Category Archives: missions

A Song of Thanksgiving (Psalm 67; Psalm 69)

Scripture reading – Psalm 67; Psalm 69

Our study of the Psalms continues with two songs of worship. According to its title, Psalm 67 was addressed to, “The Chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song” (it is believed that “Neginoth” was a stringed instrument). Psalm 69 is titled, “To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim,” and describes it as, “A Psalm of David.) The focus of today’s devotional is Psalm 67.

A Prayer for God’s Grace and Mercy (67:1)

Like other psalms of thanksgiving we have considered, this brief, but beautiful song as a petition to the God of Israel to be “merciful” and gracious to His people. The psalm continues, “bless us; and cause his [God’s] face to shine upon us” (67:1). Literally, shine your favor upon us, O Lord!

We might ask, “Why should the LORD bless His people?” The answer: “That thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations. 3Let the people praise thee, O God; Let all the people praise thee” (67:2-3).

The motivation for asking for the LORD’s blessings was not a selfish desire for success or material possessions, but as a testimony of God’s favor upon His people before all the nations of the earth (67:2-3).

A Petition for Universal Praise and Thanksgiving (67:4-5)

4O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: For thou shalt judge the people righteously, And govern the nations upon earth. Selah.”

The psalmist longed for that which should be the desired of all believers: that the nations of the world would turn to the LORD and “be glad and sing for joy” (67:4a).

What part might believers have in seeing the nations of the world turn to God? Jesus Christ answered that question with His Great Commission: “19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Unlike the scales of man’s justice, God’s judgment is perfectly righteous, and altogether just (67:4b). He is a just, and holy God; He is kind, and compassionate. What a great cause for rejoicing! “5Let the people praise thee, O God; Let all the people praise thee” (67:5).

God’s Response to Praise and Thanksgiving (67:6-7)

The psalmist observed, when a nation praises the LORD, He in turn blesses the earth. The psalmist writes, “6Then shall the earth yield her increase” (67:6a). Unless you grew up on a farm, or have had a family garden, you might not grasp the beauty of that promise. A man who praises the LORD in his labor, enjoys the blessings of God, and the fruit of his labor.

Twice we read, “And God, even our own God, shall bless us. 7God shall bless us” (67:6b-7a). What an inspiring thought! When our hearts and thoughts are upon the LORD, and we offer Him our prayers of thanksgiving, He blesses us twofold!

Psalm 67 concludes with the assurance, “all the ends of the earth shall fear him” (67:7b, 22:27). All people, everywhere, will have cause to fear, revere, and worship the LORD.

Closing thought: Take a few moments and count your blessings. Offer to the LORD a prayer of thanksgiving for the multitude of His blessings.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

He Died for You; Will You Live for Him? (1 Peter 1-5)

Scripture reading – 1 Peter 1-5

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the First Epistle of Peter. Though brief in comparison to other books of the Bible, this small letter is a spiritual gold mine, but to sum up its doctrines and applications in one devotional commentary is an impossible task. For the sake of brevity, I will limit my focus to Peter’s opening salutation, 1 Peter 1:1-2.

Historical Background

The Roman Empire was near its peak when this letter was written to first century saints. Reaching as far west as Britain, and into the African continent as far south as Egypt, Rome’s territories covered nearly two million square miles. The emperor of the day was the infamous Nero, and by the time Peter penned his epistle, the dark clouds of persecution were beginning to form. The church would soon experience its first wave of persecution, and among those who would become martyrs were the apostles Paul, and Peter, the author of our Epistle.

The Author – “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:1a)

What a testimony of God’s saving grace!  Peter, the fisherman (Mark 1:16-20), brother of Andrew, a disciple of Jesus Christ, and an apostle!  He was a natural leader, and along with James and John, was privileged to be named in Christ’s inner circle (Matthew 17:1-2; Mark 5:37, 9:2, 14:23). He was the disciple who had boasted he would never deny Jesus (Matthew 26:29-35), but thrice denied Him the night He was betrayed (Matthew 26:69-74). Humiliated, broken, and finally restored; Peter became a testimony of faith, courage, and faithfulness to the Lord.

The Addressees of the First Epistle of Peter (1 Peter 1:1b-2)

Peter identified the recipients of his letters as “the strangers [sojourners; exiles] scattered [dispersed] throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). Who were these “strangers”? They were not “strangers” to Peter, but aliens in this world (1:1) because they had been scattered from their homelands (1:1). Driven from their homes by religious persecution, they were believers, who had accepted the Messiah, and become sojourners, people without a home or country.

They were not only “Strangers”, they were the Saved, the Elect,” the chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God” (1:2a). The elect were the same in Peter’s day as they were in every generation.  God’s chosen people are elect.  The blessing for you and me is that anyone can be elect if he or she accepts Christ and becomes part of God’s family.  To be elect is a term of endearment, much like a parent refers to his children as his family.  When we become a part of God’s kingdom, we become part of His family, and we are elect – endeared to the Father.  

I believe the “elect” are chosen by God, according to His foreknowledge, and they are the objects of His saving grace, through faith in the sacrificial offering of Christ for our sin [His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection]. The apostle Paul described “election” in Ephesians 1:4 in these words:

Ephesians 1:4 – “According as [Even as] He hath chosen us in Him [for Himself] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy [consecrated & set apart] and without blame [above reproach] before him in love.”

Who then are the chosen? Who are the elect? Who can be saved?

Some might take me to task on this point, but my answer is, “whosoever will” (John 3:16; Romans 10:13).  The elect are “whosoever will.”

John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in himshould not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 10:13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

My heart rejoices to close with this eternal promise:

“And He [Jesus] is the propitiation [atoning sacrifice] for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Let Your Light Shine! (Titus 1-3)

Scripture reading – Titus 1-3

Today our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us to Paul’s Epistle to Titus. This letter was most likely written after Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, following his visit to the infant churches on the island of Crete. We know Paul was set free from prison sometime after his epistle to the believers in Philippi; however, the cause of his liberty is not revealed (although it may be that his accusers from Jerusalem had failed to appear before Caesar to bring a witness against the apostle.).

Like 1 Timothy, the Epistle to Titus is included in the books of the Bible known as “The Pastoral Epistles.” Though addressed to Titus, it appears the letter was meant to be read to the churches in Crete among whom he was a minister. Paul’s purpose seems to have been that of assuring the churches that Titus was empowered to act upon Paul’s authority.

As we observed with Timothy in an earlier devotion, Paul had a loving bond with Titus and addressed him as “mine own son after the common faith” (1:4). Titus was a Greek convert, and is identified in the Scriptures as an uncircumcised Gentile (Galatians 2:3). He was also a member of Paul’s inner-circle, and his “partner and fellowhelper,” privileged to be recognized as Paul’s co-laborer (2 Corinthians 8:23). Titus was entrusted and charged with the responsibility of ordaining “elders [pastors] in every city” on the isle of Crete (Titus 1:5-9).

Unlike contemporary letters that conclude with a parting salutation and signature, the Epistle to Tituscommences as Paul has all of his letters, introducing himself as its author, and stating his calling and authority as “a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (1:1).

Titus 1:1 captured the essence of Paul’s calling as a minister: A “servant,” literally a slave subject to the will of God. An “apostle,” a messenger sent to bear the message of another, and representing the authority of the sender, Jesus Christ. A custodian of the Faith, and a purveyor of the Truth that promotes godliness (1:1).

I invite you to pause and consider that, though you and I do not bear the authority of the apostle Paul, we are nevertheless the servants of God, the witnesses of our faith in Jesus Christ, and bear the responsibility of speaking the truth and promoting godliness (1:1).

Jesus taught His disciples the same responsibility (Matthew 5:13–16) in His Sermon on the Mount when He said:

Matthew 5:13–16 – “13 Ye are the salt of the earth [salt having a natural cleansing, healing, and preserving nature]: but if the salt have lost his savour [meaning to have been contaminated, compromised, and unfit for use], wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. 14 Ye are the light of the world [guiding lights, guiding sinners to Jesus Christ]. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven [unlike the world that seeks the spotlight for themselves, and the applause of men; believers are to direct the focus of the world to Jesus Christ].”

Fellow believer, we are living in a day that is growing spiritually darker, and even the smallest of God’s lights (believers), will stand out in such an hour.

Let’s shine for Christ, in words and our works!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Journey’s End (Acts 27-28)

Scripture reading – Acts 27-28

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the close of our study in the book we identify as The Acts of the Apostles. Our study has taken us from the historic fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and public appearances (Acts 1:1-3), to Him commissioning the disciples to be His apostles (1:4-8), before He ascended to heaven (1:9). After receiving the promise that Jesus would return (1:10-11), the disciples returned to an “upper room” (1:12-13), and there waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who came on the Day of Pentecost (2:1), fifty days after the Passover and Christ’s death on the Cross.

There are many other events that are essential to the historical narrative of the early church that are found in the Book of Acts, including the death of Stephen, the first of many martyrs (7:55-8:1), the salvation and transformation of Saul, the great persecutor (8:1; 9:1-9), who became Paul, and the apostle to the Gentiles (9:10-16).

Our study of Acts has followed Paul’s three missionary journeys as the Gospel spread throughout Asia, Greece, and Europe (reaching at least as far west as Spain).

Taken prisoner in Jerusalem, Paul was held in the fortress of Caesarea, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where he was tried and falsely accused of sedition by enemies who would have killed him (24:1-6). Knowing by revelation that he was to be a witness in Rome, Paul had exercised his right as a Roman citizen, and appealed for a hearing before Caesar (25:10-11).

Acts 27 – Paul’s Shipwreck on the Mediterranean Sea

Arrangements having been made for Paul to sail to Rome, he was assigned a military escort with “one named Julius, a centurion of [Caesar] Augusts’ band [regiment]” (27:1).  The ship had stopped at several ports in its journey, including Sidon where Luke noted the centurion’s favor in allowing Paul to fellowship with other believers (27:3).

Departing from Sidon, the centurion transferred Paul and other prisoners to a “ship of Alexandria [i.e. Egypt]“ that was sailing to Italy (27:4-6).  The sailing was slow (27:9), and knowing storms would soon make sailing hazardous, “Paul admonished” the captain of the ship and his centurion guard to seek safe harbor (27:9-10). Those men, however, dismissed Paul’s concerns, and set sail until the vessel was caught up in a great storm so that, in Luke’s words, “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (27:11-20).

The balance of Acts 27 chronicles Paul’s shipwreck (27:21-44), while Acts 28 records his time and ministry on the isle of Melita, an island located south of Sicily, in the Mediterranean Sea (28:1).

Acts 28:11-31 – Paul’s Final Journey

Beginning with Acts 28:11, we follow Paul from his ministry on Melita, to his arrival in Rome. Although a prisoner of Caesar, he was a captive of God’s grace, and for the next two years preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Rome, the capital of the world in the first century (28:17-22).

A rented house, serving as his prison and sanctuary (28:30), Paul opened his door and heart to “all that came in unto him,” and faithfully preached “the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (28:31).

What happened during the years that Paul was a prisoner in Rome?

We will answer that question as our chronological study takes us next to the letters Paul wrote while a prisoner in Rome.

Copyright 2020– Travis D. Smith

Paul’s Indomitable Spirit (Acts 20-23)

Scripture reading – Acts 20-23

Our chronological Scripture reading returns to the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 20-23, when, once again, we examine Luke’s record of the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. Since we were last in the Book of Acts, we have been privileged to consider Paul’s epistles to believers in both Corinth and Rome in our daily readings.

Acts 20 picks up the narrative of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-41) where Paul had spent two years ministering (19:10a). The influence of the apostle’s preaching had spread throughout Asia, and both “Jews and Greeks” had received “the word of the Lord Jesus” (19:10b). Paul’s bold condemnation of idolatry (19:26), and the powerful effect of his preaching had not only threatened the commerce and trade in the worship of the Greek goddess Diana (19:27), but also set the whole city in an uproar (19:28-41).

Acts 20 – Departure from Ephesus

Paul, realizing his continued presence in Ephesus would endanger the lives of believers, determined to depart from Ephesus, and began his journey through Macedonia (a province of Rome north of Greece that we know today as the Balkan region of Europe). The apostle retraced his earlier missionary journeys, and traveling south to Greece (20:1-2), encountered Jews who were plotting against him (20:3).

God wonderfully and providentially blessed Paul with a mission’s team who accompanied him in his journey (20:4) through Asia. Among his traveling companions was Timothy, his beloved “son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), who would one day become the pastor of the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3).

Realizing he would not pass-through Macedonia again, Paul came to Miletus, a seaport city about 30 miles from Ephesus (20:16), and there he sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus (20:17).

The balance of Acts 20 records Paul’s final challenge to the pastoral leadership of the church in Ephesus (20:17-38). This passage is extremely moving as we see Paul’s passion for preaching and ministry (20:17-27), his loving compassion for those to whom he ministered (20:28-32), and his example of self-sacrificing charity and service (20:33-35).

Neither time or space permit me to adequately consider the balance of today’s Scripture reading; however, I will take liberty to give my readers a quick overview of Acts 21-23.

Acts 21 gives Paul’s final journey to Jerusalem (21:1-16), and the insurrection led by those who opposed him and the Gospel he preached (21:17-40).

Acts 22 recounts Paul’s personal testimony (22:1-5), his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (22:6-10), his calling as an apostle to the Gentiles (22:11-21), and the uprising of his enemies (22:22-40).

Acts 23 lays out Paul’s public address to the Sanhedrin: Notice the apostle’s courageous rebuke of the high priest Ananias (23:1-5), the clash of factions in the Sanhedrin (23:6-10), the conspiracy by some of the Jews to kill him (23:11-22), and the Roman authority’s resolve to move Paul to safety (23:23-35).

Our next Scripture reading will follow Paul’s ministry from Caesarea by the Sea (a beautiful seaport on the Mediterranean that I have visited), and his journey by sea that will end in his imprisonment in Rome.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

No Cause for Fear, When You are In the Center of God’s Will (Acts 18-19)

Scripture reading – Acts 18-19

We find ourselves nearing the end of Paul’s second missionary journey, this time with Silas (15:40), and later Timotheus (16:1; 17:14), as his travel companions. Paul’s ministry in Athens had been a fruitful one, and he had with unapologetic boldness declared to the Jews and Greeks that Jesus Christ was LORD, whom God had raised from the dead (17:31).

Acts 18 – Paul’s Ministry in Corinth

Departing from Athens, Paul traveled alone to the city of Corinth some 40-50 miles west of Athens. Corinth was the capital of Achaia, a Roman province on the Mediterranean Sea, and was renowned for its commerce, culture, scholarship, and its wickedness.

In Corinth, Paul was employed by “a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla” (18:2). This couple had been exiled from Rome by the decree of Claudius, the fifth Roman emperor, who around 49 A.D., commanded that all Jews were “to depart from Rome” (18:2). Providentially, God led Paul to the home of Aquila and Priscilla who were like himself, tentmakers, and there he resided while ministering in Corinth (18:3).

As was Paul’s custom, he began preaching “in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded [convinced] the Jews and the Greeks (most likely Hellenistic Jews)” (18:4). Silas and Timotheus’s arrival in Corinth (18:5) stimulated Paul to boldly and earnestly testify “to the Jews that Jesus was Christ [the Messiah]” (18:5).

The Jews’ strong rejection of the Gospel, and Paul’s rebuke of them is described in the following verse:

Acts 18:66  And when they [the Jews] opposed themselves [resisted; i.e. raised up in opposition to], and blasphemed [railed; reviled; slandered], he shook [to shake violently] his raiment [robe; i.e. indicating exasperation], and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads [i.e. a  disclaimer; Paul was not responsible for their souls]; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”

Literally and figuratively shaking his robe (18:6), Paul continued his ministry in the home of a man “named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard [bordered on; beside] to the synagogue” (18:7). No doubt Paul’s proximity to the synagogue infuriated his enemies. Adding to the offense was the news that “Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed [commitment of faith] on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (18:8).

In spite of the opposition and threats he faced, after the LORD assured him “in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10  For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (18:9-10), Paul continued “teaching the word of God” among the citizens of Corinth another eighteen months (18:11),

Believer, it is comforting to know that even a man like Paul needed assurance that the LORD was with him.

Lesson – There is no greater place of safety, or comfort, than in the center of God’s will.

Isaiah 41:1010 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hello, Athens! (Acts 17)

Scripture reading – Acts 17

Today’s Scripture reading follows Paul’s ministry in Philippi, and what some might describe as a “hullabaloo” (i.e. uproar, tumult, clamor) that was created after he and Silas were falsely accused of teaching “customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans” (16:21). Those men were thereafter beaten and jailed (16:22-24). The next day they were set free and departed from Philippi (16:39-40), traveling “through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica” (17:1).

Acts 17 – Paul and Silas’ ministry in three prominent cities of the first century: Thessalonica (17:1-13), Berea (17:10-14), and Athens (17:15-34).

Notice that it was Paul’s custom to go into a city, and on the Sabbath enter into a synagogue, and boldly declare Jesus as the Messiah (i.e. the Anointed One) and Savior (17:1-3). Time and space prevent me from an in-depth study of Paul’s ministry in those cities; however, I trust my amplification of some key verses will be a blessing.

The city of Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-13)

Acts 17:1-3Now when they [Paul and Silas] had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was [i.e. as was his custom or habit], went in unto them [the Jews in the synagogue at Thessalonica], and three sabbath days reasoned [disputed; preached; conversed] with them out of  [from] the scriptures [i.e. The Old Testament Scriptures], 3  Opening [explaining; setting forth] and alleging [setting forth], that Christ must needs [ought; should] have suffered [experienced pain], and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach [declare; proclaim] unto you, is Christ [the Messiah].

The response of some was to believe; however, the response of many was to reject Jesus Christ and oppose witnesses.

Acts 17:5-7But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy [jealous over Paul’s success], took unto them certain lewd [evil; wicked] fellows of the baser sort [vulgar; good for nothing], and gathered a company [crowd], and set all the city on an uproar [tumult; disturbance], and assaulted [rushing at] the house of Jason [a man who was a Christian], and sought to bring them [Paul and Silas] out to the people [for the purpose of publicly accusing and attacking]. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned [made an uproar] the world upside down [made an uproar] are come hither also; 7Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary [oppose; against] to the decrees [laws; ordinances] of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.

The city of Berea (Acts 17:10-14)

Acts 17:11 – These [the people of Berea] were more noble [i.e. noble minded] than those in Thessalonica, in that they received [accepted] the word with all readiness of mind [eagerly; joyfully], and searched [examined; investigated] the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

The city of Athens (Acts 17:15-34)

Known for both its scholarship and idolatry, Paul journeyed to Athens and seeing the idols of that ancient city in every place, he boldly declared Jesus Christ in both the synagogue and public places.

Acts 17:16-17 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit [soul; inward man] was stirred [provoked] in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry [i.e. was full of idols]. 17  Therefore disputed he [reasoned; preached; teach public twin ] in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons [religious; reverent], and in the market [i.e. The town square; public thoroughfare] daily with them that met with him [that he chance to meet].

Acts 17:20-22For thou bringest certain strange things [surprising; shocking] to our ears: we would know [understand; desire to know] therefore what these things mean. 21  (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22 Then Paul stood [standing] in the midst [center; lit. he seized the opportunity] of Mars’ hill [a hill in Athens; a meeting  place], and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things [everything] ye are too superstitious [religious ;i.e. fearing the gods of idols ].

Acts 17:29-31Forasmuch then as we are the offspring [family; people] of God, we ought not to think [suppose; regard] that the Godhead is like [similar; i.e. the nature of God] unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven [scratch; etched; sculpted] by art and man’s device [thought or imagination].30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at [overlooked;  do not punish]; but now commandeth [ declares] all men every where to repent [change of mind accompanied by sorrow]: 31  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge [condemn] the worldin righteousness [justice] by that man whom he hath ordained [i.e. Jesus Christ]; whereof he [God] hath given assurance unto all men, in that he [God] hath raised him [Jesus Christ] from the dead.

We might imagine the shock to the pride and feelings of those men of Athens who, in the words of the Scripture, did nothing more than want to “tell, or to hear some new thing” (17:21). Here was a man who boldly declared what they knew in their hearts, that the God of creation and heaven (17:29a) is nothing like the idols they had sculpted with their own hands and imaginations (17:29b). Paul warned, God would no longer overlook their willful ignorance, and was commanding “all men every where to repent” (17:30).

Like in our own day, many mocked and rejected the Gospel (17:32a), some desired to hear more (17:32b), and there were some who believed (17:34).

What about you? What do you believe? Is your heart ready for God’s judgment? (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Four Spiritual Principles for Ministry and Missions (Acts 13-14)

Scripture reading – Acts 13-14

While the inception of the Great Commission was found in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8, the birth of missions is recorded in Acts 13-14. I invite you to consider some simple, but central principles for missions found in Acts 13. 

The first, God calls to missions those who are serving (Acts 13:1).  Barnabas and Saul (i.e. Paul, Acts 13:9) were named among the “prophets and teachers” who were at Antioch (13:1). When God called that dynamic duo of preachers to be ordained and sent out by the church in Antioch, they were numbered among those who “ministered to the LORD” (13:2).

A second principle of missions is that Gods call is specific (13:2).  We read, “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (13:2). There were many serving in the church at Antioch; however, the Holy Spirit explicitly called Barnabas and Saul to a specific ministry: “for the work whereunto I have called them” (13:2b).

The third principle of missions is separation (13:2-3).  A call to missions will often mean a parting, a separation, from home, family, friends, aspirations, and comforts. Barnabas and Saul’s departure would be defined by seas, distant lands, hardships, persecutions, and adversaries.

A fourth principle of missions is that the leaders of the church 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” (13:3).

Called by the Holy Ghost, set apart for service, and ordained by the elders of the church in Antioch, Barnabas and Saul, accompanied by John Mark (13:5), set sail for the island of Cyprus (13:4-6). They traveled the island, preaching the “the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews” (13:5). There is a subtle change in the leadership of the missions team that began as “Barnabas and Saul” (13:2), and came to be identified as “Paul and his company” (13:13). Soon after the change in leadership, John Mark left the team, and returned to his home in Jerusalem where his mother resided (13:13; note Acts 12:25). We are not told why John Mark departed, but it will later be revealed that his departure would become a catalyst for Paul and Barnabas to divide their team and go their separate ways (15:36-41).

Unlike Paul and Barnabas who were faithfully serving in the church in Antioch when God called them, I fear many 21st century believers are content to be spiritual spectators. The questions Paul expressed in Romans 10 should haunt us all.

Romans 10:14-15a – “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?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Pray for Laborers! (Luke 10)

Scripture reading – Luke 10

The Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, is one of the most instructive and moving of the twenty-four chapters we find in Luke’s gospel.

We find a model for the Great Commission (Luke 10:1-20), and an answer to life’s most important question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:25-29). Jesus taught a moving parable that is universally recognized as, “The Good Samaritan,” an illustration of mercy and loving compassion for others (10:30-37). Finally, there is a warning to those tempted to be busy and distracted with much that is good, and like Martha, miss the most important thing, our daily time with the LORD in His Word (10:38-42).

Luke 10 begins with Jesus appointing “seventy” (i.e. seventy disciples), and sending them out “two and two…into every city and place, whither he himself would come” (10:1).

The number of disciples sent out, being seventy, no doubt surprises some believers. There were many who followed Jesus, besides the Twelve He had called to be His disciples. I invite you to consider the verses that precede the commissioning of the seventy (Luke 9:57-62), and be reminded that not all who followed Jesus were sincere believers. For instance, there was a man who volunteered to follow Jesus (Luke 9:57), but when Jesus reminded him the life of a disciple was one of self-denial and sacrifice, he turned back (9:58). Jesus commanded another man, “Follow me” (9:59), but he would not until his father had died and he could claim his inheritance (9:60). There was a third man who came to Jesus and said, “Lord, I will follow thee” (9:61), but his affection for home was greater than his love and devotion to Jesus (9:62).

Having chosen seventy disciples out of the great multitude that followed Him, Jesus instructed them to go before Him, two by two, into every city and village where He would soon come and minister (10:1). Jesus then challenged the seventy with the spiritual need of those among whom they would labor (10:2).

Luke 10:2 2Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

The seventy were challenged with the image of the opportunity (“The harvest [of needy souls] truly is great” – 10:2a), the magnitude of the need (“but the labourers [preachers and teachers of the Gospel] are few” – 10:2b), and the challenge to do something every believer is compelled to do: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c).

Jesus knew that He was within months of the Cross, and there was an urgency for the Gospel to be taken far and wide throughout the villages and cities of Israel (Matthew 9:37-38). Though the opportunity to reach lost souls was stunning, the reality was that so few would be willing to take the Gospel to them. John wrote in His Gospel:

John 4:35 – “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields [of lost souls]; for they are white already to harvest.”

What can a believer do in the face of so great a need of lost souls?Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c).

Pray for laborers. Pray for men and women who will dedicate their lives to serve the LORD, and take the Gospel: Jesus Christ crucified for our sins, buried, and raised from the dead.

Pray with urgency, knowing “the harvest truly is great” (10:2a). Pray with fervency, for “the laborers are few”(10:2b). Pray perpetually, until the LORD answers your prayer and sends forth laborers (preachers, teachers, and missionaries) who will faithfully sow the seed of the Gospel.

As you pray, ponder the question: Are you willing to go?

Matthew 28:19–2019Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Today’s Devotional Commentary and an Appeal to Support the Fitzgeralds in the Jungles of Peru

You are invited to consider giving through PayPal to Buddy and Loren Fitzgerald, our missionaries in the jungle of Peru. https://www.facebook.com/buddynloren.fitzgerald The Coronavirus crisis has left their neighbors unemployed and the Fitzgeralds are feeding scores of families who line up at their door everyday. Buddy is faithfully declaring the Gospel and the the Fitzgerald family is loving and feeding their neighbors. Have a blessed and healthy day!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

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