Category Archives: In the News

Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24; Deuteronomy 25)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Deuteronomy 24

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-5)

Divorce is addressed, sadly indicative of man’s sinful heart. We understand that God’s desire for man and wife is: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Yet, because man’s nature is bent away from God, the Lord allowed (through Moses) for a writing of divorcement when there was a valid reason.

Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ on this subject and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce]for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, saying, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). Christ answered and diagnosed the deplorable basis for Moses permitting divorce (Deuteronomy 24).

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (Deuteronomy 24:6)

Taking an upper millstone is foreign to most until we understand Moses referred to the stones used to grind grain into flour. So, a lender was warned he could not take for a surety the “upper millstone,” for by it, a family could grind grain into flour and bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking (in essence, modern slavery). Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity has been and continues to be an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found guilty of “[making] merchandise…or selleth [selling] him” shall be put to death (24:7).

If the judgment of the Scriptures were practiced in our day, victims of human trafficking would receive justice and human traffickers would be dispatched to a swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (Deuteronomy 24:10-22)

Today’s false teachers and preachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace. They support their reason and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but grace has been a part of every age because God is a part of every age. He has been and continues to be immutable – the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore, characterizing the Law and Commandments as “graceless” suggests the LORD was graceless, which is heresy.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 proved that God was sensitive and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times, the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire for those times, and men generally wore inner and outer robes. The inner robe afforded modesty, while the outer robe protected against the elements and provided warmth at night.

Should a man of little means borrow, his outer robe might serve as the surety or pledge for his debt (24:10-11). However, the lender was not to humiliate a debtor and take by force the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11). Also, in the evening, the lender was to return the outer robe so that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (Deuteronomy 24:14-18)

Day laborers were paid their wages at the end of a workday (24:14). Also, everyone was to bear the consequences and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (Deuteronomy 24:19-22)

In ancient times there was no welfare system, and the impoverished were a perpetual presence on the earth. Tragically, widows were sometimes forsaken by their children, orphans were neglected, and foreigners often found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the congregation how Israel suffered bondage in Egypt. He urged the people to remember the poor and let them glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Deuteronomy 25

Time and space prevent a thorough commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following outline of principles for your study.

I. Capital Punishment and Civil Justice (Deuteronomy 25:1-4)

II. Family Posterity (Deuteronomy 25:5-12)

III. Business and Commerce (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)

IV. The Offence of an Enemy (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

Closing thoughts:

Once again, I trust you have seen the grace of God evidenced throughout His Laws and Commandments. Although some invite believers to ignore the Old Testament altogether, they do so at their peril and that of their followers. But, of course, the greatest expression of God’s Law and grace is identified in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins (1 Peter 2:21-24).

Questions to consider:

1) Could a divorced man remarry his wife after she had been married to another man? (Deuteronomy 24:4)

2) What was God’s judgment concerning human traffickers? (Deuteronomy 24:7)

3) Rather than long terms of imprisonment, how was an offense settled in Israel? (Deuteronomy 25:1-3)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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“WOKE,” Civility, Women’s Rights, and Sexual Perversity (Deuteronomy 21; Deuteronomy 22)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 21-22

Warning: You may find the content of today’s devotion inflammatory; however, its immediate relevance is undeniable.

Moses continued his charge to Israel in our Scripture reading. In Deuteronomy 21-22, fundamental principles establish the sanctity of human life, the basics of civil decency and human kindness, and the practical application of the command, “love thy neighbor.”

Deuteronomy 21 – Fundamentals of Civil Duty

“Thou Shalt Not Kill” (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)

In our study of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), we have considered several passages of Scripture that explain the sanctity of human life and the sixth commandment that reads, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Capital punishment, a “life for a life,” was God’s judgment upon the man who willfully, and deliberately took the life of another (19:11-13, 21). In addition, Deuteronomy 21:1-9 addressed the loss of human life, should a victim’s body be discovered, but there are no witnesses to the murder.

Concerning Women Taken as Spoil of Wartimes (21:10-14)

Ancient cultures considered women taken as prisoners in war to be nothing more than a possession, a spoil of battle. The God of Israel, however, established laws to protect women. Should a man desire to take a female prisoner as his wife, he was to allow her head to be shaved, an outward symbol of her purification, and give her thirty days to mourn her parents’ deaths before taking her as his wife (21:12-13). Should the man later decide to reject her, he was to set her at liberty and was commanded to neither sell nor humiliate her (21:14).

The Inheritance Rights of a Firstborn Son (21:15-17)

Some propose that the reference to “two wives” (21:15) suggested polygamy; however, I believe it is not. From our study of the Book of Genesis, we know that God defined marriage as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), meaning the union of one man and one woman. Therefore, polygamy cannot be the intent of Deuteronomy 21:15, for the Mosaic Law did not redefine what God Himself had designed and established.

In my opinion, the explanation for the reference to “two wives” (one being described as “beloved” and the other “hated”) implied that the first wife was dead. In this example, the first wife had given birth to a son; as the firstborn son, he was the husband’s heir (21:15-16). The second wife, the stepmother of the firstborn son, would perhaps be tempted to influence her husband to disown his firstborn; thereby choosing her son to be his heir (21:16). The LORD condemned that practice. He declared that the firstborn son would be given “a double portion” of all that was his father’s (21:17).

Capital Punishment of a Rebellious Son (21:18-21)

A disobedient son, defined as “stubborn and rebellious” (21:18), refused to hear and obey his father and mother. Such a son (described as “a glutton, and a drunkard”) would be brought before the city elders, who would sit in judgment of his character (21:19-20).

I understand that stoning a rebellious son is undoubtedly offensive to our 21st-century sensibilities. Yet, given the severity of the punishment, we can conclude that it was a rare event. Indeed, such a judgment required the consent of both the father and mother (21:19-20). Yet, should the city’s elders find the son guilty, he would have been stoned to death by the “men of his city” (21:21).

Deuteronomy 22 – Having a Good Conscience

Compassion for a Neighbor’s Livestock (22:1-4)

We are reminded that God’s people were to love their neighbors. That command applied to his person and was demonstrated practically in one’s duty to his neighbor’s livestock, clothes, and possessions (22:1-3). Should a man’s ox, sheep, or donkey be astray, his neighbor was to restore them to their owner. Should the owner not be readily known, an Israelite was commanded to take the animal to his home until its rightful owner was established (22:2). Once again, we are reminded that God is benevolent. He required compassion for the animals of His creation (22:4).

An Abomination: TransgenderTransexuals (22:5)

There is much ado about the “rights” of self-declared “Queers, “Transexuals,” and “Asexuals” in 21st-century society. Such people aspire to blend and distort the natural differences between males and females in their dress and manner. It may surprise you to learn that blurring the distinctiveness in the sexes is not a “new woke” (as some would have you believe). Indeed, it was declared an “abomination unto the LORD” in the Scriptures and condemned as a practice among ancient heathen societies (22:5).

Compassion and Affection for Nature (22:6-7)

From the beginning, humanity was commanded to be the “keeper” of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). It follows, therefore, that even the smallest of creatures should arouse in man a natural affection and compassion (22:7).

Closing thoughts:

Several other laws and guidelines are given in Deuteronomy 22, but I conclude this devotion by inviting you to notice the LORD’s protection of womankind (22:13-29).

Unlike their heathen neighbors, Israelite women were protected and shielded from abuses that are even prevalent today. For example, a woman had the right to due process should her purity and testimony be questioned. Also, should a woman be forcefully taken and raped, the severity of the law would fall upon the man, and he would forfeit his life for his sin (22:25-27).

Tragically, our nation and world have rejected the authority of God’s Word and removed itself from the divine guiding principles for life and civil society. We have become a people with laws divorced from unalterable principles. As a result, we are governed by the whims of wicked, unprincipled men and women. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah’s condemnation of the wicked is applicable and relevant when we read:

Isaiah 5:20-21 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

Questions to consider:

1) How were captive, enslaved women to be treated in Israel? (21:10-14)

2) What might become of a rebellious son? (21:19-19)

3) Why would the adage “finders, keepers” not apply to God’s people? (22:1-3)

4) What was the law concerning a man dressing like a woman or a woman dressing like a man? (22:5)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Bob Jones University: A Reflection from the “Back Pew” and Lessons Learned from the Front Pew

From the author:

This article is a brief departure from my daily devotional commentaries; however, it is a necessary one to sound a warning knell to some of my readers. I am not publishing this piece to stir up controversy or heap sorrow upon sorrow. Yet, I dare not be silent when my beloved alma mater has come to what may be the final crossroads that I have long warned was inevitable.

Recent and shameful events at Bob Jones University (BJU), my alma mater, have brought to mind an article I penned in June 2015 on the eve of the closure of Clearwater Christian College (CCC). Therefore, I am republishing a brief revision of that article, not to heap sorrow upon the alumni of CCC but to serve as a reminder to Bob Jones University and other fundamental Bible colleges:  

Forget your fundamental legacy, and reject your base, and you guarantee your demise.

(The following was penned in June 2015 and has been edited for this post.)

Although I am not an alumnus of Clearwater Christian College (CCC), my heart was heavy on June 6, 2015, after it was announced that the college would close its doors at the end of that month. CCC’s closing followed in the wake of several former conservative fundamental Christian institutions [Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, Tennessee Temple University – to name a few examples].  I have a distant knowledge of the changes in administration and philosophy that drove those institutions to extinction; however, as a pastor in Tampa Bay for 38 years, I had the sorrow of watching the demise of Clearwater Christian College from the proverbial “front pew.”

CCC was a small, nondenominational liberal arts Bible College founded by Dr. Arthur Steele (1920-2011), who was a successful businessman, an officer in the Corps of Engineers in World War II, a seminary graduate, professor, and college president before he had a vision for a fundamental Bible college on the West Coast of Florida. In his mid-70s, Dr. Steele set his heart on finding a man who would assume the helm of his small college of 200 students and steer her into a new era while maintaining the college’s unique nondenominational, biblically fundamental stripe.

Dr. Steele found his successor in Washington, DC [Dr. George Youstra and his wife Pat were part of the Reagan administration from 1981-1987].  Dr. Youstra (a graduate of Bob Jones University and former faculty and administrator at BJU) resigned as the special assistant to the secretary of education on January 2, 1987, and assumed the presidency of CCC. Under Dr. Youstra’s leadership, the college enjoyed 15 years of consecutive growth. At its peak, the student body numbered nearly 700, necessitating renovations to existing buildings and the construction of new dorms and classrooms.

Like his predecessor, Dr. Youstra exhibited a kind, gracious, self-sacrificing spirit reflected in the administration, faculty, and student body. Under his leadership, CCC became a prominent educational Christian institution and earned respect and admiration of fundamental pastors, churches, and families [the church I pastor had as many as 17 students enrolled at one point during Dr. Youstra’s tenure. In addition, Hillsdale enjoyed the ministries of several faculty and students over the years].

CCC reflected a fundamental biblical worldview in its philosophy and practice.  Serving as a board member for a few years, I witnessed firsthand Dr. Youstra’s leadership and his ready response to the pastors’ concerns. In the summer of 2002, he transitioned to president emeritus and was a part-time professor of graduate studies while his wife Pat continued as a professor until her retirement.

Lessons learned: “From the front pew,” it became my sorrow to observe CCC’s decline.

As CCC strayed from its legacy as a fundamental Bible institution, it did so at the sacrifice of the support and following of pastors and churches. Many would cite factors that contributed to the doors of the college closing. Some will mention economics, a dwindling number of conservative churches, low student enrollment, and competition from other Bible colleges. Although all of the above undoubtedly contributed to CCC’s demise, I suggest the death knell of the institution was its leadership steering the college from its founder’s purpose, philosophy, and vision.

Rather than an institution dedicated to educating, challenging, and equipping young people to be “soldiers of Christ,” CCC evolved to a pragmatic philosophy of accommodation. Void of institutional integrity, the college leadership strayed from its founding principles, lowered its standards, and adopted and adapted CCM music in its chapels and athletic events.

I continue to sorrow eight years later because the beautiful campus by the Bay is no longer there.

A Current Application to Bob Jones University

I have observed “from the back pew,” a repetition of the same failures at Bob Jones University that initiated the demise of CCC and other Bible fundamental colleges. Unfortunately, led by the current president of the university and his administrators, the same compromised ideologies (and many of the same personalities) that drove those institutions to their demise are perpetuating the same at BJU. They have rejected the university’s fundamental Bible legacy and voided the disciplines that shaped and instilled Christian character in generations of graduates.

A Message from the “Back Pew”

I speak for scores of conservative, Bible-fundamental pastors and thousands of graduates who long to see BJU survive and thrive. We long to see the fire of an unapologetic passion for Truth thundering from the pulpit rather than the catering to carnality that has characterized the past two decades. We long to see BJU’s board demonstrate integrity, confess that the school has strayed from its separatist legacy, and return the university to its founding principles. But, finally, we cannot support the school if its leadership continues to reject and is ashamed of BJU’s unapologetic, Bible-fundamental heritage as a separatist institution. Warning:

Forget your fundamental legacy, and reject your base, and you guarantee your demise.

With the heavy heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
Alumnus of Bob Jones University

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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“We the People” Must Say, ‘Never Again!’”

You are invited to join Hillsdale Baptist Church for our 10:30 AM worship service this Sunday, March 26, 2023. I am continuing my new chronological series through the Bible titled “Logos: A Journey of Faith, Hope, and Love.”  I am currently focusing on the patriarchs of the Book of Genesis, with the subject this week being Jacob and the two sisters he took as his wives. This Sunday’s sermon is titled Leah and Rachel: An “Unhappily Ever After” Story of Love and is taken from Genesis 28:10-30:24.

The following is my bulletin letter for the week titled:

“We the People” Must Say, ‘Never Again!’”

Can you believe this is the last Sunday of March? I am stunned at how fast time passes. For instance, three years have passed since COVID-19 was all the rage, and the world was compelled to “shelter in place.” While “Antifa” and other left-wing groups were encouraged to rally, protest, and riot, American businesses, schools, and churches were shuttered, and many never reopened!

Hillsdale missed Resurrection Sunday 2020 and “stayed in place,” only to learn the pandemic might have been a “Plandemic.” Even today, our nation and world are wrecked by government and corporate guidelines that crippled our nation. Tragically, the paranoia of 2020 lingers in our psyche, as does the growing oppression of our constitutional liberties.

Therefore, I have determined in my heart, “Never Again!” Never again will we trust or believe the messaging of government agencies, the media, corporations, or institutions (that includes schools, churches, and organizations). The radical left is antithetical to our faith and has vested power in every imaginable venue. The socialist-communist left is entrenched in government agencies. Members of the radical left sit in board rooms of medical and pharmaceutical companies and national and international corporations. They dominate the counting of votes and control the messaging of the media and educational institutions.

Lesson: As Bible believers, we should embrace the noble ways of the Berean believers of whom Paul wrote, “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Let us be “Bereans” and question and research everything we are told, without and within the church.

Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday Services

Our children’s, teen’s, and adult choirs will combine next Sunday morning for an exciting choir anthem as we remember our LORD’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem when He was hailed as King! But, of course, the Friday after, on the day of the Passover, many of those same voices cried for Jesus’ death shouting, “Crucify Him!” Hillsdale’s Fine Arts ministry will present the drama and music of “Calvary’s Mountain” at a “Good Friday Service” (April 7, 7:00 pm). Resurrection Sunday Morning (April 9) will be a triumphant day for celebrating Christ’s resurrection with the Sunrise Service at 8:00 am, followed by a Pancake Breakfast at 9:00 am. Our worship service that day will start at 10:00 am.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

Justice for All, Love Your Enemy, and A Call for Separation (Exodus 23)

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Scripture reading – Exodus 23

The instructions that gave practical applications of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) continued in Exodus 23. As noted in the prior devotion (Exodus 21-22), you will recognize in today’s Scripture the foundational principles of civil society.

A Demand for Judicial Integrity: Justice for All (Exodus 23:1-3)

The ninth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16). For justice to be fair and impartial, God’s Law demanded that Israel’s judges be above reproach and intolerant of any who would pervert justice (23:1-9). Therefore, a witness was commanded to state the truth and not bring a false accusation against an innocent man in a judicial matter, nor should a witness’ lie spare the guilty their due punishment (23:1-2). There was one law and one standard, and neither the poor nor the rich were granted a charitable judgment or spared the weight of the Law (23:3).

Blind, Compassionate Justice: “Love thy enemy.”  (Exodus 23:4-5; Matthew 5:43-44; Romans 12:20)

Exodus 23:4-5 challenged man’s natural bent for vengeance when wronged and commanded God’s people to show kindness and grace even to an enemy. Understanding Israel was chiefly an agricultural nation throughout its history, the illustration of returning an ox or ass to its owner (even if he was an enemy) is practical and easily applied in our modern day. Essentially, God’s people are to offer aid and not sit by idly when they know an enemy is struggling or has suffered a loss.

Justice for All (Exodus 23:6-9)

Exodus 23:6-9 returned to judicial matters and the demand for impartial judgment. Under God’s Law, the poor were not to be denied representation or justice (23:6), and judges were to see that righteous judgment prevailed (23:7). Judges were not to be bribed (23:8), and non-Hebrews (“strangers”), were to be judged fairly (23:9).

The Sabbath Year (Exodus 23:10-12)

Emphasizing the significance of “Sabbath Rest” (20:8-11), Israel was commanded to observe a “Sabbath Year.” Every seventh year the land was to remain fallow (not to be plowed), and crops were not to be planted (23:10). The land was to rest, and if seeds volunteered and grew to bear fruit, the poor and the “beast of the field” were given liberty to eat (23:11). For both man and beast, the Sabbath was to be observed as a day to rest and “be refreshed” (23:12).

Three Feasts (or Festivals) were Observed by Israel (Exodus 23:14-19)

Israel was commanded to observe three annual festivals (23:14-19). First, there was the “feast of unleavened bread” and the Passover (23:15, 18), commemorating the Passover in Egypt when the LORD spared the firstborn of Israel. The “feast of the harvest,” known as Firstfruits and later celebrated as Pentecost, was observed at the beginning of harvest (23:16a). At that time, the first fruits of the harvest were offered to the LORD (23:19a). Finally, there was also the “feast of the ingathering,” that was observed at the end of the harvest season (23:16b), and was a time of thanksgiving.

Three Promises (Exodus 23:20-28)

The LORD made three promises to Israel, whose fulfillment was conditioned upon the people hearing and obeying His Law and Commandments (23:20-28). First, He promised to “send an Angel” before the nation to “keep [Israel] in the way, and to bring [the nation] into the place which [God had] prepared” (23:20). (I think that this “Angel” was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.) The LORD promised that if Israel obeyed the “voice” of the Angel, He would fulfill His covenant and “be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries” (23:22).

Secondly, the LORD promised His “Angel” would protect Israel, and “go before” the nation and cut off those nations that occupied the land of Canaan (23:23). The Angel would give Israel protection (23:23), provisions (23:25), and posterity (i.e., future generations; 23:26).  Unlike other nations that adopted and sacrificed to the gods of the land they conquered; Israel was to destroy the idols of the Canaanite people (23:24).

Finally, God promised to set the boundaries of the land He covenanted with Abraham (23:31). He warned Israel that the people were not to befriend or make any covenant with the Canaanites they conquered or worship their gods. Furthermore, the LORD admonished that the heathen “shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee (23:33).

Closing thoughts:

Although it is rarely preached in the pulpit nor practiced in the pew, the principle of radical separation is found throughout the Scriptures,

Israel was admonished to drive the heathen out of the land. Should they fail, the children of Israel would invariably adopt the sins of their neighbors (23:33). Tragically, that same truth is all too evident in today’s churches. In his first letter to believers in ancient Corinth, Paul exhorted, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33). In his second letter to the same church, Paul admonished, “Wherefore come out from among them [the unsaved], and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17a).

Israel was called to separate from the heathen they conquered and to destroy their gods. So, too are believers to separate and distance themselves from the ungodly, lest we become like them! We are commanded and exhorted, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

Questions to consider:

1) How did the Law illustrate God’s demand that His people have compassion for an enemy? (Exodus 23:4-5)

2) What were the Israelites not to do during the Sabbath year? (Exodus 23:10-12)

3) What were the three feasts Israel was commanded to observe yearly? (Exodus 23:14-19)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Spiritual Principles for Employees and Employers in an Entitlement Age (1 Timothy 6)

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Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 6

Our brief study of Paul’s 1st Epistle to Timothy concludes with today’s Scripture reading. Readers will notice Paul continues a broad sweep of issues that have confronted believers since the 1st century. Arguably, times have changed, but the prevailing sins and spiritual challenges of mankind are the same. Today’s devotional will consider 1 Timothy 6:1-6.

The Culture of the 1st Century Church (6:1-2)

Paul’s letter was addressed to a culture where slaves and masters were members of the church. In fact, the membership of the 1st century church had some slaves who found themselves serving “believing masters” (6:2). Paul did not tackle the moral or ethical nature of slavery, as slavery was a common way of life in the first century. Nor did he urge Timothy to lead an uprising against slavery. Instead, the apostle addressed the dynamics of believing slaves and their masters (whether unbelieving or believing).

Author’s note – Before I consider an exposition of 1 Timothy 6:1-2, I hope you might give me liberty for a personal observation.

Mirroring the attitude of the 21st century world, I have observed the growing presence and influence of a rebellious spirit of entitlement even among believers. Sadly, our families, churches, and Christian institutions have embraced entitlement as a right, of which few are willing to challenge. Entitlement arises from a self-focused heart, in essence, from those who would espouse employees’ rights and privileges above all else. I believe the pendulum has swung so far in favor of employees, that they now abuse their employers thus driving corporations to the edge of fiscal insanity, if not bankruptcy.

What is the Believer’s Duty to An Unbelieving Employer? (6:1)

Paul challenged Timothy to teach slaves and servants to be characterized by the same attitude of which he wrote, namely – Respect. Whether a slave served a master who was an unbeliever or a believer, the requirement was the same: Servants were to treat their masters with honor and respect, knowing their actions and attitudes reflected on their faith and profession in Christ. Paul wrote, “1Let as many servants as are under the yoke [the yoke of bondage or slavery] count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed” (6:1).

In his epistle to believers in Ephesus, Paul challenged servants and slaves to obey their masters, and fear and honor them out of a sincere heart, “as unto Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). Peter commanded, “18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward” (1 Peter 2:18). The heart attitude of a believer is to serve, honor, and obey an employer to the end they will give them no cause to have an ill opinion of God and the Scriptures (6:1).

What is the Believer’s Duty to a Believing Employer? (6:2)

Today, many believers bring a spirit of entitlement when they are employed by believers or a ministry. Some believers become so offensive in their expectations, they become a sorrow to fellow believers that employ them.

There were some in the congregation Timothy pastored who were masters (6:2). Surely, salvation so transformed the lives of some that they evidenced love and Biblical virtues toward their slaves (2 Corinthians 5:17). Perhaps, some believing masters even divested themselves of slavery entirely.

Nevertheless, slavery was a component within the culture of the 1st century church. Therefore, Paul commanded Timothy teach and exhort believers regarding the relationship of the servants and their masters (6:2). What was Timothy to “teach and exhort” servants? (6:2) Paul wrote: “they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit” (6:2).

While the servants and some masters were believers, the believing servants were to remember their place and role, and treat their masters with respect (“not despise them,” 6:2b). A believing servant was to “do them service,” meaning serve them with a right heart attitude and spirit (6:c). Because the master was a believer, the believing slave was to value the privilege of serving a fellow believer, knowing both were “partakers of the benefit,” meaning the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ (6:2d).

Closing thoughts (6:3-6) – I close today’s devotion, exhorting you to not entertain any other spirit or attitude that arises and hinders your testimony in the world. There are believers who justify a belligerent, divisive spirit toward their employers. If believers were to exercise an honest self-examination, some would find a spirit of entitlement contrary to the Spirit of God, and the teachings of the Scripture.

If believing slaves were commanded to honor and obey their masters, surely no less can be expected of us.

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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 for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Calling and Passion of a Minister (1 Timothy 4; 1 Timothy 5)

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Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 4; 1 Timothy 5

The passage assigned for today’s Scripture reading is prophetic (4:1-5), convicting (4:6-16), and voluminous in practical instruction for the daily life of the church, its leadership, and members (5:1-25). Understanding Paul was writing to Timothy, who was not only his spiritual son in the faith, but a young pastor, we find instructions that are powerful and pointed. Unfortunately, I must limit today’s devotion to 1 Timothy 4.

1 Timothy 4

Warning Concerning False Teachers (4:1-5)

On numerous occasions our study of the New Testament has evidenced a concern regarding false teachers and their teachings. Timothy was no stranger to the enemies of the Gospel, and their presence without and within the church. Paul was aware of the challenges facing Timothy as a pastor, and he warned him concerning the presence and growing influence evil men would have “in the latter times” (4:1).

Apostasy has plagued believers from the fall of man, and the influence of evil men has shadowed God’s people throughout the ages. Moses contended with wicked men in the midst of Israel’s sojourn through the wilderness. Isaiah prophesied against the people of his day, saying, “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13).

Paul warned Timothy to be vigilant, for the Holy Spirit had revealed to him, the time would come when men would abandon the truth, and “depart from the faith” (4:1). Believers would follow deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1c). False teachers would perpetuate lies, and their consciences would be insensitive, as though “seared (and hardened) with a hot iron” (branding iron, 4:2). Reminiscent of the false doctrines of Roman Catholicism, false teachers would teach abstinence and forbid marriage (4:3a), and commend denying oneself food as though it merited God’s favor (4:3b).

After warning Timothy of the encroachment of false teachers and their doctrine (4:1-5), Paul gave him practical instructions concerning the character and godly virtues of those who aspire to preach and teach God’s Word.

Four Essential Traits of Spiritual Leaders (4:6-11)

1) The minister must seek his spiritual nourishment in the Scriptures (4:6). To “be a good minister of Jesus Christ” to his congregation, a pastor must feed himself daily in the Word of God (4:6; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).

2) A pastor must not entertain false teachings, nor get entangled in foolish speculations (4:7a).

3) He will discipline and exercise himself in godliness and spiritual disciplines (4:7b). Perhaps having in mind, the physical disciplines of Olympic athletes, Paul reminded Timothy physical exercise profits a man only for a brief time (4:9a). However, spiritual disciplines in God’s Word, prayer, and in pursuit of godly virtues, profits a man in this life and eternally (4:8). Paul asserted, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation” (4:9). In other words—the preeminence of spiritual disciplines is without question.

4) A faithful minister must be committed to work hard, willing to “suffer reproach” and rejection, because his faith and hope is “in the living God” who would “have all men to be saved” (4:10-11; 1 Timothy 2:4).

With the challenge, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers” (4:12a), Paul recorded six virtues that should be true of all in positions of spiritual leadership (4:12-16).

Six Godly Virtues of Spiritual Leadership (4:12)

1) Word (4:12b) – Ministers must be examples in speech and conversation. They are to guard their speech from sin, and speak that which edifies, and encourages others to Christlikeness (Ephesians 4:29).

2) “Conversation(4:12c)” The pastor’s manner of life and conduct is to serve as an example to others. He is to be a model of righteous living, and “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).

3) Love (4:12d) Sacrificial love motivates the minister’s work, as he dedicates and gives his life in serving the Lord and others (John 15:13).

4) Spirit (4:12e) A pastor’s spirit is passionate regarding the work of the ministry to which the Lord has called him.

5) “Faith” (4:12f) – A good minister must be mature in his faith, and unwavering in his obedience to the Word of God.

6) Purity (4:12g) – The sixth virtue speaks of the minister’s moral character, and is to be characterized by purity in heart, mind, and body.

Closing thoughts (4:13-16) – In conclusion, Paul exhorted Timothy: “13Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (4:12). The old apostle challenged the young pastor to keep his passion and focus on ministering to believers. Timothy, as with all ministers, was to focus on three spiritual disciplines: “Reading”(4:13a) – the private and public readings of God’s Word. “Exhortation” (4:13b)Encouraging believers could take on the form of reproving, rebuking, or patient exhortation (2 Timothy 4:2). Lastly, Timothy was to teach and instruct believers in “Doctrine” (4:13c).

An observation – There was a time when a pastor’s ministry was measured in decades, as he faithfully poured his life into reading God’s Word, exhorting believers, and teaching doctrine. Tragically, the average stay of today’s pastor in between 3-5 years.

* 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 for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Tyranny of the Majority – “Democracy is on the Ballot” – (Romans 13-14)

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Scripture reading – Romans 13; Romans 14

Today’s Scripture reading touches upon many important subjects that are both doctrinal and practical. For instance, Romans 13 introduced the question of the believer and his relationship with civil government and human authority (13:1-7). Paul then addressed debt (“owe no man anything,” 13:8a), and emphasized the overriding command to “love one another” (the sum of the commandments, 13:8-10).

Romans 14 continued the practical application of the Scriptures to one’s daily life and walk, and focused on the believer’s liberty, deportment and influence on other believers (14:1-2, 7-9, 16-23). In the matter of a critical, judgmental spirit (14:3-4, 10-15), Paul warned, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (14:12).

The balance of today’s devotional may seem political, but it is taken from Romans 13:1-7 and addresses the believer’s citizenship and relationship with civil authority.

Democracy vs. Republic: Is there a difference?

If you live in the United States, you are aware we have an opportunity to exercise our civic duty in the next few days, and vote for those who represent us in government. “Democracy is on the ballot,” is the relentless theme of the Democratic party, and the implication is the candidates of the other party (Republican) are a threat to Democracy.

The government of the United States is a Republic, not a Democracy.

A republic is a form of government that represents “We the People.” The elected leaders rule by consent of the people, and function as representatives of the people for the common good. In a republic, there is no hierarchy or upper tier of leadership; the power of government rests with individual citizens, who delegate to leaders their authority.

The statement, “Democracy is on the ballot,” should be a grave concern to every American. Though the nature of a democracy is dependent upon the will of the people, it poses a frightening danger I will describe as “the tyranny of the majority.” An individual citizen has protected rights and a voice in a republican form of government. A democracy, on the other hand, has a tendency to evolve into the rule of the majority at the oppression and sacrifice of the individual.

When the virtuous character of a society deteriorates, so does its tolerance for the individual and individual rights. For instance, Adolf Hitler rose to power in the German Weimar Republic. In a void of leadership, Hitler and the Nazi party (representing Democratic Socialist policies) slowly gained a following of the majority of the German people. With the majority in power, a campaign of intimidation began to attack and silence political opponents. Concentration camps were opened and political opponents were arrested. Finally, when all opposition political parties were outlawed, a campaign to exterminate the Jewish people began, and the freedom of the press and speech were revoked.

As a Bible believer, whether you identify as a Democrat, Republican, or Independent…there is one thing that cannot be on the ballot—our submission to King Jesus. Paul’s letter to believers in Rome was addressed to citizens of that empire who knew all too well the tyranny of a dictator. No doubt the apostle, who was himself a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37), had been questioned concerning the relationship and obligation believers had to those in authority. Romans 13:1-6 addressed in very specific terms the moral obligation believers have to all human authorities.

In his first letter to the early church, Peter commanded believers to “Honour the king” (1 Peter 2:17c). While there was much about a king’s character that was not honorable, there was nevertheless a responsibility for believers to treat the ruler with dignity, regarding his office and authority. Yet, believers are not only to honor those in authority, but recognize human authority as delegated by God (13:1). While the governed are to submit to authority, government has a responsibility to protect and ensure the safety and security of the citizens (13:2-4).

Closing thoughts – Whether a republic, democracy, or monarchy, leaders are accountable to God, and are to rule understanding their role is that of a “minister (servant) of God” (13:4a). Believers are to revere leaders as the servants of God for good (13:4a), and the wicked should fear the judgment of the same (13:4b). The inherent sinfulness of man (Romans 3:10, 12, 23) requires a government that is ready “to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (13:4c).

Finally, believers have a moral obligation to be subject to the laws of man (Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17)—with one exception: When the laws of the land violate God’s law. When the apostles faced authorities who forbade them to preach the Gospel (Acts 5:17-29), they answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were commanded by Nebuchadnezzar to worship his idol or die, they respectfully answered, “be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). When king Darius commanded that no man was to pray to his God for thirty days, Daniel went home, “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:9-10). God, not government, is the believer’s highest authority.

When you cast your vote, consider: Which candidate aspires to be the “minister (servant) of God” for good?

* 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 for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Without Excuse (Romans 2; Romans 3)

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Scripture reading – Romans 2; Romans 3

Continuing our Scripture reading in the Book of Romans, today’s devotional is taken from Romans 2.

Romans 2

Understanding this was a letter to believers in Rome, and not divided by chapter breaks, we must consider the first verse of chapter 2 as a continuation of the preceding verses. Paul, having considered the sins and wickedness of men (1:26-31), and the imminent judgment of God, observed sinners not only continue in sin, but take “pleasure” in the sinful ways of others (1:32).

The apostle declared, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (2:1). The Jews, who were chosen by God and entrusted with His Law and commandments, were guilty of judging others for the very sins they committed. They were “inexcusable,” for in judging others they condemned themselves (2:1).

Interrogated and Judged According to Truth (2:2-5)

The folly of sin is that sinners have knowledge of God’s truth, and yet, are blind to their own wickedness (2:2-3a). Tragically, some believe they might sin, but “escape the judgment of God” (2:3) They enjoy the goodness and longsuffering of God, but fail to accept His goodness and repent (turn from sin) (2:5).

There is a myriad of sinners in our day, who believe their own lies, and would have us not believe our eyes and ears. Politicians, news media personalities, and educators lie profusely, deny the undeniable (even the unthinkable), and profess things contrary to nature and call it “science.” They are proponents of the adage, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” Others embrace the delusion of the infamous Joseph Goebbels of Nazi Germany, who said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

The Inescapable Reality of a Just God (2:6-15)

The basis and promise of God’s judgment is to “render to every man according to his deeds” (2:6). Believers who have sincere faith in Christ, “seek for glory and honour and immortality, [and] eternal life” (2:7). Those who reject Christ, evidence their fallen nature and are “contentious [selfish ambitions], and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation [violent anger] and wrath [outbursts of vengeful anger], 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile” (2:8-9).  Why the Jew first? They are God’s chosen people, and were entrusted with His Law and Commandments.

Concerning God’s judgment, Paul declared, “there is no respect of persons with God” (2:11; Acts 10:34). The Lord is just, and His judgments are without partiality. He will judge all men by His Law (2:12-16). The Gentiles did not have the written Law and Commandments; nevertheless, God impressed upon the heart of man a moral law, and men therefore “do by nature the things contained in the law” (2:14). Sinners cannot plea ignorance, for God inscribed on the heart of man His law, and the conscience of men everywhere bear witness of their sinfulness (2:15).

Closing thoughts – The day of God’s judgment is determined (2:16a), and God will “judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to [Paul’s] gospel”, which is to say, according to the Word of Truth (2:16b). When God judges, men will be without excuses, and it will not matter whether a man is a Jew or Gentile (2:17-29). A believer is a child of God, not after the flesh, but after the circumcision of the heart (putting off and forsaking sin), and coming to God by faith in Jesus Christ (2:28-29).

Are you ready to stand before God’s judgment?

* 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 for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
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* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith