Category Archives: Ministry

A Lesson in LAW and GRACE (Genesis 22-24)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 22-24

Genesis 22 puts the faith of Abraham to the test as God proves his faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of God’s covenant promise.  Isaac’s question, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7) is answered 2,000 years later when John the Baptist says concerning Jesus, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

Reminding us God’s people are sojourners in this world of sin, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

I close this historical crossroads in Abraham’s life inviting you to consider spiritual lessons concerning Law and Grace illustrated in the births of Ishmael and Isaac (Galatians 4:21-31). 

Ishmael, born a slave of a slave woman, was the fruit of Abraham’s effort to have a son and heir apart from God (Galatians 4:22a, 23a).   Isaac, born a free man of a free woman, was the son of promise whose birth was miraculous and the work of God (Galatians 4:22b, 23b).

The mothers, Hagar and Sarah, represent two covenants: Hagar, the LAW, the covenant between God and man (Galatians 4:24-25) reminding us the impossibility of man fulfilling the demands of the Law (Romans 3:19-20).  Sarah, represents God’s covenant of GRACE, His provision and unmerited favor (Galatians 4:26-27) extended to man.

Ishmael’s birth is a tragic reminder of man attempting in his own efforts to do and fulfill what only God can do.  Isaac’s birth, fulfilling God’s covenant promise to Abraham and Sarah, is a portrait of GRACE, God doing what only He could do.

My friend, that is why salvation is not by works that merit God’s favor, but is an act of God’s grace alone.

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

My theme for Genesis 24 is “Here Comes the Bride”.   Following the death of his beloved Sarah (23:1-2), Abraham was burdened that Isaac, his son and heir of God’s covenant promises, should have a fitting wife.

Fearing Isaac might be tempted to take a wife of the heathen tribes that dwelled in Canaan, Abraham determined to send his “eldest servant”  (24:2-4) to his kindred residing in “Ur of the Chaldees” (11:27-31).  Reflecting the faith of his master, Abraham’s servant prayed for the LORD to make His will clear in choosing the young woman who would become Isaac’s wife  (24:12-14).

God heard and answered the servant’s prayer even as he was praying (24:15-26).  In a prayer of praise that should comfort all who call upon and desire the will of the LORD, the servant prayed, I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Trouble with Settling for Second Best (Genesis 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 19-21

Genesis 19 opens with two angels arriving at the gates of the city of Sodom.  Appearing in the physical form of men, the angels entered Sodom and were greeted by Lot whom they found sitting “in the gate” (the place where city leaders transacted business and made judgments in disputes).  Realizing the men were not citizens of Sodom, Lot urged them to find refuge for the night in his home (19:2-3).

As the darkness of night settled on the city, the wickedness and depravity of Sodom emerged when the Sodomites (i.e. homosexuals) of the city encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sexually assaulted (19:4-6).  Describing their lusts as wicked (19:7), Lot pled with the men of Sodom, offering to sacrifice his own daughters to their lusts (19:8-9) to protect his guests.

Striking the wicked men of Sodom with blindness, the angels saved Lot  from their violent attack (19:10-11). Displaying God’s grace, the angels urged Lot to flee the city with his family, warning him the LORD would destroy the city for its wickedness (19:12-13).  Sadly, Lot’s married sons and daughters refused his plea to flee the city (19:14).  Warned to not look back, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters fled the city (19:15-23).  Adding to his sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope Lot’s drifting from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.  Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.

With the ash and salt from God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah settling on the land, Abraham makes a fateful decision to journey from the land God had promised and traveled south to Gerar and the land ruled by the heathen king Abimelech (20:1-2).

Although ninety years old, Sarah is described as a beautiful, desirable woman and Abraham foolishly demanded she again conceal her identity and say she was his sister (20:2).  Once again putting at risk God’s covenant promise that Sarah would bear him a son, the LORD intervened and warned Abimelech in a dream (20:3) that should he would be a dead man should he violate Sarah (20:3-8).  Rising early, Abimelech confronted Abraham and sent him and his household out of his kingdom (20:9-13).

Continuing our study of the life of Abraham, we come to the conception and birth of Isaac, the long-awaited son fulfilling God’s covenant promise, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee” (Genesis 12:2).  Abraham had received and believed God’s promise of a son when he was seventy-five years old (Genesis 12:4); however, 25 years passed before he saw that promise fulfilled (21:5).

Hagar, the Egyptian mother of Ishmael, greeted the celebration of Isaac’s birth with jealousy and animosity, knowing her son would not be Abraham’s heir (21:9).  In spite of her having initiated the faithless act of Abraham having a son with her handmaid, Sarah demanded that Hagar and her son be dismissed from their home (21:10).

We have seen in our study of the life of Abraham how he often allowed circumstances and doubt to shadow his confidence in God’s promises. In spite of his faithlessness, God renewed his promise that Sarah would bear him a son in her old age, she being 90 and he nearly 100 years old (17:15-19).

Understanding the weight of his transgressions was also borne by his family, Abraham was comforted by God’s promise to bless Ishmael (21:12-13) though he and his mother must be driven from his home (21:14-21).

A tragic reminder as I close today’s devotion is God’s promise that the effects of a father’s sins will fall “upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate” Him (Exodus 20:5).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Closing Thoughts on Life’s Trials, Fair-weather Friends, and the LORD’s Unfailing Grace (Job 40-42)

Daily reading assignment: Job 40-42

The LORD continues His interrogation of Job in chapter 40; however, he is now given an opportunity to respond  (40:3-5).  The first words from Job’s lips confessed his unworthiness (“Behold I am vile” – 40:4).  Humbled and at a loss for words, he is silent (40:4-5).

The LORD responds to Job, speaking to the man from the midst of the storm, Job is asked why he questioned His dealings as anything less than just (40:6-8). To summarize the LORD’s questions to Job in a modern context, “Who do you think you are to question me?” (40:9-14).

The beast described as the “behemoth” (40:15) is highly debated among scholars. Given the early writing of the book of Job, it is possible a dinosaur is described. Others suggest the behemoth was a hippopotamus, elephant or perhaps a water buffalo.

The LORD continues to question Job in chapter 41 and invites him to consider the “leviathan” (Job 41:1).  The identity of this great creature is also uncertain; however, some suggest it to be a giant saltwater crocodile.  Perhaps a giant creature of the sea that is extinct, but whose remains are identified today as those of a dinosaur.

Either way, the analogy is meant to draw Job to conclude that man is foolish to question his Creator when he pales in size and strength to the majestic beasts of His creation (41:1-9). The Lord challenged Job, if man cannot tame a “leviathan,” he has no right to question God (41:10-34).

Having heard the LORD’s revelations of Himself and pondered the evidences of His power and might as sovereign of creation, Job confessed, I abhor [despise] myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Accepting Job’s humble confession and repentance, the LORD turned the focus of His wrath upon Job’s “friends” (42:7-9) and commands “Eliphaz the Temanite” (perhaps the elder of the friends) to go to Job with sacrifices, humble themselves, and ask the very man they had condemned to pray for them (42:8-9).  [An additional observation: It is interesting that Elihu, the youngest “friend” of Job’s friends, is not named among those who went to Job in humility.  Elihu had been the most vociferous of Job’s judges; however, he fails to be named among those who sought to be restored to his fellowship].

Evidencing the grace and humility of a sincere repentant man of God, Job “prayed for his “friends” and God blessed him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10).

Consider with me a few closing thoughts on “Fair-Weather Friends”:

Job 42:11 Then[i.e. the trials now passed and God having prospered Job “twice as much”] came there unto him all his brethren [kindred], and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance [i.e. friends and neighbors] before [before Job’s trials], and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned [i.e. showed sympathy] him, and comforted [pitied] him over all the evil [troubles] that the LORD had brought [i.e. allowed to enter] upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”

Where were these “brethren” and “sisters” when Job lost everything?  Where were Job’s acquaintances when he lost his sons and daughters, servants, home, physical health and possessions?  Why appear now to show sympathy and comfort?  Why wait to bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings after the LORD has begun to pour out his blessings on him and he has need of nothing?

I close our study of Job’s life rejoicing in how the LORD blessed him and he lived another “one hundred and forty years.” Job lived to witness the birth of “his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations” and“died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 16-17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

What is Man? Where Were You When God Created? (Job 38-39)

Daily reading assignment: Job 38-39

Elihu’s overzealous, arrogant rebuke of Job (Job 32-37) was suddenly answered, not by Job, but by the LORD Himself.  We read, Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1).

With the wind of a storm raging, God begins to challenge his servant with a series of questions that should silence every man, especially those who dare boast they have knowledge and understanding of God apart from His revelations.  Let’s briefly consider the profoundness of the LORD’s questions to Job (38:4-41).

1) Where were you when I (the LORD) laid the foundations of the earth (38:4)? 2) Who do you think has measured and set the boundaries of the earth? (38:5)

We do not know what a man of antiquity like Job could have known about the stars and planets singing together after the foundations of creation were laid (38:6-7); however, we know some details recorded in this chapter were not proved scientifically until the 20th century! For instance, NASA has discovered there are sounds in space!

Consider the sounds of space and the planets (Saturn’s rings, the sounds of Neptune, the sounds of the Earth, and the sound of the Sun).  Such wonders give new meaning to Psalm 19:1 where we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1).

Unlike evolutionists who propose to know the hidden secrets of nature and relegate the wonder of life to a primordial sea out of which life is supposed to have emerged; Job knew design demands a designer and creation a Creator (38:8-41).  The apostle Paul declares the same in the 1st century writing, “For the invisible things of Him [Creator] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

God’s loving invitation for Job to ponder all He had created and sustains continues in Job 39.

The LORD invited Job to consider the wonders of nature and how He, the Creator, has set in order the lives and life cycles of beasts and birds (39:1-4).  Six beasts, including the wild unicorn (not the mystical horse, but a one horned species of antelope, 39:9-11), and birds are named as examples of God’s care and providential oversight of His creation (39:12-30).

Appreciating “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork” (Psalm 19:1), we agree with the psalmist when he writes, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Rare Opportunity You Should Not Miss (Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL)

Dear Hillsdale Family and Friends,

Sheilah and I are winding down our last days of vacation before we return to Tampa and pick up the sacred mantle of serving as your pastor.  We have enjoyed our days with family (our parents are now in their mid-80’s) and quiet time in the GA mountains.  I am especially appreciative of the pastoral staff who has faithfully ministered to you in my absence and been especially tasked with visiting and encouraging families who are experiencing trials.  Hillsdale is blessed to have godly, faithful pastors.

While I will miss your fellowship this one last Sunday, you are in for a special blessing as Evangelist Dr. Ron Comfort will be preaching at Hillsdale in both the 10:30am and 6:00pm worship services.

Dr. Comfort is the founder of Ambassador Baptist College, a longtime friend of Hillsdale, and a man whom I greatly admire.  He has been greatly used by the LORD and his life and ministry are a testimony of unapologetic faithfulness to the Word of God.  We discussed the possibility of Bro. Comfort sharing and preaching his salvation testimony in the morning service and, after reading his biography, you are going to be amazed at God’s work of grace in his life.

I look forward to introducing two new sermon series next Sunday, January 19.  In the 10:30 AM service we will begin a study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (an incredible book that was the catalyst for the Great Reformation). In our 6:00 PM services I plan to begin a new study of the Book of Proverbs  titled “Heavenly Wisdom for Earthly Problems” (subtitled: “Uncommon, Common Sense”).

In closing, I am amazed God has blessed me to serve Hillsdale as a shepherd for nearly 35 years (serving as Youth Pastor, October 1985-September 1995 and Senior Pastor, October 1995 to this new decade)!  Thank you for your love, faithfulness, and patience as you have allowed me to both grow-up and grow old!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

 

“The Fear of the Lord, That is Wisdom” (Job 24-28)

Daily reading assignment: Job 24-28

Contrary to Eliphaz’s assertion that the trials Job has suffered are characteristic of the reward of the wicked, Job states the opposite has been his observation (Job 24:2-16).

Job 24:2-4 –  “2  Some [i.e. the Wicked] remove the landmarks [property boundaries]; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof [upon what they have stolen]. 3  They drive away the ass [donkey] of the fatherless [orphan], they take the widow’s ox for a pledge [i.e. a surety; as an insurance guaranteeing repayment]. 4  They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together [mistreat the poor and helpless].”  Indeed, sometimes the wicked seem to escape punishment!

“Bildad the Shuhite”, one of Job’s “friends”, pretends to speak words of wisdom concerning the person and nature of God in Job 25.  Only six verses in length, Bildad devotes the first three verses to God’s dominion and power (25:1-3), followed by verses 4-6 that focus on God’s justice and man’s natural, wretched state (25:4-6).

Job’s response to Bildad’s empty counsel begins in Job 26.   After answering his accuser (26:1-4), Job begins a discourse declaring not only the nature of God as Creator, but stating facts about creation that were not fully proved until the emergence of modern science.

Consider the following revelations found in Job 26: 1) The earth hangs on nothing (26:7); 2) God gives and withholds water in the clouds as it pleases Him (26:8-9); 3) God has determined the boundaries of the oceans (26:10, 12a; Proverbs 8:29).

Job’s defense to Bildad’s judgments continues through Job 28.

Professing he had searched his heart and found no sins that would invite God’s judgment, Job is at a loss to understand why God has allowed so great a sorrow to shadow his life.  Seeking answers, Job asks,

Job 28:12, 20 – “But where shall wisdom be found?… 20  Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?”

Friend, knowledge might be obtained for the excessive price of an Ivy League education; however, wisdom is priceless and cannot be purchased (28:15-19)!   In the words of Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century English Baptist preacher, “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

What is the repository of wisdom and how might it be acquired?  The answer: “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).

I am witnessing a generation of pastors, teachers, and evangelists who preach “GRACE” and “LIBERTY” to the neglect of instructing sons and daughters in the precepts of God’s Law and Commandments. I fear…

The failure to teach the statutes and judgments (Law and Commandments) of God has created a void of knowledge and fostered a liberty that has become a license to sin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“A Heart Tried in Trials is Precious as Gold” (Job 21-23)

Daily reading assignment: Job 21-23

Job has answered the slanderous judgments of “friends” who imply his trials must be attributable to some sin he has not confessed (Job 20:4-29).  Job answers Zophar’s false declarations in chapter 21, contradicting his “friend’s” assertions that the path of the wicked is marked by suffering, sorrows, and a life cut short.

Job contends the way of sinners appears to succeed in this sinful world.  The wicked seem to prosper, grow old and, in spite of their sins (21:7-21), their deaths differ little from that of other men (21:22-34).

I have observed the same as Job: Liars, cheats, and swindlers appear to prosper in this world, while their victims languish in the wake of their path of deceit and destruction.  I have witnessed single moms impoverished and naïve men deceived by wicked men who evidence no guilt of conscience or visible consequences for their sins.  In fact, the wicked often appear to prosper while the righteous are impoverished!

Caution: All is not what it seems and a day of judgment is appointed for sinners. 

God is “longsuffering…not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9) and His patience exceeds our own; however, He is just and sin demands its payday. Job observes,

Job 21:30-3230  That the wicked is reserved [spared] to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath [God’s wrath; fury]. 31  Who shall declare his way to his face [face of the wicked]? and who shall repay him what he hath done? 32  Yet shall he [the wicked] be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.

Eliphaz continues his assault on Job’s noble character in chapter 22. Refusing to accept his protest of innocence, Eliphaz suggests Job has committed some wickedness and God has judged him.  Eliphaz states a litany of sins Job might have committed to invite God’s wrath (22:6-20) and urges him to confess his sin and turn to God (22:21-30).

Weary of protesting his innocence, Job expresses his longing to seek God’s presence and plead his cause knowing He is just and never changes (Job 23).  Job declares with conviction,

“But he knoweth [perceives and understands] the way [path; journey] that I take: when he hath tried [test; proved; examined] me, I shall come forth as gold [i.e. pure and refined by the fire of testing] (Job 23:10).

What is true of gold is true of the heart…the more it is fired the purer, softer, and more valuable it is.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith