Category Archives: Peace

The Key to Overcoming Trials and Troubles (James 4; James 5)

Scripture reading – James 4; James 5

Continuing our study of trials, troubles, and temptations, we consider today’s Scripture reading, James 4 and 5. This devotional is taken from James 4.

James 4 opens with a provoking question: “From whence [where] come wars [battles; conflicts] and fightings[disputes; quarrels] among you?” (4:1) Sadly, that question was not addressed to the unsaved, but to those who professed to be believers and were members of the church. Twenty-one centuries later, churches find themselves asking the same question, as some are embroiled in conflicts and disagreements.

Why do conflicts arise in a body of believers, when they are commanded to love one another? (4:2-3)

We noticed in James 3, how the tongue is a primary candidate for inciting trouble in friendships, marriages, families, and churches (3:2a, 6, 8). An unbridled, undisciplined tongue will exasperate, infuriate, and bring envy and strife. Unfortunately, the “tongue” is no longer confined to whispers and gossip. The 21st century has given the tongue new means of expressing itself, sowing discord, and provoking conflict through texting, emails, blogs, and social media posts (4:1).

It comes as no surprise that the “wars and fightings” of the 21st century have their origin in the same source as the 1st century. James writes, “Come they [“wars and fightings”] not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (4:1b) The author cited unfulfilled, selfish desires as a root of frustration. James wrote, “2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain… ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (4:2-3).

Why are so many church members frustrated and unhappy? (4:4-6)

Although the culture of the 1st century was very different from our day with its technology, conveniences, and amusements; nevertheless, the issue was the same: spiritual infidelity (adultery) and worldliness, which produces unhappiness (4:4-6). James warned, embrace the world and its sinful lusts (1 John 2:15-17), and you will find yourself “the enemy of God” (4:4). Walk humbly, and the Lord promises grace, but be forewarned: He “resisteth the proud” (4:6; Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5).

Ten Commands to Overcome Temptation (4:7-10)

James presented us with the problem (man’s sinful pride), but he did not leave us hopeless. Understanding trials and temptations are ever present, James stated ten commands that encourage a righteous response to trials and troubles (James 4:7-10).

1) “Submit…to God, by accepting His sovereign authority in your life (4:7a).
2) “Resist the devil” by opposing him, “and he will flee” (4:7b).
3) Maintain an intimate fellowship with the LORD: “draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (4:8a).
4) “Cleanse your hands,” submitting to His conviction (4:8b).
5) Have spiritual integrity, “and purify your heart,” knowing a “double minded” man is unacceptable to God (4:8c).
6) “Be afflicted” and broken over your sin (4:9a).
7) “Mourn,” expressing a genuine sorrow for sin (4:9b).
8) “Weep” tears, and express outward sorrow (4:9c).
9) Set aside silliness, and “let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (4:9c).
10) “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (4:10).

Closing thoughts (4:11-17)

Believer, you are not exempt or insulated from trials; however, you have something the world does not—the Lord. He longs for you to submit to His will, obey His Word, and cling to Him. Remember, unhappiness and conflicts arise when we become proud and self-sufficient (4:11-12). Remember: Your life is “even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (4:14). Be wise, acknowledge the sovereignty of God, and say, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (4:15).

Proverbs 3:55Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Christ alone is the Prince of Peace! (John 16; John 17)

Scripture reading – John 16; John 17

We continue our study of the latter chapters of the Gospels. John 16 and 17 give us a record of those things Jesus taught His disciples after they observed the Passover, and were making their way to the Garden of Gethsemane. With passionate fervor, knowing His hour was come (16:32), Christ taught His disciples some of the great principles of our faith. Remembering this was His last speech to His followers, we should pay special attention to the truths contained in today’s Scripture reading. Our devotional challenge is taken from John 16.

John 16

Jesus warned His disciples, when He was gone out of the world, they would face persecution and be “put out of the synagogues” (16:2a). Some would be put to death by those who believed they were serving and pleasing God (16:2b). Religious zealots would commit gross wickedness against believers, for they neither knew God the Father or His Son (16:3-4). Jesus was departing, and the hearts of His disciples were filled with fear, and sorrow (16:5-6). Yet, He promised they would not be alone.

The Work of the Holy Spirit (16:5-15)

Jesus had promised He would send a Comforter (14:16-17), and in John 16 rehearsed with them the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives: “when he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove [convict] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged [the fate of the devil would be sealed]” (16:7-11).

What is the work of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin (16:9), and of righteousness, and of judgment (16:10-11). The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth,” a guide to truth, and a teacher and revealer of things to come (16:13). The work of the Holy Spirit is also to glorify Christ (16:14). What a blessed Comforter believers have in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit!

The Central Doctrine of the Resurrection (16:16-33)

The disciples had yet to understand Christ must die according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53), and “go to the Father” (16:16). Foretelling His death, Jesus warned they would “weep and lament [His death], but the world would rejoice” (16:20a). While they would sorrow, Jesus promised, “your sorrow shall be turned into joy” (16:20b).

Like a mother suffers labor pangs before she rejoices in the birth of her infant, Jesus promised after a season of sorrow, the disciples would see Him again, and their hearts would be turned to rejoicing (16:22). Notice the resurrection of Jesus Christ not only gives believers cause for rejoicing, but also gives us an assurance of answered prayers (16:23-24). What a wonderful promise we have when we read, “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you…ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (16:23-24).

Closing thoughts – How did the disciples respond to Jesus revealing He would die, and after that be raised from the dead? They affirmed they believed He was the Christ; and yet, Christ asked: “Do ye now believe?” (16:30-31).

The disciples were unaware Judas was gone to the high priests, and would be leading soldiers to the Garden to arrest Jesus. He warned them, “the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (16:32). Though their hearts would soon be overwhelmed with sorrow, Jesus promised, 33These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (16:33).

Tragically, there are many looking to the philosophies and pleasures of the world, to fill the emptiness of their hearts (1 John 2:15-17). Lest we be tempted, Jesus warned the world brings trouble and tribulations (16:33b). Christ, however, promised peace that overcomes the world (16:33c). After all, He alone is the “Prince of Peace”(Isaiah 9:6).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Tribulation and the Signs of Christ’s Coming (Matthew 24, Matthew 25)

Scripture reading – Matthew 24, Matthew 25

Today’s Scripture reading is a parallel passage to our earlier devotional commentary over Mark 13 and Luke 21. The focus of this devotional is Matthew 24.

Jesus and His disciples were departing the Temple, when the disciples commented to Him regarding the great stones of the Temple (24:1; Mark 13:1; Luke 21:5). Jesus then prophesied the destruction of the Temple, saying, “See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (24:2).

Stunned by His prophesy, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Tell us, when [what time; how long] shall these things be [i.e. when will they come to pass]? and what shall be the sign [token; i.e. distinguishing mark] of Thy coming [advent; return], and of the end [completion; consummation] of the world [age]?” (Matthew 24:3).

Christ answered the disciples’ questions with a sweeping prophecy that fills the balance of Matthew 24 and Matthew 25. He identified eight signs as “the beginning [i.e. the birth pangs] of sorrows” (24:8), signs and events that will precede His Second Coming.

Eight Signs the Second Coming of Christ is Near: 1) A great deception led by a proliferation of “false Christs” who will deceive many (24:5); 2) International conflicts described as “wars and rumors of wars [and] nation shall rise against nation, and kingdoms against kingdom” (24:6-7a); 3) Universal, natural disasters: “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places” (24:7b); 4) An increase in persecution, martyrdom, and hatred for believers (24:9-10); 5) A great apostasy and falling away of pseudo-believers (24:10); 6) An increase in false prophets who “shall deceive many” (24:11); 7) An allure of sin that will diminish a love for righteousness and Truth (24:12); 8) The universal declaration and proliferation of the Gospel of the kingdom to all nations and people (24:14).

Yet, with all the signs the coming of Christ is near, the worst is yet to be. There will follow a period of Tribulation the prophet Daniel described as the “abomination that maketh desolate” (24:15; Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). Jesus warned, “For then shall be [shall come to pass] great [high; large; prolonged] tribulation [affliction; distress; trouble], such as was not since [from] the beginning of the world to this [until] time, no, nor ever shall be”(24:21). The world will witness unparalleled sorrows as the end draws near (24:21) and believers who live in the tribulation are urged to be cautious, for “there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible [which it is not, because God will protect His people], they shall deceive the very elect” (24:23-24).

Many “false Christs will arise” (24:24); however, when He returns, His coming will be unmistakable. He will come “as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (24:27).

Signs in the heavens will precede Christ’s coming (24:29-30). The world will be shadowed with the terror of darkness, for “the sun [shall] be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light” (24:29a). The solar system will fail, for “the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (24:29b). In that day, as the earth is shrouded in terrifying darkness, Jesus Christ, the “Son of man in heaven,” will be seen “coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:30). His coming will strike terror in the hearts of men as “all the tribes of the earth mourn” (24:30).

Closing thoughts – To the saints who believed in Christ during the Tribulation, His coming will be glorious. Christ will “send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (24:31). What a glorious day that will be!

Are you ready for His coming?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Bitterness: A Cancer that Destroys Everything (Mark 11)

Scripture reading – Mark 11

We are reminded the Gospel of Mark is one of the three Synoptic Gospels (the others being the Gospels of Matthew and Luke), and today’s Scripture reading is a parallel to our study of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-16). His entrance into the city set in motion the final days that concluded with His appointment with the Cross.

Having already considered His grand coronation as the King of Israel, I forego another detailed study of Jesus’ approach to the city, and the great crowd that greeted Him. Remember though, He was greeted as “He that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (11:9-10). Yet, in a few days many of those same voices would scorn Jesus as He hung dying on the Cross.

Mark 11 also recorded the miracle when Christ cursed the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves, and it withered and died (11:12-14; Matthew 21:18-22). Both Mark and Matthew noted Jesus driving the money-changers out of the Temple.

Faith and Forgiveness (11:22-26)

Two topics, “Faith” and “Forgiveness,” are the subject of Mark 11:22-26, and the LORD’s instructions for both are beautiful in their simplicity and convicting in their application (11:22-26). Christ’s challenge on faith and prayer was followed by the admonishment: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (11:25-26).

One of the most besetting sins in the 21st century church is an unwillingness to deal with offenses in a biblical manner, motivated by love for God and love for others. Many allow bitterness to fester in their souls, and like cancer in the body, it sometimes spreads until “many be defiled” spiritually, and infected emotionally and physically (Hebrews 12:15).

Closing thoughtsIf you harbor an unforgiving spirit, be sure it will not only rob you of joy, but also hinder your prayers.

Have you been infected by an angry, unforgiving, bitter spirit? Are you are harboring bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights during your youth?  Perhaps you are a parent, and find yourself struggling with bitterness because a child has disgraced you and the family by foolish, sinful actions.  Has your marriage become embittered, because of harsh words and broken vows?

Believers are commanded to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).  When you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no justification for an unwillingness to forgive others!

Warning: An unwillingness to forgive is indicative of a soul that has never entered into God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Last Week Before Golgotha (Matthew 21; Luke 19)

Scripture reading – Matthew 21; Luke 19

Our Scripture reading brings us to two pivotal chapters in the week leading up to the Cross. Luke 19 records Christ and His disciples passing through Jericho (Luke 19:1-27), and beginning His final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 19:28). The setting of Matthew 21 is what is traditionally referred to as Palm Sunday (although, many believe the day was most likely Monday).

Luke 19A Friend of Sinners

Luke 19 followed Jesus’ journey through Jericho, as He made His final journey to Jerusalem. Jericho, one of the oldest cities in the world, is located on an oasis in the desert, about ten miles northwest of the Dead Sea. It was in Jericho that Jesus providentially encountered a wealthy publican, a tax collector, named Zacchaeus, and demonstrated his love for sinners (19:1-10).

An Unexpected Guest for Supper (19:1-10)

Let’s step into the scene where Zacchaeus, a notorious sinner, came face-to-face with Jesus. In earlier devotions we have stated the disdain the Jewish people held for tax collectors (publicans). Employed to collect taxes for Rome, publicans were viewed as traitors of Israel. Men like Zacchaeus were infamous for cheating the people and skimming monies from taxes they collected. Publicans enriched themselves at the expense of their own people, and were named among the worst of sinners.

We read, “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (19:5). Of all the homes in Jericho, the home of a publican was the last place the people would have pictured Jesus dining. Nevertheless, He knew the heart of Zacchaeus, and was received into his home with rejoicing (19:6).

The people began to murmur among themselves, and were appalled Jesus would “be guest with a man that is a sinner” (19:7). Zacchaeus, however, was humbled and moved to repentance by the LORD’s love and compassion. His sorrow over his sins moved him to rise from the table, and proclaim, “Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (19:8). Genuinely repentant over his sins, Zacchaeus desired to make restitution of all he had wrongfully taken (19:8).

Closing thoughts – Jesus, seeing in Zacchaeus the fruit of sincere repentance, announced: “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of man [a Messianic title; Daniel 7:13] is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (19:9a–10).

Though a notorious sinner in the eyes of men, Zacchaeus placed his faith in Jesus Christ, and was saved from the condemnation of his sins. By birth he was a physical “son of Abraham.” By grace through faith, he became more than a “son of Abraham” (19:9-10), he became a child of God. Abraham and Zacchaeus were saved from the curse of sin because they believed God would place His righteousness to their account.

Romans 3:23–2423For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

 Matthew 21

Jesus and His disciples were coming near Jerusalem. As they passed through Bethphage, a village near the Mount of Olives, the LORD directed two disciples to go a nearby village (21:1), and find a colt He would ride as He approached Jerusalem (thus dramatically fulfilling the prophecy recorded in Zechariah 9:9). The news of Jesus’ approach spread through the city of Jerusalem, and “a very great multitude” (perhaps tens of thousands), poured out of the city to greet Him (21:7-8).

The scene was like the coronation of a king, as the people “cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (21:9). Because it was about the time of the Passover, people from all over the known world were gathered in Jerusalem, and some who did not know Jesus. Thus, we read there were some who asked, “Who is this? 11And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (21:10-11).

Briefly, you will notice in Matthew 21 the rising tension between Jesus and His enemies (the priests and Pharisees). I believe it was on the next day, after His triumphant entry, when Christ entered the Temple, drove out the “moneychangers,” and condemned them saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (21:13).

Rebuking the hypocritical Pharisees, the LORD taught the people three parables. The Parable of Two Sons (21:28-32), the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (21:33-41), and the Builders’ Rejection of the Cornerstone (21:42-44). The Pharisees, and Israel as a people, were prophetically represented in the parables as rejecting Christ (which they would fulfill when Jesus would be led away to be crucified).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Peace in the Storm (Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Mark 6; Luke 9

Note – The length of today’s Scripture reading (118 verses) encourages me to be brief in commentary. In addition, you will find we have covered similar content in the Gospel of Matthew.

By now, the term, “Synoptic Gospels” has become familiar as we continue our study of the Gospels by that term (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). You will notice in our Scripture reading a parallel of events that were considered in Matthew 13. For instance, we have seen Jesus rejected by the people of Nazareth, His hometown (Matthew 13:53-54), and the same rejection was recorded in Mark 6:1-6.

Matthew and Mark observed the tragic result of Christ’s final visit to Nazareth. Though His neighbors were astonished at His teaching, and had heard of the “mighty works…wrought by His hands,” they nevertheless rejected Him (Mark 6:2). They knew Him as “the carpenter, the son of Mary,” and knew His brothers and sisters (Mark 6:2-3). By the way, Mark 6:3 debunks the perpetual virginity of Mary, the false doctrine espoused by the Roman Catholic Church. Mary was the virgin mother of Jesus (He being of the seed of the Holy Ghost); however, she and Joseph were blessed with sons and daughters after our Lord’s birth (Mark 6:3). Tragically, because the people of Nazareth did not believe, Jesus “could there do no mighty work” (Mark 6:5).

A second example of a parallel event discovered in today’s Scripture reading is of when Jesus sent out the Twelve as apostles (Mark 6:7-12; Luke 9:1-5, Matthew 10:1-14). A third parallel event recorded in the Synoptic Gospels was the beheading of John the Baptist by Herod (Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-20; Matthew 14:1-12).

The news of John’s fate, and the return of the disciples with news of their ministering to the cities and villages of Galilee, gave impetus for Jesus to seek a quieter place in the desert (Mark 6:30-32), yet the people followed Him along the seashore until they came to the place where He and the disciples anchored (Mark 6:33-34; Luke 9:10-11; Matthew 14:13-14).

Hardheaded, Hardhearted Disciples (Mark 6:35-52; Luke 9:12-17)

Two other events found in today’s study have captured the imaginations of children for two millennium: “The Feeding of the 5,000” (Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:12-17; Matthew 14:15-21) and Jesus “Walking on the Water” and saving the lives of His disciples who were caught in a great storm (Mark 6:45-52; the same was recorded in Matthew 14:22-33).

Closing thoughts – Time and space do not allow a thorough study of today’s Scripture; however, I close with a question to ponder: After the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 (with only two fish and five loaves), why did Jesus send His disciples into a great storm where they feared for their lives?

Answer – The disciples “considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened” (Mark 6:52). Of course, Jesus knew the condition of their hearts. Though they had witnessed the miracles, and served the bounty of the miracle to the people, they were spiritually blind. They missed the significance of the feeding of the 5,000, though that miracle demonstrated Jesus’ power and authority over nature. When they saw Jesus walking on the troubled waters of the Sea of Galilee, they “worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).

Are you in a personal storm of doubt, disappointment, sickness, or sorrow? Is your trial about to overwhelm you? Think for a moment and consider, as the storm worked God’s purpose in the lives of the disciples, so too did the words of the Savior, when He spoke: “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid” and the “wind ceased” (Mark 6:50). You may find the extremity of your need is the window of opportunity for the LORD to speak into your life, and give you His strength and comfort.

Psalm 18:30 – As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Hope for the Hopeless (Mark 5)

Scripture reading – Mark 5

We continue our study of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and our focus today is Mark 5. Once again, we have the story of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee and arriving on the other side in an area identified as the Gadarenes (5:1). Matthew 8:28 recognized the same region as Gergesenes (Gadara was the name of a nearby city, while Gergesenes was the name of a lake on that side. There was also a city in that area named Gergesa). Another difference between Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels is the prior states there were “two possessed with devils” that met Jesus (Matthew 8:28), and the latter states the LORD encountered “a man with an unclean sprit” (5:2). The difference in the two accounts is not a contradiction, but only that Mark chose to record the event of one man, not two.

Let us consider, that harmony in content is one of the great testaments to the inspiration of the Gospels. While the Holy Spirit used different human authors, and employed each man’s unique perspective and language, nevertheless the accounts harmonize as a whole (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Together, the Synoptics give us a deeper dimension of the same events.

Today’s devotional will focus on Mark 5:1-20, and the terrible toll sin took upon one man’s life. Jesus and His disciples had crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat, and arrived on the eastern shore. There, they were met by a hopeless, tormented, demon possessed man described as having an “unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).

The Condition of a Desperate Sinner (5:1-5)

Consider the physical appearance of the demon possessed man: The man was described as having “fetters” (ropes) and chains that hanged about his body, showing the desperate attempts family and friends had made to control him (5:3-4). His body was scarred with self-inflicted wounds for he had cut “himself with stones” (5:5).

He was a troubled man, socially isolated from his family, friends, and neighbors. He had made his abode among the caves and tombs of the hillsides in the area (5:5). Imagine the sorrow his condition had brought upon his loved ones, for he had been driven into the desert leaving behind his family to bear the sorrow and shame of his condition. His emotional condition was exhibited in his tormented screams that echoed off the hillsides “always” (5:5). “Night and day” the wild, tormented screams of his anguish were heard (5:5).

Salvation and Transformation (5:6-15)

He was “possessed with the devil, and had the legion” (a legion was a Roman name of a company of soliders that might number in the thousands, 5:9, 15).  We are not told how the man came to be possessed by demons; however, sin had overtaken every part of his affections and thoughts. The evil, unclean spirit had degraded and destroyed his life, family, and future (James 1:14-15).

In a fleeting moment of desperation, the man ran to Jesus and worshipped Him (5:6); however, the demons that ruled his soul wanted nothing to do with Jesus (5:7).  Jesus, evidencing His power and authority over evil spirits, cast the demons out of the man and permitted them to enter a herd of swine that could not abide the indwelling of such wickedness (5:10-13).

Rather than the protracted steps and methods of “reformation” that is the methodology of secular psychologists and psychiatrists, the demon-possessed man’s life was immediately changed by his spiritual encounter and faith in Jesus. His life gave evidence of his conversion and the radical transformation was undeniable (5:8, 15). The change was so transformative his family, friends, and neighbors observed him “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (5:15). He was “sitting,” at peace, and no longer bound by sin or needing chains and ropes.  They found him “clothed,” no longer a violent man crying and cutting himself. He was “in his right mind,” repentant and rational (5:15), and longed to go with Jesus (5:18). God’s power not only overcame his rebellious, evil spirit, it transformed his thoughts, mind, and affections.

Closing thoughts – Tragically, and in spite of the undeniable transformation in the man’s life, the citizens of Gadara begged Jesus to “depart out of their coasts” (5:17). They would not embrace Him as LORD, nor would they welcome Him in their homes or country. Jesus, knowing the man of Gadara could go where He would not be welcome, commanded him to, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (5:19). The change in the demon-possessed man’s life was undeniable evidence of his salvation. Can that be said of you?

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Peace In the Midst of the Storm” (Luke 8; Mark 4)

Scripture reading – Luke 8; Mark 4

Luke 8

Our study of the Gospels continues, and you will notice parallel accounts of the same events in today’s Scripture reading. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels.” Synoptic suggests the same or similar; thus, the “synoptic gospels” record the same events, albeit from each human author’s perspective. Together, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us a greater depth and broader perspective on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Briefly, as we read in our study of Matthew 13:1-23, we find the Parable of the Sower and Soils recorded in Luke 8:5-15 and Mark 4:3-20. Luke 8:16-18 and Mark 4:21-25 records the Parable of the Candlelight. Remember, not all events recorded in the Gospels are in chronological order. For example, Luke places in chapter 8 when Mary, the mother of Jesus and His half-brothers (sons born to Joseph) came to Jesus requesting a word with Him (8:19-21). The same incidence was recorded earlier in Matthew (12:46-50) and Mark (3:31-35).

Mark 4 – A Storm and a Revelation

As already noted, Mark 4 reprises the Parable of the Sower and Soils (4:3-20). Mark also gives us the record of the Parable of the Candlelight (4:21-25), Parable of the Growing Seed (4:26-29), and the Parable of the Mustard Seed(4:30-32).

Christ’s Authority Over Nature (Mark 4:35-41)

Jesus was exhausted from teaching (for though He was Divine, He was human with the physical challenges of hunger, thirst, and fatigue), Jesus urged His disciples, “Let us pass over unto the other side” (4:35). Knowing the far shore was seven miles away, Jesus laid down in the “hinder part of the ship” (meaning the stern or the latter part of the boat), and went to sleep (4:38).

The Sea of Galilee, 14 miles long and 7 miles wide, lies 700 feet below sea level, and has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round.  Surrounded by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the area is part of the Jordan rift.  When cold winds from the snow-covered mountain peaks to the north, funnel through the hillsides, the cold air collides with the warm sub-tropical air and can produce sudden, violent storms on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.

On this occasion, the disciples found themselves caught in a violent storm so intense, the waves of the sea filled the ship (4:37). Matthew writes concerning the occasion in his Gospel: “there arose a great tempest in the sea,insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

Though four of the disciples were experienced fisherman (James, John, Peter, and Andrew), those veteran seamen were unable to salvage the desperate situation. With cold winds whipping, and waves crashing, the exhausted disciples cried out to Jesus, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

Such a question was a faithless affront to their Master, and He “arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (4:39-40).

Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith, and their failure to place their trust in Him (Luke 8:23-24). The sudden stillness of the winds and waves left the disciples wondering among themselves, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (4:41). They were struck by a sense of fear, awe, and respect. The disciples had heard Him teach, but they had not understood His person. They had witnessed His miracles, but had not recognized His power.

Closing thoughts and observations – The psalmist writes, “O Lord God of host…Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8a, 9). Storms in life are inevitable, though they often take us by surprise. Yet, all storms (troubles, trials) come as part of God’s plan for growing our faith and dependence on Him. The Lord knew the disciples would face a storm when He commanded them to launch out into the sea. It was His plan to challenge their faith, that He might prove He was Sovereign and LORD of creation.

Another lesson concerns our response to trials and troubles, for they evidence our faith, or lack of faith, in God and His plan for our lives.  The disciples did not fully know Who Jesus was, and when He commanded the wind and the waves to cease, “they feared [and asked], What manner of man is this?” (Mark 4:41).

Finally, I don’t know what storms or troubles you may be facing, but I encourage you to see them as opportunities to know and trust God personally and intimately. You must learn to accept that God’s plan for your life will lead you into trials that will test your faith. The storms of life challenge us to assess our priorities, and also reveal our limitations apart from Him.

Remember: The safest place in the world is in the will of God, even in the midst of a storm.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Sermon on the Mount – part 1 (Matthew 5; Matthew 6)

Scripture reading – Matthew 5; Matthew 6

Considered as Christ’s inaugural address to His followers, the “Sermon on the Mount” is an exposition of the heart of Christ the King (Matthew 5-7). It is a declaration of the character of those who would be citizens in His kingdom. Like God’s Laws and Commandments, I believe the Sermon on the Mount embodies some of the greatest truths known to man. Our Scripture reading is Matthew 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional is Matthew 5:3-12.

Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes

Sitting down on a hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee (5:1), Jesus taught the people a series of eight inspiring truths we identify as the Beatitudes (5:3-12). In essence, the Beatitudes are an exposition of the attitudes and character of believers (5:3-12). They are the sum of Christ’s declaration regarding the actions and attitudes of the citizens of heaven.

Each Beatitude began with the word “Blessed” (5:3-12). A brief definition of what it means to be blessed is: A state of settled joy and contentment that is not dependent upon one’s circumstances. 

Briefly, I invite you to consider the Beatitudes in two parts: The Person and The Promise.

Matthew 5:3 is the foundation of the eight Beatitudes, and reads: “3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3). The “Poor in Spirit” recognizes the extremity of his spiritual poverty apart from Christ. The promise is, “the kingdom of heaven” (5:3b). The second Beatitude is, “4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (5:4). The righteous mourn because they are sensitive to sin (i.e., “poor in spirit”), and are comforted because their sins are forgiven (5:4).

Thirdly, the blessed are “meek,” and are promised, “they shall inherit the earth” (5:5). The meek accept God’s dealings as good, with unquestioning submission. The blessed also “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (they have an appetite for righteousness), and are promised, “they shall be filled” (satisfied, wanting for nothing, 5:6).

The fifth Beatitude states, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (5:7). The merciful do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult. They are not vindictive, nor seek revenge. What is the promise to those who show mercy to others? They will be the recipient of mercy, undeserved and forgiving (5:7).

The “pure in heart” are promised, “they shall see God” (5:8). By definition, the “pure in heart” are sincere, free from hypocrisy and doublemindedness (James 1:8). They are single in heart and desire. The promise to the “pure in heart” is, they will “see God” (5:8b). (Fanny Crosby, the blind poet and gospel songwriter was asked what she looked forward to most about heaven. She answered, “I shall see Him [Christ] face to face, and tell the story – Saved by Grace.”)

The seventh Beatitude is the peacemaker: “9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (5:9). The world says, “Be a peacekeeper,” and be willing to compromise. Yet, Christ taught His followers, “Be a peacemaker,” (5:9) and you will be identified as a child of God (5:9b). What does a peacemaker do? He introduces others to the peace that can only be found in Christ.

Finally, the Blessed will suffer persecution, and are promised the kingdom of heaven (5:10). Jesus taught, “10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:10–11).

Closing thoughts Notice the righteous face three forms of persecution (5:11).  1) They are reviled (mocked, and have disparaging things said about their character and motives). 2) They are “persecuted,” (suffering personal confrontations that are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual in nature). 3) Lastly, persecutions are also verbal, for the wicked will “say all manner of evil against [the believers] falsely, for [Christ’s] sake” (5:11). Verbal persecutions come as lies, innuendoes, and sowing questions concerning one’s motive or sincerity.

As difficult as it may seem (and it is), the attitude of the persecuted is to be this: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad[jumping and leaping for joy]: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12). How can the “Blessed” rejoice when they are persecuted? They recognize troubles and trial have their purpose in the providence of God (James 1:2-4).

The “Blessed” know, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Who Are You Following? (Matthew 8)

Scripture reading – Matthew 8

A word of explanation is in order as our chronological reading of the Scripture brings us to Matthew 8. You will notice we are momentarily passing over Matthew 5-7, but this is only a temporary adjustment. The Synoptic Gospels (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) describe events in the life of Christ from comparable viewpoints; however, they are not always chronological in their order. There are some who suggest that is the case with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

Matthew 4 concluded with Jesus ministering “throughout “Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (4:23). As His fame grew, Jesus was followed by “great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (4:25). The record of the LORD’s travels paused as He “went up in to a mountain” (5:1), where He taught His disciples and the crowd that followed Him (Matthew 5-7). Coming “down from the mountain” (5:1-16), we find Jesus returning to His travels throughout Galilee (8:1).

Matthew 8

Several healing miracles are recorded in Matthew 8, and attest to Jesus’s divine power and authority over nature.

Healing a Leper (8:1-4)

Coming down from the mount, Jesus met a leper, who came “and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (8:2). Leprosy was a dreaded, incurable skin disease of that time, and eventually ate away at the flesh and appendages of its victim. The leper in our story would have been miserable, and desperate (Isaiah 1:5-6), an outcast and alienated from family and society. He came to Jesus seeking compassion, and believing he could be healed. Jesus, reaching past social norms, touched the leper and said, “I will; be thou clean” (8:3). We read, “Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (8:3). Jesus then commanded the man, “See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them” (8:4; Leviticus 14:1-3).

Healing the Centurion’s Slave (8:5-13)

The leper having departed, Jesus came to Capernaum, and was met by a centurion (a Roman officer who commanded 100 soldiers, 8:5). Though a battle-hardened soldier, the centurion was a man who had compassion on a servant whom he described as “sick of the palsy, grievously tormented” (8:6). Once again, defying norms and the prejudice of the Jews, Jesus consented to the officer’s plea, and said, “I will come and heal him” (8:7).

With humility, “the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (8:8). Humility is rare (especially among the rich and powerful), and the centurion’s faith was extraordinary (8:8b-9). The LORD was astonished at the centurion’s faith, and commended His faith as superior to any He found among Jews (8:10b).

Turning to His disciples (8:11), Jesus foretold the Gospel would be received by many Gentiles (“from the east and west”), and foretold the Centurion was one of many who would become citizens of heaven (8:11). Tragically, many of the Jews (“children of the kingdom”) would reject Jesus and be sentenced to “outer darkness: [where]there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12).  The scene with the centurion concluded with Jesus assuring him his servant was healed (8:13).

Matthew 8:14-17 chronicles miracles of healing we have considered in Mark 1:29-31 and Luke 4:38-39.

First Claim Principle (8:19-22)

With great crowds pressing, Jesus “gave commandment to depart unto the other side” (to the east shore of the Sea of Galilee, 8:18). As they boarded their boats, two men came to Jesus and proposed they would go with Jesus. One said, “Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest” (8:19). He was a scribe, an expert in the Law of Moses, but when Jesus promised him a life of ministry that would be one of poverty (for the Son of man [Jesus] hath not where to lay his head”), he turned and walked away (8:20).

A second man, apparently accompanied the first, and he answered Jesus’ invitation to follow, saying, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father” (in essence saying, when his father died and he received his inheritance, he would follow Him, 8:21). Jesus refused the man, saying, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (8:22). Luke writes there was a third man who proposed to follow Jesus, but like the others, he was not ready to depart (Luke 9:61-62).

Peace in the Midst of a Storm (8:23-27)

Jesus and His disciples set sail across the Sea of Galilee, only to find themselves in the midst of a great storm, and their boats taking on water (8:24). With Jesus fast asleep, the disciples battled to save the ship until in desperation they cried, “Lord, save us: we perish” (8:25). Jesus then asked the disciples, Why are ye fearful. O ye of little faith?” (8:26) Rising to His feet, Jesus “rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm” (8:26). Stunned by the sudden quiet, the disciples said among themselves, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! (8:27).

Closing thoughts (8:28-34) – We have seen the LORD have power to heal lepers, restore a paralytic, and demonstrate authority over nature to calm a storm. Yet, He recognized the free will of men to choose to follow Him, or reject Him (8:19-22). Like many, there were three who expressed a desire to be followers of Christ, but they were unwilling to sacrifice selfish ambitions and plans (8:18-22).

Our study ends reminding us the LORD also has power and authority over demons (8:28-34). Jesus freed the souls of two wicked sinners from the devils that possessed them, and not even a herd of swine could abide the evil spirits that those men had tolerated (8:28-32). Tragically, when their neighbors heard how Jesus cast devils out of the men, they rejected Him, and “besought Him that He would “depart out of their coasts” (8:34).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.