Category Archives: Ministry

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

A Word of Encouragement Can Go A Long Way! (Job 6-9)

Daily reading assignment: Job 6-9

His friend having suggested his sorrows had come upon him because of unconfessed sin, Job answers the insinuation in chapter 6.  While his friends sympathize with his losses, Job realized they did not feel the weight of the griefs that have befallen him. Rather than identify with his distresses, his friends sat in judgment of his despair only adding to his discouragements (Job 6:1-13).

Job courageously rebuked the despicable judgments of his friends (Job 6:14-30).  They had come, not to pity and commiserate with him in an act of love.  No; they had not taken time or opportunity to identify with his sorrows or minister to his heavy-soul.

Is that not the way we too often find ourselves when it comes to relating to others? We enter into the sanctuary of their sorrows with little time for prayer or understanding.  We rush out bearing neither the burden or sympathy that is required of those who bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Job continues his soliloquy in chapter 7. So low is his spirit, he despairs of life and reasons that death alone might give him relief from his sorrows.

Comparing his life to laborers, Job reasons that workers bear the hardships of their labor with the promise they will receive their wages at the close of the day (7:1-2).  Job, however, finds no end or relief to his sorrows apart from the respite death might promise (7:3-5).  Pondering his days, Job grieves his life is filled with sorrow (7:6-10).

Turning his thoughts from himself, Job acknowledges God’s omniscience (7:12-19) and confesses the LORD has watched over him day and night (7:12-14).  Assuming all he has suffered is a consequence of sin (7:20), Job calls upon the LORD seeking His forgiveness before death should claim his life (7:21).

Job 8 opens with the rebuke of another of Job’s friends, Bildad the Shuhite (8:1). Bildad challenged Job’s plea of innocence (8:2-4), reasoning God is just and advising him if he was “pure and upright” God would deliver him out of trouble and bless him (8:5-7). Reflecting on the testimonies of generations that had gone before (8:8-10), Bildad encouraged Job to ponder the judgments of God upon the wicked.

Job asks, “how should man be just [righteous] with God?” (9:2)

Believing God is wise, mighty, able to remove mountains, cause the earth to tremble (9:4-6) and is the Sustainer of His creation (9:7-8); Job ponders, what man dares ask God, “What doest thou?” (Job 9:12).

Indeed, what is man that we should think we are capable of reasoning with God (9:14-35) or asserting our innocence (9:20-24)?

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – 3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A New Year…A New Decade…A New Beginning

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Reader,

January 1, 2020 marks the beginning of both a New Year and decade.  The year ahead is untarnished by foolish words or sinful choices.  The decade before us is unmarred and promises the possibility of a fresh start on life. 

In a practical sense, those observations are true; however, spiritually, we cannot rush into a new year anticipating a new beginning without addressing the sins and failures of the past.  The past has a way of “catching up” with us and skeletons of secret sins inevitably emerge from the shadows.  The “baggage” of unresolved sins and conflicts will cast a shadow over our lives until we face and address them.

Fortunately, the Word of God has given us God’s answer for past sins and offers us His grace and forgiveness.  John writes, “If we confess [acknowledge; declare; admit] our sins [specific sins], he [The Lord] is faithful [to be trusted] and just [righteous; holy and without sin] to forgive us our sins [offences], and to cleanse [purify; purge] us from all unrighteousness [every wrong, every sin]” (1 John 1:9).

Think of that principle on forgiveness in this way: In the same way a builder cannot begin construction of a new edifice without first clearing away debris and making sure the foundation, you and I cannot enjoy a fresh start without first addressing the sins of our past biblically, confessing them, and seeking forgiveness from the Lord and any against whom we have sinned.

Jesus taught His disciples the same principle in His Sermon on the Mount.  Using the illustration of a worshiper who comes to offer a sacrifice in the Temple, but remembers he has sinned against his “brother” [family member, friend, acquaintance], Jesus commanded, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest [you remember; comes to mind] that thy brother hath ought against thee [has been offended by your sin]24  Leave there [at the Temple] thy gift [sacrifice] before the altar, and go thy way [go immediately]; first be reconciled [seek peace and reconciliation] to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift [sacrifice] (Matthew 5:23-24).

Forgiving Because Forgiven

“Life’s cruel thrusts and stinging 

wounds cut deep—I can’t forget.

I know not if I can forgive, dear       

Lord, they hurt and fret.

But when I think how I have    

sinned and oft have wounded Thee,

Repentant, then I too, forgive,     

as Thou forgavest me!”

—Gertrude Dugan

From “Practical Bible Illustrations From Yesterday and Today”

The potential of a fresh new start, unencumbered by sin, is waiting for you and me if we are willing to seek forgiveness and be made whole with the Lord and others. The Lord is waiting and promises, I will forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).

On a personal note, while I cannot promise to post a devotional commentary every day, I hope to post regular devotionals following a chronological Bible reading plan published by Blue Letter Bible. I invite you to set aside “modern translations” and use the King James Version Bible (KJV) which is a “word-for-word” translation that gives you the very words of God, translated from ancient, trusted manuscripts. A “dirty little fact” on modern Bible versions is that men have, under the guise of making the scriptures readable, taken unjustified (sometimes heretical) liberties with the scriptures. I will quote the KJV in my devotionals, while also inserting brackets “[]” after words to propose an amplified suggestion of a word that I trust will offer clarity for your understanding.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith