Category Archives: Money

Living a Purposeful Life

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 1-2

Reading the Book of Ecclesiastes might raise in some a spirit of hopelessness; however, such should not be the case for children of faith whose focus and trust is in the LORD.

Ecclesiastes chronicles the pondering of elderly King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (the one exception is Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God).  The king’s subject is the challenges and difficulties of this earthly life and, apart from the LORD, its vanity (emptiness).  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3  What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

Penned in the latter years of his life, his youth far spent and the frailty of old age his daily haunt, Solomon’s outlook was hardly an attitude of rejoicing.  Solomon wondered, what is a man’s life apart from God?  To what ends should a man live?  What profit, what gain, what value is there for a man who spends his life in labor?  One generation dies and another takes its place (Eccl. 1:4); the sun rises and the sun sets (Eccl. 1:5); the wind blows and the waters run (Eccl. 1:6-7) and, in Solomon’s observation, a man’s heart is never satisfied (1:8).

Eccles. 1:8 – “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

What a sad commentary on the life of a king whom God promised to give wealth unimaginable and wisdom incomprehensible (1 Kings 3:7-14)!  He gave his heart searching for purpose apart from God and, near the end of life summed up his search saying, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).

What happened to this man who had everything, but whose life was empty?  We find the answer to that question in 1 Kings 11:4.

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

His soul spiritually cold, his life viewed from a horizontal, human perspective, his heart turned from God; no wonder Solomon writes thirty-four times in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, all is vanity!”

What a tragic end for a man whose youth was a testimony of God’s blessings!  When he was young, he loved the LORD and chose wisdom over wealth and worldly pleasures (1 Kings 3:9).  God honored his request, imparting to him not only wisdom, but also riches and power.  Tragically, in his old age, Solomon turned from the LORD and His Word.  Ecclesiastes is the philosophical discourse of an old man out of fellowship with God.

Eccles. 2:11 – “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”

I believe it is author and preacher Chuck Swindoll who tells the story of a deeply disturbed, troubled individual who went to a psychiatrist seeking help with his anxieties.   Every morning the man awoke melancholy and in the evening, went to bed deeply depressed.  Desperate and unable to find relief, he decided to seek the counsel of a medical doctor.

The psychiatrist listened to the man share his thoughts, fears and anxieties and finally leaned towards his patient and said, “I understand an Italian clown has come to our local theatre and the crowds are [rolling] in the aisles in laughter… Why don’t you go see the clown and laugh your troubles away?”

With a sad, forlorn expression, the patient muttered, “Doctor, I am that clown.”

Friend, a life lived apart from God and in contradiction to His Law will never be satisfying!  No pleasures can mask the sadness, nor riches satisfy the void of a sinner’s heart apart from the LORD.  Solomon writes,

Eccles. 2:26 – “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that He may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

America: There is a Pay Day Someday!

October 3, 2017

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 11-15

Today’s scripture reading, 2 Chronicles 11-15, is not only filled with colorful historical facts, but is also bursting with opportunities of taking and applying spiritual principles that are as applicable in our day as they were nearly 3,000 year ago.

The setting of our study follows the death of king Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31) and the ascension of his son Rehoboam to the throne of Israel (2 Chronicles 10).   Hearing Solomon was dead, Jeroboam, an old adversary of Solomon returned from exile in Egypt and led an uprising against young and inexperienced Rehoboam.

Rejecting the counsel of his father’s counselors, Rehoboam hearkened to the reckless counsel of his peers, provoking rebellion among the northern ten tribes who followed Jeroboam dividing the nation (2 Chronicles 10:8-19).   The northern ten tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin became one nation known as Judah.  Rehoboam, son and successor of Solomon, thought to raise an army and seek the unification of Israel through war; however, the LORD sent a prophet named Shemaiah and deterred him from provoking war against his brethren (11:1-4).

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates how quickly a nation can depart from the LORD and turn to other gods.   We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD” (11:13-14).

True to the character of a godless politician, Jeroboam consolidated the northern ten tribes not only politically, but spiritually, instituting a new religion worshipping calves, ordaining “priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised wisdom and discernment; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:7-23).   Comfortable in his palace and enjoying the blessing of the LORD, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).  Because Rehoboam turned his heart and the nation from the LORD, the LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah to turn the heart of the king and nation back to Him (12:1-5).

The LORD sent Shemaiah, his prophet, to confront the king and leaders of Judah (12:5) who, hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, humbled themselves before the LORD (12:5-8).  In His mercy, the LORD spared Judah from destruction, however, He allowed Shishak to put Rehoboam and Judah under servitude.   Adding to the nation’s humiliation, Shishak removed from the walls of Rehoboam’s palace “shields of gold which Solomon had made” (12:9).  Rehoboam, rather than repent of his sins and turn back to the LORD, “made shields of brass, and committed them to the hands of the chief of the guard, that kept the entrance of the king’s house” (12:10).

What a tragedy!  Rather than humble himself and repent of his sinful ways, Rehoboam substituted a counterfeit, shields of brass, to adorn the walls of his palace.  Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, concealed the miserable state of the nation!

America, her leaders, her churches and Christians would be wise to take a lesson from 2 Chronicles 11-12.   Emerging from the late 19th century, America was a rural, agricultural nation of family farms and Christian values; however, the industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries transformed our nation into a power that was the envy of the world by the end of World War II.

Like Judah of old, our wealth and prosperity as a nation has deceived us and America has turned from the LORD.   Our homes, churches and schools are no longer strongholds of moral virtue and, in the same way Rehoboam counterfeited the loss of “shields of gold” with brass shields, the leaders of our United States have enslaved our nation to a $20 trillion debt carried largely by enemies committed to our demise.

Our federal government can print dollar bills night and day and Americans can pursue possessions and sinful pleasures veiled in a mounting, crippling debt; however, in the words of the old evangelists… There is a pay day someday!

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

Hurricane Harvey and Hillsdale’s Opportunity to Serve Others

 

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Readers,

Like most of you, I have been watching the unfolding disaster in the Houston, Texas region and the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.

As many of you know, Hillsdale is blessed to have people with construction skills and talents who often go to the mission field to work beside missionaries and their church members on construction projects.   In the past, we have had teams go to help others in times of disasters.  I would like to see Hillsdale send at least one construction team to Texas within the next two weeks and work side by side with a pastor and his church in the disaster area.

I believe we will need to raise at least $10,000-12,000.00 to send a team of 15 for a week,  purchase construction materials, and pay expenses for housing, food supplies, water for the team and the communities in which our team will be going.  What funds are not used by the Team will be donated to Operation Renewed Hope.  Of course, your financial gifts are tax-deductible through the church.

If you are interested in helping financially, please go to Hillsdale’s website and look for the Donation button and beside “Other Designated Fund” type Hurricane Relief [https://www.hillsdalebaptist.org]

If you are interested in participating on a Construction Team please email Pastor Justin Jarrett at jjarrett@hillsdalebaptist.org

The following is a letter I sent to our church leadership regarding an opportunity of teaming with Dr. Jan Milton of Operation Renewed Hope and sending construction teams to Texas to assist 5 churches, their members and their communities in this time of devastation.

All,

I just got off the phone with Dr. Jan Milton of Operation Renewed Hope (ORH). So far there are 5 churches in the midst of the devastation from Hurricane Harvey that he has heard from and whose pastors need help for their church and homes of their church families. There is one church he has yet to hear from in the flood zone.

Dr. Milton told me the devastation is on a par with Hurricane Katrina. ORH will be working with pastors and their churches to minister to their communities. The timeline for sending teams is at least 2 weeks out (that would be the earliest given the standing water, electricity lines down, sewers flooded, etc.)—Because of the flood waters, the earliest date to send a team is probably the week of September 10, 2017.

The immediate need would be for teams that could haul all their own tools (battery operated would be especially needed). The team will need to prepare to:

1) Do demolition in the churches and homes…tearing down to the studs
2) Purchase Drywall locally (or on the way) and haul to Texas (he suggested 40 pieces)
3) Hang drywall
4) Inspect and Repair electrical damages

I believe we should plan on using Hillsdale’s newest Van which can carry 15 adults…and will need a trailer for luggage. We would also need someone with a pickup truck large enough to pull a large trailer filled with supplies, tools, etc.

The first teams will need to take cases of water for their own use. Housing in the area may be limited to sleeping in the church or in gyms (you will need to take cots or inflatable mattresses). If hotels are available in driving distance, we will look at funding that expense.

Until the churches are able to help with meals, the team will need to either drive out of the devastated areas to purchase meals or have food prep with them.

We will need to begin raising funds for supporting the team, paying for gas, food, hotel, truck or trailer rental expenses and purchasing construction materials. I am guessing $10,000-12,000…if there is a balance, leave the $$$ with the churches to minister to their neighbors.

Please make Pastor Justin Jarrett the key contact person:
jjarrett@hillsdalebaptist.org

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis Smith

“Cherish the Best Things”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 17-18

Today’s scripture reading is Proverbs 17 and Proverbs 18.  The following devotional commentary, originally written January 17, 2014, is an exposition and application of the “Better…than” principle found in Proverbs 17:1.

Proverbs 17:1 – Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.

Americans have become a money-hungry, pleasure-seeking, self-indulgent people.  I believe the entitlement attitude that divides our nation and is turning us into a socialist-welfare state has its roots in my generation—the baby-boomers.   Our Depression/World War II era parents and grandparents lived through two decades of sacrifice, hardship and war, and determined to give their children “everything they never had”.   That they did, but at the sacrifice of something more important…instilling character, discipline and an appreciation for hard work and sacrifice in their children.

The “baby-boomers” have perpetuated the aspiration of their parents and instilled in their children (Generations X, Y, and the Millenniums) a spirit of indolence, self-gratification and entitlement that has brought our society to the brink of economic collapse.   Our homes are bigger, our possessions are greater; we have more time for recreation and self-indulgence than any generation before us; however, unhappiness, disappointment and family conflict abounds.

Solomon taught his son a “Better…than” principle we would be wise to heed. The king illustrated in a brief proverb the hollowness of riches and possessions when a family is torn by strife:

Proverbs 17:1 – “Better is a dry morsel [parched piece of bread], and quietness [peace; security] therewith, than an house [family] full of sacrifices [feastings] with strife [quarrels; hostilities].”

Application: It is Better to be poor, enjoy a quiet, simple life nourished by nothing more than a piece of dry crusty bread, than dwell in a home of plenty that is filled with hostility.  That proverb echoes a similar sentiment found in Proverbs 15:17.

Proverbs 15:17 – “Better is a dinner of herbs [green leafy vegetables] where love is, than a stalled ox [fat and ready for slaughter] and hatred therewith.”

Putting that verse in a modern context: It is better to enjoy a plate of greens and vegetables at Cracker Barrel with those you love, than dine on Prime Rib at Ruth Chris Steak House with family and friends who are the source of strife in your life!

Friend, money and possessions might buy you temporal joy and satisfaction, but lasting peace and joy cannot be purchased at any price! Be content with the simple life; cherish family and friends who genuinely love you.   Life is too short to chase passions that leave you empty and frustrated.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 – “But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

You Can’t Take It With You!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 25-27

Today’s scripture reading brings us to the closing chapters of the Book of Leviticus.  For those who persevered in their reading through this book of the Bible that was perhaps foreign to your knowledge of God’s Word, congratulations!   I stated in my introductory devotional commentary to Leviticus (June 12, 2017) that this book began where the Book of Exodus concluded.

Our study focused on: 1) detailed instructions regarding offering sacrifices (Leviticus 1-7); 2) the consecration of the Aaronic priesthood (Leviticus 8-10); 3) the law of God concerning animals deemed clean and unclean by God (Leviticus 11-15); 4) and the holiness God demands of those who approach Him in worship and offer sacrifices (Leviticus 17-25).

Leviticus 25 instructed the children of Israel in matters concerning the land He had promised would be a perpetual inheritance for Abraham and his lineage (Genesis 12:1; 13:14-15; 17:8).   Two occasions are discussed in this chapter, the seventh year Sabbath and the fiftieth year of “Jubile” (25:2 -4, 8-13).   I will take the liberty to discuss both occasions briefly.

The “Sabbath year” occurred every seven years and was, as its name implies, a year of rest for both the farmers and their lands.   The people were to labor in their fields for six years, but on the seventh year they were not to sow seed, prune their vineyards, or harvest any fruits or vegetables that “groweth of its own accord” (25:3-7).

Seven “Sabbath years” were to pass (numbering forty-nine years) and the fiftieth year would be to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13).  The year of Jubilee was an additional Sabbath, meaning the lands and vineyards were idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11).   The year of Jubilee was a year of celebration when families who sold their allotted lands, more often due to poverty, were permitted to purchase their family lands and restore them to their families (25:23-28).

The same opportunity of liberty was given to those who, because of poverty became indentured servants (25:39-43).   The children of Israel were not to enslave their brethren, but treat them as hired servants.  However, all indentured servants were set at liberty to return to their families in the year of Jubilee.

The Sabbath and Jubilee years are foreign to us in our 21st century economy; however, there are principles found in Leviticus 25 that we should not pass over lightly.  The Sabbath year was “a Sabbath unto the LORD” (25:2) and was more than a year of rest from laboring in the fields; it was also an acknowledgement that the LORD blesses and prospers His people.  The LORD promised to so bless the harvest of the sixth year that there would be plenty for the Sabbath year (25:20-22).  The Sabbath year served was an opportunity to reflect on the goodness and provision of the LORD for His people.

Reminding us we are at best temporal owners of the things we possess, the LORD instructed the people,  The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Leviticus 25:23).

While we do not follow the pattern of Sabbath years and the year of Jubilee, the principle found in Leviticus 25:23 is nonetheless true!  Whether you live in a mansion or a shanty, count your millions or your pennies; you are at best a temporal owner of your possessions.  I am often struck by that reality when visiting garage sales, attending estate sales or hearing of an auction of family possessions.

Friend, we are “strangers and sojourners” in this world and you and I would be wise to make sure we focus our affections on the eternal and not the temporal.   After all, you will go to your grave and others will eventually claim everything you possess.

Matthew 6:20-21 – But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Workshop”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 10

The following study is taken in part from my devotional commentary post on the Book of Proverbs dated December 10, 2014.

Today’s study in proverbs features what I will call three “stand alone proverbs” – three proverbial statements of “Uncommon Common Sense” communicating three distinct observations.

Proverbs 10:15  “The rich man’s wealth [property; possessions; savings] is his strong city [a fortified city]: the destruction [ruin; dismay; terror] of the poor [needy; helpless] is their poverty.”

“You didn’t build that!”, was an adage employed by liberal politicians in the 2012 election cycle in the United States.   Hoping to stir up class envy, the statement taunted the successful while dismissing the sacrifices and risks taken by employers and business owners.  I accept the statement if the intent is to acknowledge divine providence; however, an ideology that taunts hardworking entrepreneurs, spawns an expansive welfare state, inevitably makes citizens debtors and slaves of big government.   How tragic!   While excoriating the successful, the poor are left weak, dependent and one crisis from destitution!

Proverbs 10:15 is a statement of fact—a rich man finds comfort and security in his wealth.   In the same way citizens of a medieval city found refuge behind the walls of a city, a rich man finds security in riches providentially provided to him by God.   By contrast, the working poor are often a crisis away from desperation (an incentive to be a “saver” and not a “spender” or “debtor”).

Proverbs 10:16 – “The labour  [wages; reward] of the righteous [just; law-abiding] tendeth to life [strength; satisfaction]: the fruit [result; reaping] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] to sin [punishment; i.e. leads to greater sin].”

Though the curse of sin left man laboring for food by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3:19),  the reward of an honest day’s labor brings its own satisfaction.   I am not sure who to credit with the quote, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; however, there is a lot of truth in that statement.   The prevalence of depression in our society is, I believe, directly related to the gross amount of leisure time we enjoy as a society.  Too few of us come to the end of a day and enjoy the reward of having accomplished anything that is lasting!

Proverbs 10:17 – “He is in the way [path] of life that keepeth [heeds] instruction: but he that refuseth reproof [refuses to hear and heed correction] erreth.”

Solomon continues a common theme in verse 17—God blesses a man who heeds correction and rebuke; however, a rebel will inevitably follow a path to his own destruction.

As Solomon challenged his son to take the path of righteousness, it is the duty and responsibility of parents and spiritual leaders to challenge men and women with the same enduring truths from God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2)!

Two questions to ponder: What path are you taking?  Is your heart open to correction? 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith