Category Archives: Leadership

Saints and Scoundrels in the Church (2 John; 3 John)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.

Scripture reading – 2 John; 3 John

The Second Epistle of John and The Third Epistle of John were written near the end of John’s life, and prior to the book known as “The Revelation.” Today’s study will serve as a brief introduction to 2 John and 3 John.

The Second Epistle of John

Though not by name, the introductory verse of 2 John identified the letter’s recipient: “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth” (1:1).

While the writer of The Second Epistle of John did not identify himself by name, scholars are generally agreed the author was John. The style of the letter, its tone and theme reflect the 1st Epistle of John. Preferring the title “elder,” as opposed to apostle, John wrote to a fellow believer and her family whom he addressed as “the elect lady and her children” (1:1). That phrase has given cause for debate over the centuries. Some propose “the elect lady” had a broad implication, and the churches in general were the recipient.

Others believe, as I do, that John was writing to an individual believer (“the elect lady”) and the “children” of her household. She was obviously a believer whose testimony was respected and beloved by John and other believers (1:1b). The closing verses of this small epistle also give cause to believe the letter was penned to a specific believer and her household. As he concluded the epistle, John expressed not only his desire to soon visit the household of “the elect lady,” but also sent a greeting to her on behalf of “the elect children of thy elect sister” (no doubt her nieces and nephews, 1:12-13).

The Third Epistle of John

In his third letter, John once again introduced himself as “the elder” (1:1). The word “elder” served as a description of both an office among the churches (“elder\pastor”), and an indication of maturity (being an older pastor).

The epistle was addressed to a believer named Gaius, whom John described as “the well-beloved,” and expressed a brotherly affection writing,  “whom I love in the truth” (3 John 1:1). John’s affection and admiration of Gaius was both a friend and brother in Christ. Remembering the apostle’s challenge to love the brethren “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18), and to “love one another” (1 John 3:7, 11), John’s epistle to Gaius effused with sincere, agape’ (self-sacrificing) love (3 John 1:1-8).

Of course, not all in the churches were loving, and John identified one enemy in particular… Diotrephes. Diotrephes was the antithesis of brotherly love, and the apostle spared no words in condemning him (3 John 1:9-11).  John identified Diotrephes’ hypocrisy, exposed his shameless self-promotion (1:9) and spiritual insubordination (1:10a). He documented his criticisms, accusations, and opposition to John’s leadership as an apostle and elder (1:10). John left no doubt regarding the fate of Diotrephes, and identified him as one who “doeth evil [and] hath not seen God” (1:11).

John closed his third epistle with a note of affirmation for a believer named Demetrius.  He wrote of that believer: “Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true” (1:12).

Closing thoughts – An old adage goes, “Times have changed, but people have not!”

Like the 1st century church, the church of the 21st century has its “well-beloved Gaius” (1:1) and faithful Demetrius (1:12). Their testimonies are tried, faithful and true. Nevertheless, the timidity of pastors and the shallowness of church leaders in the 21st century has allowed a proliferation of men and women of the stripe of Diotrephes. Even the most faithful churches will have their share of “Diotrephes” who in their desire to have the preeminence, will attack even the most faithful pastors with “malicious words” (3 John 1:9-10). Of such a one, the church must recognize them by their works and words, and cast them out (3 John 1:10).

Are you a “wellbeloved Gaius,” a “Demetirus” known for your testimony and love for the truth, or a “Diotrephes” functioning like a spiritual cancer in the midst of the congregation?

When there is a Diotrephes in the midst, church leaders are obligated to identify and confront him; if he will not repent, cast him out! (3 John 1:10; Matthew 18:17).

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Earnestly Contend for the Faith (Jude 1, 1 John 1)

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Scripture reading – Jude 1, 1 John 1

Today’s Scripture reading is the Epistle of Jude and The First Epistle of John, chapter 1.

“The General Epistle of Jude” may be the lesser known of the pastoral epistles, but I believe you will find it challenging and absorbing. Concerning the title, the term “General” indicated the letter was not dedicated to a specific church, but to the churches and believers in general.

The authorship was attributed to one who identified himself as Jude, and introduced himself in the first verse as, Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (Jude 1a). Bible scholars are nearly unanimous in their opinion that Jude was the half-brother of Jesus Christ, and therefore the son of Joseph and Mary, and “brother of James” (Jude 1:1). James, from our study in the Acts of the Apostles, was believed to have been the pastor\elder of the congregation in Jerusalem (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Acts 12:17; 21:18-25; Galatians 1:19). Although a half-brother of Jesus, Jude identified himself as a “servant,” literally a slave “of Jesus Christ” (1:1).

As with the Second Epistle of Peter, the Epistle of Jude was most likely written in the latter half of the 1st century. The intended recipients of the letter were believers who were already facing growing trials and persecutions. In his salutation, Jude affirmed those followers of Christ, and reminded them they were sanctified [set apart, called to be holy] by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called (meaning chosen, 1:1). Following his affectionate greeting, Jude made no hesitation as to the purpose of his letter.

Warning: The Danger of Apostates (1:3-4)

It appears Jude’s original intent was to write a letter that exhorted and encouraged believers regarding their “common salvation” (1:3). Yet, something changed, and Jude was impressed to write an urgent letter that warned and admonished believers to beware of enemies of the Gospel who were in their midst. Perhaps the theme of the epistle might be summed up in this statement: “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (1:3).

What was the “faith” for which Jude challenged believers to contend? (1:3)

The “faith” was the whole whole body of Biblical doctrine (teachings). To “contend for the faith,” meant to agonize, struggle, and even war. Contending implied more than a skirmish or battle; it portrayed an agonizing effort and struggle. When one contends for something, they are wholly committed, and unwilling to quit till the victory is won.

Thus, Jude challenged believers to face the trials and challenges of those who opposed “the faith” and never surrender (1:3). That brings us to another question:

With whom were believers to contend? (1:4)

Verse 4 gives us the answer, where we read: “4For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men” (Jude 4a).

Even before the end of the first century, there were wicked men in the midst of the saints, in their churches, and fellowships. They were a threat to the faith, having “crept in unawares,” and by stealth were accepted by the congregation (1:4b). They were apostates, “ungodly men,” who had turned the teachings of God’s grace into a liberty that opened the door to sexual debauchery and a license to sin (1:4c). They had no fear or reverence for God, and denied “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:4d).

An Assurance of God’s Judgment Upon Apostasy (1:5-7)

In his second epistle, Peter challenged believers to remember those things they had been taught (2 Peter 1:12, 15; 3:1). Jude did the same, and reminded believers of the judgment of God against all ungodliness. To know the ways and pattern of God’s working in the present and future, one needs to know and remember those things the Lord has done in the past. Thus, to be assured God would not allow apostasy to go unpunished, Jude put forward three patterns of God’s judgment in the past.

The first, how the Lord saved Israel out of Egyptian slavery, and graciously guided over six-hundred thousand souls (Exodus 12:37) through the wilderness (a cloud shadowing the people by day, and a pillar of fire guiding them at night). Yet, when the children of Israel rebelled, and refused to trust God and enter the Promised Land, the Lord “destroyed them that believed not” and they perished in the wilderness.

A second example of God’s judgment, was when He judged the angels who followed Lucifer in his rebellion (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17). The LORD sentenced those fallen angels “in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (1:6; 2 Peter 2:4).

God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah was the third example of divine judgment (1:7; Genesis 19). As God judged those cities for their sin and sexual debauchery, He would surely not spare those evil men who had crept into the midst of His people, and led them astray with their heresies and wicked ways.

Closing thoughts – I conclude today’s devotion with this observation:

The majority of churches and Christian institutions in the 21st century have not earnestly contended for the faith, and the evidence of that failure is widespread carnality, and immorality. Tragically, believers who tolerate such wickedness in their leadership and churches, will themselves fall under the heavy hand of God’s judgment.

Warning – Reject the truth, and you will suffer 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 HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Suffering, Serving, Soaring, and Success in Troubled Times (2 Timothy 1; 2 Timothy 2)

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Scripture reading – 2 Timothy 1; 2 Timothy 2

Our chronological Scripture reading brings us to, “The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy.” 2 Timothy is Paul’s second letter to Timothy, and the apostle’s final epistle. The date of 2 Timothy is uncertain, but is generally thought to have been written between A.D. 65-68. It was certainly authored during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome. Today’s Scripture reading is 2 Timothy 2; however, I have determined to give priority to the first chapter of the letter as my introduction and subject of the devotional. The personal nature of the letter is moving, and is Paul’s “Last Will and Testament.” Here we have recorded the final words of one of history’s greatest men, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1a).

2 Timothy 1

We do not know the impact Paul’s letter had on Timothy, who is believed to have been the pastor of the church at Ephesus at the time. Accepting Paul’s death was imminent (4:6-7), I am certain Timothy’s eyes clouded with tears when he read, “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: 10For Demas hath forsaken me… 11Only Luke is with me” (4:9, 10a, 11). Paul then wrote a startling detail: “No man stood with me, but all men forsook me” (4:16).

Persecution, abandonment, loneliness, imprisonment, and imminent death had become Paul’s reality. The old apostle longed for the company of his “dearly beloved son” (1:2). Yet, like a father to a son, Paul was concerned for Timothy’s spiritual well-being, and bid him, “Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1:2).

This letter was infused with Paul’s gratitude for Timothy, whom he assured, “without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day” (1:3). Reflecting on his own spiritual heritage (1:3a), the apostle reminded Timothy of his spiritual lineage passed down from his grandmother and mother (1:5; 3:15).

A Letter from Death Row (1:6-15)

After 43 years of ministry, I have learned the words of a dying man or woman can leave an indelible impression on one’s soul, especially from one we love. Surely that was true for Timothy. When he read Paul’s letter, I believe the heart of that younger preacher was stirred. Paul moved from expressing confidence in Timothy’s faith, to exhorting him to be bold in his faith, walk, and ministry. Briefly, notice Paul’s appeal to Timothy beginning with verse 6 and continuing to verse 15.

Five Spiritual Requisites (disciplines) for Ministry (1:6-15)

Be Charged Up (1:6-7) – Given the nature of Paul’s letters to Timothy, scholars believe the young preacher was prone to be timid in the face of opposition. If so, Paul feared he might lose his fervency for the Lord and ministry. Therefore, the apostle charged him to remember he was ordained by men who had seen in him the “gift of God” (perhaps spiritual or ministry gifts, 1:6; Romans 12:6-8). Paul reminded Timothy, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (1:7).

Be Courageous (1:8-10) – Paul urged Timothy to not give into shame on two fronts. The first, don’t be “ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (knowing the name of Christ invited scorn, 1:8a). The second, don’t be ashamed of Paul, a “prisoner” of the Lord. To identify Paul as his teacher and mentor might have been cause for embarrassment. Instead, the apostle urged Timothy to be a “partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (1:8). In other words, only with God’s power would Timothy be able to accept his share of suffering for the Gospel (1:8b).

To support his call for courage, Paul reminded Timothy of the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty for suffering saints (1:9-10). When they suffer, believers must remember we are saved, “called with an holy calling,” and suffer“according to [God’s] own purpose and grace” (1:9a).

Be Convicted of One’s Calling (1:11) – Paul had no doubts concerning the ministry to which he was called, and appointed. He declared, I am appointed,” not by man, but his appointment was received from the Lord, and he was therefore “preacher [herald], and an apostle, and a teacher [instructor] of the Gentiles” (1:11).

Be Confident (1:12) – The apostle was a prisoner, not for any wrongdoing, but because he had been faithful to his calling. Therefore, he declared, I “suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (1:12). Not only did he refuse to be ashamed, Paul’s faith was in Christ, and he was confident his life was secure until his work was ended.

Be Committed (1:13-15) – I close today’s devotion with three essential qualities that make for success, regardless of one’s endeavor. The first trait of success is Dedication –Paul wrote, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1:13). A second trait of success is Devotion – summed up in the word “Keep,” meaning to guard or watch. We read, “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (1:14). (The “good thing” must have been the gift of spiritual discernment the Holy Spirit imparts to a believer who is a student of the Gospel, doctrines, and teachings of God’s Word.)

Finally, to be successful, requires a determination to Be Faithful (1:15). Paul illustrated the requisite for determination in identifying two spiritual failures, “Phygellus and Hermogenes” (1:15). The apostle had been deserted by many (“all they” was probably a hyperbole, many he felt as though everyone had deserted him); however, in particular, two men whom Timothy must have known had left Paul in his hour of need. We know nothing more about Phygellus and Hermogenes, other than their desertion had left Paul with a bleak outlook on his life and ministry.

Believer, everyone wants to be successful (after all, no one sets out to be a failure). Yet, how many are willing to undertake the spiritual disciplines required for success.

How about you?

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Love, Marriage and Money (Hebrews 13; 2 Timothy 1)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 13; 2 Timothy 1

Our journey through the Epistle to the Hebrews concludes with today’s Scripture reading, Hebrews 13. The author has reminded the believers of the saving faith of their forefathers (naming many of the great patriarchs in Israel’s history; Hebrews 11). In chapter 12, he challenged the saints to keep the faith (12:1) and focus upon Christ, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (12:2). The believers were exhorted to accept God’s chastening, for like a loving earthly father, the Lord chastens His people that their lives might yield “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (12:11). With a reminder, “God is a consuming fire” (12:29), the writer of Hebrews closed chapter 12 by urging believers to revere the Lord and fear His displeasure.

Today’s devotional is taken from Hebrews 13:1-6.

Hebrews 13

In the closing verses of his letter, the author addressed several topics that are personal and practical in nature.

The Believer’s Relationship with the Congregation (13:1-3)

The first topic was the believer’s conduct within the congregation and was addressed in three exhortations: “Let brotherly love continue” (13:1); in other words, love is the bond that binds us as brothers and sisters in Christ. The second exhortation regarded the ministry of hospitality (13:2). Believers are not only to love one another; we are also to show hospitality and love for strangers. Imagine, there may come a time when, like Abraham in Genesis 19, you will serve “angels unawares” (13:2). Lastly, believers are to love those in prison (remember, seasons of persecution would see many confined to prisons, 13:3).

An Exhortation to Purity and Contentment (13:4-6)

“Marriage is Honourable” (13:4)

Roman society in the first century was not much different from our own. Believers who read this epistle were confronted by gross immorality. Sexual promiscuity and sodomy were ever present in the Roman world. Sadly, 21st century society has followed the same path of moral erosion, and attacked marriage as an institution. Liberal judges and politicians have impaled our homes with the whims of political correctness, and introduced a moral decadence that now threatens to destroy not only our families, but our nation.

The author admonished believers, 4Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (13:4). While society has changed, be forewarned, God has not changed. Our Creator founded and established marriage as a sacred institution between one woman and one man (Genesis 2:23-24), and none dare defile it by sexual immorality without risking the wrath and judgment of God (13:3).

Be Content (13:5-6)

Covetousness was another sin addressed by the writer (13:5). Understanding the word “conversation” implied one’s conduct or way of life, we read: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have” (13:5a). While the world of 1st century believers was different than our own, the problem of a covetous, money-loving nature was the same. In his letter to Timothy, Paul observed, “they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9). The apostle continued, “For the love of money is the root of all evil,” warning many had coveted, and were “pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Closing thoughts – Rather than trust in riches that take wings and fly away (Proverbs 23:5), we should place our faith in the Lord, who has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (13:5b). Only then might we face the world, and “boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (13:6).

If only believers would learn, happiness will never be found in money or possessions.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Pastor: His Role, Responsibility, and Reward (1 Peter 5; Hebrews 1)

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Scripture reading – 1 Peter 5; Hebrews 1

Reminder – January 1, 2023 will mark the beginning of a new 2-year chronological study series in God’s Word. Lord willing, Heart of a Shepherd Inc. will be hosted on a new website, and subscribers will have daily devotions sent to their email box. In addition, the website will feature video devotionals, and a “kid’s link” to Bible stories. Subscribe today by sending your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Today marks the first day of the final month of our two-year chronological journey through the Scriptures! I applaud those who have participated in this “spiritual marathon” study of God’s Word. I trust you share with me a sense of accomplishment and rejoicing. The author of Psalm 119 wrote, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (119:103); indeed, they are!

Today’s Scripture reading concludes the 1st Epistle of Peter, and introduces the Book of Hebrews (which many suggest was authored by Paul; however, that is mere speculation). This devotional will be taken from 1 Peter 5:1-4.

A Review of 1 Peter 1-4

I pointed out to you in an earlier devotional from 1 Peter, the practical nature of the apostle’s letter to the “strangers scattered” (1:1), believers who had been driven far from family, friends, and country by persecution. Peter, now an old man, was burdened that believers not only know the Scriptures, but live them. After he reminded them who they were in Christ (elect, chosen, and sanctified, 1:2), he challenged them to lay aside besetting sins (2:1), and to “desire the sincere milk of the word, that [they] may grow thereby” (2:2). Echoing the words of the psalmist, Peter affirmed, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (2:3).

In chapter 3, Peter charged believers regarding marital relationships (3:1-7), and interrelations with believers and unbelievers in the world (3:8-22). Understanding the scattered saints would face sufferings, persecutions, and even death…Peter called upon believers to bear injustices (4:1-6), love one another fervently (4:8-11), and hope to the end! (4:12-19)

1 Peter 5

Though only 14 verses in length, chapter 5 overflows with Charges, Exhortations, Encouragements, and a Challenge to be emboldened by Christ’s sufferings (5:10-11). Nevertheless, I must limit my focus to the first four verses, and what I consider to be Peter’s challenge to the pastors (“elders”) of the churches (5:1-4). Understanding the primary role of the pastor is that of a spiritual shepherd (for he leads, feeds, guides, and protects the sheep), it was critical for mature men, called by the Lord be ordained in the churches. Writing to believers, Peter addressed the role, responsibility, and reward of the pastor.

The Pastor’s Role (5:1)

The pastor was described as an “elder,” for no novice was to be ordained (1 Timothy 3:6). In Jewish and Greek culture, an “elder” was an older man, and one who was respected and given honor in his home, congregation, and society.

The role of the “elder” was defined by three titles: “Bishop,” meaning an overseer (1 Peter 2:25; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7); “Pastor,” the word for shepherd (Ephesians 4:11); and “Elders,” emphasizing the spiritual maturity necessary for ministry (5:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; 2 John 1; 3 John 1). With humility characteristic of the apostles, the apostle Peter identified himself as “an elder” (5:1b). His credentials and authority were summed up in this: “a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed” (5:1c). He had been an eyewitness of Christ’s life, ministry, miracles, death, resurrection, and glorious ascension to heaven.

The Pastor’s Responsibility (5:2-3)

Peter charged the spiritual shepherds to, “feed the flock of God which is among you” (5:2a). The work of the shepherd in feeding a flock encompassed the responsibility of guiding, protecting, and providing nourishment (Psalm 23). The same is the calling for the pastor, for he is to guide, protect, and spiritually nourish believers in his charge.

The apostle then addressed the attitude of the shepherd, writing, “not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind” (5:2b). The heart of a good shepherd need not be forced to the work of ministry, but is willing, self-motivated, and as Paul challenged, “instant in season, out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). He serves his calling with eagerness, and not to enrich himself (5:2b).

The pastor\shepherd is to be a model, an example of a servant (5:3). Pastors are to lead by example, not as “as being lords” (5:3a). They are not masters exercising absolute authority, but shepherds “over God’s heritage” (5:3b). Believers are the “heritage,” meaning the inheritance of God (5:3b), and pastors are to be models, “ensamples to the flock” (5:3c). What are they to model? The likeness of Christ, fruit of the Sprit (Galatians 5:22-23), and the character and actions of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

The Pastor’s Reward (5:4)

The sum of Peter’s challenge to the “elders” was to remind them their labor in the Word, hardships, challenges, and sorrows would be rewarded when Jesus Christ, the “Chief Shepherd shall appear” (5:4a). At Christ’s Second Coming, faithful pastors will “receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (5:4b). An earthly crown is temporal, but the reward Peter promised faithful pastors was eternal!

What a wonderful incentive to faithful, dedicated pastors! Not only have we received a great calling, but we are promised “a crown of glory!”

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

A Righteous Response When Mistreated (1 Peter 3; 1 Peter 4)

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Scripture reading – 1 Peter 3; 1 Peter 4

The apostle Peter’s letter “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1) continues with today’s Scripture reading. As you will see, 1 Peter 3 and 4 are practical and insightful, presenting us with numerous principles that are spiritual guides to the believer’s daily life and relationships. Before we consider the subject of today’s devotional, consider the following outlines of 1 Peter 3-4.

An Outline of 1 Peter 3

  1. Peter charged wives and husbands with marital obligations that parallel those recorded by Paul in his epistles (3:1-7; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 318-19; Titus 2:2-7).
  2. Five precepts for “getting along” with others (3:8)
  3. A righteous response when you are mistreated (3:9)
  4. Three essential disciplines for loving life, and seeing good days (3:10-11)
  5. Spiritual responses to trials, troubles, and persecutions (3:13-17)
  6. Keys to a living, eternal hope (3:18-22)

An Outline of 1 Peter 4

  1. Four characteristics of believers who bear injustices without bitterness (4:1-6)
  2. Four characteristics of authentic faith (4:8-11)
  3. Enduring hope in the midst of fiery trials (4:12-19)

A Righteous Response to Injustice (3:9)

To put today’s devotional in context, we should remember Peter was writing to believers who were “strangers” (1:1). They had suffered rejections, persecutions, and been driven from their homes, businesses, and country. Peter, like a pastor who knows the sorrows and sufferings of his congregation, was guided by the Holy Spirit to exhort believers regarding their attitude and response to injustice and mistreatment.

Peter had already encouraged servants to respond to harsh masters in a “good and gentle” manner (2:18); and encouraged them to do so was “acceptable to God (2:20). Yet, not only were servants expected to respond to cruel masters with humility, but the same was expected of believers when they were treated unjustly and provoked. Peter exhorted, “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (3:9).

The practical application of 1 Peter 3:9 is, believers are to be longsuffering, ready to forgive, and not retaliate (“not rendering evil for evil,” 3:9a). Retaliation and revenge are the natural response when we are wounded, and treated unfairly. Our fleshly impulse is to hurt others to the same degree we have been wronged. Yet, Peter taught the persecuted saints not only to shun retaliation, but to refuse to render “railing for railing” (3:9b).

Verbal assaults, threats, and slander will find their target, and a wounded heart is inevitable. Verbal jabs and counter jabs are the way of the world, for the wicked know nothing of grace and forgiveness. We often feel mocking, demeaning, name calling, and slander are too much to bear.

Nevertheless, Peter urged believers to go counter to their instincts, and bless those who leave you wounded, promising, “knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (3:9b). Instead of giving an offender a “piece of your mind,” we are to extend grace (“contrariwise blessing’), knowing God has a purpose, and He will reward His child with unconditional love and favor (3:9c).

Bite Your Tongue (3:10)

If you want to “love life, and see good days” (3:10a), bite your tongue, and speak neither “evil” nor “guile” (lies or deceit, 3:10). When everything within you cries unfair, keep silent, and trust God.

Closing thoughts – Why should believers suffer wrong, and not seek revenge? Why should we be silent, though an enemy would sow lies and seek our ruin?

Because the way of the wicked is to verbally attack, insult, and lie. Yet, our faith is in the Lord, and we trust Him to bestow His favor on us. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the multitude, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11).

In his letter to believers in Rome, Paul wrote: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [make room for God’s wrath]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Truth – A believer’s silence and refusal to retaliate makes room for God to work and exercise justice.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Living in the Midst of a World Gone Mad (Titus 3; 1 Peter 1)

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Scripture reading – Titus 3; 1 Peter 1

Today’s Scripture reading is Titus 3 and 1 Peter 1. The focus of our devotional is Titus 3.

After challenging Titus regarding the character and virtues of men he would ordain to minister to the churches (1:5-8), Paul warned him concerning those who would oppose the Gospel (describing them as “liars, evil beasts, [and] slow bellies” (in essence, lazy gluttons, 1:12).

In chapter 2, the apostle charged Titus concerning the spiritual character he was to expect of the membership of the church. Addressed were “aged men” (2:2), “aged women” (2:3), “young women” (2:4-5), and “young men” (2:6) of the congregation. Knowing believers of the church would be a reflection of their spiritual leaders, Paul challenged Titus concerning his demeanor before the churches (2:7), and the character and tone of his speech (2:8). He was urged to conduct himself in such a way, that those who opposed him would have “no evil thing to say” of him (2:8b).

Titus 3

The focus of Titus 3 was the life and testimony of believers in that day. The 1st century world was not much different from our own. Like the politicians and bureaucrats of the 21st century, the Roman empire was plagued with government corruption, gross injustices, and high taxes (to support Rome’s vast armies). The Caesars, and governors of Rome’s territories, were infamously immoral, and the bloody spectacle of gladiator fights was employed to feed the demand of the masses for entertainment.

The Believer’s Response to Secular Authority (3:1)

In spite of the wickedness and persecution, Paul commanded Titus to instruct believers, and “put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (3:1). A believer was to obey human authority (the one exception is when those in authority demand we violate the commands and word of God; Acts 4:18-20; 5:25-29). Believers were not only to be obedient, they were to be ready and eager “to every good work” (3:1d; Galatians 6:10).

The Believer’s Testimony Before His Fellow Man (3:2)

I conclude our study of Titus, and invite you to consider four practical commands (two negative, and two positive). Instructing believers concerning their relationship with others, Titus was to urge God’s people “to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (3:2)

Regardless the ill treatment we might receive from others, believers are not to defame, slander, or malign the character of their fellow man (3:2a). Nor are God’s people to be “brawlers,” and find themselves caught up in the midst of needless quarrels and arguments.

Finally, the saints of God are to conduct themselves in a “gentle” manner, “shewing meekness unto all men” (3:2b). To be gentle and compassionate toward those we love is a small matter; but to do the same toward those who are inconsiderate, and mean-spirited is another. Yet, such is the burden of believers; we are to be ready to forgive, and harbor no bitterness in our hearts (Ephesians 4:32). Though the wicked are brazen, and offensive, believers are commanded to respond in “meekness,” accepting slights with gentleness.

Are those spiritual qualities true of you?

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Character and Qualifications of Christ’s Ministers (Titus 1; Titus 2)

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Scripture reading – Titus 1; Titus 2

Continuing our chronological reading of the Scriptures, we come to The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus.Before us is one of four letters written by Paul to individual believers (the others being to Philemon, and the first and second letters to Timothy). The book of Titus was probably written following Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, and his visit to the churches on the island of Crete. Paul was freed from prison sometime after his epistle to the believers in Philippi. (The cause for Paul being set at liberty was not revealed, although some speculate his accusers failed to come to Rome and appear before Caesar to bring a witness against the apostle.)

Characteristic of his style, Paul introduced himself as the author in the first verse, and identified his calling and authority, writing: “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (1:1). As with Timothy, the apostle had a loving bond with Titus and addressed him as “mine own son after the common faith” (1:4). Titus was a Greek convert, and uncircumcised (Galatians 2:3). He was also a member of Paul’s inner-circle, whom the apostle identified as a “partner and fellow helper” (2 Corinthians 8:23). While the letter was addressed to Titus, it was likely read to the churches in Crete where he ministered (1:5).

Paul’s Charge to Titus (1:5)

Paul left no doubt that Titus was empowered to act upon his authority. The young preacher was charged with the responsibility of setting “in order the things that are wanting [needing attention], and ordain elders in every city,” as Paul had directed him (1:5). The office of the pastor is defined in two terms in chapter 1: The title “elder” (1:5)  defines the dignity of the pastoral office as “pastor and teacher,” as opposed to a novice (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:6). The title, “bishop” (1:7), defined the duties and authority of the pastoral office as an overseer. In my opinion, the titles are interchangeable for the office of pastor (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7).

The Pastor’s Character and Household (1:6)

Bearing the sacred responsibility of ordaining “elders [pastors] in every city” (1:5), Paul defined for Titus the spiritual qualifications of men who would serve the congregations.

The principal, and indispensable requirement of the pastor is he “must be blameless, as the steward of God” (1:6, 7a; 1 Timothy 3:2). “Blameless” does not mean he must achieve sinless perfection, but that his life is free of scandals (for instance, the qualifications that follow in verses 6-8 define the character of his personal life). In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he mandated the pastor “must have a good report” (1 Timothy 3:7). He must be “blameless,” because he is the steward of God,” meaning the overseer of God’s household (1:7; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

When choosing a pastor, a church must also consider his family life (1:6). He is to be morally chaste, “the husband of one wife” (1:6b). The minister cannot be divorced, nor have more than one wife. Should he have children, they are to be “faithful not accused of riot or unruly” (1:6c). A pastor cannot have children living at home in opposition to the Gospel. Though not perfect, the pastor’s children are not to be riotous (implying drunkenness or moral debauchery), or “unruly” (rebellious or insubordinate).

Five Disqualifications from the Pastorate (1:7)

In addition to being “blameless,” Paul listed five things that disqualify a man from the pastorate. He must not be self-willed, meaning dogmatic, arrogant, and self-seeking (1:7b). He must not be easily provoked to anger (1:7c). A pastor must not be “given to wine” (1:7d), nor a “striker” (contentious, 1:7e). Lastly, a minister of the Gospel is “not given to filthy lucre” (not a lover of money or possessions; 1:7e; 1 Timothy 3:3).

Six Positive Qualifications for the Pastoral Office (1:8)

Having listed five disqualifying traits, Paul followed with six qualifications required of those who serve the congregations. A minister is to be “a lover of hospitality” (1:8a; hospitable to saints and strangers; Galatians 6:10). A pastor is to be a “lover of good men” (1:8b; literally, a lover of all that is good; Philippians 4:8). He is to be “sober” (1:8c); sensible, exercising good judgment, and not given to silliness or ruled by urges (1 Timothy 3:2).

The shepherd of God’s people is to be “just” (1:8d), morally upright, and a man of integrity. He is an example to the church, and “holy” in conduct (1:8e; devout, pious, and dedicated to God, Romans 12:1-2). Finally, the man ordained to the pastorate must be “temperate” (1:8f), spiritually disciplined in his affections and desires (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Closing thoughts (1:9) – So much more could be written regarding the qualities that must be true of men called to pastor the churches, including their duty and devotion to God’s Word (1:9). I close with a word of warning:

Failure to hold ministers to God’s standard invite His judgment, and the eventual ruin of churches, Bible schools, and institutions. Tragically, one need not look far to see the evidences of that failure.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The 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 HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.