Category Archives: Love

Spiritual Virtues: Faith, Love, and Hope (1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians)

Scripture reading – 1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians

We continue our chronological reading schedule today originating from two epistles authored by the apostle Paul to believers in Thessalonica. For perspective, I invite you to recall our study in Acts 17. Paul had arrived in Thessalonica, the capital city of ancient Macedonia, and for three Sabbaths he boldly preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the synagogue of that city, “alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead” (Acts 17:3), and that according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53).

Some in Thessalonica had believed, including a great number of Gentiles: “The devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few” (Acts 17:4). The success of Paul’s ministry in that city had provoked unbelieving Jews to envy, and they stirred up a mob against them, forcing Paul and Silas to flee the city (17:10).

With that introduction, we come to today’s Scripture readings, 1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians.

As you read the epistles, notice what I believe is “a shepherd’s heart,” and longing for the saints of God. For instance, consider the salutations in both letters, and notice how they effuse a pastor’s sincere love and longing.

Paul writes in his first epistle, “1bGrace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:1b–2).

Paul beings his second epistle with a greeting that is similar to the first epistle: “Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are bound to thank God always for you” (2 Thessalonians 1:2–3).

Notice the themes: Grace, God’s loving favor that He gives and cannot be merited, and Peace, like grace, a gift that comes from God, through Jesus Christ. Such peace and harmony come from the believer’s security in God’s love (John 14:27; Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20).

Having greeted the saints with a longing and desire that they would rest in the blessings of God’s grace and peace, Paul erupted into prayers of thanksgiving! Paul wrote, “We give thanks to God always for you all” (1 Thessalonians 1:2). In his second epistle he wrote, “We are bound to thank God always for you” (2 Thessalonians 1:2-3).

When Paul remembered the saints of Thessalonica, his fond remembrances stirred his heart to rejoice and give thanks to the LORD. Those believers were not without their faults; however, they manifested three spiritual virtues that should inspire all believers: Faith, Love, and Hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul writes,

1 Thessalonians 1:3 – “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.”

Their faith was more than a profession, it was a working faith (1 Thessalonians 1:3a). Believers in Thessalonica demonstrated their faith by their works (James 2:18-22, 26).

The second virtue was their “labor of love” (1 Thessalonians 1:3b). Love is an enduring motivation for ministering to others (Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 1:22), and a sincere love for God will be demonstrated in a readiness to love and serve others (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Hebrews 10:24).

Patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3c) was the third virtue of believers in Thessalonica. Literally, a longsuffering, enduring, steadfast hope in Christ.

What motivates a believer to work, labor, and not lose hope? The promise of Christ’s coming!

Titus 2:13b – “…Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Time for a Spiritual Self-Portrait (Galatians 4-6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading completes our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our devotional commentary will focus on Galatians 5:19-25.

Paul challenged believers in Galatia to “Stand Fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (5:1).

There were many things that might have shaken the faith of first century believers living in the Roman province of Galatia. There was the ever-present threat of persecution, the rejection of family and friends, and the ever-present pressures and influence of living in the midst of a sinful, pagan culture. Understanding the cultural temptations that surrounded them, Paul’s letter urged believers to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). What is the “lust of the flesh” that the Spirit will enable a believer to overcome?

The “lust of the flesh” is manifested in what Paul defined as “the works of the flesh” (5:19-21).

1) Galatians 5:19bSexual immorality (“adultery, fornication”) and moral debauchery (“uncleanness, lasciviousness”)

2) Galatians 5:20aReligious sins (“idolatry, witchcraft”)

3) Galatians 5:20b-21aRelationship sins (“hatred [hostility], variance [contentious], emulations [envy; jealousy], wrath, strife, seditions [divisions], heresies [departure from the Truth], 21 Envyings”)

4) Galatians 5:21Moral corruption (“murders, drunkenness, revellings [drunkenness; sinful indulgence]”)

Did you notice the sins of first century Galatia are the sins of our 21st century world?

The heart of man has not changed, and the nature of sin is passed from generation to generation, from father and mother, to the son and daughter. Though “the works of the flesh” are characteristic of our fallen world and society, they have no place in a believer’s life. Paul warned, “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21b).

After admonishing believers concerning the “works of the flesh,” Paul turned his focus to a brief exposition of the spiritual graces that the Holy Spirit should manifest in the life of a believer when he is fully-yielded to the work and leading of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit-Filled Life (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that the Holy Spirit will produce a spiritual transformation in a believer’s life (5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy [gladness of heart], peace [tranquility], longsuffering[patient; restrains from vengeance], gentleness [kindness, without harshness], goodness [good deeds toward others], faith[conviction], 23Meekness [not soon angry; humility], temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law.

When a man is genuinely saved, and the Holy Spirit is present, there will be “fruit of the Spirit.” The degree of fruit produced, and evidenced in a believer’s life, will be dependent on their walk with the LORD, and obedience to His Word.

Realizing that the “works of the flesh” have no place in a believer’s life, there should be a transformation that is noticeably evident:

Where there was hatred, there is love. Where there was wrath, there is joy. Where there were divisions, there is peace. Where there was wrath, there is patience. Where there was contentiousness, there is gentleness. Where there was envy, there is goodness. Where there was heresy, there is faith. Where there was murder and hate, there is meekness. Where there was drunkenness and self-indulgence, there is self-control.

How can this be? How might a believer get victory over the “works of the flesh,” and his life and spirit evidence the “fruit of the Spirit?” Paul’s answer:

Galatians 5:24–2524 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Friend, I encourage you to take a few minutes and do an honest, self-evaluation of your life and spirit. Is the “fruit of the Spirit” apparent in your life?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Judas: Remorse is Not Repentance (Matthew 27; Mark 15)

Scripture reading – Matthew 27; Mark 15

Rich with drama, the passages we are reading today bring us to the spiritual crossroads of human history. The unfolding drama is providentially God’s redemptive plan of salvation for man’s sin, conceived in the heart of our Creator before the foundation of the world was laid.

Today’s devotional could focus on many aspects of this path to the Cross; however, I must limit myself to one thought: Judas, his remorse, and death.

The chief priests and the Sanhedrin, having condemned Jesus to die (Matthew 27:1-2), had taken Him away to the palace of Pontius Pilate where He would be tried, and sentenced to death by the civil authority.

Judas had watched with remorse, the effect of His decision to betray Jesus into the hands of His enemies (27:3). For three years, he had been privileged to be Christ’s disciple. Along with the other disciples, he had listened to Him teach, and witnessed miracles that could not be explained apart from God’s power and anointing. Nevertheless, Judas was, like so many, a follower, but not a believer that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Judas, seeing Jesus was condemned, and desperate to make right his wrong, went to the chief priests and elders with the thirty pieces of silver burning in his hands. He confessed to them, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4a).

Poor, sad, miserable soul; Judas realized too late the scorn those religious hypocrites held not only for Jesus, but also for him. They answered Judas with contempt, “What is that to us? see thou to that” (27:4b).

What terror of soul! Those religious pretenders cared nothing for Judas’ soul and offered him no counsel (27:5a). He realized too late that there was no place, and no one to whom he could go to find relief for his wickedness. Unable to bear the weight of his sin, and his betrayal of “innocent blood” (27:4a), Judas realized no act of contrition could ease his guilt. Casting down the thirty pieces of silver, he fled through the streets of Jerusalem, “and went and hanged himself” (27:5b; Acts 1:16-19).

Magnifying the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, though set upon the murder of Jesus, they disingenuously debated among themselves the unlawful expenditure of blood money, the silver Judas had returned and hurled at them (27:6b). In a plan to conceal their sin, they proposed an act of charity and purchased “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (27:8). Unknowingly, they had fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10) that was recorded by Zechariah, stating:

“So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:12–13).

The public would learn the secret of their purchase, and called the place, “The field of blood” (27:8).

What sorrow, depravity, and travesty of justice and piety! Such is the way of the wicked, and the sorrow of remorse without sincere repentance. Judas was filled with regret; however, he failed to confess his sin to God. With no recourse except repentance, Judas found himself in a state of hopelessness. His remorse was too little, and his repentance came too late.

Friend, don’t make that mortal mistake. Confess your sin to God, and turn to Him knowing Christ has borne the penalty of your sin on the cross.

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Extravagant, Sacrificial Love (Mark 11; John 12)

Scripture Reading – Mark 11; John 12

Having departed Jericho (Luke 19:1-28), Jesus and His disciples made their final journey to Jerusalem, and arrived in Bethany “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1). Bethany, located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and some two miles east of Jerusalem, was the home of Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus “whom [Jesus] raised from the dead” (12:1b).

The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead had been a catalyst for many to believe Jesus was the Messiah (John 11:45). Howbeit, there were others who rejected Jesus, and they “went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done” (John 11:46).

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 that Mark identified as “Simon the leper” (Mark 14:3). Knowing a leper would be an outcast in Jewish society, we must presume that Simon was no longer a leper, and had been the object of Jesus’ compassion and been healed. John makes mention that 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.

Mary 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 also a picture of humility and loving devotion, for she used her hair to wipe our LORD’S feet (12:3b).

Unfortunately, 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).

John 12:4-5  – 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?

Judas resented Mary’s homage to Jesus, and his hypocrisy influenced the other disciples who, in the words of Mark, “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, and saying, “To what purpose is this waste? 9  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor” (Matthew 26:8-9).

The first words of Judas recorded in the Gospels, reveal the covetousness of his heart. John would look back on this moment and later write 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 rebuke of Mary’s sacrificial love and actions, earned him 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).

I close, inviting you to consider how Mary offered the LORD not only her most precious possession, but that 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 that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Resurrection Promise: Dead Men Will Walk Again! (John 11)

Scripture reading – John 11

John 11:1-45 – A Wondrous Miracle

John introduces us to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and finds them in a crisis: “Lazarus was sick” (11:2), and his sisters had sent for Jesus “saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (11:3). No doubt Martha and Mary were certain Jesus would come quickly, and heal Lazarus of his illness, and one they believed was terminal.

Jesus, however, 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).

John 11:5 reminds us how “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus;” however, His love had not spared Lazarus of his illness, nor had it moved Him to leave with haste where He was residing. 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 would place Jesus within the reach of His enemies who had threatened to stone Him (John 10:31; 11:8), the disciples desired to dissuade Jesus from going (11:8). Jesus announced, “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” (11:18), about two miles out, and were met by some who informed Him that Lazarus was dead and had been “lain in the grave four days already” (11:17).

Martha, hearing Jesus was close by, came to Him and complained, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:21). Nevertheless, Martha expressed faith that, with God’s power, Jesus could perform a miracle. Jesus answered her faith, “Thy brother shall rise again” (11:23).

Martha expressed 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 her faith that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God” (11:27), Martha rushed back to the house, and finding Mary, whispered to her secretly, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” (11:28). Mary immediately rushed out of the house, and coming to Jesus was overcome with sorrow and through tears said to Jesus, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:32). Moved by the tears and sorrow of those who wept, Jesus asked, “Where have ye laid him?” (11:34), and wept (11:35).

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

Lifting His eyes up to heaven, Jesus prayed, and with a loud voice cried, “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).

John 11:45-57 – An Intolerable Crisis

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

Jesus, knowing the hearts of His enemies were set against Him, and knowing His appointment with the Cross as the Passover Lamb was at hand, withdrew from Jerusalem until it was time for Him to boldly, and publicly present Himself as the Christ, the Son of David, and heir to the throne of Israel (11:54-57).

I close reminding all believers that 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?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Congratulations! Today is the 300th Scripture Reading and Daily Devotional of 2020! (Luke 14-15)

Scripture reading – Luke 14-15

A Word from the Author

Congratulations to all who have followed my chronological Scripture reading schedule in 2020! Today’s reading assignment and devotional commentary is the three hundredth this year. I pray you have found this journey through the Scriptures spiritually enlightening, and the devotionals a blessing.

Over the years I have found the majority of published daily devotionals to be topical, and lacking in substance. Because my heart is that of a shepherd for the members of Hillsdale Baptist Church, I set my heart this year to lead our church family through a chronological study of the Scriptures. While this discipline continues to be a great joy, it has been labor intensive, yet has been rewarded with readers from around the world.

Thank you for following www.HeartofAShepherd.com. I would love to hear from any who have followed me on this journey through the Bible. You are invited to email me at: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

Email – HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Some of the most beloved Parables taught by Jesus are found in the Gospel of Luke, chapters 14-15.

Luke 14 – “The Parable of a Great Wedding Banquet” (14:7-14), encouraged humility and cautioned those who are inclined to pride and ambition. “The Parable of a Great Supper” (14:15-24), was a portrait of a great banquet where God is the host and invites the righteous to supper. Sadly, those who were first invited (i.e. proud, self-righteous religious leaders), refused the invitation (14:18-21a), and a second invitation was sent to those who were not first invited, “the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” (14:21). These would have been considered outcasts by the proud Pharisees, and therefore unworthy of the invitation. When the servant announced to His master that there was yet room at the his supper, he sent the servant out again, and commanded him to go outside the house of Israel to the Gentile nations: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (14:23).

Luke 15 – Illustrates three parables that demonstrate God’s love for lost sinners, and His joy when they are restored to Him.

The “Parable of the Lost Sheep” (15:1-7), the “Parable of the Lost Coin” (15:8-10), and the “Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Self-righteous Eldest Son” (15:11-24) are illustrative of God’s longsuffering and love.

Friend, what a blessed promise! God loves sinners, He seeks them, and when He finds them willing to come to Him, He restores them by extending His mercy, compassion, and saving grace.

Ephesians 2:8–98For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Beware That Your Possessions Do Not Possess You (Luke 12-13)

Scripture reading – Luke 12-13

The sin of covetousness is the malady of humanity, and is as ancient as sin itself.

When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed that she consider the fruit of the tree that 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 saw that the fruit God had forbidden was “good for food,” appealing, for it was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Coveting what God had prohibited, Eve “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).

Covetousness goes by many names and is evidenced in many ways: Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are a few words and attitudes that define a sin that has driven many a man or woman to self-destruction, and eternal damnation.

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (Luke 12:16-21) is universally known to many.

In the parable, 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 content. So the rich man determined to build larger barns, boasting 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 God 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 had come 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 discontent, demanding his inheritance out of a heart of greed and gain.

Recalling Jesus knew the hearts of all men, He recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as 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).

Truth: A fool treasures riches, and eventually finds himself a slave of them.

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

Where is your treasure?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Nothing is Impossible (Matthew 17; Mark 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 17; Mark 9

Today’s chronological Scripture reading brings us to within a year of Christ’s appointment with the cross. The crowds following Jesus throughout Israel are growing, while the anxiety and fear of His enemies are inflamed. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and High Priest plot His arrest, as His disciples debate among themselves who would be the greatest in His earthly kingdom.

Matthew 17 and Mark 9 record the transfiguration of Christ when He unveiled His heavenly glory.

Words and imagination fail me to describe the transformative moment when Peter, James, and his brother John (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:1-13) witnessed Christ’s transfiguration. Those three disciples, identified as Christ’s inner circle, gazed upon Jesus, “and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (17:2). As the disciples looked on, suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus “talking with Him” (17:3). It has been suggested by many, and I believe the same, that Moses was representative of the Law and Elijah the prophets.

Peter, never one to be at a loss for words, interrupted the moment and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias [i.e. Elijah]” (17:4). Even as the words were in Peter’s mouth, he was interrupted by a sight and sound that silenced him and struck fear in the three disciples.

Matthew 17:5–6 – “5While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.”

With a touch of compassion (17:7), Jesus bid the disciples to rise, and challenged them to tell no man what they had seen, “until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (17:9). Peter would write later of this experience on the mount: “[We] were eyewitnesses of his [Christ’s] majesty. 17For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him [Christ] in the holy mount” (2 Peter 1:16–18).

After He had descended the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus found His other disciples embroiled in a controversy with scribes (experts in the Law of Moses), who were “questioning,” and mocking the disciples’ failure to cast a demon out of a father’s son (Mark 9:14; Matthew 17:14-16). Rebuking His disciples for their lack of faith (Matthew 17:17), Jesus commanded the demon to depart from the son, “and the child was cured from that very hour” (17:18).

The disciples, embarrassed by their failure and humbled by Jesus’ rebuke (Mark 9:19), later questioned why they had been unable to cast the demon out of the child (Mark 9:28).  Christ’s answer revealed the power and necessity of faith and prayer (Mark 9:29; Matthew 17:20-21).

Matthew 17:20–2120And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

The disciples had failed to cast the demon out of the child because they had faltered in both the matter of faith and prayer.

Jesus taught, even a small amount of faith can grow and overcome obstacles as great as a mountain (I believe the idea of moving a mountain was figurative or symbolic of great obstacles, and not literal mountains). To overcome a great obstacle, like that of the possession and influence of a demon, required both faith (believing “nothing shall be impossible” – Matthew 17:20) and “prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29).

Are you facing obstacles that seem to tower over you like mountains? Are you struggling to believe and trust God?

Set your heart to seek the LORD in prayer. Desire Him more than you crave food!

Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Are You Blessed? If so, You Will Be Persecuted! (Matthew 5-7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 5-7

Considered as Christ’s inaugural address to His followers, the “Sermon on the Mount” is an exposition of the heart of Christ the King, and a declaration of the character of those who would be citizens in His kingdom.

I do not believe it is an overstatement to declare, that, apart from the Law and Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount embodies some of the greatest truths ever known to man.

The Sermon on the Mount is not the means of salvation, but an exposition of the attitudes and character of believers who are spiritual citizens of the “Kingdom of heaven” (5:3). The sermon is Christ the King’s declaration of His will regarding the actions and attitudes of the citizens of heaven.

Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes

Sitting down on a hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee (5:1), Jesus taught the people a series of eight inspiring truths that we identify as the Beatitudes (5:3-12). In essence, the Beatitudes define the character of those who are sincere followers of the LORD Jesus Christ. Each Beatitude begins with the word, “Blessed,” which I suggest is a state of settled joy and contentment; a promise of joy and peace that surpasses one’s circumstances.

The Beatitudes are heavenly attitudes that are not only contradictory to society, they are in direct conflictwith the spirit of the world.

Christ taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (5:3); however, the world says, “believe in yourself.” We read, “Blessed are they that mourn” (5:4); however, the world says, “don’t let them see you weep.”

Christ encouraged His followers, “Blessed are the meek” (5:4); but society advises, “stand up for yourself!” “Thirst for Truth, hunger for righteousness” (5:6) was the example Christ gave His disciples, but the world cheers, “eat, drink, and be merry.”

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the merciful,” (5:7); however, society dares, “Do it to them, before they do it to you!” Christ urged, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (5:8), who seek only Him; but the worldly crowd warns, “You only go through life once.”

The world says, “Be a peacekeeper,” and be willing to compromise; however, Christ taught His followers, “Be a peacemaker,” (5:9) and seek to bring others to the Prince of Peace.

Finally, Jesus assured His followers who would find themselves as the object of derision and persecution:

Matthew 5:10–11 – “10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

The righteous face three forms of persecution (5:11).

To be reviled, is to be mocked and have disparaging things said about your character and motive.

The word “persecute” is indicative of personal attacks. Persecution may come as physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual confrontations. Persecution is often relentless and is intended to drive the believer from his home, family, friends, and work. Persecution can come as threats to the believer or his loved ones.

The third form of persecution is verbal: “and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (5:11). The arsenal of this form of persecution comes as lies, innuendoes, and sowing questions on one’s motive or sincerity. As difficult as it may seem (and it is), the attitude of the persecuted is declared in this:

Matthew 5:12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad [jumping and leaping for joy]: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

How can a believer rejoice when he is persecuted? He can rejoice in this confidence: Troubles and trial have their purpose in the providence of God.

James 1:2-4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into [encounter] divers temptations [various sorts of troubles and trials]; [3] Knowing this [understanding], that the trying [proving & testing] of your faith worketh patience [steadfastness]. [4] But let patience have her perfect [complete & thorough] work, that ye may be perfect and entire [without defects], wanting [lacking] nothing.”

As much as persecution may hurt (and it does), a believer must remember that persecution is the training ground for spiritual maturity and broader spiritual opportunities. Paul challenged his spiritual son in the faith: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Believers who are committed to living out the Beatitudes will experience persecution.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

No Karma: My God Has Got the Whole World, In His Hands (Esther 6-10)

Daily reading assignment – Esther 6-10

The world calls it, “Instant Karma,” an ideology attributed to Buddhism and Hinduism. Instant Karma suggests a “payback” for one’s past actions. Of course, what one has done in the past might be good or bad, and the “payback” serve as its reward.

Instant Karma seems to suggest a “Cause and Effect” that is fatalistic and devoid of the influence of divine sovereignty and intervention. As a believer, I have faith in God’s promises. I know God is sovereignly directing the course of humanity to His purpose and end. I am confident, “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

There is an undeniable principle of “Cause and Effect” in this world and it is summed up in this: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Esther 6

Esther 6 is a beautiful example of God working in the heart of a king. King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes I), found himself in a place many of us have found ourselves…enduring a sleepless night.

It is revealed that the king’s insomnia (6:1) was used by God to direct his thoughts and the heart of the king to His divine end. From the king’s perspective, however, it was just another sleepless night, and thus he determined to have his servants read historical records that chronicled his reign.

Providentially, for there is no other explanation for it, the name of Mordecai, Queen Esther’s adopted father, came to the king’s attention. Ahasuerus, was reminded how Mordecai had intervened to foil a plot to assassinate the king (2:21-23). Recalling the event, the king wondered aloud, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” (6:3).

Learning from his servants that Mordecai had not been honored for his service (6:3), the king determined to immediately correct that slight and reward him. Providentially, in that very moment, Haman, the adversary of the Jews who had successfully plotted to have the king sign a decree to exterminate all the Jews, entered the king’s court (6:4-5).

Haman was approaching on a mission to request that Mordecai be hanged from the gallows he had constructed in his courtyard (6:4-5). In a wonderful twist of what some might call “Instant Karma,” Haman listened as the king desired his advice on the means of honoring a servant in “whom the king delighteth to honour” (6:6).

Haman mistakenly believed he was the man the king desired to honor, and suggested a lavish, public parade.

 Esther 6:8-9Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.”

Ah, the irony when Haman was commanded to be the one to honor Mordecai, the very man whom he was plotting to hang (6:10-11)!

Esther 7-10

The balance of Esther 6 and the remaining chapters (Esther 7-10) give testimony to the sovereignty of God as He providentially directed the thoughts, plots and plans of men to His divine purpose and end.

Haman’s wicked scheme to annihilate the Jews was not only thwarted, but he fell victim to the very gallows he had constructed to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:7-10).

Dear friend, all men are free will agents; however, God can and does steer the course of human choices to accomplish His plan and purpose.  King, president, governor, judge, sheriff, employer, teacher, pastor, or parent…none are beyond the sovereign purpose and will of God.

Solomon taught his son, “The king’s heart is in the hand [power; rule; authority; under dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [streams] of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor]” (Proverbs 21:1).

No man acts independent of God; after all, “He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands!”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith