Category Archives: Love

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 128-130

Today’s scripture reading consists of three brief songs of worship in the Book of Psalms, chapters 128, 129 and 130.  As noted in previous devotions, we are in the midst of a set of Psalms known as, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134) and believed to have been psalms pilgrims sang as they approached Jerusalem and the Temple for feasts days celebrated by the Hebrews.  My focus for today’s commentary is Psalm 128.

Psalm 128 is a song of rejoicing in the LORD for His many blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears and walks in the ways of the LORD (128:1).

What does it mean to fear the LORD?

The fear of the LORD is not a fear that, like Adam, flees or cowers in God’s presence (Genesis 3:8-9).  It is a reverential fear; a fear that moves a man to conduct himself in a manner that is upright, honest and just.  Such a man is “blessed” (i.e. happy; joyful; satisfied) because he “walketh in His ways” (the ways of the LORD’S commandments).

Drawing upon a picture that is rural and agricultural (128:2-3); the man who fears the LORD is promised he will enjoy success in his labor, be happy in his pursuits, and fare well in life (128:2).

Wow; what a picture of a rewarding, satisfying life!  However, it gets even better!  It is one thing to be well-off, have money in savings and enjoy material success; however, it is quite another to have family in whom you take pleasure.

The world might say such a man lives a “charmed life”; however, nothing could be further from the truth!  He is not lucky; he is blessed because he fears the LORD and walks in His ways!

Unlike the wicked whose lives are cursed with the ways of sin that never satisfy, the life of a man who fears the LORD and walks in His ways is not choked with the weeds of ungodliness.  God blesses his labor (128:2) and his household enjoys the fruit of God’s blessings upon his life (128:3).

His wife is “a fruitful vine” and finds her strength in him and his children are “like olive plants”, a source of joy to his soul.  Leaving us no doubt the way of the LORD is blessed, the psalmist repeats his assertion, the man be blessed that feareth the LORD (128:4).

The closing verses of Psalm 128 serve as a benediction for those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways (128:5-6).

Psalm 128:5-6 – “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. 6  Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

We have seen the family portraits of three generations in this psalmThe first is a portrait of a young man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), is like “a fruitful vine” …a source of joy and blessing to her household.

The second portrait is that of the man’s children who, sitting around his table, are trained and cultivated to grow up “like olive plants” and prosper (128:3).

The third portrait is one of contentment (128:5-6) and was taken in the latter years of the godly man’s life.  He is old, his back stooped in age; however, his heart aspires to see God bless his nation (128:5).  He rejoices in seeing his “children’s children”, and prays for peace (128:6).

Many reading this devotional aspire to the same.  We long for success and to be a blessing to our spouse and children.  We pray for God to pour out His blessings on our nation and, when we are old, to grant us the joy of seeing and loving our grandchildren.

My friend, those are admirable goals; however, they are the blessings of those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

You Need to Be Needed!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 3-4

Our reading in the Book of Ecclesiastes continues today with Ecclesiastes 3-4.   Rather than a book of happy reflections, Solomon bares his heart in Ecclesiastes and gives us an opportunity to ponder the empty soul of an elderly man whose lusts have taken him far from the LORD.  In a statement of the obvious, Solomon writes, To every thing there is a season [a time appointed], and a time to every purpose [matter; purpose; pleasure] under the heaven [sky] (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

I did not appreciate the passing of time and the seasons when I was young; however, I sometimes catch myself reflecting on the past as I grow older.  Whether physically or in my thoughts, I go home and visit places that hold meaning from my youth.  Familiar places; unmarked landmarks hold precious, childhood memories.  When I visit cemeteries and see familiar names inscribed on tombstones, voices long silenced by death resonate in my thoughts…Ricky Flynn, Mazzie Plyler, Leola Sapp, Parnell Threatt, Roland and Sadie Whitley, Dena Plyler remind me… “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (3:2).

Consider with me some truths we can glean from Solomon’s ponderings.  The first, apart from God man’s life is aimless, purposeless.  Solomon asks, “What profit [gain; advantage] hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” (3:9).  In other words, what does a man have to show for his toil in this earthly life?

Another truth, God has placed in the heart of man the reality of eternity and a longing He alone can satisfy.  Solomon writes,

Eccles. 3:11 – He hath made every thing beautiful in his time [season]: also he hath set [put] the world [lit. eternity] in their heart [mind; thoughts], so that no man can find out [suffice or satisfy] the work [deeds; activity] that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”

Men and women turn to drugs, alcohol and amusements attempting to fill the void in their souls only God can satisfy.  The successful, beautiful and powerful of the world learn too late that wealth, material possessions, fame and popularity are fleeting and temporal.

Eccles. 3:19-20 – “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

We can take many lessons from today’s scripture; however, I will focus on only one: You Need to Be Needed!  Consider three principles of truth from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

The first, working with others is satisfying and more rewarding than working alone (4:9-10). Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Like oxen who are stronger and more productive when they share the same yoke, people working together are more satisfied in their work (4:9).  Working together discourages selfishness and self-centeredness (4:10) and provides an opportunity of encouraging others.

A second truth concerning the Need to Be Needed is, working with others encourages perseverance and protects (4:11-12).

Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 – “Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone12  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken”

Investing your life and time in others gives you the privilege and comfort of the “huddle” in hard times.  Like a husband and wife who find warmth together on a cold night, we encourage and are encouraged when we “huddle”… laughing together, crying together, working together makes us stronger!  When an enemy threatens and difficult times come, a sincere friend will do all they can to huddle with you and keep you from falling or failing (4:12).

A third truth, God made us individuals; however, He never meant for us to be alone.

 Everything God created in the beginning was perfect and good (Genesis 1-2).  However, after creating Adam, “the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:19).

We are happiest when needed!  We are more effective in our work and less likely to give up when we work with others striving for the same goals.  Someone has said, A friend is someone who comes in when the rest of the world has walked out.”

While breaking baseball’s “color barrier,” Baseball legend and Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, faced jeering crowds in every stadium.  While playing in his home stadium in Brooklyn, Robinson committed an error and his own fans began to ridicule him.

Standing at second base, alone and humiliated, shortstop “Pee Wee” Reese came over and stood next to Robinson.   Putting his arm around Robinson, “Pee Wee” faced the crowd until the fans grew silent.  Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

Investing your time and life in loving and helping others can help you overcome bouts of loneliness, discouragement and depression!

Friend, you Need to be Needed!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Living a Purposeful Life

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 1-2

Reading the Book of Ecclesiastes might raise in some a spirit of hopelessness; however, such should not be the case for children of faith whose focus and trust is in the LORD.

Ecclesiastes chronicles the pondering of elderly King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (the one exception is Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God).  The king’s subject is the challenges and difficulties of this earthly life and, apart from the LORD, its vanity (emptiness).  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3  What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

Penned in the latter years of his life, his youth far spent and the frailty of old age his daily haunt, Solomon’s outlook was hardly an attitude of rejoicing.  Solomon wondered, what is a man’s life apart from God?  To what ends should a man live?  What profit, what gain, what value is there for a man who spends his life in labor?  One generation dies and another takes its place (Eccl. 1:4); the sun rises and the sun sets (Eccl. 1:5); the wind blows and the waters run (Eccl. 1:6-7) and, in Solomon’s observation, a man’s heart is never satisfied (1:8).

Eccles. 1:8 – “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

What a sad commentary on the life of a king whom God promised to give wealth unimaginable and wisdom incomprehensible (1 Kings 3:7-14)!  He gave his heart searching for purpose apart from God and, near the end of life summed up his search saying, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).

What happened to this man who had everything, but whose life was empty?  We find the answer to that question in 1 Kings 11:4.

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

His soul spiritually cold, his life viewed from a horizontal, human perspective, his heart turned from God; no wonder Solomon writes thirty-four times in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, all is vanity!”

What a tragic end for a man whose youth was a testimony of God’s blessings!  When he was young, he loved the LORD and chose wisdom over wealth and worldly pleasures (1 Kings 3:9).  God honored his request, imparting to him not only wisdom, but also riches and power.  Tragically, in his old age, Solomon turned from the LORD and His Word.  Ecclesiastes is the philosophical discourse of an old man out of fellowship with God.

Eccles. 2:11 – “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”

I believe it is author and preacher Chuck Swindoll who tells the story of a deeply disturbed, troubled individual who went to a psychiatrist seeking help with his anxieties.   Every morning the man awoke melancholy and in the evening, went to bed deeply depressed.  Desperate and unable to find relief, he decided to seek the counsel of a medical doctor.

The psychiatrist listened to the man share his thoughts, fears and anxieties and finally leaned towards his patient and said, “I understand an Italian clown has come to our local theatre and the crowds are [rolling] in the aisles in laughter… Why don’t you go see the clown and laugh your troubles away?”

With a sad, forlorn expression, the patient muttered, “Doctor, I am that clown.”

Friend, a life lived apart from God and in contradiction to His Law will never be satisfying!  No pleasures can mask the sadness, nor riches satisfy the void of a sinner’s heart apart from the LORD.  Solomon writes,

Eccles. 2:26 – “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that He may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Obedience bears the assurance of God’s blessing.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 4-6

We began reading the Book of Deuteronomy last Monday and continue in the same this day with our study focusing on chapter 4-6.  As a reminder, we are in the midst of Moses’ challenge and final words of exhortation to Israel before God takes him home to Himself.

Having rehearsed God’s providences and faithfulness to His chosen people, Moses communicated to Israel he was not allowed to enter Canaan because He had sinned against the LORD (Deut. 3:25-27).  The LORD, however, promised to give Moses a vision of the land He promised the nation.   One of the final acts of Moses’ leadership was God’s command for him “charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (Deut. 3:28).

Moses’ exhortation continues in Deuteronomy 4 when he reminds the people of their special covenant relationship with the LORD.

Deuteronomy 4:1 – “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.”

Unlike any other, the LORD chose Israel and privileged that nation to know Him personally for He revealed His character and person in His Word and “statutes and judgments”.   The people knew the LORD and were custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:7-14).

Moses exhorted Israel to not take lightly their covenant responsibility to know and obey the LORD’s commandments, warning, the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” [He will not accept second place in the lives of His people] (4:24).

Less the people be disheartened, Moses reminded the people the LORD is not only a “consuming fire, even a jealous God”, He is also merciful, longsuffering, and forgiving.

Deuteronomy 4:31 – “(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.”

Who is Israel’s God?  He is the Creator and the God of heaven (Deut. 4:21).  He is God alone and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39).

Moses rehearsed God’s covenant, the giving of His Commandments at Mount Horeb, and the commandments themselves in Deuteronomy 5.

Deuteronomy 6 states not only the responsibility of knowing, keeping and obeying the “commandments, the statutes, and the judgments” (6:1) of the LORD, but also the individual responsibility of parents imparting to their sons and daughters the LORD’s commands.

When a Pharisee asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest (Matthew 22:36-37), He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5.

Deuteronomy 6:5 – “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

Each generation was to not only obey the commandments out of a heart of love, they were also to communicate the commands, statutes, and laws of the LORD “diligently” to their children (6:7-9).  The Word of God was to be the subject of every household in Israel.   The commands, statutes, and laws were the standard and spiritual guide for every area of life…sitting down, walking, lying down at night or rising at dawn.  No area of a man’s life was to go unchecked.

Deuteronomy 6:17-18 – “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. 18  And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers,”

I close with two spiritual lessons in today’s study.  The first, remembering the providences of the LORD and how He delivered Israel out of Egypt and slavery is a frequent theme of Moses’ final address to Israel in the Book of Deuteronomy.  The same should be true of 21st century believers; we need to remember the LORD’s providences in our lives, how He saved us from the condemnation and bondage of sin through Christ’s sacrificial death, burial and resurrection (Romans 3:23-28).

A second lesson is, Obedience bears the assurance of God’s blessing.  Moses challenged Israel to obey the LORD’s instructions, assuring the people their God was intimately invested in the “good [of Israel] always” and their preservation as His chosen people (6:24).  The apostle Paul gives that same assurance to believers in Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

In Praise of Godly Mothers

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 31

Our scripture reading in the Book of Proverbs concludes with one of the most beloved chapters in the book, Proverbs 31.  The identification of the author has been the subject of debate; however, I believe the author was King Solomon.  We read in the opening salutation, “The words [discourse; law] of king Lemuel, the prophecy [burden; tribute] that his mother taught him [instructed; discipline; chasten] (Proverbs 31:1).

Perhaps Bathsheba gave her son a nick name that held deep meaning for her.  Having sorrowed the loss of her firstborn son, Lemuel’s name held deep meaning for his mother.  The literal meaning of Lemuel is “unto God”, meaning dedicated to God, and no doubt expressed her heart’s desire.

I suggest two sections or divisions of Proverbs 31.  The first, Proverbs 31:1-9, contains a Queen mother’s instructions to her son who would one day serve the nation as king.

The second division, Proverbs 31:10-31, is perhaps the most beautiful tribute ever written by a son in praise of his mother.  Countless books and innumerable quotes exist in praise of motherhood; however, I know of no other source that paints the blessed picture of motherhood more perfect than Proverbs 31.  Alas, my task is a brief devotional commentary and to that end I suggest one from a devotional I first penned March 31, 2015.

Proverbs 31:29-30 – 29 Many daughters have done virtuously [served with strength; courage; excellence], but thou excellest [ascend; go beyond] them all. 30 Favour [charm; grace] is deceitful [lies; unreliable], and beauty is vain [temporal; passing]: but a woman that feareth [reverences] the LORD, she shall be praised.”

One of the great tragedies of our 21st century society is the void of godly, virtuous daughters, wives and mothers.  The strength of femininity has served mankind well and the influence of daughters, wives and mothers on society is immeasurable.  Like salt seasons and flavors, women have the power to season their homes, communities and society with feminine, preserving grace.

Historically, mothers served not only as the womb of life, but also as the moral compass for a family, community and nation.  Make no mistake, the influence of organizations like NOW, and the rise to leadership of women who crusade for and encourage the slaughter of the unborn infant in a mother’s womb has dethroned America’s daughters, wives and mothers.

Proverbs 31:31 – Give [Deliver; yield; recompense; pay; apportion] her of the fruit [reward; results] of her hands [labor; consecration]; and let her own works [labor; deeds; achievements; behavior] praise [boast; glory] her in the gates [gates of the city where the elders sat and exercised judgment].”

A husband, son and daughter of a virtuous wife and mother can never compliment or praise a woman of virtue too much!   In his letter to the scattered and persecuted Christians of the 1st century church the apostle Peter challenged husbands: Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [wife] according to knowledge [understanding], giving honour [cherish; treat as priceless] unto the wife…” (1 Peter 3:7).

It is my prayer this brief devotional has inspired daughters, wives and mothers to love the Lord and know, in spite of what this godless society might tell you, your influence is beyond your comprehension.  Many have said, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

I close with an illustration and am at a lost to cite its origin.

Illust. – A man stopped at the flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived 200 miles away. As he got out of his car he noticed a girl sitting on the curb sobbing. He asked her what was wrong and she replied: “I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother, but I only have 75 cents and a rose cost $2.00.”

The man smiled and said, “Come on in with me. I will buy you a rose for your mother.”  He placed his FTD order of flowers to his mother and bought a rose for the girl.  As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride.

She responded, “Yes, please, if you could. Take me to my mother,” and she directed him to a cemetery where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.

The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up the flowers and drove the 200 miles to his mother’s home.

Wives and mother’s long for their family’s affection and nothing will compare to the praise of her family.   By the way, to my wife, daughters and mothers in my life…I love you!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t enable your children’s sins!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 29-30

Today’s devotional commentary focuses on one verse, Proverbs 29:3 and was first posted on this blog April 29, 2014.

As I was considering today’s devotional it occurred to me how little has changed in the world since Solomon’s writings nearly 3,000 years ago.  We share the same concerns in our day as those addressed by Solomon in his.  Granted, we are more sophisticated and enjoy the conveniences of modern technology; however, the problems of humanity are the same.  Poverty, rebellion, wickedness, oppression, heartache, sorrows and immorality are ever-present.  How can this be, you ask?

Times have changed, but the sinful nature of man is the same from generation to generation.  All humanity shares the bloodline of Adam and bear his nature and the curse of sin (“For since by man came death…For as in Adam all die” – 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Today’s proverb is timeless, as is all wisdom.

Proverbs 29:3  “Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.”

Solomon returns to contrasting a wise son with a foolish son.  Someone might mistake Solomon’s observation of a son who loves wisdom with the more recent phenomenon of what I will describe as “perpetual students”—young adults who make going to school and pursuing degrees a career rather than the means to a career.  No, this son who is a delight to his father is more than a learner—he loves and adheres to godly wisdom and counsel.   A wise son who “loveth wisdom” rejoices the heart of his father!

The contrast to a son who walks according to wisdom is the son who is a heartache to his father and walks an ungodly path where he wastes his inheritance [“his substance”] in the company of the immoral.   I believe this son was a child of privilege and grew up in a home of affluence.  Like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), he has no appetite for wisdom and, once free of his parent’s constraints, follows sinful pleasures until all is spent.

Sound familiar?  I have observed this pattern far too often over the years.  It has become commonplace for well-meaning parents longing for their child’s affections and desiring to keep peace in the family, to become enablers of an adult child’s waste and wantonness.

There may be parents and grandparents reading today’s proverb who feel as though you are looking at the reflection of your home and family in a mirror.   I know the pain of disappointments hurt, but you must accept that no amount of “substance” will earn your rebellious son or daughter’s affection.   At the same time, you must weigh your stewardship of the material possessions God has entrusted to you as a sacred trust.

Don’t enable your children’s sins!  Love them, care for their basic needs, but don’t become an enabler of sin.

I challenge sons and daughters reading this devotional to love godly wisdom, obey your parents and heed godly counsel.

Ephesians 6:1-3 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2  Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3  That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Performing Faith: The Life of Corrie ten Boom”

Hillsdale family, friends and Heart of a Shepherd followers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Tavis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith