Category Archives: Love

Supper with a Leper, and a Portrait of Extravagant Love (John 12; Matthew 22)

Scripture reading – John 12; Matthew 22

You will find today’s Scripture reading continues a parallel of events in the Synoptic Gospels, but the Gospel of John (not one of the synoptics) also provided the apostle John’s perspective on events in the final week of our LORD’s earthly ministry.

For instance, John gives his eyewitness observation of Jesus and His disciples having supper at the home of Simon the Leper (12:1-9), as did Mark (14:3) and Matthew (26:6). Each of those Gospels also recorded Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, offering a precious sacrifice of ointment, which she poured out on Jesus in preparation for His death on the Cross (Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; John 12:1-11).

I remind you again, the events recorded by the apostles are not always in chronological order by chapter and verse in our Bibles. Our reading assignment is lengthy, and I will attempt to be as brief as possible in my devotional thoughts.

John 12:1-8 – Supper at the Home of Simon the Leper

We find Jesus and His disciples having supper (John 12:2) at the home of a man whom Mark identified as “Simon the leper” (Mark 14:3). Knowing a leper would be an outcast in Jewish society, we presume Simon was no longer a leper, and had been the object of Jesus’ compassion and healing grace. John stated Martha was serving, and “Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him” (12:2b).

The meal was suddenly interrupted when Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took “a pound of ointment of spikenard very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment” (12:3). Mary’s actions were an example of extravagant, sacrificial love (12:3-4), and an expression of her gratitude to Jesus for raising her brother Lazarus from the dead. She sacrificed her most precious possession (12:3a), for spikenard was a costly fragrance imported from India (and according to Judas, worth 300 pence, or 300 days wages, 12:5). Mary was a picture of humility and loving devotion, for she used her hair to wipe our LORD’S feet (12:3b).

Regrettably, the beautiful portrait of loving devotion on Mary’s part was interrupted by the protests of a swindler, a phony, and a fraud named Judas, one of the Twelve (12:4-6). We read, “then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should [would] betray him, 5  Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence [one year’s wages], and given to the poor?” (12:4-5 ) Judas resented Mary’s homage to Jesus, and the other disciples were influenced by his hypocrisy. In the words of Mark, the disciples “had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?” (Mark 14:4) Matthew recalled the disciples expressing the same sentiment in his Gospel (Matthew 26:8-9).

The first words of Judas recorded in the Gospels, revealed the covetousness of his heart. John looked back on that moment, and later wrote of Judas, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor [poor people]; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (12:6 ).

Judas’ biting criticism of Mary’s sacrificial love and actions, invited the wrath of Jesus who rebuked him saying, Let her alone: against the day of my burying [burial] hath she kept [made preparation] this. 8  For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always” (12:7-8).

Closing thoughts – Consider how Mary offered the LORD not only her most precious possession, but she seized the opportunity to identify with Christ’s sacrifice: She anointed Him for His burial (12:7).

While others were deaf to Jesus prophesying His hour, the hour of His sacrifice for the sins of the world, was come; Mary had faith Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Bitterness: A Cancer that Destroys Everything (Mark 11)

Scripture reading – Mark 11

We are reminded the Gospel of Mark is one of the three Synoptic Gospels (the others being the Gospels of Matthew and Luke), and today’s Scripture reading is a parallel to our study of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-16). His entrance into the city set in motion the final days that concluded with His appointment with the Cross.

Having already considered His grand coronation as the King of Israel, I forego another detailed study of Jesus’ approach to the city, and the great crowd that greeted Him. Remember though, He was greeted as “He that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (11:9-10). Yet, in a few days many of those same voices would scorn Jesus as He hung dying on the Cross.

Mark 11 also recorded the miracle when Christ cursed the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves, and it withered and died (11:12-14; Matthew 21:18-22). Both Mark and Matthew noted Jesus driving the money-changers out of the Temple.

Faith and Forgiveness (11:22-26)

Two topics, “Faith” and “Forgiveness,” are the subject of Mark 11:22-26, and the LORD’s instructions for both are beautiful in their simplicity and convicting in their application (11:22-26). Christ’s challenge on faith and prayer was followed by the admonishment: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (11:25-26).

One of the most besetting sins in the 21st century church is an unwillingness to deal with offenses in a biblical manner, motivated by love for God and love for others. Many allow bitterness to fester in their souls, and like cancer in the body, it sometimes spreads until “many be defiled” spiritually, and infected emotionally and physically (Hebrews 12:15).

Closing thoughtsIf you harbor an unforgiving spirit, be sure it will not only rob you of joy, but also hinder your prayers.

Have you been infected by an angry, unforgiving, bitter spirit? Are you are harboring bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights during your youth?  Perhaps you are a parent, and find yourself struggling with bitterness because a child has disgraced you and the family by foolish, sinful actions.  Has your marriage become embittered, because of harsh words and broken vows?

Believers are commanded to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).  When you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no justification for an unwillingness to forgive others!

Warning: An unwillingness to forgive is indicative of a soul that has never entered into God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Dilemma of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (Matthew 19; Mark 10)

Scripture reading – Matthew 19; Mark 10

Today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 19 and Mark 10, begin with a question that has troubled many down through the centuries, and continues to be misunderstood in our day: “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3; Mark 10:2)

The issue of divorce was a matter of debate in Jesus’ day, and the Pharisees approached Jesus, hoping to pull Him into the dispute (Matthew 19:1-12). They came, “tempting Him” (19:3), to discredit Christ in the eyes of the public, and diminish His following. In an effort to place Jesus at odds with the Law, and their own liberal interpretation of the Law concerning divorce, the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every [any] cause?” (19:3)

There were two schools of thought on the matter of Divorce in Jesus’ day.

One school, known as Hillel, held a liberal interpretation of divorce, and was adhered to by the Pharisees and the majority of 1st century Jews. Hillel, a judge in Israel, taught a man could divorce his wife for any reason. Yet, a woman was not permitted to divorce her husband. A second school, named Shammai after its founder, represented the conservative, unpopular view on divorce. Shammai argued divorce was unlawful, except in the case of adultery.

Divorce became a widespread practice among the Jewish people, and some Pharisees were guilty of multiple divorces (and often for the most absurd reasons). In contrast, those same Pharisees refused to allow a wife to divorce her husband for any cause!

Wisely, rather than take the side of the adherents of Hillel or Shammai, Jesus answered the Pharisees’ question on marriage and divorce, and directed them to the authority of the Scriptures (19:4-6).

Divorce is a Violation of Biblical Principles and Precepts

Divorce violates the Creator’s plan and design for man and woman. Citing the writings of Moses, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (19:4; Genesis 1:27; 2:24)

Divorce is a violation of God’s design for marriage which is “one flesh” (19:5). A man is commanded to leave his father and mother and “cleave to his wife” (19:5-6a). A man’s bond with his wife is to overshadow all human relationships. Though man and woman come together as two distinct lives, husband and wife are to be “one flesh,” physically, emotionally, and spiritually (19:6).

Divorce violates the sanctity of marriage. God decreed what He “hath joined together, let not man put asunder”(19:6b). It was God’s design, and His command, that what He had “joined (or yoked) together,” no man, court, or judge had the power or authority to “put asunder” (meaning to separate).

The Pharisees disregarded Jesus’ appeal to consider the Scriptures as their authority in the question of divorce. They asked: “Why did Moses then command [charge; order] to give a writing [certificate; bill; paper] of divorcement, and to put her away [dismiss; divorce]?” (19:7) Those hypocritical religious leaders were not interested in God’s standard, design, or plan for marriage. They were looking to justify their sin, and disallow the sanctity of marriage. They suggested Moses as a defense for their distorted interpretation of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Jesus answered their question, rebuking, and exposing their wickedness as a violation of God’s will and design for marriage (19:8). Leaving no room for ambiguity, Jesus spoke plainly: “And 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” (19:9)

Closing thoughts – Divorce was never God’s plan, and the only grounds for divorce is “fornication,” meaning sexual conduct with anyone who is not one’s spouse (19:9a). Jesus’ conclusion came as a shock to His disciples, who suggested, “it is not good to marry” (19:10).

Remembering God’s purpose and design for marriage was companionship, our Creator observed Adam, and said, “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God, therefore, made one woman for one man, and Adam the first man was complete (Genesis 2:22). Adam and Eve were “one flesh,” and their union was designed to be inseparable (Genesis 2:24).

Lesson: Divorce is a rejection of God’s plan and design for mankind, and He is the witness of all covenant vows of marriage (Malachi 2:14b).

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Dead Man Walking (John 11)

Scripture reading – John 11; Luke 18

The Resurrection: Dead Men Will Walk Again! (11:1-45)

Bethany, the hometown of three siblings, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, is the setting of our devotional study in John 11. Verse 2 reminds us this was the same Mary who anointed Jesus “with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair (11:2). The scene is one of a crisis and desperation, for “Lazarus was sick” (11:2). His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent for Jesus, and said “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (11:3).

Surely, Mary and Martha believed Jesus would come quickly to their home in Bethany, and heal Lazarus whom they believed was terminally ill. Nevertheless, Jesus expressed with certainty: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (11:4b). Though He tarried, John 11:5 assures us, Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Still, Jesus’ love did not spare Lazarus of his illness, nor move Him to leave with haste to where Lazarus resided. Two days passed, when Jesus suddenly announced to His disciples, “Let us go into Judaea” (11:6).

The mention of going to Judaea raised alarm with the disciples. Knowing the village of Bethany was to the east of Jerusalem, the disciples desired to dissuade Jesus from going (11:8). They reminded the LORD His enemies had threatened to stone Him (John 10:31; 11:8). Then, Jesus announced plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (11:14).

After a day’s journey, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the outskirts of Bethany, about “fifteen furlongs off” (i.e., 2 miles out, 11:18). They were met by some who informed Him Lazarus was dead, and had been “lain in the grave four days already” (11:17). When Martha heard Jesus was close by, she came to Him and complained, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:21). Nonetheless, Martha expressed her faith that, with God’s power, Jesus could perform a miracle. Jesus answered her faith, “Thy brother shall rise again” (11:23).

Martha stated her faith in the “resurrection at the last day” (11:24); however, Jesus encouraged her weak faith saying, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (11:25-26)

Confessing faith that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of God” (11:27), Martha rushed back to the house, and finding Mary, whispered, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” (11:28). Mary instantly rushed out of the house, and came to Jesus overcome with sorrow, and through tears said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:32). Moved by her tears and sorrow, Jesus asked, “Where have ye laid him?” (11:34). The Scriptures, wonderfully and tenderly recorded the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (11:35).

Martha protested when Jesus commanded the removal of the stone that sealed the cave where Lazarus was buried (11:39), saying, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (11:39). Jesus lovingly rebuked Martha when He asked, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (11:40).

Then, lifting His eyes up to heaven, Jesus prayed, and with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth” (11:43). Miraculously, Lazarus came from the tomb, his hands and feet bound “with graveclothes: and his face…bound with a napkin” (11:44a). Jesus then said to the people, “Loose him, and let him go” (11:44b).

An Intolerable Crisis (11:45-57)

Looking back, the apostle John realized Jesus raising Lazarus after he had been dead four days was the zenith of Jesus’ miracles. Two responses to Lazarus being raised from the dead are noted (11:45-46). The miracle gave cause for many Jews to believe Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (11:45).  For His enemies, however, the miracle was intolerable and they determined Jesus must be die, or else their power and position among the people would be lost (11:46-53).

Jesus withdrew from Jerusalem, for He knew the hearts of His enemies were against Him (11:54). Only when it was time to present Himself as the Passover Lamb did He return to Jerusalem, and present Himself as the Christ, the Son of David, and heir to the throne of Israel (11:54-57).

Closing thoughts – God has appointed a day when Christ will return, and on that day: “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout…and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Are You Ready for His Coming?

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Prodigal Son, and the Question of Divorce (Luke 15; Luke 16)

Scripture reading – Luke 15; Luke 16

Today’s devotional reading continues our study of the Gospel of Luke. Chapters 15 and 16 contain some of the most beloved parables taught by our LORD. The Lost Sheep (15:4-10), The Prodigal Son (15:11-32), The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13), and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31) are illustrative of God’s longsuffering and love. Because the latter used a man’s proper name (Lazarus), some suggest it was in fact an actual story, and should not fall into the category of an allegory (parable).

Luke 15

The parable of The Prodigal Son (15:11-32) is among the most beloved of all the parables. Notice there are three main characters in the tale: the loving father, the prodigal who was the younger son, and the eldest son who was proud and unforgiving. Because the tale is so well-known, I will limit my observations to a few remarks.

The first two verses reveal the setting and circumstances that prompted the story: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (15:1-2).

As you read the drama between the father, and his sons, notice the parallel between the actors in the parable and those mentioned in Luke 15:1-2. The “publicans and sinners” were like the rebellious younger son, who “wasted his substance with riotous living…and began to be in want,” yet, were received by Christ (15:14). The Pharisees and scribes, like the elder brother who refused to accept his younger brother, resented and criticized Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners (15:2, 28-30). Of course, the father who received his younger son, forgave and restored him as a son, was a picture of Christ’s love for sinners (15:2b, 20-24).

Luke 16

This chapter opens with The Parable of the Unjust Steward (16:1-12), and concludes with the dramatic story of The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31). In the midst of the chapter are five verses that seem to interrupt the flow of the narratives, until we remember they embodied Christ’s response to his adversaries (16:14). The Pharisees, often used the occasion of Jesus teaching the people as an opportunity to criticize and confront Him. Having listened to the parable of “The Unjust Steward” (16:1-13), the Pharisees “who were covetous” (16:14) began to “deride” Jesus, openly mocking Him before the people.

Rather than retreat, Jesus answered the derision of the Pharisees and used the occasion to expose their hypocrisy.  He accused those religious leaders of aspiring for men’s venerations, and unmasked the hypocrisy He knew was in their hearts (16:15).

The Pharisees, who considered themselves experts in the law of God, listened as Jesus said, “16  The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: since that time the kingdom of God is preached [marked by the coming of Jesus Christ], and every man presseth [pushes by force; forcing his own way] into it. 17  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle [small stroke of a pen] of the law to fail” (16:16-17).

John the Baptist was the bridge from the prophets and prophecies of the Old Testament, to Christ, and His preaching the gospel of “the kingdom of God” (16:16-17). Then, Jesus addressed an issue of Old Testament law the Pharisees had distorted… marriage and adultery— “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (16:18).

The Pharisees had failed to uphold the sanctity of marriage being between one man and one woman as God designed (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:4-10; Ephesians 5:28-33). Those hypocrites had mislead the people, and misinterpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They gave liberty for men to divorce their wives for the silliest of reasons.

Closing thoughts – I close today’s devotional with a few parting thoughts.  The first, God’s will and His design of marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman. Furthermore, the Scriptures are abundantly clear–God hates divorce (“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away,” Malachi 2:16).  On a personal, and closing note: I believe the only grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery, and I cite three proof scriptures for my authority in the matter.

Matthew 5:31-32 – “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 – “And 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.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 – “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

So much more might be said on the subject of marriage and divorce, but I will address that topic at another time.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Where is your treasure? (Luke 12)

Scripture reading – Luke 12

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12. Once again, we are considering a passage that has been treasured by believers for two millennia, and one that provokes conviction in the hearts of sinners. Christ cautioned His disciples regarding things men ought to fear (12:1-12). We are to fear hypocrisy (12:1-3), but not fear those who persecute or threaten our life (12:4). We are to fear the LORD, for He has the authority “to cast into hell” (12:5), and He knows all things; “even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (12:7).

Beginning with Luke 12:13, the LORD addressed a sin that has been the malady of humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve—the sin of covetousness. When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed she consider the fruit of the tree God had forbidden, the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Initially, Eve resisted the temptation; however, the more she considered the forbidden fruit, the more she pondered what the serpent (Satan) suggested were its benefits. She observed the fruit God forbade was “good for food,” was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Tragically, she coveted what God had forbidden, and “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:6-7).

The sin of covetousness goes by many names and is expressed in many evil ways. Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are but a few words that define a sin that has driven men to self-destruction, and eternal damnation. Consider a parable Jesus told that aptly defined the enslaving, damnable nature of covetousness. The appeal of a man at odds with his brother concerning an inheritance prompted the story of the rich fool. In the Jewish culture, the eldest brother had the right of inheritance, and the man who came to Jesus was most likely a young brother seeking a portion of his father’s estate (12:13-15).

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (12:16-21)

Jesus told the story of a rich man whose “passion for possessions” could not be satisfied. Even when he was blessed, and his barns were filled and overflowing, he was not satisfied. So, the rich man determined to build greater barns, and boasted within himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (12:19).

Sadly, the sum of the parable has been repeated and condemned by the LORD since the fall of man: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”(12:20)

What prompted this enduring illustration of covetousness?

It was the request of a man whose “passion for possessions” had taken precedence over the natural affection one brother should have for another. The man came to Jesus demanding, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (12:13).  The Law was clear regarding inheritance, yet this brother was discontented, and demanded his inheritance out of a heart of greed.

Jesus knew the heart of that man, and recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as a judge in a matter where the law had clearly spoken, Jesus warned: “Take heed [be quiet; i.e. listen], and beware of covetousness [i.e. greed; a desire or craving to have more]: for a man’s life consisteth [i.e. is defined by] not in the abundance [surplus; affluence] of the things which he possesseth” (12:15).

Closing lesson: A fool sets his affections on riches, and eventually finds himself a slave to them.

Luke 12:2121So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Where is your treasure?

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Warning: God Loves and Protects His Children (Mark 9; Matthew 18)

Scripture reading – Mark 9; Matthew 18

Our study of the Synoptic Gospels continues with Mark 9 and Matthew 18. You will notice Mark 9 is a parallel study of events we considered in a prior study of Matthew 17 and included the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13), Jesus casting an evil spirit out of a father’s sons, and a lesson on faith, prayer, and fasting (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:12-29). Our devotional will focus on Matthew 18.

The Spiritual Character of Believers: Greatness Defined (18:1-4)

Matthew 18 marks a shift in the focus of Christ’s ministry. For three years, He focused on the great multitudes that followed His ministry and miracles throughout Judaea and Galilee. With only six months to the Cross, the LORD prepared His disciples for the great events before Him and them. Though He had spoken plainly of His betrayal, death, and resurrection (17:22-23), the disciples evidenced they were mere men. Falling prey to petty rivalries and jealousy, they came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (18:1)

The LORD answered their question with an illustration that was simple and powerful. Taking a small child to Himself, Jesus taught the disciples that a child is a portrait of greatness clothed in humility (18:3). The central truth: The citizens of Christ’s kingdom will be defined, not by greatness, but by humility (18:4).

God’s Love, Care, and Compassion for His Children (18:5-14)

In a world scarred by child abuse and sex trafficking, we have an admonition from the LORD that serves as a warning to all who harm or lead astray the youthful and naive. Remember the small child Jesus used as an illustration of humility? Jesus now turned His focus to His spiritual children, and warned, “whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (18:6).

Admonition: God will protect His children. (18:6-7)

The LORD is jealous for the welfare of His people, and there are some who, under the guise of “Christian liberty,” lead believers to sin. Jesus warned, mistreat or entice a believer to sin, and you invite God’s judgment. Become a stumbling block for a child of God, and it would be better had you never been born! (18:7)

Exhortation: Sever Your Sinful Ways (18:8-9)

Continuing to teach His disciples and speaking figuratively, Jesus warned it would be better to go through life maimed (to cut off one’s hand or foot, or pluck out one’s eye), than lead a believer astray and down a path of sin (18:8-9). In a practical sense, it would be better to live a life of self-sacrifice, deny your flesh the pleasures of sin, and your eyes the lust of the flesh, than be “cast into everlasting fire…[or] having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (18:8-9).

Closing thoughts – Compassionate Love (18:10-14)

God’s love for His people is evidenced in His loving care for them. Unlike the Pharisees who were guilty of abusing their role among the people, Jesus cautioned His disciples, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones” (18:10a). What followed was a wonderful lesson in the love, grace, and mercy of God. In closing, consider four qualities we can identify in God’s love for His people.

The first, God’s love is proactive, therefore the LORD commanded, “despise not one” (18:10a). The implication is we are not to dishonor, put down, or think ourselves better than another. After all, every soul is precious in the sight of God. Secondly, the love of God is protective, for “in heaven their [God’s children’s] angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” (18:10b). That verse does not teach every believer has a guardian angel; however, the promise is the LORD dispatches His angels to aid and protect His people.

God’s love is also personal, for He loves His people like a shepherd knows and loves His sheep. If one sheep is lost, a good shepherd will leave the 99 sheep in the fold and seek the one that is lost. Like a good shepherd, Jesus came “to save that which was lost” (18:11). Finally, the love of God is perpetual, everlasting, and enduring. It is the will of God the Father that not “one of these little ones should perish” (18:14).

You and I might be a disappointment, and even a failure in the eyes of others; yet, God loves us with the same loving compassion a shepherd loves and nurtures his sheep. The love of God is proactive, protective, personal, and perpetual. After all, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Sermon on the Plain: The Nature and Character of Biblical Love (Mark 3, Luke 6)

Scripture reading – Mark 3, Luke 6

Mark 3

Continuing our study of the Gospels, notice Matthew’s account (Matthew 12:3-10) of Jesus healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath is repeated in the Gospel of Mark (3:1-5). As Jesus’ fame and following grew, so did the animosity of the religious leaders. Mark reminded his readers that the Pharisees and Herodians [Jews loyal to Herod and Caesar], “took counsel against [Jesus], how they might destroy Him” (3:6).

Withdrawing from the crowds, Christ went “up into a mountain” and there He called and “ordained the Twelve,” among them “Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed Him” (3:13-19). While multitudes followed Him, we find Jesus’ own family sought to “lay hold on Him,” saying among themselves, “He is beside Himself” (3:20-21).

Though 1,000’s followed Jesus and benefited from His power to heal and have authority over demons, His own siblings believed he was crazy, a lunatic (3:21, 31-32). We also find religious leaders of the day were numbered among Christ’s enemies (3:22-30). Mark mentions a delegation of scribes (experts in the law), who came from Jerusalem, and accused Jesus of serving Beelzebub, saying, “by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils” (3:22).

Jesus, in a brilliant, but simple reproof of those proud hypocrites, pointed out the absurdity of their accusation, that Satan would “rise up against himself” (3:26). With a stinging rebuke, Jesus warned, 28Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (3:28-29).

Closing thoughts – Mark 3 concluded with Jesus’ siblings coming again, but this time with His mother Mary (3:31-32). Hearing Mary and his brothers were desiring to see Him (3:32), the LORD gave His followers a lesson in the treasure of spiritual relationships, saying, “Behold my mother and my brethren! 35For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (3:34-35).

Luke 6

You will find Luke 6:1-12 to be a parallel chronicle of the same events we studied in both Matthew 12 and Mark 3 (the disciples plucking grain and eating on the Sabbath, and Jesus healing the man with a withered hand). Luke also gives record of Jesus calling the Twelve to be His disciples (6:13-16; Matthew 10:1-2; Mark 3:13-14).

Followers of Heart of a Shepherd are no doubt familiar with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), but here Luke gives us what I might describe as the Sermon on the Plain (6:17-49). Having called and commissioned His disciples, Jesus “came down with them, and stood in the plain” (6:17). There, He began to teach and heal those who came to Him. In fact, Luke states, “the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all” (6:19).

Closing thoughts (6:20-49) – I close today’s devotional with a brief summary of the balance of Luke 6. Here we find Jesus described the spiritual character of sincere believers in Luke 6:20-23 (poor, and dependent on the LORD, hungering for righteousness, a sorrow for sin, and persecuted). He warned His disciples about the dangers of materialism (6:24-26). The LORD also defined how believers should act toward enemies (love, do good, bless, and pray for them, 6:27-28), and react when mistreated (6:29-30).

Finally, consider how the love expressed by believers should exceed the love of sinners. Is your love for others self-sacrificing, good, giving, loving those who are not so loveable, merciful (6:31-36)? Such is the character of Biblical love!

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

They Would Have Destroyed Him (Matthew 12)

Scripture reading – Matthew 12

Today’s Scripture reading is Matthew 12, and is filled with exciting events from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. While I exhort you to read Matthew 12 in its entirety, I limit my devotional commentary to Matthew 12:1-21.

Matthew 12

At this time, Jesus’ public ministry was in its infancy, nevertheless, His enemies feared and plotted against Him. The common Jews followed the LORD throughout His journeys, for they recognized He fulfilled the signs foretold by the prophet Isaiah, who wrote: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6Then shall the lame man leap as an hart [deer], And the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isaiah 35:5-6).

In spite of the miracles, the religious leaders of Israel [priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees], viewed Jesus as a threat to their position and influence among the people. The Pharisees were Christ’s principal adversaries, and they plotted to discredit and destroy Him. It was their antagonism and hatred for the LORD that was the catalyst of the confrontation we find in Matthew 12.

The Sabbath Day

The fourth commandment of the Law is, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), and the interpretation and observance of that commandment would be a point of conflict with the LORD throughout His earthly ministry. Some of the Jews had been riled when they learned Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath (John 5:5-9). Indeed, it was from that day they determined to “persecute [Him], and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day” (John 5:16).

The observance of the Sabbath was again an issue the Pharisees raised against Jesus in Matthew 12, when they came and accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Law of the Sabbath according to their interpretation (12:1-2).

Enroute to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus and His disciples were hungry, and as they passed through a farmer’s field, they “began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat” (12:1). The Pharisees, ever looking for an occasion to accuse the LORD of wrong doing, seized upon the opportunity to accuse Him and the disciples of breaking the Sabbath Day commandment based on their oral tradition (12:2).

Rather than bow to his critics, Jesus reminded His critics, the issue was not the fourth commandment, but their rigid interpretation of the Sabbath Day commandment.  Jesus contended the fourth commandment did not prohibit a man from satisfying his physical hunger on the Sabbath, and gave two examples: David had taken bread from the Temple and ate that which was dedicated to God (12:3-4), and the priests ministered on sabbath days as their service to the LORD, (12:5-6; Numbers 28:9-10; Leviticus 24:8-9). Jesus then stated His authority, and declared, Himself “greater than the Temple…For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (12:6-8).

Departing from the Pharisees, Jesus entered the synagogue, and encountered a man whose hand was paralyzed (12:9-10). Rather than show compassion for the man, the Pharisees demanded of Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse him” (12:10b).

Jesus answered their question with a question, and cited a common practice in that rural setting: “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?” (12:11) Jesus rightly questioned, would they not save a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the sabbath? Is a man not better than a sheep? (12:11-12) Jesus declared, “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (12:12b). He then spoke to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thine hand,” and his hand was healed completely (12:13).

On that Sabbath day, Jesus declared He was “LORD even of the Sabbath” (12:8), and defended His authority to heal the man with the paralyzed hand (12:13). How did His enemies respond to His doctrine? “The Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him” (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:5-6; Luke 6:11). Oh, the hypocrisy!

 Closing thoughts – On one hand the Pharisees demanded their interpretation of the Sabbath Law should usurp the will of God. In the other, they plotted to destroy Jesus and kill Him (a clear violation of the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

How did Jesus respond to the wicked, malicious intent of His enemies? He “withdrew himself” from them, and yet, “great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” (12:15). I find the decision to withdraw oneself to be a difficult one, especially when an enemy is unrelenting in his plot to “destroy” you. Certainly, the manner of Christ is one we should emulate – after all, the Spirit of God is gentle, not brazen.

Romans 12:18–19 – “18If it be possible [knowing it is not always possible], as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [God’s anger]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine (Deuteronomy 32:35); I will repay, saith the Lord.”

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3; John 4)

Scripture reading – John 3; John 4

Some of the most beloved and familiar verses of the New Testament are found in today’s study. I suppose most readers need little guidance to grasp and appreciate the spiritual truths found in John 3 and 4.

John 3 – The New Birth

The growing popularity of Christ’s ministry drew many to inquire of Him, and among them was a powerful, influential man named Nicodemus. He is introduced as “a man of the Pharisees…a ruler of the Jews,” and was a member of the Sanhedrin (3:1). Rather than face the scrutiny, if not disdain of his peers, Nicodemus “came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi [Teacher], we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (3:2).

Jesus answered Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (3:3). Evidencing his sincerity, Nicodemus pressed Jesus, and asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (3:4). Jesus again answered, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (3:5). Though he was a spiritual leader in Israel, Nicodemus lacked understanding, and asked again, “How can these things be?” (3:9)

To that question, Jesus spoke the words that have brought multitudes to saving faith and eternal life: “14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up [Numbers 21:8]: 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (3:14-16).

“What became of Nicodemus after his encounter with Jesus?” We later find him contending with members of the Sanhedrin, who desired to arrest Jesus that they might silence Him (7:50). When Christ was crucified, Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathea to claim His lifeless body, and prepare it for burial (19:39). We do not know if he publicly identified with Jesus during His ministry, but he certainly made his following known upon Christ’s death.

The Ministry of John the Baptist (3:23-36)

Some who followed John the Baptist realized his ministry was eclipsed by all those who were seeking Jesus. John’s followers came and questioned him, to which he replied: “I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him” (3:28). With that admission, John made a statement that should resonate in the hearts of believers tempted to think they deserve recognition. John said of Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30). With those words, we read the last words of John the Baptist recorded by John in his Gospel (3:31-36).

Closing thoughts (3:31-36) – What a loving rebuke we have in John’s example. He realized and accepted his ministry was not to build his own following, but to point sinners to Christ. In fact, that is the ministry of every preacher, teacher, and believer!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

John 4 – The Samaritan Woman: A Thirsty Soul

In John 4 we find Jesus making His journey from Judaea to Galilee (4:3). John recorded Jesus was compelled to take a certain route, for “He must needs go through Samaria” (4:4). The LORD came to a well outside the village called Sychar about the noon hour (4:4-6). Waiting at the well as His disciples went to buy food, there came a woman to the well to draw water (4:7). Time and space prevent a thorough study of this passage, and a few brief observations must suffice.

We understand the woman was coming to a public well in the heat of the day, no doubt to avoid other village women. We learn in the narrative that her life was scandalous, for Jesus revealed, she had been married and divorced five times, and was living with a man not her husband (4:16-18). Looking past her sins, and knowing the spiritual thirst of her soul (4:13-14), Jesus introduced Himself as the Christ (4:21-26).

When the disciples returned from the village, they were surprised to find Jesus conversing with this woman from Samaria. Yet, they dared not ask, “Why talkest thou with her?” (4:27) The woman left her water pots at the well, went into the village, “and saith to the men, 29Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (4:28-29)

The testimony of the Samaritan woman, and her faith that Jesus was the Christ, moved many in the village to believe (4:39). The Samaritans begged the LORD to stay with them, and during the two days that passed, “many more believed” when they heard Jesus teach (4:40-41). They confessed to the woman, “we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (4:42).

Closing thoughts – What a difference the Gospel makes, if we will look past the sins of men and see the thirst of their lost souls.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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