Category Archives: Ministry

If You Had One Wish…What Would You Choose?

September 19, 2017

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 1-5

We come today to a new history book in our daily reading in the Old Testament.  2 Chronicles, like 1 Chronicles, are parallel books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings.   While 1 Kings and 2 Kings are written from the viewpoint of man; 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, covering the same age as the Book of Kings, are written from God’s perspective.

1 Chronicles concluded with King David’s benediction on his life and exhortation for Israel to give allegiance to Solomon as king and support him in the greatest undertaking of his life and reign as king…building a Temple for the LORD in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 29:1-25).   With understated fanfare, David, Israel’s greatest king, “died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead” (1 Chronicles 29:28).

2 Chronicles opens with Solomon sitting on his father’s throne and the power and blessing of God resting upon him (2 Chronicles 1:1).   Solomon began his reign where all men should begin their day…he worshipped the LORD (1:2-6).   God appeared to Solomon “and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee” (1:7).

What an incredible proposition!  Solomon, ask what you will and I shall give thee!  I wonder, what would you request should you have opportunity to ask for something, for anything, and it would be granted?    Would you ask for riches?  Possessions?  Power?  Popularity?  Fame?   The answer to that question reveals a lot about your character!

Solomon’s humble request no doubt puts us all to shame!  His request was not for those things which is the pursuit of carnal, worldly-minded men.   Solomon’s desire revealed a heart of deep humility.

2 Chronicles 1:10 –  “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?”

God commended Solomon for his request and promised to reward him with not only wisdom and knowledge, but also “riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (1:12).   The closing verses of 2 Chronicles 1 reveal the vastness of Solomon’s wealth as the LORD blessed him as He had promised.

2 Chronicles 2–4 gives us the record of Solomon directing the building of the Temple as his father David had instructed him.  The design, the carvings of wood and the gold that overlaid the walls and doors made the Temple Solomon built one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

With the Temple complete (5:1), Solomon directed the golden vessels assembled by his father David and the ark, representing the earthly presence of God among His people, be brought to the Temple (5:2-9).   With the ark in the “holy place”, the people celebrated with singing, trumpets and cymbals praising the Lord, saying, “For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever” (5:13).

Having reflected on the glorious beginning of Solomon’s reign and his humility before the LORD; it saddens me to recall the spiritual and moral failures that would overshadow his accomplishments, wisdom and knowledge.  Of Solomon, we read:

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.”

That same truth has played out in the lives of some I have known.  Too many saints go to their graves, remembered, not for their accomplishments, but for the tragedy of their moral failures.

Friend, don’t allow that to be true of you; discipline your heart, thoughts, eyes and affections.   Follow Job’s example:

Job 31:1 – “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Financial Needs and Hurricane Irma (FL) and Hurricane Harvey (TX)

Dear Followers of Heart of a Shepherd and Hillsdale families,

As you are aware, Hillsdale Baptist Church was focusing on helping churches in Houston, Texas impacted by the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey two weeks ago.   On Sunday, September 10, our own Florida experienced the impact of Hurricane Irma as she passed over the Caribbean, Cuba, the Florida Keys and Southern Florida.

We had intended to send two or more crews to Texas and our first team was in Houston last week assisting two churches and their memberships when the approach of Hurricane Irma forced them to return to Tampa Bay to prepare their homes and families.

Having witnessed the destruction in our own State, I have asked Hillsdale Baptist Church to focus our people and resources closer to home in Florida.  We are able to drive to the Keys in a few hours to serve and be a blessing to our neighbors, knowing many in the Midwest are available to go to Houston and help them in recovery.

If you know our ministry, you are aware we function with integrity and make sure we are financial stewards of your sacrificial financial gifts.  To date Hillsdale has received $13,990.51 for Hurricane Relief, the great majority of that received from our own membership.  In addition, some who follow this Blog have designated gifts for which we are thankful.  Less the expenses used by Hillsdale’s first relief team to go to Texas, the balance of your financial gifts are being directed to Operation Renewed Hope (ORH) for that organization to use as it gives assistance in Texas and FL.

I am writing this blog post on Friday afternoon not only to be accountable to you who have given, but also alert you to the fact there are four truckloads of goods (food, water, blankets, etc) waiting in Jacksonville, FL for shipment to a church in the Keys.  That church will act as a staging ground for other churches in the Keys to pick up goods and distribute them to their neighbors.  The estimated cost for shipping is $2,000\truckload or a total of $8,000.

Hillsdale will continue to raise funds for Hurricane Relief and refocus our membership and resources in FL in the weeks ahead.

There is also a need for men to hang drywall, lay tile and carpet in two Houston, Texas churches.

If you want to direct your funds to and through Hillsdale for our Hurricane relief efforts, go to our website, www.HillsdaleBaptist.org, click on the Donations button, create your profile with pertinent information, and beside “Other Designated Funds” type in Hurricane Relief to donate directly from your banking or savings account.  Of course, your gifts are tax-deductible and your will receive a statement at year’s end.

More updates will follow as we receive news from Texas or the Florida Keys.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

Mass Exodus Out of Florida Returning Home

I want to thank you for your prayers on behalf of Hillsdale Baptist Church, its members and staff who anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  As our lives are getting back to normal, with the exception of some roof leaks, our church and school buildings are in great shape.  We are praising the LORD our membership suffered little damage as Category 1 and Category 2 winds whipped through our region.  Other than the inconvenience of losing electricity, we are rejoicing in God’s protection.

On a personal note:  In my opinion, sensationalism has become the daily diet of our culture and the mass exodus from Florida before and during Hurricane Irma’s arrival driven in large part to a news media given to hype and ratings.

“Breaking News”, “This Just In”, “Epic” are clichés used ad nauseam by news networks desperately competing for viewership that translates into revenue from advertisers.

The coverage of Hurricane Irma was indeed “epic” and the storm was without a doubt powerful and destructive; however, the news media’s use of images (replayed over and over) along with the hyperbole of exaggeration, ramped up both fear and anxiety that went far beyond the actual threat of the storm.

Citizens of Florida were running from the east coast to the west coast, then back to the east coast in an attempt to flee Irma based on the forecasts of meteorological “experts” that hadn’t a clue where the storm was going to make landfall or the track she would take.  Hundreds of thousands of Floridians fled homes located far from coastal waters and the predicted “surge” only to be overtaken by Irma in their northward flight (apparently, she was not listening to weather prognosticators failing to accurately predict her track even an hour ahead of her eye).

Two days before Irma’s arrival, hoarders emptied grocery shelves of food stocks and water; Gas stations ran out of gas as a panicked population clogged highway arteries.

I am left wondering what happened to the common-sense adage saints use to follow, “Prepare for the worst and pray”.

I believe the inspiration of that saying is Proverbs 21:31.   Solomon advised his son, “The horse is prepared [ready] against the day of battle [war; warfare]: but safety [salvation; deliverance; victory] is of the LORD.”

Believers are to use wisdom and exercise prudence in preparing for trials, troubles and storms (i.e. prepare the horse for battle); however, people of faith, having done all to prepare, must put their faith in the LORD who is Omnipotent and Sovereign, after all, “safety is of the LORD”, is it not?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Reminder before Hurricane Irma: “The World Always Has Room for One More Servant”

September 9, 2017

Scripture Reading – John 13-15

My heart is blessed to observe our “Divided United States” pulling together as neighbor helps and encourages neighbor throughout the State of Florida.   With the exception of a few fringe anarchists, when lives are at risk the majority of Americans set aside political differences, come together and serve others.

Foot washing was a cultural practice in Jesus’ day as households in the first century lacked plumbing and running water.  Wealthy citizens of towns and villages went to public baths to bathe and, after walking home on dusty streets, were met by a household servant who would wash their feet in a basin of water and dry them with a towel.

Carrying forward the theme of serving others, today’s scripture reading is John 13-15; however, I am limiting my focus to John 13:1-17 and the beautiful portrait of humility and love seen in our LORD washing the feet of His disciples.  The setting of John 13 is the night Judas betrayed Jesus and His disciples deserted Him fleeing into the night.

Pride and a lack of humility prevented the disciples from taking up the task of washing the feet of the LORD or their peers.  Rising from the Passover feast, Jesus took up a towel and began washing the feet of the disciples, among them Judas who had arranged to betray the LORD to His enemies that night (John 13:1-2).   What an act of grace!  It is one thing to stoop to wash the feet of another; however, to wash the feet of a traitor is grace (John 13:2, 11)!

Although an awkward moment, the disciples allowed Jesus to wash their feet.  Peter, however, piously protested Jesus’ act of servitude (John 13:6-11).

John 13:14-15If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Consider three spiritual lessons in this brief devotional.  The first is Salvation: Washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus Christ taught them He alone can forgive and spiritually cleanse sinners of sin.  The disciples believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; however, not all believed.  Judas rejected Jesus Christ and his lack of faith forever damned his unbelieving soul (John 13:10-11).

Sanctification is the second spiritual lesson.  Jesus washing the feet of His disciples reminds us that a believer needs daily cleaning from sin.  The apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Our third spiritual lesson is that of Service—serving others (John 13:1, 5, 12-16).  To bear a servant’s towel requires three things in my estimation.  The first, “persevering love”.  We read of the LORD, “…having loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end [continually; to the uttermost]” (John 13:1).

The second requirement for those who earn a servant’s towel is “unpretentious humility”–Jesus “began to wash the disciples’ feet” – (John 13:5).  Paul exhorted the believers in Philippi to follow Christ’s example of humility.

Philippians 2:5-7 – “Let this mind [attitude] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God [possessing all the attributes of God], thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation [setting aside the glory and dignity that was His], and took upon him the form of a servant [slave], and was made in the likeness of men [became man]:”

Finally, to earn a servant’s towel requires “enduring commitment” to follow Jesus’ example.  Jesus commanded His followers:

John 13:14-15If I then, your Lord and Master [teacher], have washed your feet; ye also ought [duty, obligation] to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Hillsdale family and friends, I do not know what trials Hurricane Irma may bring us in the next 48 hours; however, I close with a challenge for you to consider three characteristics of a servant:

The first, a servant is proactive and seeks opportunities to serve others.

The second, a servant meets needs others disregard.

The third, a servant serves when others falter.

The world will always make room for one more servant.  Will you be that servant?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Wise Pour Themselves Into Those Who Will Succeed Them!

September 5, 2017

Scripture Reading – 1 Chronicles 20-24

With the Ark of God safe in Gibeon and his recent victory over the Ammonites and Syrians, David settled into a time of spiritual and physical complacency.   We read, “at the time that kings go out to battle” (1 Chronicles 20:1), “David tarried at Jerusalem” (20:1).

The LORD continued to bless Israel’s army under General Joab and David relished the spoils of war that came from conquests (20:2-8); however, it was in this same time David committed an egregious sin against the LORD.   2 Samuel 11 reveals David committed adultery with Bathsheba, wife of Uriah and, to conceal his sin he sent Uriah into the heat of the battle where he perished.  The prophet Nathan warned David his life would forever be shadowed by the consequences of his sins (2 Samuel 12:10-14) and his family would be the source of his sorrows.

David’s reign began evidencing a series of missteps apart from the LORD’s will and in pride he dismissed the counsel of his most trusted advisor.  We read, “Satan stood up [withstood as an adversary] against Israel, and provoked [persuaded; enticed] David to number [i.e. a census] Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1).   Of this same event, 2 Samuel 24:1 states the LORD was angry with Israel and moved David to number the people.  Taking both passages, we understand Satan initiated the numbering of the people within David’s proud heart (1 Chronicles 21:1) while the LORD permitted the census to His own end and purpose (2 Samuel 24:1).

General Joab, David’s most trusted advisor, bravely withstood David (21:2-3); however, “the king’s word prevailed against Joab” (21:4) and the census was made (21:5).  Too late, David confessed his sin against the LORD for numbering the people (21:7-8); however, the displeasure of the LORD was set upon Him.  David was mercifully given the opportunity to choose which of three consequences would befall him and Israel (21:10-12).

Rather than perish at the hand of his enemy, David entrusted himself and Israel to the LORD’s chastisement and 70,000 in Israel perished (21:13-17).  The plague and the loss of lives stopped when David purchased the threshing floor of Ornan, made an altar in that place and sacrificed to the LORD (21:18-28).

The significance of the place the plague stopped and where David erected an altar and sacrificed cannot be overstated for it was the same place Abraham offered his son Isaac and Solomon would build the Temple (Genesis 22; 1 Chronicles 22:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1).

Knowing the years of his life were drawing to a close, David devoted his life to preparing the workmen and materials that would be required for Solomon to build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-19).  David instructed Solomon and imparted to his son his duty to embrace God’s promises and build the Temple in Jerusalem (22:6-16).

Leaving no doubt who should be his successor, David “made Solomon his son king over Israel” (23:1) and set forward an organization of the priests and Levites who were to serve in the Temple (23:2-32; 24:1-31)).

There are many lessons we could take from today’s study; however, I will leave you with one…

David wisely accepted the temporalness of his earthly life and prepared his son to not only be king, but also charged him with the privilege for which God had chosen him… “build an house for the LORD God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 22:6-11).

Friend, you would be wise to follow David’s example and heed a caution concerning this earthly life found in Psalm 90.

Psalm 90:10 – “The days of our years are threescore years and ten [70 years]; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years [80 years], yet is their strength [i.e. pride] labour [toil; grief; misery] and sorrow [mourning]; for it is soon [i.e. hurry; too soon] cut off [passed], and we fly away [i.e. our years take flight].”

Wise men and women “number” [prepare; count] the days of their lives and, like David, “apply [lit. pass on] [their] hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

The wise pour their lives into those who will eventually succeed them!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Spiritual Bullies and Silent Saints

September 2, 2017

Scripture Reading – John 10-12

Today’s Bible reading sets the final stage for Christ’s appointment with the Cross.   I am always struck by the wickedness of the religious leaders in Christ’s day.   While there were some who were sincere in their practice and a few who believed Jesus was the Christ (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea), the majority of the leaders of Judaism were wicked men who would argue ad infinitum matters of the Law, but in secret plot the murder and death of Jesus.

John 10:31 – “…the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.”

John 10:39 – “Therefore they sought again to take Him …”

John 11:8 – “His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?”
John 11:47-53 – “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles…53 they took counsel together for to put him to death…”

After the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, the Jewish leaders not only sought to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus.

John 12:10-11 – “But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11  Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.”

While many believed Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, there were many others that “believed not on him” (John 12:37).

I close today, not pondering why religious leaders would reject and plot to murder Jesus, but why there were some among them who believed and failed to openly confess their faith in Him.  The apostle John writes:

John 12:42-43 – Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:  43  For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

Some believed Jesus was the Christ; however, they remained silent when their peers plotted to murder Him fearing their confession of faith would be detrimental to their place and positions of power and influence in the synagogue and community.

I find that same dynamic in the 21st century church.  There are “spiritual bullies” in the pulpits and pews who confess a piety of faith in Christ, but deny Him with their lives loving sin and the pleasures of the world (1 John 2:15-17).

Question the conflict between their profession and the command we are to be “obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts… 15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” and they attack, slander and libel their critic (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Sadly, like the religious leaders who believed Jesus was the Christ and remained silent, there are many saints who, fearing criticism, loss of favor or position, sit silent in churches, Bible colleges and parachurch institutions as sin and carnality take hold.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A personal testimony: God’s “grace is sufficient” and “His ways past finding out!”

Monday, August 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 1-4

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” plan brings us to the Book of Numbers this Monday, August 14, 2017.   Its author is Moses and the timeline for the book is the “first day of the second month, in the second year” following Israel’s exodus out of Egypt (Numbers 1:1).

I will take a few moments to review for those who are novices to a study of the Old Testament scriptures.  The twelve tribes of Israel are descendants of the twelve sons of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel.   Jacob (Israel) was the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham of whom two races originate; the Israelites descended from Jacob and the Arabic people, descendants of Ishmael.   The Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) was given to Abraham when God called him to depart from ancient Ur (modern-day Iraq), leaving his country and kindred, and journeying to a land he was promised as an inheritance for his lineage.  God not only promised Abraham would be a father to a great people, but also “all families of the earth be blessed” through him (Genesis 12:3b).   It is the latter promise Jesus Christ fulfilled as our Savior.

Numbers traces the journey of the twelve tribes of Israel from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the threshold of Canaan, the land God promised Abraham and his heirs.  The Book of Numbers derives its name from the fact it is the record of three separate census counts of Israel during her sojourn in the wilderness.

The first census (Numbers 1:2-54) was of males, 20 years and older, who were able to go to war (Numbers 1:2-3).  Moses and Aaron were responsible for numbering the men identified by their tribe, father’s name and their own name.   Altogether there were thirteen tribes (Numbers 1:5-15) descended from the sons of Jacob (Israel), of which two tribes descended from Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh – Numbers 1:10); excluding the priestly tribe of Levi from the census count because of their dedication and service to the LORD (1:47-54).

The Levites were not numbered among the men of war because God had set them apart for Himself in lieu of the first-born from every tribe and family being set apart for the priesthood (Numbers 3:12-13).  Because worshipping and serving the LORD was central to Israel as a nation, the Levites were responsible for setting up the tabernacle and the vessels used for worship and offering sacrifices (Numbers 1:50; 3:8).  When the nation was on the move, the Levites were responsible for taking down the tabernacle (Numbers 1:51, 53).

The tabernacle, in the center of the encampment with the tribe of Levi encamped around it, represented God’s presence among His people,  (1:53).

Numbers 2 gives the organization of the encampment by tribe: Simeon (2:12-13), Gad (2:14-15), Ephraim (2:18-19), Manasseh (2:20-21), Judah (2:3-4), Issachar (2:5-6), Zebulun (2:7-8), Reuben (2:10-11) Benjamin (2:22-23), Dan (2:25-26), Asher (2:27-28), Naphtali (2:29-30), and Levi in the midst around the tabernacle (2:17, 33).

Numbers 3 gives the generations of Moses and Aaron who were of the priestly tribe Levi. The census of the Levites is recorded as well as their duties regarding the tabernacle and service to the LORD (3:1-51). Numbers 4 continues with a description of the ministry of the Levites, their age of service (“thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old” – 4:3) and responsibilities when breaking down the tabernacle for moving (4:4-15).

On a personal note, in the winter months of 2004, I had the privilege of preaching a series in the Book of Numbers on Wednesday nights while Hillsdale Baptist Church was in the midst of her own wilderness journey.  Having sold our church properties in early February 2003, Hillsdale relocated her worship services to a public high school auditorium while our new facility was under construction.  A building project scheduled for no more than nine months became a 2.5-year journey of trials with a dishonest contractor who hired sub-contractors like him.  I easily identify with Moses shepherding Israel through the wilderness.  In hindsight I understand our wilderness journey was not only God’s way of proving and purging, it was also His method of humbling and preparing our hearts to minister in our new community that would give us an outreach far greater than we had envisioned.

As a personal testimony, God’s “grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and “His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith