Category Archives: In the News

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

Sutherland Springs, Texas and One Shepherd’s Heart

November 6, 2017

Already there are a multitude of pundits weighing in on the tragedy that unfolded Sunday morning, November 5, 2017 at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, a small quiet town southeast of San Antonio.

(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The name of the gunman (whom I choose to not name), his militant atheistic views, antichristian rhetoric, failed life and empty soul will be the subject of news reports, commentary and conspiracy theorists until another tragedy grabs the news cycle headlines.

While the media will make much of this spectacle of human suffering, sorrow and death; news anchors, psychotherapists, psychologists and politicians will probe for motives and ask with faux-astonishment, “Why? How could this happen? What went wrong in this man’s life that spawned an act of violence sweeping at least 26 innocent lives into eternity?”

King David pondered the same tragic reality when he penned Psalm 2, asking: Why do the heathen [the people and nations of the earth] rage, and the people imagine [ponder; declare] a vain thing [empty; worthless]?” (Psalm 2:1).

The raging of people and the nations of the world and their proclivity for bloodshed and war dominate the nightly news of our nation and world.   Politicians pass laws, courtrooms uphold them, and law enforcement agencies enforce them in a vain attempt to keep peace apart from and in opposition to the Prince of Peace.

Psalm 2:2 – “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD [God of Heaven], and against His anointed [Christ The Messiah]

Why?  Why this provocation of sin and rebellion against God (Psalm 2:2a)? Why this hatred for the LORD and His anointed (Psalm 2:2b)?

It is because men have rejected God, His Law and the order of His creation.  The nature of man is one of sin and rebellion and when a man rejects His Creator, casts aside the “bands” and “cords” of God’s Law (Psalm 2:3), he becomes a law unto himself.

The mass murderer of 26 souls in Sutherland Springs, Texas was a fervent, irreligious atheist; a fool living like all sinners who reject God, His Law and Commandments (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).   He died declaring in word and action, his rejection of the God of heaven and earth; however, that did not diminish God’s person or the reality of His eternal judgment.

What is God’s response to the foolishness of men and nations that reject Him? 

Psalm 2:4 – “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”

Liberal politicians, their media cohorts, and anti-America\anti-liberty antagonists will make hay of this tragedy, all the while, sin and human depravity continue its path of destruction through our homes, communities, schools, churches, and nation.  Peter warned the last days would be marked by a generation of “scoffers”, men who openly mock the God of Heaven (2 Peter 3:3); holding in derision those who look for the coming of the Lord (2 Peter 3:4).

I sorrow to see the state of our nation and world and my heart breaks for families and friends whose loved ones looked into the face of evil Sunday morning, but opened their eyes in eternity to see the LORD Whom they worshipped welcoming them home.

Psalm 2:12b – “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”

Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson and Admonition for Social Drinkers

Friday, October 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Habakkuk 1-3

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” challenge continues today focusing on a small prophetic book in the Old Testament, the Book of Habakkuk.  Habakkuk was a prophet whose brief ministry served as a final warning of the LORD’s judgment on Judah for the sins of the people.  A contemporary of Jeremiah, Habakkuk’s lamentation over Judah and the imminent invasion of the Chaldeans was an ominous conclusion of a succession of warnings faithfully delivered by the prophets.

Only three chapters long, Habakkuk’s prophecies were as much an appeal to the LORD for Judah as they were a lamentation over the devastation God’s people would soon face as the invading armies of Babylon (the Chaldeans) swept over land, destroying Jerusalem and the Temple.

Habakkuk 1 is a record of Judah’s sins (1:1-4) and a warning that God would use the wicked Chaldeans to punish the sins of His rebellious people (1:5-17).  Habakkuk questioned why the LORD would use Babylon, a heathen nation whose wickedness far exceeded the sins of Judah, to punish His chosen people (1:12-13).

Habakkuk 1:13 – “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked [Babylon] devoureth the man [i.e. Judah] that is more righteous than he?”

Having questioned the ways of the LORD, the prophet waited for an answer (2:1) and the LORD graciously responded (2:2-4).  The judgment of God was set against Judah; however, God had not forsaken His chosen people, therefore, “the just shall live by his faith” (2:4; note Romans 1:16-17).

Although God would use Babylon as a tool to exact justice on Judah for the wickedness of the people, He was not blind to the sins and wickedness of the Chaldeans (2:5-20).  There are several grievances the prophet raises against Babylon, among them their drunkenness (2:5, 15-16), greed and covetousness (2:6-9), violence (2:10-14, 17-18), and idolatry (2:19-20).

Habakkuk began with a cry of lamentation over the sorrows and sufferings that would soon engulf Judah (1:1-4), but ends with the prophet praying and acknowledging the LORD’s sovereignty (3:1-2) and majesty (3:3-16).  The prophet had moved from questioning the LORD to trusting His ways and rejoicing in His faithfulness (3:17-19).

Habakkuk 3:17-19 – “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19  The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”

I close this devotional drawing your attention to two verses too many 21st century Christians trivialize and dismiss as they assail any who dare question their “Liberty”.   Berating the sins and wickedness of Babylon, one in particular is mentioned twice…wine and drunkenness (Habakkuk 2:5, 15).  The Chaldeans are condemned not only for their drunkenness, but also for giving strong drink to mock and take advantage of their neighbor.

Habakkuk 2:5 – “Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:”

Habakkuk 2:15 – “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!”

Lesson: Wine and strong drink chart the path to unrestrained pride, shameless adultery, uninhibited lust, and gross immorality.

Warning: What foolish parents and charlatan pastors exercise in moderation, their children will practice to excess…and heartache and ruin will invariably be the end!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 122-124

We continue our study of the Psalms titled under the heading, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134).  As mentioned in an earlier devotional, the word “degrees” has been a subject of debate with some suggesting it may refer to our modern concept of musical keys.  I believe the opening verse of Psalm 122 makes a good case that the “degrees” refer to one’s ascent to Jerusalem.  It is believed this psalm was written by David and sung by pilgrims going to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the holy feasts.  David writes,

Psalm 122:6-7 – “Pray for the peace [shalom; happiness; welfare; health] of Jerusalem: they shall prosper [be safe; tranquil; secure; at rest] that love [befriend; be loving] thee. 7  Peace [shalom; happiness; welfare; health] be within thy walls, and prosperity [abundance; quietness; security] within thy palaces [citadel; castle; fortified buildings].”

There is an irony that Jerusalem, a city whose very name means “peace” or “possession of peace”, has known so little peace over three millenniums of human history.   Even in our day, Jerusalem is a city of perpetual turmoil, the target of terrorist attacks and bombings.  Surely if David were alive today he would encourage us to pray, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6a).

The call to pray for Jerusalem’s peace comes with a promise: “…they shall prosper [be safe; tranquil; secure; at rest] that love [befriend; be loving] thee” (Psalm 122:6b).

Some will argue the call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the promise of rest and prosperity to those who love the Jewish people and their land and capital city is not applicable in our day.  I feel; however, the history of humanity is proof enough God blesses and prospers those nations that seek the peace of Jerusalem.  Those nations that oppress the Jewish people and hate their land and capital city have been laid waste in times of war.

Ancient Assyria, Chaldea, Greece, Rome, and the Ottoman Turks, all enemies of the Jews, are nothing more than a footnote in history.   20th century nations that oppressed the Jews are no exception; Germany, Italy and the former Soviet Union, all devastated by war and their great cities left in ruin.

In contrast, the United States has historically been the friend of Israel and unquestionably the most prosperous nation in the world.  In my opinion, much of the trouble and turmoil dividing the United States can be credited to God withdrawing His blessing from America because of President Obama’s eight-year courtship with Israel’s Middle East enemies and that administration’s isolation of Israel.

We know from the scriptures Jerusalem, Israel and the world will not experience lasting peace until the Prince of Peace returns and establishes His kingdom.  Isaiah prophesied, the Christ-child would be born whose names and titles indicate He would be God, “called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).   However, Isaiah 9:7, promising “his government and peace there shall be no end” has yet to be fulfilled.

Praying for the “peace of Jerusalem” is in fact, a prayer for the LORD Jesus Christ to come and establish His millennial kingdom.

The LORD promised, “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. 22:20); John responded with the words I pray every time Hillsdale observes the LORD’s Supper, “Even so, come, LORD Jesus” (Rev. 22:20b).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“A Nation’s Character Is Oft Reflected in the Character of Its Leaders!”

October 5, 2017

Scripture reading – Proverbs 28

Our scripture reading this Thursday, October 5, 2017 is Proverbs 28.  Remembering the Book of Proverbs is in a real sense, “sounds bites of wisdom”, brief statements of truth Solomon imparted to a son who would one day be king, it comes as no surprise that many of the statements in Proverbs 28 reflect on the reign of righteous leaders contrasted with the rule of wicked men who abuse the people.  Two proverbs will be the subject of today’s devotional commentary.

Proverbs 28:2  “For the transgression [sin; rebellion] of a land [nation] many are the princes [chief; commander; rulers] thereof: but by a man of understanding [discernment] and knowledge [by observation and experience] the state [rightness; well-being; preparation] thereof [the land, i.e. nation] shall be prolonged [lengthened].”

Solomon’s political proverb reveals one of the afflictions of a rebellious nation—many leaders!  The implication is that a country, which turns its back on God, will be weak and divided by its leaders.  An obvious illustration of a divided nation is civil war; however, the two-party rhetoric of our day portends to the same rift without taking up arms.

The vitriolic, venomous speeches of our leaders reflect the sins of a divided nation.  We are a nation of many leaders, few of whom desire to see America on a righteous course.   Our leaders have distorted life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; systematically taking the lives of nearly 60 million unborn and attacking the sanctity of marriage and family with a deluded definition of equal rights in the name of diversity, we are a rebellious nation!

Proverbs 28:2 also reminds us leaders with wisdom, insight and discernment are a blessing to a nation.   It is the character of the leader, not the office he holds, that defines such a leader.   His integrity and dependence on God imparts to the nation stability and security that prolongs the nation’s life and prosperity.

Proverbs 28:5 is the second proverb I invite you to ponder.

Proverbs 28:5  “Evil men [wicked, sinful] understand [consider; perceive; discern] not judgment [rights; order; verdict; cause]: but they that seek [strive after; enquire; desire; search out] the LORD [Eternal, Self-existent Jehovah] understand [consider; discern] all things.”

The exercise of law and justice and keeping and preserving the law are subjects of this proverb.  While the righteous consider God’s commandments and fear His judgment, the wicked have no immutable standard of right and wrong.

Such has become the malady of America’s judicial system.  Once the envy of the world, our judicial system is corrupt and “Lady Justice” is no longer blind.   Sadly, the weight of the law is often balanced in favor of the wicked and their cronies.

With rare exceptions, the day has passed when good men and women go into the practice of law driven by a passion for justice and dedicated to upholding the Constitution and laws of the land.   For decades, our citizenry has elected corrupt officials who, once in office, appoint judges like themselves.

We are a nation in decline and have lost our role as the world’s leader and force for good.   One need look no further than the character of the men and women we have elected to office and who sit in places of judgment to understand, a nation’s leaders are indicative of that nation’s character—they are who we are!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Performing Faith: The Life of Corrie ten Boom”

Hillsdale family, friends and Heart of a Shepherd followers,

If you are familiar with Hillsdale’s 55 year history, you know only on rare occasions do we depart from our traditional worship service; however, this Sunday morning, 10:30 AM, October 8,  will be the exception.  

To begin our monthlong emphasis on missions,  I have asked our own Dr. Melissa Cancel, a teacher in Hillsdale’s Fine Arts Academy and a veteran actor, to bring to our stage this Sunday morning a Chamber theater production titled, “Performing Faith: The Life of Corrie ten Boom”.

“Performing Faith” is the real-life story and testimony of Corrie ten Boom whose faith in Christ gave her strength to survive the hardships and deprivations of a German concentration camp, the death of a sister, and the love to forgive a Nazi officer who was her tormentor.

Dr. Cancel will direct and play the lead role of Corrie ten Boom, accompanied by four of Hillsdale’s teens who are students in her Speech and Drama studio.

Remembering the mission field of Hillsdale Baptist Church begins with our own Jerusalem (Acts 1:8), let us take a lesson from the past and recognize the greatest need of the United States is not economic stimulation and more laws, but bold witnesses and spiritual revival.

The morning service will conclude with a challenge and invitation from the Word of God.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Tavis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

America: There is a Pay Day Someday!

October 3, 2017

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 11-15

Today’s scripture reading, 2 Chronicles 11-15, is not only filled with colorful historical facts, but is also bursting with opportunities of taking and applying spiritual principles that are as applicable in our day as they were nearly 3,000 year ago.

The setting of our study follows the death of king Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31) and the ascension of his son Rehoboam to the throne of Israel (2 Chronicles 10).   Hearing Solomon was dead, Jeroboam, an old adversary of Solomon returned from exile in Egypt and led an uprising against young and inexperienced Rehoboam.

Rejecting the counsel of his father’s counselors, Rehoboam hearkened to the reckless counsel of his peers, provoking rebellion among the northern ten tribes who followed Jeroboam dividing the nation (2 Chronicles 10:8-19).   The northern ten tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin became one nation known as Judah.  Rehoboam, son and successor of Solomon, thought to raise an army and seek the unification of Israel through war; however, the LORD sent a prophet named Shemaiah and deterred him from provoking war against his brethren (11:1-4).

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates how quickly a nation can depart from the LORD and turn to other gods.   We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD” (11:13-14).

True to the character of a godless politician, Jeroboam consolidated the northern ten tribes not only politically, but spiritually, instituting a new religion worshipping calves, ordaining “priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised wisdom and discernment; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:7-23).   Comfortable in his palace and enjoying the blessing of the LORD, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).  Because Rehoboam turned his heart and the nation from the LORD, the LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah to turn the heart of the king and nation back to Him (12:1-5).

The LORD sent Shemaiah, his prophet, to confront the king and leaders of Judah (12:5) who, hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, humbled themselves before the LORD (12:5-8).  In His mercy, the LORD spared Judah from destruction, however, He allowed Shishak to put Rehoboam and Judah under servitude.   Adding to the nation’s humiliation, Shishak removed from the walls of Rehoboam’s palace “shields of gold which Solomon had made” (12:9).  Rehoboam, rather than repent of his sins and turn back to the LORD, “made shields of brass, and committed them to the hands of the chief of the guard, that kept the entrance of the king’s house” (12:10).

What a tragedy!  Rather than humble himself and repent of his sinful ways, Rehoboam substituted a counterfeit, shields of brass, to adorn the walls of his palace.  Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, concealed the miserable state of the nation!

America, her leaders, her churches and Christians would be wise to take a lesson from 2 Chronicles 11-12.   Emerging from the late 19th century, America was a rural, agricultural nation of family farms and Christian values; however, the industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries transformed our nation into a power that was the envy of the world by the end of World War II.

Like Judah of old, our wealth and prosperity as a nation has deceived us and America has turned from the LORD.   Our homes, churches and schools are no longer strongholds of moral virtue and, in the same way Rehoboam counterfeited the loss of “shields of gold” with brass shields, the leaders of our United States have enslaved our nation to a $20 trillion debt carried largely by enemies committed to our demise.

Our federal government can print dollar bills night and day and Americans can pursue possessions and sinful pleasures veiled in a mounting, crippling debt; however, in the words of the old evangelists… There is a pay day someday!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith