Category Archives: missions

The Call to Ministry and Missions

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 13-14

My apologies to those following our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year schedule.  In my diligence to prepare for Hillsdale’s Sunday worship services, I overlooked the need to post today’s scripture reading.

Today’s passage from the Book of Acts, particularly Acts 13:1-3, has been a joy and challenge to this pastor’s heart over the years.  I am blessed to pastor a church with a legacy of supporting and sending missionaries.   I draw your attention to four simple, central principles of ministry and missions found in Acts 13:1-3. 

The first, God calls to ministry those who are already serving Him (Acts 13:1).  The men and women God calls to ministry are not idle spectators or pew warmers.  When God called Barnabas and Saul (i.e. Paul), we find them numbered among “certain prophets and teachers” serving “in the church that was at Antioch” (13:1).

The second principle of ministry is, God’s call is specific.  We read, “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (13:2).

Many were serving in the church at Antioch (3:1); however, the Holy Spirit explicitly called Barnabas and Saul to a specific work: “for the work whereunto I have called them” (3:2b).

The third principle of ministry and missions is separation (13:2-3).  The call to ministry and missions separates a man from home, friends and aspirations of wealth.  Oceans, faraway lands, hardships and adversaries would separate Barnabas and Saul from their families, friends and earthly comforts.

The fourth principle of ministry and missions is the church and its leaders sanctioned and confirmed Gods call on Barnabas and Saul.

We read, “when they [the church and its leaders] had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:3).

I sorrow so few are answering God’s call to ministry and missions in our day.

Looking back on the four principles I noted, it seems the failure rests upon us all.  There are too many spectators and not enough servants in the 21st century church.  Some resist God’s call and others refuse to separate from family, friends and comforts to serve where God has called.  Finally, I believe there are churches that resist ordaining their best and finest for the work of ministry and missions.

Romans 10:14-15 – “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15  And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

An Answer to the Irrelevancy of the 21st Century Church

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 125-127

Psalms 125-127 continues a section of songs in the Book of Psalms known as “A Song of Degrees”.  As a reminder, though there is some debate regarding the word “degrees”, many suggest pilgrims sang this collection of psalms as they ascended to Jerusalem and the Temple for a feast day.  The mention of Mount Zion in Psalms 125 and 126 support that theory.

We live in a sin-cursed, fallen world where the wicked often seem advantaged in the course of our journey; however, Psalm 125 exhorts us to put our faith in the LORD for our life and fate is in His hands.  Unlike the challenges of this vacillating, ever-changing world, the saints who “trust in the LORD” are stable (125:1), not moved by fear or given to flight.

Built upon the mountains of Zion, Jerusalem provided the people of that city a natural, fortified protection from their enemies.  Sitting upon the mount, Jerusalem was an impressive site from a distance and the deep ravines that cut through the mount were formidable.  As the mountains of Zion provided safety and security to Jerusalem, the LORD provides the same to His people whose trust is in Him.

Psalm 126 records the joy of the Jews as they returned from Babylonian captivity to Mount Zion.  For the Jews, it was a long-awaited prophecy fulfilled, a dream come true for the nation (126:1).   The people returned with their mouths “filled with laughter” and their tongues “with singing” (126:2a).

The heathen of the land marveled that Israel, after nearly seventy years in exile, was returning to her land (126:2) and testified, “The LORD hath done great things for them” (126:2b).  The Jews echoed the same saying, “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (126:3).

Returning to the land after captivity was fraught with challenges for the Jews.  Jerusalem was in ruins; heathen people took possession of their lands and houses in their absence and, after seven decades, thorns and thistles had reclaimed the land.  The people faced the challenge of rebuilding their cities and walls and the hardship of clearing the land; however, the law of nature promised, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (126:5).

Having the privilege of growing up on a small farm, I remember well clearing the land of rocks, pulling up briars and weeds, and breaking the ground in anticipation of planting seed.  As a child, I did not appreciate the labor and hardships necessary to plant seed; however, I enjoyed the fruit (i.e. vegetables) of my labor…sweet corn, green beans, yellow squash, juicy tomatoes, and cucumbers!

The principle for “sowing and reaping” is applicable to our spiritual lives (126:6). 

While the farmer’s plow clears the land of briars and thorns, the toil of reading, studying and meditating in God’s Word pulls up briars of worldliness and clears thistles of lusts from our hearts, preparing our souls for precious truths and sowing in our hearts principles that strengthen our character, shape our thoughts and mature us.

Psalm 126:5-6 gives us a principle that is applicable to sharing the Gospel and the work of the Great Commission.   We are promised, tears precede joy (126:5) and sowing “precious seed” promises a harvest of fruit (126:6).

Were there more tears and toil on our part in sharing the Gospel, would there not be more reason for rejoicing?  Were we to show more compassion for lost souls and hurting hearts, would we not have greater cause for joy?

I am afraid the majority of believers are cocooned in selfish pursuits and content to toil away their time, talents and life isolated from hurting hearts and lost souls.  No wonder the 21st century church finds itself irrelevant; we are entertaining the masses or huddled in our Bible studies, to the neglect of going forth weeping for lost souls and “bearing precious seed” (126:6)!

Galatians 6:7-9 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Go Ye…Preach the Gospel” – Missions Conference 2017

Hillsdale family and Heart of a Shepherd Followers,

October is Hillsdale’s Missions Emphasis Month and we are enjoying having some of our own missionaries reporting and introducing missionaries new to our church family.  Our missionary to Lebanon, Fady Maalouf was with us Sunday, October 8 and this past Sunday we enjoyed having missionary pilot Dave Spangler and his wife Sharon present their ministry in the Caribbean and his aviation work with Operation Renewed Hope (he flew Hillsdale’s relief team to Houston after Hurricane Harvey).

I am looking forward to having missionaries to Ecuador, South America and Togo, West Africa with us this Sunday, October 22, 2017.  Hillsdale has supported Raymond and Anita Bradley, missionaries to Ecuador for over two decades. The Bradleys are involved in church planting and teaching and reaching the deaf for Christ.   Bro. Bradley will be teaching a combined Adult Bible Fellowship Class in the auditorium for our 9:15 AM service and preaching in the 10:30 AM service after I share a lesson on Faith Promise Missions Giving.

I am especially looking forward to Hillsdale meeting Mr. Yaovi Kpogno, a national from Togo who upon finishing his Masters of Divinity Degree will be returning to Togo to begin a ministry of evangelism, church planting and eventually a Christian school.  Bro. Yaovi will be teaching our Teens in the 9:15 AM hour.

This Sunday night, 6:00 PM, Hillsdale will celebrate our annual Missions Conference Banquet with an African theme in the Friendship Hall.  Bro. Yaovi will share his testimony, calling and give us an introduction to his native Togo, West Africa.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

God orders the starts and stops, not man!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jonah 1-4

Today’s devotional commentary focuses on the Book of Jonah.  Only four chapters long, the drama in this small prophetic book is intriguing because it imparts to us the LORD’s love and compassion for sinners and His patience with a reluctant, rebellious servant.  Needless to say, there is much to take from today’s scripture reading!

Have you ever wanted to run away?  Some reading this commentary might remember demanding your way as a child, threatening to take your little red wagon and run from home if you did not get it.  To your chagrin, your parents pretended to take you up on your threat, and offered to help you pack!  If you were strong-willed, you might have followed through with your threat; however, when you are young, minutes seem like hours and a hundred yards like a mile.  When you returned home from your self-willed excursion, your mom may have greeted you, “Well, you’re back home!  Wash your hands and get ready for dinner!”

Two lessons should have come from your childhood tantrum.  The first, “What is best for you is not always what you think is best.”  The second lesson, one you might not have known until years later; although you could not see him, your father was lovingly watching and never took his eyes off you!

2800 years ago, Jonah, a passionate, patriotic and popular preacher in Israel received God’s command: “Arise, go to Nineveh…” (1:2).  Nineveh was a great city with a population of 120,000 souls (Jonah 4:11).  Nineveh was also a wicked city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and the adversary of Israel!

Perhaps fearing the enemy or the rejection of His own people, Jonah refused to go and preach against Nineveh, later confessing he feared the LORD might spare that city from destruction!  Jonah resigned his calling as God’s prophet (Jonah 1:3), paid his fare, and took a ship for Tarshish, a city on the western most edge of the known world in his day (1:3).

In his flight from the LORD, Jonah soon found himself caught in a great storm and the sea threatening to take the ship, him and his fellow passengers to a watery grave (1:4-6).  Evidencing the callousness of a backslidden sinner, Jonah slept in the bottom of the ship.  Learning Jonah was God’s prophet and the storm was from the LORD to chastise him, the sailors cast him into the sea where a great fish swallowed him.

Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly” (Jonah 2:1), confessed his sin and we read, “He heard me” (2:2).  The prophet understood his miserable state was a watery grave unless the LORD delivered him (2:9-10).  The LORD mercifully answered Jonah’s prayer, “spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

Jonah obeyed the LORD, went to Nineveh and began warning that great city, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4).  Incredibly, the people of Nineveh believed the word of that reluctant prophet and repented (3:5-9).  Hearing Nineveh’s cry of repentance, the LORD, moved with compassion and set aside His judgment.

Jonah 3:10 – “And God saw [looked;; beheld; perceived] their works [behavior; deeds], that they turned [turned back] from their evil [sinful; wicked] way; and God repented [reckoned; moved with compassion] of the evil [destruction; bad—not sin], that he had said that he would do [make; wrought; perform; accomplish] unto them; and he did it not.”

Had the life of Jonah ended on that point of revival, a city of 120,000 souls repenting, we would number him among the great preachers and prophets of all time.  Jonah, however, did not rejoice in the LORD’s compassion and the saving of the city. We read of Jonah:

Jonah 4:1-2 – “But it displeased [so angry with God he trembled] Jonah exceedingly [he was overcome and afflicted with anger], and he was very angry [he was incensed; burned with anger]. 2 And he prayed unto the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God] , and said [charged], I pray thee [lit. “Ah, now!”], O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country [northern Israel]? Therefore I fled [ran away; bolted] before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious [showing favor] God, and merciful  [full of compassion], slow [patient; longsuffering] to anger, and of great [many; abundant] kindness [mercy], and repentest [moved with compassion] thee of the evil [judgment].”

Jonah was angry with God for sparing a city that was the enemy of Israel.  Abandoning his place of ministry, a second time, Jonah left Nineveh, built a temporary dwelling outside the city, sat down and waited to see if God would destroy the city (Jonah 4:5).

Here we find another characteristic of men who abandon their calling…they are more interested in temporal comforts than they are in lost souls

Jonah 4:6 – “And the LORD God prepared [appointed; told] a gourd, and made it to come up [ascend; mount up] over Jonah, that it might be a shadow [shade] over his head, to deliver [preserve; recover; escape] him from his grief [lit. sin; evil; wickedness; distress; misery]. So Jonah was exceeding glad [rejoicing; joyful; cheered up] of the gourd.”

Jonah became angry and despaired of life when God destroyed the gourd and its leafy vine.  “And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry [incensed; burn with anger] for the gourd? And he said, I do well [good; please; better] to be angry, even unto death” (Jonah 4:9).

God challenged Jonah to consider his priorities and his foolish, self-centered attitude.

Jonah 4:10 – “Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity [to regard; have compassion] on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored [ie. severe, hard work], neither madest it grow [to nourish; promote growth]; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:”

Jonah’s biography ends with a question:

Jonah 4:11 “And should not I spare [show compassion; regard; pity] Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand [120,000] persons that cannot discern [know; understand] between their right hand and their left hand; and also much [plenty; great] cattle?”

Many reading this simple pastor’s commentary either are or have known men and women who once professed a call to ministry, but quit and took a ship to Tarshish.  Times got hard, people were difficult and you took what appeared an easy way out…you quit and contented yourself with your own gourd; however, in light of eternity it is temporal and comes at the sacrifice of the best part…the will of the LORD.

After 38 years of ministry, I understand the temptation to run from pressures, people, problems and pain.  My wife and I celebrated the beginning of our 33rd year of ministry at Hillsdale Baptist Church, October 1, 2017.  We never intended to be at this ministry so many years and there were many times I was tempted to “cut and run”; however, I am glad we pressed on through the pain and problems.

Take a lesson from the life of Jonah: God orders the starts and stops, not man! 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Ye are the light of the world”…An Exhortation For Puerto Rico, Dominica, Florida Keys and Houston

Dear Hillsdale family, friends and Heart of a Shepherd followers,

Puerto Rico in ruins

I have found the non-stop news coverage of natural disasters in the past six weeks has a desensitizing effect on my thoughts and emotions when it comes to the suffering of others in our hemisphere.

The earthquake in Mexico, the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Hurricane Irma’s strike on the Florida Keys, and the destructive swath of Hurricane Maria’s winds over Dominica and Puerto Rico is almost incomprehensible.

Indeed, I am afraid the church and its members are in danger of becoming much like America’s media…racing from one headline disaster to the next, with little pause or thought given to the human suffering left in the wake of each calamity.

Appliances delivered to Marathon

The human toll of recent natural disasters is nearly overwhelming, so much so we risk doing nothing, tacitly rationalizing what difference can our small effort or contribution make when so much has been lost and so many are suffering.

It is in such hours the church can and must make a difference.  In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught His followers, “Ye are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14,16).  We have a mandate to reflect the love of Christ through our “good works” and by our giving, sacrifice, and service turn the thoughts and hearts of men to our “Father which is in heaven”.

Helping hearts after Hurricane Irma

As you enjoy the comfort of your home, remember to pray for thousands left homeless, hungry and unemployed.  Pray for Houston, the Florida Keys, Dominica, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands devastated by recent hurricanes.   Pray for our nation’s leaders and military as they give aid on a massive scale beyond our ability as a church or individuals.

Finally, “Let your light so shine” and give financially to Operation Renewed Hope or to church ministries like Hillsdale Baptist Church that will ensure your sacrifice goes to ministries  on the frontline of giving aid and showing compassion (Hillsdale’s financial support for Houston, the Florida Keys, Dominica and Puerto Rico in the past six weeks is nearly $20,000).

“And of some have compassion, making a difference” (Jude 1:22).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Are you ready for Christ’s coming? It may be today!

September 30, 2017

Scripture Reading – Acts 1-2

Our scripture reading this Saturday, September 30, 2017 introduces us to a pivotal book in the New Testament, the Book of Acts, also known as the “Acts of the Apostles”.   As its name implies, the Book of Acts records the actions and activities of the Apostles following Christ’s bodily resurrection and translation to heaven after commissioning His disciples to “be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Jesus appeared to His followers on at least ten separate occasions following His resurrection from the dead.  He first appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18; Mark 16:9) and the other women who came to His empty tomb (Matthew 28:8-10).  He then appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; I Corinthians 15:5) and to two followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).   Later He appeared to ten of the disciples, less Thomas who was absent and Judas who had betrayed Jesus and hanged himself (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-29).  Eight days later He appeared in the midst of the eleven disciples, this time with Thomas present (John 20:24-29).   Jesus appeared to seven of the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, known to the Jews as the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23).  In his epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul recorded Jesus’ appearance to five hundred followers and then to James (I Corinthians 15:6-7).  He last appeared to the eleven disciples before He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:3-12).

There are several foundational truths in this introduction to the Book of Acts.   Because the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central hope of Christianity (Luke 24:39-40; 41-43; Acts 1:3), Jesus stayed with His disciples forty days and emboldened them with “many infallible proofs”, an experience that forever changed their lives (Acts 1:3).

Jesus exhorted His disciples to WAIT for the promise of the Father…ye shall be BAPTIZED with the Holy Ghost” (1:4-5).  Before He ascended to heaven He commissioned them to be witnesses (Acts 1:8) and as they watched, Jesus “was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).  Two angels, appearing as men in “white apparel”, appeared giving the disciples a promise that has been the hope of believers for 2,000 years… “…this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11).

The reality of a crucified, risen and returning Savior transformed the disciples from self-promoting sinners arguing among themselves who should be the greatest (Luke 9:46, 22:24), to servants asking nothing for themselves and left wondering when Christ would “restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6).

One of the many lessons we can take from Acts 1-2 is:

When God’s people remember the main thing is a crucified, risen, and returning Savior, conflicts and divisions cease in the church.

The imminent return of Jesus Christ forever changed the disciples’ perspective on their own lives and ministry.   James would write to the early church, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1).  Knowing Jesus Christ promised to return, but not knowing the hour, James exhorted believers:

James 5:7-9 – Be patient [longsuffering; slow to anger] therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman [farmer] waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early [autumn] and latter [spring] rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts [keep hope alive]: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not [stop complaining & grumbling] one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

Friend, I do not know when the LORD will return (Acts 1:7), but I believe it is soon and  imminent.  We also know the LORD’s coming will be sudden, unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

Are you ready for His coming? It may be today!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Update on Hillsdale Hurricane Relief Missions Ministr

Dear Hillsdale family, friends and Followers of Heart of a Shepherd:

While the vast majority of financial gifts to Hillsdale’s Hurricane Relief Fund have come from within our church family, there are some who are friends of this pastor’s blog who have also contributed and deserve an update on our use of donations.

Donations to date total over $18,000.00.  We have financially supported the following:

  1. Hillsdale’s hurricane relief team’s flight to Houston following Hurricane Harvey.
  2. Hillsdale rented and sent two trucks loaded with over 40 appliances to Marathon, FL. Special thanks to Famous Tate and the Horst family for donating a full truck load of appliances and to ABC Appliances and Services for donating appliances and selling used appliances at cost.  Marathon Baptist Church distributed the appliances to needy families.

This week we are expecting a $12,000 expenditure of funds for the following:

  1. $4000.00 in fuel costs for two planes to fly water and supplies into Carolina, Puerto Rico to Calvary Baptist Tabernacle Church, Schools and Bible College (Pastor Johnny Daniels – he has been a missionary pastor for nearly 50 years in the Caribbean).
2. $2,500 in fuel costs for a commercial plane loaded with food and water to fly into Dominica.
3. $5500.00 towards the purchase and shipment of a 500 kw Diesel Generator to Calvary Baptist Tabernacle Church, Schools and Bible College  (the total cost of the generator with shipment by boat is $55,000.
4. The balance of funds will be used in our mission relief to South Florida…either in purchasing goods or paying for shipments.
For many who have given, thank you for allowing Hillsdale Baptist Church to serve as a conduit of your gifts.
For others who are wanting to give to those in need and be assured your gifts are going where needed, please go to www.HillsdaleBaptist.org; look for the Donations button at the top and you can set up to give through your bank to Hillsdale. Be sure to type in beside “Other”, Hurricane Relief. Of course, your gifts are tax-deductible.
With the heart of a shepherd,
Pastor Travis D. Smith