in Hurricane Relief to donate directly from your banking or savings account.  Of course, your gifts are tax-deductible and your will receive a statement at year’s end.

More updates will follow as we receive news from Texas or the Florida Keys.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

Woe to the Nation That Celebrates Perversity and Attacks Morality!

September 15, 2017

Scripture Reading – Amos 1-4

Borrowing the modern vernacular of politics, the prophet Amos was an outsider when God called him to deliver a word of prophecy against Judah and Israel (Amos 1:1).  He lived and worked in obscurity as a common herdsman with no political ties or religious lineage.   When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

“Uzziah king of Judah” (1:1) presided over the southern kingdom and the nation maintained an outward form of worshipping the LORD (5:21-22); however, the hearts of the king and people were far from Him.  “Jeroboam the son of Joash” was king of Israel (1:1), the northern kingdom; making no pretense of worshipping the LORD, that nation built an altar in Bethel and offered sacrifices to a golden calf.

Amos, a layperson “who was among the herdmen of Tekoa” (1:1), was a courageous prophet.  With the word of the LORD upon his lips, he delivered a series of prophecies against six Gentile nations: Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5)… Philistia, identified by its principal cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1:6-8)… Tyre (1:9-10)… Edom (1:11-12)… Ammon (1:13-15)… and Moab (2:1-3) all were warned the judgment of God was imminent.

Turning his focus from the six Gentile nations, Amos warned Judah the nation would be judged “because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments” (2:4).

Amos then declared the sins and wickedness of the kingdom of Israel and warned the nation would suffer God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the nation how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9) and given them the land of the Amorites (2:9-10).  God sent prophets, but the people said, “Prophesy not” (2:12).

In chapter 3 Amos prophesied reminding the people the LORD had chosen the “children of Israel” (meaning both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah) as His people and made Himself known to them (3:1-2).  Israel, however, rejected the LORD and He set Himself against them saying, “I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:1).

Adding to the Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations, Ashdod, a Philistine city, and Egypt to witness God’s judgment against Israel (whose capital was Samaria).  A sad commentary on the deception of sin is the condemnation: For they know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

How did the nation to whom the LORD had revealed Himself, His Law and Commandments come to this?  How could they be so blind they lost sense and discernment of right and wrong?

Warning: Here is the beguiling way of sin and wickedness.  When a people make light of God’s Truth, trivialize and rationalize sin, eventually their hearts becomes desensitized to wickedness, they no longer know how to do right.  Perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe an accurate one:  Israel had strayed so far from God’s law the people no longer had “common sense”—they had no sense of right (3:10).

My friend, the same condemnation is true of our beloved United States!

The lunacy of atheism coupled with the perversity of humanism is so entrenched in government, education, religion and media it has crippled our judgment as a society.   Having rejected God and His Laws, our moral judgment as a nation is twisted and perverted and we “know not to do right” (3:10).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Mass Exodus Out of Florida Returning Home

I want to thank you for your prayers on behalf of Hillsdale Baptist Church, its members and staff who anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  As our lives are getting back to normal, with the exception of some roof leaks, our church and school buildings are in great shape.  We are praising the LORD our membership suffered little damage as Category 1 and Category 2 winds whipped through our region.  Other than the inconvenience of losing electricity, we are rejoicing in God’s protection.

On a personal note:  In my opinion, sensationalism has become the daily diet of our culture and the mass exodus from Florida before and during Hurricane Irma’s arrival driven in large part to a news media given to hype and ratings.

“Breaking News”, “This Just In”, “Epic” are clichés used ad nauseam by news networks desperately competing for viewership that translates into revenue from advertisers.

The coverage of Hurricane Irma was indeed “epic” and the storm was without a doubt powerful and destructive; however, the news media’s use of images (replayed over and over) along with the hyperbole of exaggeration, ramped up both fear and anxiety that went far beyond the actual threat of the storm.

Citizens of Florida were running from the east coast to the west coast, then back to the east coast in an attempt to flee Irma based on the forecasts of meteorological “experts” that hadn’t a clue where the storm was going to make landfall or the track she would take.  Hundreds of thousands of Floridians fled homes located far from coastal waters and the predicted “surge” only to be overtaken by Irma in their northward flight (apparently, she was not listening to weather prognosticators failing to accurately predict her track even an hour ahead of her eye).

Two days before Irma’s arrival, hoarders emptied grocery shelves of food stocks and water; Gas stations ran out of gas as a panicked population clogged highway arteries.

I am left wondering what happened to the common-sense adage saints use to follow, “Prepare for the worst and pray”.

I believe the inspiration of that saying is Proverbs 21:31.   Solomon advised his son, “The horse is prepared [ready] against the day of battle [war; warfare]: but safety [salvation; deliverance; victory] is of the LORD.”

Believers are to use wisdom and exercise prudence in preparing for trials, troubles and storms (i.e. prepare the horse for battle); however, people of faith, having done all to prepare, must put their faith in the LORD who is Omnipotent and Sovereign, after all, “safety is of the LORD”, is it not?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Prayer and Note of Appreciation to First Responders

September 10, 2017

Remembering tomorrow is September 11, I am writing this brief note of appreciation Sunday evening, not knowing what trials Hurricane Irma may leave in her wake for those who call Tampa Bay home.

As I seek shelter from the storm I know First Responders are ready and waiting to rush into Hurricane Irma’s winds and wade into her flood waters to save lives as their brothers and sisters did in New York City September 11, 2001.   May we never forget those who answered the call to duty and rushed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers as others fled to safety.

My prayer is for God to bless each of you, keep you safe through the night and restore you to the families anxiously waiting for you to come home.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm”

September 10, 2017

A Sunday Devotional Thought from Mark 4:35-5:1

Canceling worship services this Sunday, September 10, 2017 is something I did not want to do; however, facing the uncertainty of Hurricane Irma’s direction and arrival in Tampa Bay, Hillsdale’s pastoral leadership felt it wise to not place upon our church family an expectation to leave your places of safety.

I am writing this devotional knowing I will miss the opportunity to worship, sing, and study God’s Word with you this Sunday, but purposing to remind you the LORD gives peace to those who put their faith in Him, even in the midst of storms.  Storms, trials and troubles are, after all, our lot because we live in a sin cursed world.

The focus of this Sunday devotional is Mark 4:35-5:1.   Jesus had been teaching parables throughout the day and when the crowd became too large and pressed upon Him, He sat in a fishing boat and taught them near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other side, some seven miles away.  Lying down in the boat, Jesus slept.

Although named a Sea, the body of water known as the Sea of Galilee is a large lake, only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide.  This body of water; however, is notorious for violent storms that without warning turn the lake into a raging sea.

Lying 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round, much like our own Tampa Bay.   Encircled by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift.  To the north is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Hermon whose melting snows feed the tributaries that form the Jordan River, running southward into the Sea of Galilee and finally into the Dead Sea.  Cold winds from mountain peaks in the north drift down through hillsides funneling cold air into the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.  It is a storm such as this we find the disciples and Jesus.

Luke writes, “as they sailed He [Jesus] fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy” (Luke 8:23).  Matthew writes of the same incident, “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

The magnitude of the storm is evident when we remember at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman on the Sea of Galilee; however, not even veteran fishermen were able to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.  Cold winds whipped up the waves threatening to overwhelm the ship while exhausted disciples fought to keep the vessel afloat.  Finally, when all seemed lost, we read, “they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Master, master, we perish…” (Luke 8:23-24).

Physically and emotionally exhausted, the disciples realized they could not save themselves and cried out to Jesus: “Master [lit. – Teacher], carest though not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)

Embodied in that question is sadly, a revelation of their lack of faith and understanding of the LORD.   In their distress, they questioned the LORD’s compassion, “Carest thou not” (Mark 4:38).  Years later, Peter would write, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

It was not a lack of compassion, but a lack of faith that was the problem.  The disciples viewed the storm as a challenge and threat to their physical well-being.  The LORD was not surprised by the storm, nor overwhelmed; He had a far greater purpose for the storm…a lesson in faith.

Mark 4:39-40 – “And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40  And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith and their failure to trust Him.   When He rebuked the storm and the winds immediately ceased and the water was stilled, “they feared exceedingly [terrfied], and said [lit. kept saying] one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)

They had heard Him teach, but did not know Him.  Witnessed His miracles, but failed to understand His divine power and nature.  What manner of man is this?

The disciples should have known the man sleeping in the hindermost part of the boat and whose command, “Peace Be Still” the winds and waves obeyed was no mere man…He was Jesus, the Son of God, Creator.

King David wrote of the LORD, “Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people” (Psalm 65:7).

Another psalmist wrote, “O Lord God of host….Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8-9).

Many reading this Sunday devotional are in the midst of a very real storm.

My church family in Tampa Bay is awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  Many in Houston are nigh overwhelmed by the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.  Some are in storms deeply personal in nature…a crisis of health, problems at home, in marriage or a financial crisis.   Many are ill-prepared for storms because their faith is anchored on a shallow, unbibilical theology duping them to believe “Something good is going to happen!”

Friend, God does not promise to spare us from trouble or trials; however, He promises to be with us!  Before ascending to heaven Jesus promised His disciples, “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b).

What spiritual benefits can we derive from storms?

Storms remind us we are weak and incapable of saving ourselves.  Storms are opportunities to know God personally and intimately.  Storms invite us to turn our focus from oursevles to the LORD.   The disciples experienced what David as shepherd wrote, “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

I assure you, the safest place in the world is in the will of God and yes, He sometimes leads you into the midst of storms!

I close inviting you to listen to Evangelist Ben Everson singing, What Manner of Man Is his?”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith