Category Archives: missions

Show Me the Money!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment: 2 Corinthians 9-10

The city of Corinth was the most important city of ancient Greece.  In the apostle Paul’s day it served as the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia.  Located on a major East to West trade route, Corinth was the 4th largest city of the Roman Empire. However, like most major cities, Corinth was known for its wealth and licentious lifestyle.

Paul established the church in Corinth on his second missionary journey and his first letter to the church was both pointed and direct.  The apostle rebuked a whole litany of shameful sins present in the church: Immorality; Covetousness; Idolatry; Drunkenness; Slander (1 Corinthians 5); Christians suing Christians in secular courts (1 Corinthians 6); and the sacrilegious treatment of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11) were among the sins the church had tolerated in its midst.  Paul concluded his first letter to the Corinthian believers, exhorting them to take up an offering to minister to the needs of the suffering saints in Judaea.

In contrast to his first letter, the Book of 2 Corinthians is a letter of affirmation and exhortation to Christians in Corinth.  The Corinthian believers heeded Paul’s admonishment concerning sin in the church and dealt with sinners in the midst.  In addition to his affirmation, Paul exhorted the believers in Corinth to fulfill their promise to send a sacrificial offering to the suffering saints in Judea.

Paul used the churches of Macedonia [Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea] as a model to motivate the Corinthians to fulfill their obligation to send a generous offering.  Unlike the wealthier people of Corinth, the believers of Macedonia, had given out of their poverty (2 Cor. 8:2), giving generously beyond their ability (2 Cor. 8:3)

Sparingly” and “bountifully” are two adverbs Paul used to define attitudes towards giving.  Paul writes, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

A believer who gives “sparingly” is stingy, miserly and tight-fisted.  Paul warns, sow sparingly and you will reap sparingly!  Be a miser when you give, don’t be surprised you reap the same when you are in need.  In contrast, give “bountifully” knowing generous givers are recipients of generous blessings!

The analogy Paul draws in 2 Corinthians 9:6 is from Solomon’s pictures of two farmers, one who scatters seed and another who hoards seed (Proverbs 11:24-26).

Proverbs 11:24-26 – “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth [God rewards generosity]; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty [covetousnessness leads to poverty]. 
25 The liberal soul [gives, bestows blessings] shall be made fat [satisfied]: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself [Gal. 6:7 – You reap what you sow].26 He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.”

I close with three spiritual truths on giving:

1) God rewards generosity (Proverbs 11:24).

2) Covetousness leads to poverty (Proverbs 11:24).

3) A man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7; Prov. 11:25-26): A generous soul will be content (Proverbs 11:25), but a hoarder is despised (Proverbs 11:26.

I do not know about you, but sign me up for giving and its promised rewards!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Are You Crazy?

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Mark 5-6

The Christian radio broadcast, Unshackled”, is the longest continually running radio program in history.  Produced by the Pacific Garden Mission of Chicago, “Unshackled” has conveyed the real life stories of Christians whose lives were transformed by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior!  Among the thousands of radio dramas are the testimonies of drunkards and drug addicts who became preachers and missionaries; prostitutes whose lives were so transformed they became godly wives and mothers; runaway teens… Desperate sinners who, hearing the Gospel and trusting Jesus Christ as Savior, had their lives changed forever.

My friend, the great validating testimony of the Christian faith above all the world’s religions is not reformation but transformation!   Modern medicine, bearing the label “psychology”, has for more than a century attempted to address the ailments of mind and soul.  Medications, rehab centers, and mental institutions are all attempts to address what man has been unable to fix…a troubled soul.

Mark 5:1-20 tells the story of the terrible toll sin takes on a man’s life.  Crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the eastern shore known as Gadara and met a man described as having an “unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).

We note three visible details about the man.  The first is his pitiful physical appearance:  His body is scarred by self-inflicted wounds; ropes hang around his ankles and chains about his neck and wrists evidencing the desperate attempts of family and friends to control him (5:3-4).  The second characteristic of this troubled man is his social isolation: cut off from family, friends, and neighbors, he had made his abode among the caves and tombs (5:5).  The third detail is his emotional condition exhibited in his tormented screams echoing off the hillsides “always, night and day” (5:5).

The late Dr. Adrian Rogers observed, “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the heart”; and so it is with this man of Gadara when we read he was “…a man with an unclean spirit.” (Mark 5:2), “…possessed with the devil, and had the legion….” (Mark 5:15).  We are not told when this man gave his soul over to demons; however, sin had not only taken every corner of his affections and thoughts; it had degraded and destroyed his life.  We read in the Book of James: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15).  Sin had destroyed his life, family, and future.

In a fleeting moment of desperation, the man ran to Jesus and worshipped Him (5:6); however, the demons that ruled his miserable soul wanted nothing to do with Jesus (5:7). Jesus, evidencing His command and authority over the demons and the ruler of darkness, cast the demons out of the man and they entered swine that could not abide the indwelling of such wickedness (5:10-13).

Rather than the protracted steps and methods of “reformation” that is the methodology of psychologists and psychiatrists, the demon-possessed man’s life immediately gave evidence of his conversion and transformation (5:8, 15).   The change was so transformative that his family, friends, and neighbors observed he was “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (5:15).  Sitting…he was at peace, no longer needing chains and ropes to bind him;  clothed…no longer a wild man crying and cutting himself; “in his right mind”…repentant and rational.  The late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. observed of such a sinner, “If you give God your heart He will comb the kinks out of your head.”

How great was the change in the formerly demon-possessed man?  In Mark 5:7 he wanted nothing to do with Jesus; however, in Mark 5:18 his love and gratitude for Jesus moved him to want nothing more than to be with Jesus.

Mark 5:16-17 reveals, in spite of the undeniable transformation in the former maniac’s life, the citizens of Gadara wanted no part of Jesus.   Jesus was not welcome in their country, their hearts or homes.   Knowing the man of Gadara could go where He was not welcome, Jesus commanded him to, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (5:19).

I close with two exhortations:   The first, like the man of Gadara, believers are commissioned to tell others what Jesus Christ has done for them and that ministry begins first at home (Acts 1:8).   The second, when a sinner is genuinely saved his life will be a testimony of transformation.  In the words of the apostle Paul, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Everything about the maniac of Gadara changed:  1) His attitudes—he was “in his right mind” (5:15);  2) His actions—he was “sitting” with Jesus (5:15);  3) His appearance—he was “clothed” (5:15);  4) His affections—he “prayed Him that he might be with Him [Jesus]” (5:15).  God’s power had not only overcome his rebellious spirit, but transformed his thoughts, mind, and affections.

The change in the demon-possessed man’s life was an undeniable evidence of his salvation. Can that be said of you?

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God restores failures and uses imperfect people.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Mark 1-2

I have heard it often said, “Bible believers are the only ones who shoot their wounded!”

Why is it, we who have been forgiven much, are often unwilling to forgive and restore others?  Why do we set ourselves up as the perfect standard and condemn others who fall short of our expectations?

I fear many who have known the LORD for years or grew up in church and were spared the mire of sin, forget the sinful muck out of which God saves us.  We forget God’s exhortation for us to forgive to the extent we have experienced forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).

Today’s Bible reading takes us to the Gospel of Mark and the ministry of John the Baptist; however, before we plunge into that study, let us take some lessons from the life of its human author, John Mark.

Who was John Mark?   Unlike the authors of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, Mark was not one of the twelve disciples. We learn from Acts 12:12 he was a citizen of Jerusalem.  Some believe he is the young man mentioned in Mark 14:50-52 who fled into the night naked when Jesus was arrested in the Garden.  It is widely accepted he was a traveling companion of the Apostle Peter from whom he gained intimate knowledge of the Lord.  In Acts 12:25 he departs from Jerusalem with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch and is their helper as they set out on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-5).

Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for John Mark, his journey with Paul and Barnabas became a spiritual crisis and came to an abrupt end when we read, “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing [going away; deserting] from them returned [turning his back] to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13).

The cause for John Mark’s sudden departure is not revealed (I speculate the hardships of travel, but more so the danger and ever-present threat of persecution); however, John Mark reappears in Acts 15 and becomes a source of conflict and division between two of the churches greatest missionaries – Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39). The dynamic missionary duo, Paul and Barnabas, were preparing to go on a second missions trip when we read “Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 15:37). Unlike Barnabas, Paul “thought it not good [desirable] to take [John Mark], who departed from [quit; deserted] them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work (15:38). The dispute over John Mark’s company became so great between Barnabas and Paul the great co-laborers went their separate ways (Acts 15:39-41).

That fact brings us to the question: “How did John Mark go from being a man with whom Paul was unwilling to travel to the author of the Gospel of Mark?   We do not know what transpired in John Mark’s life after he departed with Barnabas on a mission’s journey apart from Paul. We do know he went on to distinguish himself as one of God’s faithful servants.

Many believe Mark penned his Gospel to the believers in Rome while he was in Rome, leaving me to ask, “What brought John Mark to Rome?”

 I believe the answer to that question is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, written while he was a prisoner in Rome awaiting his execution. Paul writes, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable [good; worthy] to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). It was Paul’s desire, not only that Timothy would come to his aid, but that he would also bring Mark to minister with him.

As you read the Gospel of Mark, remember one of the great spiritual lessons we take from its author: God restores failures and uses imperfect people to do His work.

While Paul viewed John Mark as a disappointment, Barnabas looked through the eyes of a Mentor, and at the risk of a friend’s company, lovingly restored Mark to ministry. Perhaps it was this lesson that moved Paul’s heart when he penned:

Galatians 6:1-2 – “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

ONE PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE ON MISSIONS AND MISSIONARIES

HBC photoHillsdale Baptist Church just finished her 54th annual missions conference.   From her inception, The Great Commission has been a central passion of this church and her second pastor, Robert Smith, was a missionary church-planting pastor (no relation to this pastor).   For 54 years, Hillsdale has served the LORD as a Supporting and Sending church.   Today, we are blessed to have our own “kids” on foreign mission fields.  Embracing the spirit and principle of 1 Corinthians 3:9, we teach our members “we are labourers together with God” and encourage our members to  “rub shoulders” with their missionaries.  In 2016 Hillsdale sent 35 members to the mission field and are planning to do the same in 2017!

Four principles serve as a guide for Hillsdale’s missions endeavors.the-gospel

I. The Message of Missions is the Gospel (Mark 16:15; 1 Cor. 1:23)

Mark 16:15 Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

1 Corinthians 1:23 – “But we preach Christ crucified…”

II. The Method of Missions – The essence of missions is to Send and be Sent.

We follow our LORD’s fourfold charge to His disciples, “Go…teach…baptizing…Teaching” (Matthew 28:19-20) and a four point compass embracing the universal scope and mandate of The Great Commission (Mt. 28:19; Mark 16:15, 20; Acts 1:8).

Acts 1:8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem [Tampa, FL], and in all Judaea [United States], and in Samaria [Canada; Mexico], and unto the uttermost part of the earth [every race, tribe, tongue and nation].”

faith-promiseIII. The Means of the Great Commission – Faith Promise Giving (2 Corinthians 8-9)

There are many great missions supporting churches who follow a different model; however, God has blessed Hillsdale’s emphasis on Faith Promise Giving for over 20 years.

IV. The Messenger of the Great Commission is the Missionary.

It is this fourth principle that has stirred me to address what I feel has become a neglected doctrine in some churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.  Some Bible college teachers and seminary professors have, in my opinion, turned to a pragmatic philosophy of missions in their endeavor to bolster a failing missions program.  Encouraging less than a whole-hearted surrender to missions not only slights the central doctrine of the missionary call, it ultimately erodes the responsibility of the church to support and send missionaries.

Consider three basic tenets of the missionary’s work and ministry.

The first is the Character of the Missionary greenwoods-in-front-of-church

Hillsdale views its missionaries as an extension of its pastoral staff.  When we consider supporting a missionary, one of the first questions we ask is whether or not we would hire that individual or family to be a part of our church staff.  By references, interviews, and a questionnaire, we weigh our decision to support a missionary based on whether or not they exhibit the qualities and traits of the pastoral office: “…blameless [worthy; approved; having a good report]…vigilant [disciplined; having self-control], sober [discreet; prudent], of good behavior [modest; proper; honorable]…apt to teach [able to teach]…“Not a novice”  (1 Tim. 3:2-6).

The first missionaries, Barnabas and Saul (Paul), were numbered among the “prophets and teachers” in Antioch when God called them and the character of the missionary was a big deal in the 1st century church and it should be no less in the 21st century church.

fitzgeraldsThe second fundamental tenet regarding the missionary’s work and ministry is one I find slighted the most by some Bible college and seminary professors:  The Constraint of the Missionary Call (Acts 13:2-3).  

The New Testament missionary was Dedicated and compelled to the Duty (work) of the Great Commission.  The Holy Ghost directed the church at Antioch, “Separate [divide; sever; appoint; set apart] me Barnabas and Saul for the work [occupation; labor; employment; task] whereunto I have called [summoned] them” (Acts 13:2).

Barnabas and Saul were separated [marked off; corralled; fenced; divided and cut out] by the church at Antioch.   We read, after the church “fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” [released; dismissed; relieved]… “for the work whereunto [God had] called them” (Acts 13:2).  The calling of the missionary was not a two-year commitment or a two-term suggestion.  Barnabas and Saul were “separated” and “sent” away, laboring for the LORD the rest of their lives (2 Timothy 4:7).  I sorrow that such a holy calling is being trivialized by both our churches, colleges, and missionaries.

The third fundamental tenet of the missionary’s work and ministry is The Calling of the rodgersMissionary.  The missionary bears a specific calling [“…the Holy Ghost said…I have called them“] (Acts 13:2).  Several men were faithfully preaching and teaching in Antioch when God called Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:1); however, only Barnabas and Saul were specifically called by the Holy Ghost to separate and go out from the church with its blessing.  Recognizing God’s call, the church “laid their hands on them, and sent them away” (Acts 13:3).

The Great Commission is a mandate for all believers; however, some believers bear an unique call to be separated and sent out by their church.  It is the duty of the church to examine those who profess to be called and send only those who evidence spiritual qualities and traits deemed essential for the work of the ministry.  I urge all the brethren, especially those entrusted with teaching and training the next generation, to not diminish the missionary unction of those whom God has called out of our churches.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale’s Vision for Missions – 2016-2026

Independent Baptist Church of PilarI believe it was Samuel Clemens, the great American novelist who went by the pen name Mark Twain, who commented regarding rumors of his death, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Having been absent from the “blogosphere” for nearly three weeks, I know some are wondering the same about this author!

In the past month I have spent time with missionaries supported by the church I pastor in Tampa, Hillsdale Baptist Church. James and Amy (Coffill) Greenwood and Buddy and Loren (Salazar) Fitzgerald are top-tier missionaries (of course, some could accuse me of lacking objectivity since both Amy and Loren are young women who call Hillsdale home and I love as daughters). My heart overflows with joy after spending time with both families.

Greenwoods in front of churchThe Greenwoods and Fitzgeralds have proven to be worthy investments of our missionary offerings as each has established thriving church ministries in their respective countries. I had the privilege of preaching the building dedication and inauguration service for the Independent Baptist Church of Pilar, Argentina founded by the Greenwoods and pastored by James. With a partnership forged with the Greenwood’s supporting churches and pastors and the labor and sacrifice of the members in Pilar, a beautiful two-story church building now stands as a testimony of God’s grace and blessing.

FitzgeraldsThe Fitzgeralds labor for the LORD in a town in the jungles of Peru.  Buddy and Loren lead a thriving church ministry they founded among the Peruvian people.  With a goal to move into the jungle and live among the tribal people, the Fitzgeralds are looking to raise funds this next year to purchase land and, like the Greenwoods, construct a building for their church to identify as home. The church will be their home base when the Fitzgeralds move up river into the jungle.

This Sunday morning, in the 10:30 service, I plan to share with the Hillsdale family a mission’s report of my trip; however, more important than a trip report is the vision I pray will be the Mission Vision of Hillsdale, 2016-2026.

I will continue this theme in upcoming posts.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

www.hillsdalebaptist.org

www.heartofashepherd.com

June 6, 2015 – From the front pew: This pastor’s perspective on the closing of Clearwater Christian College

CCC DormAlthough I am not an alumnus of Clearwater Christian College (CCC), nevertheless, my heart is heavy this day after it was announced that the college will close her doors at the end of this month.  CCC’s closing follows in the wake of several former conservative\fundamental Christian institutions [Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, Tennessee Temple University – to name a few examples].  I have a distant knowledge of the changes in administration and philosophy that drove those institutions to extinction; however, as a pastor in Tampa Bay for 30 years I have had the sorrow of watching the demise of Clearwater Christian College from the proverbial “front pew”.

CCC was a small, nondenominational liberal arts Bible College founded by Dr. Arthur Dr. SteeleSteele in 1967.  Dr. Steele (1920-2011) was a successful businessman, an officer in the Corps of Engineers in World War II, a seminary graduate, professor, and college president before he had a vision for a fundamental Bible college on the West Coast of Florida.  I found Dr. Steele to be a gracious, kind spirited Christian man who loved college students and was passionate in his desire to minister to local fundamental churches. A ready smile and a humble, non-assuming air always accompanied his greeting.

In his mid-70’s, Dr. Steele set his heart on finding a man who would assume the helm of his small college of 200 students and steer her into a new era while maintaining the college’s unique nondenominational, biblically fundamental stripe.  He found his successor in, of all places, Washington DC [Dr. George Youstra and his wife Pat were part of the Reagan administration from 1981-1987].  Dr. Youstra resigned his position as the special assistant to the secretary of education on January 2, 1987 and assumed the presidency of CCC.George_Youstra

Under Dr. Youstra’s leadership the college would enjoy 15 years of consecutive growth and its student body would number nearly 700 students necessitating renovations to existing buildings and constructing new dorms and classrooms.  Like his predecessor, Dr. Youstra exhibited a kind, gracious, self-sacrificing spirit that was reflected in the administration, faculty and student body.  Under Dr. Youstra’s leadership, CCC would become a prominent educational Christian institution earning the respect and admiration of fundamental pastors, churches and families [the church I pastor had as many as 17 students enrolled at one point during Dr. Youstra’s tenure and we enjoyed the ministries of several faculty and students over the years].

I shared the confidence of many pastors across the country, missionaries, and national pastors around the world, that CCC reflected a fundamental biblical worldview in its philosophy and practice.  Serving as a board member for a few years, I witnessed firsthand Dr. Youstra’s leadership and his ready response to the concerns of pastors and staff.  In the summer of 2002 Dr. Youstra transitioned to become president emeritus and was a part-time professor of graduate studies while his wife Pat continued as a professor until her retirement. CCC logo

“From the front pew” it has been my sorrow to observe CCC’s decline over the past 13 years.  From a college with a strong following of biblical fundamental pastors and churches, CCC appeared to have lost her way.  Many reasons will be given for the doors of CCC closing.  Some will cite economics, a dwindling number of conservative churches, low student enrollment and competition from other colleges.  Although all of the above no doubt contribute to the demise of CCC; I suggest from my vantage point that the leadership of the college over the past 10 years steered the college away from its founder’s purpose, philosophy and vision.  Rather than an institution dedicated to educating, challenging and equipping young people to be “soldiers of Christ”, CCC evolved to a pragmatic philosophy of accommodation lowering her standards, adopting CCM music in her chapels and athletic events and most recently featuring an activity night of rap and rock music.  It is with sorrow that I realize the beautiful campus by the Bay will no longer serve my church or young people; however, I’m afraid that has been true for many years.

Steele-nightThe legacy of CCC is not in her buildings or physical location. The legacy of CCC envisioned by Dr. Arthur Steele and carried forward by Dr. George Youstra is seeded in the lives of her alumni, faculty and administrators who are true to her founding principles.  My prayers are with you in this season of disappointment and transition.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith

A Travesty of Abandonment: An addendum for biblically fundamental Christian leaders

lost in time

* For the sake of clarity, please note the following blog was posted June 4, 2015; one day prior to the sudden announcement of Clearwater Christian College’s closing on Friday, June 5, 2015.

For those board members, administrators, faculty members and pastors who will take some time for honest soul-searching, I would suggest you consider the propensity for generational decay in our fundamental churches and institutions.

The majority of my generation have been the heirs and benefactors of the sacrifices of the men and women who emerged victorious from the European and Asian battlefields of World War II.  I have witnessed that generation’s dedication, fortitude, disciplines and spiritual character.  Many of them returned from the battlefield with their souls dominated by the reality of the eternal and their affections set upon Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.  They would become a generation exercised by a passion for holiness and separation from the world.  They dreamed big and their vision for seeing lost souls come to Christ founded churches, built colleges, seminaries, schools and mission boards.

A second generation followed and became the successors and benefactors of the first generation’s sacrifices.  They were familiar with the sacrifices of their predecessors and committed themselves to preserving the vision and passion of their forbearers.  They followed in their footsteps and continued to build on the foundation laid by those who had gone before them.

It is the third generation that is now in positions of leadership in our churches and institutions.  History evidences the propensity of the third generation to set upon a path of spiritual apathy and decline.   decaying buildingThis generation lacks a sense of identity with the faith and vision of the first generation.   They often become critics of those who went before them and, if they are honest, wrestle with spiritual uncertainties questioning who they are, what they believe and what they should practice.   The sad reality is that a spiritual apathy often dominates this generation leading to dead orthodoxy [doctrine; beliefs] and inevitably a rejection of the convictions of the generations that went before them.  Lifted up by pride, they tend to be obstinate and independent of God and man.  They have fought few battles, are benefactors of the sacrifices of others and few are willing to confess they have themselves built nothing.  They have, in the words of Martyn Lloyd Jones, “spent yesterday’s capital until [they] have nothing left.”

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith