Category Archives: Love

Singing the Desert Blues (Job 30-31)

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(Additional languages available upon request by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.)

Scripture reading – Job 30-31

Our previous devotional found Job recalling the way life used to be (Job 29). He had enjoyed the blessings of God’s favor, as well as the esteem from family, friends, and fellow citizens. In former years, young men shied from his company, while elders stood in his presence (29:8). His counsel was valued (29:7-17), and he supposed he might forever be the benefactor of God’s grace (29:18-23). Of course, those were the “good old days,” before Job experienced catastrophic losses and afflictions.

Job 30

Disdained by Lesser Men (30:1-14)

Job’s circumstances were now changed, and instead of esteem, he was mocked by lesser men (30:1-14). They were young men, whose fathers he would not have entrusted with the care of sheep dogs. Those men openly disdained Job (30:1). They were slothful, and Job loathed them (30:2-4). They were “children of fools” (30:8), who sang ballads deriding his afflictions (30:9). They spat in his face (30:10), and Job’s sorrows (30:11) served as a “righteous reason” for them to treat him spitefully (30:12-13).

Wrecked by Physical Disease (30:16-18)

Grief took hold of Job (30:16), as the toll and pain of his afflictions pierced him to the bone (30:17a). His muscles ached (“my sinews take no rest”) beneath his skin, while open oozing sores exposed the extent of the infection above. Job felt as though his flesh had been exchanged – that he had swapped healthy flesh for loathsome (30:17b-18). He was well-nigh hopeless, and felt God opposed him. When he prayed, it seemed God refused to hear his cry for pity and compassion (30:19-20). He had come to a place he accused the LORD of cruelty (30:21), and felt abandoned (30:22-24).

Job complained, for the compassion he formerly extended to others was forgotten, and it seemed his good deeds were rewarded with evil (30:25-26). He moaned and groaned (30:27-30), and in the words of the late preacher J. Vernon McGee, sang “The Desert Blues” (30:31).

Job 31 – Job’s Finale and Defense

Job 31 recorded the conclusion of Job’s deposition of his righteousness, and his assertion of innocence. I invite you to consider eleven virtues stated by Job in his defense.

Personal chastity is the first virtue. Declaring he was not guilty of lusts, Job stated, “I made a covenant [vow; agreement] with mine eyes; Why then should I think [i.e., lust after] upon a maid?” (31:1)

The second virtue suggested was an assertion of innocence. Though his “friends” accused him of lies and deceit, Job demanded he be “weighed in an even balance.” He believed God would find him a man of integrity (31:5-6).

Job’s commitment to purity and uprightness was his third virtue. He declared his hands were clean of wrongdoing. In fact, he suggested, should a stain be found on his life and character, he would relinquish the fruits of his labor (31:7-8).

Marital fidelity was the fourth virtue claimed by Job. He professed he was innocent of adultery (31:9-12).

A fifth virtue was a claim to have been a faithful master, and a kind employer. Believing all men are created in the image and likeness of God, Job believed he was no better than his servants. He understood God was Creator of both the servant and his master (31:13-15).

Sixthly, Job declared he had been charitable to the poor, widows, and fatherless (31:16-20). His friends accused him of being an oppressor and abuser of the less fortunate. Job, however, wished his arm would fall from his body, had he taken advantage of the less fortunate (31:21-22).

Closing thoughts (31:23-40) – In quick order, consider five remaining virtues claimed by Job as evidence of his righteous character. While he lived in the midst of an idolatrous people, Job declared he was innocent of idolatry, for his faith and trust were in God alone (31:23-28).

He had been kind to his enemies, and never took satisfaction in their misfortunes (31:29-30). He was a man given to hospitality, and known for generosity to strangers (31:31-32). Unlike Adam, the first man who sinned and sought to hide his transgressions from God (31:33), Job declared he was innocent of hypocrisy, hiding no secret sins (31:33-37). Finally, Job stated he was honest in business (31:38-40). He had not leased another man’s field, and failed to pay him what was owed when harvest time came.

Job’s longest speech concluded (Job 31:40) with him being like most men: He boasted his virtues, but was blinded by pride, and unable or unwilling to see his flaws.

* Note – Our next devotion (Job 32) will introduce Elihu, a fourth “friend” of Job’s. His youthful zeal will heap upon Job sorrow upon sorrows.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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Scripture reading – 2 John; 3 John

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

The Second Epistle of John

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

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

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

The Third Epistle of John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Is There Any HOPE? (1 John 3; 1 John 4)

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Scripture reading – 1 John 3; 1 John 4

We continue our devotional study of the Epistles of John, and come today to 1 John 3 and 4. John was writing to believers near the end of the 1st century, and who found themselves living in a world becoming increasingly hostile to them and the Gospel. After admonishing believers to “love not the world” (1 John 2:15-17), the apostle warned that there were “many antichrists” in the world and tragically, within the congregations (1 John 2:18-23).

Who were the antichrists? Some professed to be believers and were intolerant of sound doctrine (1 John 2:19). Others were false teachers (1 John 2:22-23), who purposed to seduce believers and lead them astray from the truth (1 John 2:26). John assured believers, if they would abide [literally sin not] in Christ, and were sensitive to the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, they would discern truth from error (2:27-28). The focus of our devotion will be 1 John 3:1-3.

1 John 3

Recalling chapter and verse numbers were not in John’s original manuscript (these being added by editors), John’s letter continued in chapter 3 with a wonderful, affectionate reminder: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (3:1).

A Message of HOPE (3:1-3)

Believers are not only the object of God the Father’s love (3:1), we are “the sons of God” (3:1a), and therefore strangers in the world. Knowing the world rejected Christ, and “knew Him not” (3:1b), we who are “the sons of God” do not look to the world for our identity or affirmation. As we heed God’s Word, and yield to His will (Romans 12:1-2), we grow spiritually and are changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Believers who look in anticipation for the coming of Christ, will find “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (3:2).

In fact, the believer’s HOPE motivates him to be ever purifying his soul of sin, that we might be pure and holy, “even as He is pure” (3:3).

What is HOPE?

Hope, in my opinion, is something you might have and do not appreciate, until it is lost. For instance, it is easy to define “hopeless.” Despair, despondent, dejected, downhearted, downcast, depressed are all terms that describe a state of hopelessness. HOPE, however, is a challenge to define. Words like anticipation, aspiration, and expectation might capture some of the essence of HOPE; however, they fall short in accurately defining it. Generally, the world considers HOPE to be little more than wishful thinking. Interestingly, the ancient world had many gods (gods of war, love, light, fertility, healing, death, beauty, and agriculture); however, to my knowledge no civilization worshiped a “god of hope.”

The God of Hope

HOPE occurs 143 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Twenty-six times in the Psalms, the LORD and His Word are referred to as the believer’s object of HOPE. We are to “Hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24), “Hope in [His] mercy” (Psalm 33:18), and “Hope in [His] judgments,” because the LORD is just (Psalm 119:43).

The prophet Jeremiah identified God as the believer’s object of HOPE, writing, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is” (Jeremiah 17:7). HOPE was also a frequent theme of the apostle Paul, who in his letter to believers in Corinth, wrote, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Believer, our God is the God of HOPE!

The Believer’s HOPE

The world defines hope as probabilities and wishful thinking; however, the believer’s HOPE is a confident expectation in God’s faithfulness and His ability to keep all He has promised. In other words, the LORD and His promises are the object of the believer’s HOPE.

Two Dimensions of Biblical HOPE: Faith and Action.

HOPE was one of three virtues Paul employed when he defined the essence of a believer’s character: “And now abideth faith, HOPE, [and] charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13). In his letter to believers in Rome, Paul prayed, “Now the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in HOPE” (Romans 15:13a).

Application – Biblical HOPE is an active expectation the LORD will fulfill all He has promised. HOPE accepts circumstances and challenges as from the hand of the Lord (Romans 8:28). HOPE believes God, and makes the best of one’s circumstances. HOPE trusts, and obeys the LORD even when all seems hopeless.

Closing thoughts –An Old Testament example of Biblical HOPE is identified in the lives of four young Jewish men. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among the first Jews taken captive to Babylon (Daniel 1). Their last memories of family, the city of Jerusalem, and their homeland were of a fallen, defeated people. Humanly speaking, all hope was lost. Yet, how did they respond to their circumstances? Did they follow their brethren, embrace the culture of the world, and bow their wills to the commands and idols of a pagan king? No!

Those four young men followed Daniel’s example, who “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:8). They determined to keep God’s covenant, and obey His Law and Commandments, and HOPE in the LORD.

Biblical HOPE aspires to a pure life, even as the LORD is pure and holy. (1 John 3:3)

Have you any HOPE?

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 13; 2 Timothy 1

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

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

Hebrews 13

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

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

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

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

“Marriage is Honourable” (13:4)

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

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

Be Content (13:5-6)

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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Scripture reading – 1 Peter 3; 1 Peter 4

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

An Outline of 1 Peter 3

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

An Outline of 1 Peter 4

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

A Righteous Response to Injustice (3:9)

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

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

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

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

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

Bite Your Tongue (3:10)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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Scripture reading – Titus 1; Titus 2

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

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

Paul’s Charge to Titus (1:5)

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

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

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

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

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

Five Disqualifications from the Pastorate (1:7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Women in the Church, and God’s Blueprint for Church Leadership (1 Timothy 2-3)

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Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 3 addresses two ministering offices of the church. The office of the bishop defines the function and qualifications of a pastor as overseer of a local congregation of believers (3:1-7). The second church office is that of the deacons (meaning servant; 3:8-13).). Notice the bishop\pastor and deacons’ offices were defined by personal, spiritual, and family qualifications (3:1-13). The focus of this devotion will be the office of the bishop\pastor; however, I will first set the context for our study by examining the role of women in the church.

The Women of the Congregation (2:9-15)

While there are many controversies challenging the 21st century church, I suggest the role of the sexes, and leadership is the most hotly debated. Beginning with the conviction believers accept the authority of the Scriptures in faith and practice, the teachings regarding the role of women becomes simple and straightforward.

After writing regarding the importance of prayer (2:8), Paul addressed the adorning and decorum of women in public worship. As he commanded men to “pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (2:8), the apostle commanded women to be adorned “in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (2:9-10).

Dress Matters: A Principle for Women’s Dress and Decorum (2:9-10)

Contrary to the “come as you are” invitation of many churches, Paul taught believers to dress in a manner that befits God’s holiness (2:9a). With reverence and restraint, women are to dress in a manner that would not distract from public worship (2:9b). Modeling godly character, a woman’s works (her outward deeds) are to be a reflection of her dedication to the Lord (2:10).

The Attitude and Demeanor of Women in the Church (2:11-12)

Then, Paul’s attention turned to the attitude and demeanor of women in public worship. The apostle wrote: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection” (2:11).

The church is graced with women who are wonderful examples of spiritual piety and Biblical knowledge. Nevertheless, in public worship women are to be learners, and not teachers. Indeed, the role of women in the church is one of subjection (Paul had written the same to believers in Corinth, stating: “It is a shame for women to speak in the church,” 1 Corinthians 14:35). Paul taught the same principle in his letter to Timothy, stating, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (2:12).

Two Spiritual Foundations for Paul’s Instructions Regarding the Role of Women (2:13-15)

The apostle Paul needed no justification for the limits he placed on the role of women in the church; nevertheless, he identified two principles for his instructions (2:13-14). The first, God’s creative order: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (2:13; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9). The second principle arose from the historical fact concerning the fall of the human race (2:14). Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord’s commands; however, it was the woman, not the man who was “deceived” and transgressed (2:14; Genesis 3:1-6a). Adam sinned of his own volition, and disobeyed God. Eve, however, usurped her husband’s authority, and was deceived by the serpent (2:14).

Having clearly, and unequivocally defined the role of women in the church (2:9-15), Paul then set in order the leadership offices of the church (1 Timothy 3). For today’s study, the focus with be the office of the bishop\pastor (3:1-7).

1 Timothy 3 – The Bishop\Pastor

The Person and Office of the Pastor (3:1)

Accepting the Scripture’s authority in both faith and practice, the Bible is clear: The office of bishop, meaning overseer, is to be occupied by a man. Of those who aspire to the calling of pastor, it is “a good work” (3:1). The word “desire” indicates a strong urgency to pastor and oversee the work of the ministry. Such a calling is a “good,” and honorable work. Yet, desiring the office and work of the bishop is not enough; for a man must also be qualified to hold such a high calling.

The Qualifications of the Pastor (3:2-7)

I might suggest various outlines for the qualifications of the pastor, but I will limit myself to four categories. The first is a personal qualification: “2A bishop then must be blameless (3:2a). That is not implying perfection (for I can ascertain no man would qualify). “Blameless” indicates the necessity of the pastor’s personal life passing scrutiny. The pastor’s moral character must be above reproach, and must not be chargeable with a moral offense (adultery, fornication, or any other reprehensible conduct disqualifies a man from the pastorate).

The second qualification of the pastor concerns his marriage and relationship with his wife (if married). He is to be “the husband of one wife” (3:2b), in thought and deed (or as many have observed, he must be “a one-woman kind of man”). Other than death, which ends the covenant of marriage in the sight of God and man, a pastor is to be devoted to one-woman. A moral failure or divorce disqualifies a man from the pastorate.

Thirdly, notice the pastor’s character is an essential qualification, and he is to be “vigilant (watchful), sober (disciplined), of good behaviour (honest; well-behaved), given to hospitality, apt (qualified) to teach; 3Not given to wine (not a drinker), no striker (violent or combative), not greedy of filthy lucre (lover of money); but patient (gracious), not a brawler (contentious), not covetous (lover of possessions) (3:2-3).

The fourth essential for the pastor is he is to demonstrate godly leadership in his home (3:4-5). He is to be “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (3:4). Notice the essential nature of a pastor’s household leadership is stressed as the background for the following proposition: “5For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (3:5)

To be spiritually qualified for overseeing the body of Christ, a pastor must not be a “novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (3:6). Regarding his public testimony, “he must have a good report of them which are without [secular society]; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (3:7).

Closing thoughts – With the Scriptures as my authority, I state unequivocally: Women are not to usurp men in teaching or preaching the Scriptures. Women have their place and role in teaching women (Titus 2:3-5); however, they should never exercise authority over men and aspire to teach or preach the Scriptures. To do so is a violates the clear teachings of Scripture.

A Personal Observation: Tragically, many spiritual leaders have accommodated the sins of their children and violated Paul’s instructions (3:5). From my vantage, it seems every failed ministry (Bible-preaching church, Bible college, and Christian institution) has one thing in common:

Spiritual leaders have compromised the spiritual precepts of their institutions, and invited God’s judgment upon those ministries.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Greatest Man in God’s Sight is a Humble, Selfless Servant. (Philippians 2)

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Scripture reading – Philippians 2

Philippians 1 concluded with Paul urging Philippian believers to live worthy of the “gospel of Christ,” and strive for unity (1:27a). Setting aside petty differences, he exhorted them to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27b). “Striving together” was an athletic term that implied not only discipline, but teamwork. What was the goal or coming together as a team? “For the faith,” meaning the doctrine, “of the gospel” (1:27b).

Knowing believers in Philippi faced adversaries, Paul encouraged them to not be afraid of those who opposed them, but to follow his example, “not only to believe on [Christ], but also to suffer for His sake” (1:28-30). Paul was passionate the believers in Philippi would encourage each other, knowing the enemies they faced were those who had opposed him (Acts 16).

Philippians 2

Four Conditions for Spiritual Unity (2:1)

Philippians 2:1 presents us with four realities that motivate believers to pursue spiritual oneness. The first, “consolation in Christ” (2:1a). In other words, like Christ, we should comfort and encourage others with our words and actions. Secondly, the love of Christ motivates us to extend love to others (2:1b). Believers also share in the “fellowship of the Spirit,” for we are by one Spirit…baptized into one body” (2:1c; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Finally, out of “bowels and mercies,” we extend grace and forgiveness to one another (2:1d). After all, we are to be “kindtenderhearted… forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Four Essentials for Spiritual Unity (2:2)

Motivated by four conditions necessary for unity (each beginning with “if” in verse 1), Paul prayed four essentials would be true of the believers: “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (2:2).

To be “likeminded” does not mean believers agree on everything. Paul encouraged the congregation at Philippi, not to strive for uniformity (attained only by pressure from without), but for unity (which is a matter of the heart, and attainable by pressure from within). Like-mindedness is attained when we submit our will to a cause greater than ourselves (for the believer, that cause is to glorify the Lord, the salvation of souls, and the welfare of the congregation; but never at the sacrifice of truth and spiritual integrity).

Three other essentials follow the mandate to be likeminded (2:2b). Spiritual unity exists only when believers have “the same love” (loving the same things—the Lord, the Word, and one another), are “one accord” (acting in harmony), and “one mind” (having the same heart, purpose, and intent).

Sinful Attitudes that Hinder the Unity of Believers (2:3-4)

Mentioned in verses 3-4, are three negative attitudes that hinder harmony among believers, and two positive attitudes that contribute to unity. “Strife” (a selfish, quarrelsome spirit) and “vainglory” (pride) were the first two of three attitudes Paul identified as contributors to disharmony. The apostle wrote, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory” (2:3a). Sadly, too many churches are known more for their quarrels and conflicts (James 4:1; 2 Corinthians 12:20), than their love and harmony. Pride, of course, is the rotten root that impedes unity, and is arrogant, self-sufficient, and unteachable (Proverbs 16:18).

The third hindrance to unity was a selfish, self-seeking spirit. Paul urged believers, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (2:4). Too many churches and institutions are destroyed by people who focus on what they might gain, rather than on what is honoring to Christ, and best for others.

Closing thoughts (2:3-11) – I conclude our devotion inviting you to consider two attitudes that are essential for peace and unity with other believers. The first was humility. Paul encouraged, “in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (2:3b). The ancient Greeks considered humility to be a sign of weakness, and I am afraid the same is true of 21st century societies. Humility is the nature of a Spirit-filled believer. Humility is slow to pass judgment (Matthew 7:1), and charitable toward those at fault (Matthew 7:2-5). Humility is ready to forgive, and overlooks offenses (“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins,” Proverbs 10:12).

Finally, Paul commanded believers to follow a selfless spirit, writing: Look…every man also on the things of others” (2:4b). To put the good of others ahead of ourselves is the essence of a selfless spirit. We conclude our study by considering the greatest example of self-sacrificing love and humility: Jesus Christ (2:5-8).

Philippians 2:5–8 – “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

To be great in God’s judgment we must identify with Christ’s humiliation, humble ourselves, and be obedient.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Philippians: An Epistle of Joy (Philippians 1)

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Scripture reading – Ephesians 6; Philippians 1

Our study of Paul’s “Prison Epistles” continues with the beloved Epistle to the Philippians. Authored by the apostle during his first imprisonment in Rome (AD 60-63), the letter was addressed to “all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (1:1). This is the second of two devotionals for today.

The City of Philippi

Philippi was located in eastern Macedonia, and was on a major trade route between Asia and Europe (serving as the gateway between the two continents). With a large population, Philippi was a center for Greek culture, and a thriving commercial center in Paul’s day. Apart from Paul’s epistle, there is little mention of Philippi in the New Testament.

It was in Philippi where we were introduced to the Jewess named Lydia, a woman described as a “seller of purple,” and who became a believer (Acts 16:14-15). Following an uprising provoked by some who protested their trade in idols was being harmed, Paul and Silas had been jailed in Philippi.

Yet, the Lord intervened for his ministers, and sent an earthquake that opened the doors of the prison. Fearing the prisoners had escaped and he would be executed, the jailer would have taken his own life, had Paul not urged him, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (Acts 16:28). Entering the prison cell, the jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Paul bid him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). That night, the jailer, and his household believed and were baptized (Acts 16:32).

The Circumstances of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians

The apostle, now an elderly statesman of the Gospel, was under house arrest, and appeared to be set aside by God on the “ministry shelf.” Unable to travel, knowing his future was uncertain, Paul might have been tempted to despair of life. Nevertheless, though bound by Caesar, Paul was a prisoner of the Lord (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1), and his heart was infused with the joy of ministering to believers. Instead of an epistle that conveyed gloom and despair, Paul’s letter expressed love and joy! He was buoyed by the mutual love and affection he shared with the believers at Philippi, and his love for them filled the pages of this epistle (1:2-4, 7, 9).

Joy that Soars Above Circumstances (1:3-9)

What was Paul’s secret to joy? I believe it was his focus. He did not focus on himself, but on the Lord and encouraging others. Notice Paul’s care and expressions of love for others in chapter 1.

In verse 2, he lovingly saluted the believers, writing, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2). Then we see his loving assurances, when he penned, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy” (1:3-4). In verse 7, Paul wrote, “I have you in my heart” (1:7). Though in the midst of bondage, Paul wrote, “I pray, that your love may abound [abounding love] yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (1:9).

Paul Never Lost Faith (1:12-14)

A key to Paul’s joy was he had the right perspective on himself, his calling, and ministry. He had suffered the scorn and persecution of enemies, but viewed his trials and afflictions as validations of his ministry (2 Corinthians 11:6-7, 23-30). He accepted adversity as the platform for ministry, and wrote, “I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (1:12).

Paul comprehended God’s sovereignty, being aware the Lord uses adversities to accomplish His purpose in and through a believer’s life. Imprisonment and chains had taken Paul where he would have not gone, but they had given him a ministry to the Praetorian guards of Caesar’s palace! Paul wrote, “my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places” (1:13). The apostle rejoiced how his imprisonment had strengthened believers, who had become “much more bold to speak the word without fear” (1:14).

Closing thoughts (1:15-30) – I conclude this introduction to the Philippians, inviting you to consider Paul’s perspective on his calling and ministry (1:18-21). He counted his life a living sacrifice (1:21; 2:17), and rejoiced that his afflictions had strengthened the faith of the believers. Friend, we live in a “joyless world,” and find ourselves surrounded by loneliness, discontentment and unhappiness. Yet, if we look past our troubles and trust the Lord, we have cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving! After all, God is never less than sovereign!

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Relational Dynamics: Children and Parents; Employees and Employers (Ephesians 6)

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Scripture reading – Ephesians 6; Philippians 1

Today’s Scripture reading concludes Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, and introduces his letter to the believers of Philippi. This is the first of two devotions, and is taken from Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 5 challenged believers to live and walk in a manner that was worthy of the Lord (5:1-5). Paul urged the saints to manifest a spirit of humility and submission, “in the fear of God” (5:21), and remember marriage between a husband and wife is a portrait of Christ’s love for His church (5:22-33). The apostle commanded: “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…[and] 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (5:22, 25).

Ephesians 6

Having addressed the institution and sanctity of marriage (5:22-33), Paul’s focus turned to the believer’s family and household. Ephesians 6 presented a portrait of the spiritual dynamics between children and their parents (6:1-4), and servants and their masters (6:5-9).

The Believer’s Family (6:1-4)

Though the majority of Galatian believers were of Greco-Roman ancestry, they were not exempt from the implications and applications of the Commandments of the Lord (Exodus 20). Knowing the 5th commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12), Paul wrote to the sons and daughters of Galatia:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise” (6:1-2). And what was the promise to those who obeyed and honored their parents? “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (6:3).

If you ponder why our society and 21st century world is troubled, you need look no further than the tragic consequences of violating the 5th commandment. It is not well with our families, communities, societies and nation. Disrespect and rebellion in the home has spilled over into our schools and communities, and is a cancer that is destroying our nation and world.

Of course, parents, particularly fathers, must bear the weight and responsibility for the failure of the family. Paul urged fathers, “provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). “Provoke not,” carried the inference of actions and attitudes that were unreasonable and incited resentment in the heart of a child. Provocations might arise from being overly protective, unreasonable in expectations, failing to affirm, or abuse (verbal or physical). Paul exhorted fathers to nurture and admonish their children (6:4b). Nurturing a child requires instruction and correction, while admonishing obliges warning, rebuking, and discipline (Proverbs 29:15, 17). How different our homes and churches would be if children honored and obeyed their parents, and fathers and mothers nurtured and admonished their children in the Lord!

The Household: Servants and their Masters (6:5-9)

The New Testament has a lot to say regarding the dynamics between the servant (slave) and his master. Servitude and oppression have been a perpetual human dynamic since the fall of man. Rather than address the question of the morality of slavery, Paul focused upon the responsibility of the servant to his master, and the relationship of the master to his servant. Because Roman culture allowed slaves to enjoy some liberties, including religion, the Galatian church would have had a membership of slaves and masters. Of course, the application to our culture is the dynamic of the employee and his employer.

The Attitude and Testimony of a Servant

Servants were commanded to be “obedient,” and to respect and serve their masters with a heart that was single in motive: “as unto Christ… as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (6:5-6). Whether a slave or a free man, a believer was to do his work, no matter how menial the task, knowing the Lord was the rewarder (6:7-8). Finally, the duty of masters, as it is with employers, was to neither threaten or abuse their servants. Instead, the master was to treat his servants fairly, according to the Law, knowing God is the rewarder, and an impartial judge (6:9).

Closing thoughts – So much more might be gleaned from this chapter, but I will leave that for a later time. For now, I encourage you to examine your relationships, and whether or not you are honoring to the Lord. Whether a child or parent, an employee or an employer, you should guard your heart and live your life above reproach.

Remember: What you sow you will reap, and God is a righteous judge.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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