Category Archives: missions

God restores failures and uses imperfect people. (Mark 1-2)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 29-30, Psalm 30, and Mark 2. Our devotional is from Mark 1-2.

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

If true, that is a tragic statement!   We should be compelled to forgive and restore others by the reality we have been forgiven much by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:8).

I fear many who grew up in church or have known the LORD for years forget the sinful muck out of which God saved us.  We forget the command to forgive others 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.  He was a citizen of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and some believe he was the young man who fled into the night when Jesus was arrested in the Garden (Mark 14:50-52).  He was also a traveling companion of Paul and Barnabas when they set out on their first missionary journey to Antioch (Acts 13:1-5).

Mark’s journey with Paul and Barnabas 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 and threat of persecution was the cause).

John Mark reemerges in Acts 15 and his desire to travel once again with Paul and Barnabas becomes a source of conflict and division between the two (Acts 15:36-39).  We read “Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 15:37); however, Paul “thought it not good [desirable] to take [John Mark]…” (15:38).  The dispute became so great Barnabas and Paul went their separate ways (Acts 15:39-41).

That 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; however, we know he went on to distinguish himself as one of God’s faithful servants.

It is believed Mark penned his Gospel while in Rome, leading me to ask,“What brought John Mark to Rome?”   The answer to that question is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy.  Paul writes, “…Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable [good; worthy] to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

When Paul viewed John Mark as a disappointment; Barnabas looked through the eyes of a Mentor and, at the risk of his friendship, 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.”

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.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“He saw the multitudes [and] was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Today’s Bible reading assignment is Genesis 21-22, Psalm 9, and Matthew 9.  Today’s devotion is taking from the Gospel of Matthew 9.

Matthew 9 gives us a beautiful portrait of Christ’s compassion for the physical suffering and hurting of His day.  Among the objects of His compassion was a paralyzed man “sick of the palsy” (9:2-7), a leader’s daughter raised from the dead (9:18-19, 23-25), a woman healed from “an issue of blood” (9:20-22), two blind men given sight (9:27-30), a man delivered from a demon (9:32-33), and the healing of “every sickness and every disease among the people” (9:35).

What an extraordinary record of compassion and miracles!  To almost overstate the obvious, we read, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (9:36a).

What a compassionate Savior!  Men’s afflictions moved Jesus; however, His compassion also plunged to the depths of men’s souls who “fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36b).  What lessons might a believer take from Jesus’ extraordinary example of compassion?

Christlike compassion is deeper and broader than empathy.  Cultural icons and American institutions frequently make hit and run “feel good” gestures in the name of charity.  Stars and athletes drop a few coins in a kettle, establish a “Go Fund Me” account, pledge money to a good cause, and hold a Money-thon for an emergency; however, when the popularity of the cause has waned, the hurting are forgotten.

Christlike compassion is deeply invested in the well-being of men’s souls. Author William Barclay observes the compassion Jesus expressed was “no ordinary pity or compassion, but an emotion which moves a man to the very depths of his being.”  (N.T. Words; Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1964), p. 276.

What moved Jesus with compassion in Matthew 9:36?  The spiritual condition of the people moved Him.  He observed they “fainted”, tired of pursuits that left them spiritually and emotionally wanting. They were like sheep, “scattered abroad…having no shepherd”.

Knowing, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37), moved Jesus with compassion.  Harvest speaks of judgment when the sickle is employed to cut grain (Isaiah 17:11; Joel 3:9, 13; Revelation 14:14).   When the harvest comes, good grain is separated and stored, but bad grain is gathered and burned (Matthew 13:24-30).

We should be moved to compassion knowing the harvest and judgment of men’s souls.  Lost sinners are dying everyday without the  Shepherd.

What would Jesus have us do?

Matthew 9:38– “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale’s First Disaster Relief Team Is In Panama City…A second to follow this Wednesday

Natural disasters are terribly inconvenient and come at the untimeliest moments.

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Friends and Followers,

Last Wednesday, Hillsdale was finishing four days of blessings after hosting, housing many, and feeding 200 guests for Baptist World Mission’s Annual Meeting.  At the time, we had no way of knowing the devastation Hurricane Michael had created in Panama City and outlying coastal towns of the Florida Panhandle.

Our church family is tired, many of our members having taken vacation days to assist with the BWM conference.  News of the suffering in the Panhandle followed by an invitation and request from Dr. Jan Milton, founder of Operation Renewed Hope, that Hillsdale organize to assist brethren and neighbors in northern Florida, motivated us to arise to the occasion in light of this principle:

1 John 3:17-18 – 17  But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassionfrom him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

Some have said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  Our current goal is to send three teams to the Florida Panhandle.  Our first team is focused in Panama City at Central Baptist Church and assisting Lighthouse Baptist Church.  I am advised our second and third team will thrust out from Panama City to small coastal towns that have not received aid or assistance.

Hillsdale’s policy is to work with and through local churches that are like-minded and can continue as a Lighthouse of the Gospel long after we are gone.  As I told our church family on Sunday, “We are not interested in taking credit for any effort. We are working with local churches for them to shine for Christ and minister to their families and neighbors.”

The expense of renting a large box truck, purchasing pallets of water, cases of non-perishable food, paper goods (including diapers), and cleaning supplies is enormous. In addition, the cost of fuel for hauling in trailers and heavy equipment if needed is beyond one local churches effort. The expense of our first team has exceeded $5,000 and we believe the second and third teams might be near the same.

(Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

I close with two challenges. The first, if you can GO, call our church office and request to speak to Family Pastor Eric Peterman to volunteer.  The second, if you cannot go, GIVE. You can give online to Hillsdale at http://www.hillsdalebaptist.org, look for the Donations button in the upper righthand corner, select Other and designate to Disaster Relief Fund. 100% of your gift will go to defray the expenses incurred in our ministry in the Florida Panhandle.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Hillsdale’s First Disaster Relief Team Departing for Panama City This Morning

Please pray for Hillsdale’s first Disaster Relief Team consisting of eight members is departing for Panama City at 8:00am this morning.  The team will be working with local churches and in cooperation with Operation Renewed Hope.

The initial cost for supplies and the rental of a box truck to transport pallets of water and supplies is $5,000.00. We hope a second team will follow with chainsaws in the middle of the week to assist or relieve the first team.

To donate, go to http://www.hillsdalebaptist.org and click on the Donate button in the upper right hand corner. Hillsdale members are encouraged to prepare for a special offering this morning.

HELP US HELP THE VICTIMS OF HURRICANE MICHAEL

October 12, 2018

Hillsdale family and friends,

As many of you know, Hurricane Michael left a path of destruction this week when that storm, packing near Category 5 winds, directed its fury on Panama City and outlying areas along the coast of Florida’s Panhandle.  The pictures coming out of the area are described as having the appearance of a war zone.

The devastation from the winds was so great in that area that details are only now slowly emerging.  Operation Renewed Hope, an organization Hillsdale has worked with in the past has found it impossible to establish a staging area for assistance since it appears the churches contacted in advance of the storm were themselves destroyed.

One of Hillsdale’s men, a man with extensive background with the military and an expert in disaster relief, is leaving Tampa this afternoon and driving to Panama City.  Fortunately, he has credentials to go into secured areas not open to residents and the general public (by the way, a “thank you” to the good people at Veterans Fordand manager Lorenzo Pena for supplying our man with a vehicle elevated enough to go into those areas).

Hillsdale, in cooperation with Operation Renewed Hope, will send in men and supplies after a safe route is found and a secured staging area is established.  Our goal will be to find a church that will commit to housing supplies and working with us, allowing us to minister to churches and their neighbors in Panama City and surrounding regions.

Departure time is uncertain, pending the survey trip; however, Hillsdale’s youth pastor, Justin Jarret, is acting as our point man for putting together the first team which is already forming with skilled and unskilled volunteers.

Hillsdale members will be given an opportunity this Sunday to designate financial gifts for the Disaster Relief effort.  You can also bring cases of bottled water this Sunday morning to be transported by our team to Panama City.

If you want to be a part of our Disaster Relief effort, you may donate to Hillsdale Baptist Church, knowing 100% of your gift will go to the expenses and supplies in our effort to minister to those in need in the areas impacted by Hurricane Michael.  Please look for the “Donations Button” and follow instructions.  Of course, you can also mail your financial gifts to Hillsdale Baptist Church, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL, 33624.  Please designate to “Disaster Relief”.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. smith

Senior Pastor

COPYRIGHT 2018 – TRAVIS D. SMITH

A National Missionary Worthy of Your Support: Yaovi Kpogno, Hillsdale’s Missionary Appointee to Togo

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Reader,

Greetings from Hillsdale Baptist Church!  I have enjoyed a reprieve from the pressure of writing daily devotional posts in recent months.  During this season of rest, I am enjoying an in-depth study of the Gospel of John as I prepare for my Sunday morning series, “Reflections on Compassion and Grace”.  I plan to begin regular posts in the near future and once again enjoy the privilege of ministering to saints around the world.

The purpose of this letter is to introduce you to a young man Hillsdale Baptist Church has come to love and appreciate.  Mr. Yaovi Kpogno is a national of Togo, West Africa.  I had the opportunity of meeting and interviewing Yaovi a year ago and my heart was touched and challenged as I listened to his testimony of salvation and God’s calling on his life to return to Togo as a church-planting missionary pastor.

Yaovi was born in a small village in Togo and raised by his mother in a hut where she continues to live today.  In fact, one of Yaovi’s goals when he returns to Togo in July, 2018 is to build a small concrete home for his mother.  

Yaovi accepted Christ as His Savior in August 1996 and publicly dedicated his life to serve the Lord in 2002.  Yaovi moved to Lome’, the capital of Togo, in 2005 to begin his formal education and ministered in Bible Baptist Church of Adakpame until he came to the United States to attend Bible College.

 Yaovi has earned four college degrees from The Crown College of the Bible while working full-time and paying his way through Bible college.  His hard work and dedication has paid off and his long-awaited return to Togo as a church-planting missionary has arrived.  Yaovi has purchased tickets to return to Togo this July 2018 and will begin his ministry in Lome’.

That brings me to the purpose of this letter.  Unlike American missionaries who travel for 3-5 years raising support, go to language school for another year, and require thousands of dollars in support each month, Yaovi is returning to Togo determined to live by faith, believing God will meet his financial needs through the giving of His people.

After completing four months of his five months missions internship, Hillsdale Baptist Church voted this past Sunday to be Yaovi’s supporting and stateside sending church.  We have estimated Yaovi needs a minimum monthly support of $2,500.  This amount includes not only his personal support funds, but also ministry funds to support his evangelistic endeavors and eventually rent a meeting place for his church.   It is Hillsdale’s missions policy to commit to 20% of a missionary’s support when we are the “sending church”.  In keeping with our policy, Hillsdale will be supporting Yaovi for $500\month, leaving a balance of $2,000\month needed for support.

We estimate Yaovi will need at least $20,000-25,000 to fully fund his ministry as he returns to Togo.   This amount includes $15,000 to purchase a used truck to carry equipment for public evangelistic campaigns and to transport children for summer Vacation Bible Schools and Sunday School programs.

Yaovi will eventually have a means for support dollars to be designated to him through a missions agency; however, until that time you can make designations for “Yaovi Kpogno” to Hillsdale Baptist Church  and our Deacons will insure 100% of the designated funds will go for Yaovi’s ministry in Togo.  It is my prayer many who read this letter will take the initiative to support a young man who loves the LORD and returns to Togo determined to reach the souls of his countrymen with the Gospel.

Please note that Hillsdale and this pastor will serve as Yaovi’s accountability partners.  If you have questions, please contact me directly at pastorsmith@HillsdaleBaptist.org.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

“Harden Not Your Hearts”

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 23-24

Paul, after declaring his testimony of conversion in Acts 22 and how he who was once persecutor of Christ and the church (22:1-8) became an apostle and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles (22:9-21), faced an uprising of the Jews led by members of the Jewish Sanhedrin (22:22-23).

Led away from the tumult, a Roman commandant ordered soldiers to question Paul by first scourging him (22:24).  However, the order for scourging was withdrawn when Paul revealed he was a Roman citizen, knowing scourging without conviction was a violation of his civil rights (22:25-29).

On the next day, the commandant summoned the Jewish Sanhedrin (22:30) and Paul continued his defense before them (23:1).

Paul’s courage in confronting the Jewish leaders is admirable (23:2-9).  Never one to cower, he declared the hypocrisy of the high priest Ananias who, on one hand pretended to judge him according to the law, but on the other acted in contradiction to the law (23:2-5).

Knowing two factions of the Sanhedrin were bitterly divided over the doctrine of the resurrection (23:6), Paul introduced the question of the resurrection leading to an uprising and forcing Roman soldiers to remove Paul less he be slain by the Jews (23:7-10).

We know Paul as a great preacher of the Gospel, fearless in his demeanor; however, the LORD, knowing his servant better, came to him at night and encouraged him, revealing he would be His witness in Rome (23:11).  Foiling a plot by the Jews to kill Paul (23:12-22), the captain of the guard ordered Paul be provided with an escort of two hundred Roman soldiers (23:23-32).  Conveying Paul safely to Antipatris (23:31), a town thirty-five miles from Jerusalem, the soldiers returned to Jerusalem (23:32).

Far from the volatility of Jerusalem, Felix, governor of that province who resided in Caesarea and was the Roman commandant’s superior, determined to hear the matter that caused such an uproar among the Jews in Jerusalem (23:35).  Acts 24 continues Paul’s trial, this time before Felix (24:1-27).

Five days later, Ananias the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin gathered in Caesarea and put forward “a certain orator named Tertullus” (24:1) who accused Paul of sedition, a crime that would demand his death (24:2-9).

Paul sat in silence as false accusers brought charges against him; and when beckoned to answer them, Paul addressed the Roman governor with diplomacy and discretion deserving of Felix’s office as his civilian authority.  We read,

Acts 24:10 – Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself [i.e. make his defense]:

Pauls’ defense answered the accusations brought against him by the Jewish Sanhedrin (24:11-20) proving the only dissension between him and the Jewish leaders was not that he had provoked sedition, but he had challenged them on the doctrine of the resurrection (24:21).   After all, it was the fact of Christ’s resurrection from the dead that was the central doctrine of the church…that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, crucified for the sins of the world, buried and raised from the dead on the third day!

In his letter to believer’s in Corinth, Paul writes of Christ’s resurrection from the dead:

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 – But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.21  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Acts 24 concludes with Felix retaining Paul in prison, though giving him liberty to have guests (24:22-24).  Having heard Paul, Felix and his wife Drusilla, “which was a Jewess”, came to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ (24:24).  For two years (24:27), Paul had opportunity to converse with the Roman governor regarding the matter of man’s sin, Christ’s righteousness and God’s judgment (24:25).  Though Felix trembled at the thought of God’s judgment (24:25), he delayed his decision to accept Christ as Savior, waiting until it was too late and he was reassigned elsewhere, leaving Paul bound in prison (24:27).

I close with a few brief observations. Paul’s passion and boldness in declaring the gospel is one of the many things I admire in the man; however, we should also note his tact, prudence, and patience in preaching Christ to those who will listen.

Too many 21st century Christians go to extremes in the matter of their witness.  Some are simply silent; when opportunity arises to give testimony of their faith in Christ they mute their lips and allow an opportunity to share Christ to pass that might never come again.

Others witness for Christ, but do so in a manner that is often crude and petulant.  Having spoken before several government bodies over the years, including City Councils, County Commissioners, School Boards, and State Hearings, I am often embarrassed by professing Christians who are rude and offensive in their words and demeanor.

While Paul was bold in addressing the hypocrisy of Jewish religious leaders, he was wise, discerning and patient when speaking to the Roman commandant in Jerusalem and Felix, the governor.

Rather than offensive, those who witness for Christ should be inviting and passionate for men’s souls.

Hebrews 3:7-8 – Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8  Harden not your hearts…”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith