Category Archives: Music

God’s Call to Holiness

Monday, July 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 16-18

After addressing the issue of leprosy (Leviticus 13-14), the opening verse of Leviticus 16 reminds us of a tragedy that occurred in the priesthood when two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, “offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1) and were slain for their sin against the LORD (Leviticus 10:2).

Reminding us the office of high priest was a holy office and Aaron’s ministry before the LORD on behalf of the people was a sacred duty; the LORD instructs Moses the high priest was only to enter the holy place, the “holy of holies”, once a year (16:2) on “the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month” (16:29).   The Day of Atonement, known as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, is the most holy day on the Jewish calendar and was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for nation’s sins against God.

The pattern of blood sacrifices was necessary to remind all sinners the penalty of sin is death and there is no forgiveness of sins apart from the shedding of blood, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Once a year and every year, the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people.  Under the new covenant, this annual ritual is no longer needed following Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for sin, His burial and resurrection from the dead. We read in the Book of Hebrews,

Hebrews 9:24-28 – “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25  Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28  So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Leviticus 17 continues the LORD’s instructions to Moses concerning sacrifices the priests were to offer for the people before the door of the tabernacle.   Thirteen times in chapter 17 the centrality of blood sacrifices for sin is mentioned and explicit instructions are given regarding the offerings to the LORD, including the prohibition regarding the consumption of blood (17:10-14).   For those curious regarding the meaning of “Kosher” meats; they are meats derived from animals slaughtered and the blood drained according to Biblical guidelines.

Morality and the sanctity of marriage is the subject of Leviticus 18:1-30 and one that should be a subject of teaching in the 21st century church.   Several moral issues are addressed including the prohibition of incest (18:6-19), adultery (18:20; Exodus 20:14), homosexuality (18:22), and bestiality (18:23).

The wicked immoral practices the people might remember from Egypt and the immorality that might observe in the new land were prohibited.  In other words, the world was not to be the standard of God’s people in conduct and lifestyle.  Israel was to not follow in the ways of Egypt and Canaan (Leviticus 18:3; 24-29).  The LORD commanded His people, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God” (18:4).  Excommunication from fellowship and living among the people was the judgment against any who chose to walk contrary to the law and commandments (18:29).

Friend, there was a time the church and God’s people set the moral standard for these United States and defined a godly lifestyle according God’s Word, law and commandments.   It troubles me to observe the average Christian home in America has an appetite for the world and looks to society, politicians, judges, and liberal media for their moral judgments.  Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until we allow our consciences to be disciplined by God’s Word, law and commandments (18:30).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Antithesis of Worship: When the Masses Demand Excitement and Entertainment

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Kings 5-9

Fulfilling his father’s dream and honoring his legacy, Solomon set about acquiring the building materials necessary for constructing the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5).  Requesting the assistance of his father’s friend, Hiram king of Tyre, Solomon ordered cedars from Lebanon and skilled laborers “to hew timber” (5:6). Hiram agreed to supply cedar and fir timbers for the Temple, floating them on the Mediterranean Sea to a port designated by Solomon (5:7-10).  In turn, Solomon gave provisions of wheat and pure oil to Hiram (5:11-12).  Thousands of laborers employed in acquiring construction materials (5:13-18) reveals the size and scope of the Temple project.

1 Kings 6 describes the exterior dimensions of the Temple and the details of its interior chambers (6:1-10).  The beams of the Temple rested on the walls of the building (6:6). Because God prohibited the use of tools on the building site, the large stones of the Temple walls were pre-cut at the quarry  (6:7-10).  In the midst of the construction, the LORD assured Solomon, if he would walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, He would dwell in the midst of Israel and keep His promises (6:11-14).

The exact dimensions and description of the “Holy of Holies”, the small room where the Ark of the Covenant, would be concealed is given.  The beauty of the room with its ceiling and floor of cedar and carved paneled walls featuring flowers and all overlaid with a veneer of pure gold was exquisite to behold (6:15-30).

Because his reign was one of peace, Solomon was able to dedicate himself to many construction projects.  While the Temple required seven years to build (6:38), Solomon’s palace was under construction for thirteen years, the details of which are given in 1 Kings 7:1-12.  Solomon’s second house, described as “the house of the forest of Lebanon”, is also described (7:2-8). Solomon built an additional house for a wife who was “Pharaoh’s daughter” (7:8).

Enlisted to make intricate, elaborate pieces of brass, silver and gold was an artisan named Hiram, but not the same Hiram who was king of Tyre (7:13-51).

1 Kings 8 records Solomon’s dedication of the Temple along with the leaders of Israel (8:1-2).  After moving the furnishings into the Temple, including the Ark of the Covenant representing God’s throne in heaven in the midst of His people, a “cloud filled the house of the LORD” (8:10).  Indeed, “the glory of the LORD” so filled the Temple the “priests could not stand to minister” (8:11).

Why? Why were the priests unable to minister in the Temple after the LORD’s glory filled the house? 

I remind you the God of Heaven is a Holy, glorious God with whom mortal man dare not trifle. We read in Exodus 24:17 that the “glory of the LORD was like devouring fire”. Deuteronomy 4:24, “the LORD thy God is a consuming fire”.

What passes as worship in the 21st century church with its focus on entertaining the masses with strobe lights, head-banging music and a driving drumbeat is the antithesis of the worship we find in 1 Kings 8:11 where the presence of God was so powerful and convicting the priests “could not stand to minister” (1 Kings 8:11a).

The dedication of the Temple continued with Solomon sharing how his father had longed to build the Temple of the LORD, but God prohibited him.  That privilege passed to David’s son (8:12-21).  Solomon offered a prayer of thanksgiving and dedicated the Temple before the people (8:22-53).

1 Kings 9 is God’s response to Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the Temple and His promise to  bless the king if Solomon would be a man of “integrity [upright; innocent] of heart, and in uprightness [honesty; walking a straight path], to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep [observe; heed] my statutes [ordinances; rules; laws] and my judgments [verdict]” (9:4).

God warned Solomon, should he or his children disobey His Law and commandments and serve idols, the nation would be “cut off” and everyone would know they had “forsook the LORD their God” and He brought judgment against Israel (9:5-9).

The closing verses of 1 Kings 9 detail for us the cities Solomon built with Gentile slave laborers (9:15-24). With the assistance of Hiram, king of Tyre, Solomon built a navy of ships (9:26-28).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

CCM is the “new cart” of 21st century Christianity; but is it right?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 5-9 (1 Chronicles 13)

Today’s devotional commentary is published in two-parts, the first will repeat a portion of a blog I first published March 2015.   “Beware of New Carts” is an application of a lesson taken from 2 Samuel 6 and David’s disastrous decision to build a “new cart” for transporting the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  It is a challenge to the 21st century church and believers to not trifle with that which God has declared to be holy.

Seven and one-half years after the tribe of Judah crowned David as king, all the tribes of Israel assembled in 2 Samuel 5 and acknowledged him as God’s chosen ruler of His people (5:1-5). David’s first act as king of a unified Israel was to establish Jerusalem as the nation’s capital (5:6-10) and build a palace fit for a king (5:11-16).

2 Samuel 6 reminds us David was a man who loved the LORD and, remembering the Ark of the God was the symbol of God’s presence among His people, David set his heart upon bringing the “ark of God” to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:1-2).  David and all Israel celebrated the return of the Ark (6:3-5); however, it was a celebration cut short by a tragic event.

Because the Ark represented God’s presence in Israel and symbolized the throne of God in heaven (Psalm 80:1; 99:1), it was a holy vessel.   Shrouded under a cloth and carried by “staves” or poles (Numbers 4:5-6), the Ark was never to be defiled by man.

In spite of the best of intentions, the consequences of David’s failure to seek the will of God and his ignorance of the means to transport the Ark soon turned to tragedy when we read, “Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God” (6:6b-7).

It is my observation that the majority of churches, pastors and Christian leaders are employing a lot of new carts in our day.   A “new cart” looks attractive, draws a crowd that applauds the motive and gives an appearance of success.  However, the test of a “new cart” is not how successful it looks, how attractive it appears, or whether or not it draws a crowd.  I have grown weary hearing believers defend their choices on the basis of whether or not they have “good intentions”.

Friend, right is right and wrong is wrong and your “good intentions” are nothing more than a hollow defense of the indefensible!   Having right motives and the affirmation of a crowd does not justify personal choices or ministry methodologies that detract from God’s holiness and depart from His instructions.

It is my observation that many of our Bible believing churches; Bible colleges, universities, seminaries, and organizations are led by men who are pragmatist rather than men of principle!

David and Israel had admirable intentions in bringing the Ark to Jerusalem; however, they violated three spiritual principles.  The first, never treat as common what God has declared holy.   Uzzah had lived in the home where the Ark was stored and would have known the reverence the Ark of God not only deserved, but also demanded (1 Chron. 13:3).

The second, violating God’s precepts [laws; guidelines], regardless of one’s motive, is never acceptable to God!  The Law of God was clear—touching the Ark was a violation of God’s law  (Numbers 4:15).

The third principle: Employing worldly means to accomplish a virtuous end is unacceptable before a holy God.   We read in 1 Chronicles 13:3-4 that David’s desire to bring the Ark to Jerusalem was “right in the eyes of all the people” (1 Chronicles 13:3-4).  In other words, David had the right motive; however, the method he employed was wrong for “they carried the ark of God in a new cart” (13:7a).  Where did the idea of employing a “new cart” arise?  It was the means the Philistines used when they returned the Ark to Israel (1 Samuel 6:7-8); however, that was not God’s will or way for His people.

I close with an observation: A “new cart” was introduced into Christian homes, churches and schools in the late 1970’s under the guise of being culturally relevant.  Adopting and adapting the rock music style of pop culture, historically Bible fundamental churches, colleges, and universities are falling victim to the pragmatic use of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM).

I challenge my pastor peers and the professors of our Bible colleges and universities to recognize that CCM is the 21st century “new cart” of the Philistines that has no place in our homes, churches and schools.  You might salve your conscience with the affirmation it is “right in the eyes of all the people” (1 Chronicles 13:4), but that is a pragmatic, not a principled defense of your motive or method.  I close with a quote I often heard in college:

“It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right!”  -Evangelist Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

This Sunday at Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL

“A Word from God’s Word”

Continuing my series, “The Path to the Cross” in this Sunday’s 10:30am service, I will resume my study of the “perspectives” of the Roman soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross.

After a brief respite, I begin anew our study, “Lessons on Faith From the Life of Abraham” in Sunday’s 6:00pm service.  Our focus this week is Genesis 13 and my message, “A ‘LOT’ to Remember”.  I will focus on spiritual lessons from the example and failures of Abraham’s nephew Lot.

“The Calvary Quartet”

It is a joy to welcome once again “The Calvary Quartet” to Hillsdale Baptist Church this Sunday morning!  Unlike the entertainment driven ideology of most churches, The Calvary Quartet shares Hillsdale’s passion for music to be foremost a medium of praise and worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Rather than applause, you are invited to honor the LORD with a good hearty “AMEN” if you feel so moved, and a generous love offering at the close of the service as our act of appreciation to the group.

A Partnership for Higher Education:  Maranatha Baptist University

Last Sunday evening I shared with our church family the exciting possibility of Hillsdale partnering with Maranatha Baptist University and our church becoming a “Bridge” – a satellite location for Distance and Online Learning with the MBU.  Whether aspiring to earn an associate degree, pursue a master’s degree, or take college courses for your own enrichment, the opportunity of an education with a regionally accredited Christian institution is exciting.  Please sign up in the lobby if you or a loved one has an interest.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Sacrifice and Loneliness of Leadership

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 16-20

Our last scripture reading in 1 Samuel concluded with king Saul’s usurpation of Samuel’s role as priest and judge in Israel.  I concluded that study (1 Samuel 11-15) with the observation, “Character flaws in leaders breed insecurity in the lives of their followers.”  The threefold evidence of that observation was:  1) Saul’s army had decreased from 300,000 to 600 frightened men (13:15-16);  2) The threats against Israel had increased (13:17-18);  3) The people had become subservient to the Philistines.

Saul’s character flaws continued to surface in 1 Samuel 14-15 when he demanded his soldiers swear an oath to fast through a battle, not only leaving them physically weak, but also putting at risk the life of his son Jonathan who had no knowledge of the oath (1 Samuel 14).   Inspired by Israel’s victory over the Philistines led by Jonathan, Saul’s army increased and Israel once again experienced battlefield victories over the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites and Amalekites (14:47-52).

1 Samuel 15 finds Samuel going to Saul with the LORD’s command that Israel go to war with the Amalekites not sparing one life including “man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:3).   Saul’s army, now 210,000 strong (15:4), experienced a glorious victory over the Amalekites; however, Saul disobeyed the LORD’s command and spared the Amalekite king Agag and the “the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them…” (15:9).  Saul’s act of disobedience included lies to Samuel in a foolish attempt to hide his sin (15:12-15).  Samuel boldly confronted Saul with a spiritual principle that should reside in the heart of every believer:

1 Samuel 15:22-23 – “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

1 Samuel 15 closes with a living portrait of the disastrous consequences of rebellion and disobedience.  Saul had disobeyed the LORD’s command and the LORD rejected him from being king.  Saul confessed his sin (15:24-31); however, the LORD had already turned His heart to anoint another who would be king.  We come to 1 Samuel 16 knowing Saul reigns in Israel; however, God has withdrawn his blessing from the king (although he will continue to reign for several years).

The LORD questions Samuel, “How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” and directs the prophet to go to Bethlehem and anoint the next king of Israel (16:1-5). Unlike Saul whose physical presence impressed the people, the king of the LORD’s choosing is an unlikely choice…David, the youngest son of Jesse and the shepherd of his father’s sheep (16:6-13).

With the Spirit of the Lord departed, “an evil spirit” filled the spiritual emptiness in Saul’s soul and he was continually troubled.  Saul commanded that a musician be employed to play the harp to calm his spirit and God providentially orchestrated that David would be the musician setting the stage for schooling a shepherd boy in the role of king and government (16:14-23).

1 Samuel 17 is the record of David’s slaying of the Philistine giant Goliath and God’s sovereign plan that moved a shepherd boy from court musician to a hero and household name in Israel.

1 Samuel 18-19 finds David not only residing in the king’s palace, but also befriended by Jonathan, the son of Saul (18:1-4).  David’s fame as a warrior continued to increase in Israel and Saul perceived him a threat to his lineage reigning on the throne and determined to kill him (18:5-30).

The bond between David and Saul’s son was never broken in spite of Saul’s attempts to kill him (1 Samuel 20:1-23). Realizing God’s anointing was upon David, Jonathan evidencing great humility, vowed to befriend, support, and love David to the end of his life (20:35-42). David’s departure from Jonathan begins a ten-year journey of hardship and loneliness…separated from his friend and his father’s household while living in the wilderness and hiding in caves.

I close with an observation: Serving God does not come with a guarantee of comfort or favor; in fact, servants of God are not immune from criticism and often experience the loneliness and sacrifice of leadership.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Just thinking…The Gospel, the Gospel, the Gospel…and the Law and Commandments

The Gospel…the Gospel…the Gospel…Evangelicals, Charismatics, Catholics, and young,  restless  “Fundamentalists” are beating in unison the same doctrinal drum…the Gospel.

The meeting of that mixed multitude on the “Kumbaya” Gospel bridge has required a minimization of distinctive doctrinal differences, accepting as taboo standards that once defined practical sanctification, and accepting music of every genre as amoral.   At the risk of raising the ire of the loving and tolerant, I believe the Gospel  pendulum is so out of balance the pulpit has lost its power to persuade sinners and saints of sin (2 Corinthians 5:10-11).

As I am working down the homestretch of my preparation for this Sunday morning’s sermon from 1 Timothy 2:1-8, I am pondering some comparisons between the heresies Timothy confronted in the church at Ephesus and our 21st century churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.

Among the many challenges Timothy faced were those presented by false teachers who desired to be “teachers of the law” (1 Timothy 1:7a).   Preaching a lot of Law, the false teachers were guilty of minimizing God’s grace and mercy through Christ’s sacrifice (Titus 3:5-7).

Today, there are pastors, teachers, and evangelists who are guilty of preaching the Gospel to the exclusion of teaching God’s Law and Commandments.  Calling for unity around the Gospel message and preaching almost exclusively Grace and Mercy, these teachers and preachers have diminished the role of the Law and Commandments to convict sinners and saints of sin (1 Timothy 1:9b-10).

Do you wonder why a spirit of carnality has taken hold of our homes, churches, Bible colleges and seminaries?   I believe an exclusive emphasis on the Gospel, Grace, and Liberty to the neglect of the Law and Commandments has fostered a desensitized, lawless, and unholy church.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson From the World of Hip-Hop for Pre-Millennialist Pastors

crossover church A generation ago, professing Bible believers who were sincere in their faith and devoted to Christ as Savior and LORD, understood that Sanctification (separation unto God and from sin and the world) was a natural, fundamental step of spiritual growth.
Unfortunately, this generation of “Christians”, discipled by “Pre-Millennialist” pastors desperate to be “relevant”, have no grounding or Biblical understanding that copying and modeling the world is fundamentally un-Christlike and a violation of elementary spiritual principles.  
A recent Christianity Today article on Hip Hop Culture featuring a podcast with guest pastor “Urban D” from Crossover Church in Tampa, FL, illustrates not only my point, but also the naivety of a popular poet, author and hip hop pastor\artist who had to hear from a teenager that assimilating “the world’s culture”, its musical style and overlaying Christian words with popular songs, was causing confusion. 
Urban D“Urban D” shared the following encounter with a teen as his revelation that the world was confused by Crossover Church’s adaption of worldly music into its worship services.
“There was a high school student who came to us and said, “Man, our church has a bad reputation at our school.” I’m like, “Why?” “‘Cause everybody says it’s not a real church, ‘cause y’all are playing Busta Rhymes, playing Eminem.” I’m like, “For real?” “Yeah, man; everybody’s like, ‘A church shouldn’t be doing that.’”
 
Sadly, there are many “Pre-Millennialist” pastors in our own “Bible Fundamental” churches who, in their quest to be relevant, are going down this same path of compromise and worldliness.  They have not gone nearly as far as “Urban D”; however, they are adopting the same pragmatic philosophy that might appease their conscience, excuse their compromise, but is inevitably setting the course that will lead their congregations to an irreverence for God’s holiness and a rejection of Biblical Sanctification. 
We do not need a teenager to explain the confusion caused by assimilating worldliness into ministry. The apostle John declared God’s verdict on that matter 2,000 years ago.

1 John 2:15-17 – “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

http://www.christianitytoday.com/local-church/2016/july/how-my-hip-hop-church-learned-to-stop-copying-culture-and-s.html?share=IC8DQ7AK5ltRIKj09MB0sl1pDklq3GhK

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith