Category Archives: Music

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.”

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

“America and the Church in Perilous Times”

battle hymn

  • The following is an excerpt from this Sunday’s bulletin letter for Hillsdale Baptist Church.

The majority of us are privileged to have been born American; however, there are many who are part of our church family who are American by choice.  Whether by birthright or adoption, we are Americans and the stewardship of our liberties and freedoms rest in our hands.pilgrims kneeling

Students of American history acknowledge the past and future of our nation is inescapably intertwined with the Christian faith.  The pilgrims who first set foot on the soil of our continent came seeking, not fame and fortune, but freedom…freedom of religion and freedom from tyranny!  It was the God of the Holy Scriptures they sought to worship, and it was freedom of conscience for which they were willing to sacrifice their all.

It is my observation that America’s denominational churches and Christian institutions have faltered in their duty to be bastions of Truth.  An inescapable cancer of carnality has taken hold on our churches, schools, homes and communities.  CCMRather than a place where the Gospel is heralded and sinners and saints are called to repentance, the majority of churches are content to replace the bold proclamation of God’s Word with strobe lights, rock music and spotlight hungry musicians.  Like Nero playing his fiddle while Rome burned, most Christians applaud the very carnality that is eroding not only our churches, but also our nation.

Modular Classrooms Update: I praise the LORD there is an overwhelming majority consensus to move forward with the acquisition of three modular classrooms that will be used by the school and youth ministries. With a commitment of $60,000, we are only $32,000 shy of our goal to raise $92,000 for the project by the end of August.

hillsdaleJob\Ministry Opportunity: It is not often you have an opportunity to work in a loving, Christian environment; however, Hillsdale’s Preschool needs ladies who love young children and are interested in working either part-time or fulltime beginning this August. Please see Mrs. Tanya Henry regarding job details, including salary and benefits.

With the Heart of a Shepherd,

Copyright 2916 – Travis D. Smith

An Invitation to Resurrection Services at Hillsdale Baptist Church

ResurrectionSundayThis is your invitation to celebrate special Easter Resurrection Services with Hillsdale Baptist Church this Sunday, March 27, 2016.  We are conveniently located at the crossroads of the Veterans Expressways at 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL.

Sunrise Service @ 7:30 AM – Our Sunrise Service will focus on Christ’s sufferings and death on the Cross, concluding with the announcement, “He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!”  Hillsdale is known for beautiful, inspiring traditional music and the sunrise service will feature four beautiful choral and ensemble numbers including the haunting choral piece “Who Is the Lamb?” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”.  [Note – A full complimentary breakfast served in Hillsdale’s Friendship Hall will follow the Sunrise Service, 8:45-9:15 am].IN His Hands

Resurrection Service @ 10:00 AM – Hillsdale’s Fine Arts Ministry will present the music drama “In His Hands” in the 10:00 AM service.  Featuring the dramatic portrayals of the traitor Judas and a young follower of the Messiah named Jude, the cantata is complemented by several beautiful choral pieces.  The service will conclude with a brief message focusing on the hope and promise of the resurrection and the traditional hymn, “Christ Arose”.

Our Hillsdale family would love to have you and your loved ones celebrate the joy and hope of the resurrection of Jesus Christ with us this Sunday morning, March 27.