Category Archives: Peace

Spiritual Virtues: Faith, Love, and Hope (1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians)

Scripture reading – 1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians

We continue our chronological reading schedule today originating from two epistles authored by the apostle Paul to believers in Thessalonica. For perspective, I invite you to recall our study in Acts 17. Paul had arrived in Thessalonica, the capital city of ancient Macedonia, and for three Sabbaths he boldly preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the synagogue of that city, “alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead” (Acts 17:3), and that according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53).

Some in Thessalonica had believed, including a great number of Gentiles: “The devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few” (Acts 17:4). The success of Paul’s ministry in that city had provoked unbelieving Jews to envy, and they stirred up a mob against them, forcing Paul and Silas to flee the city (17:10).

With that introduction, we come to today’s Scripture readings, 1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians.

As you read the epistles, notice what I believe is “a shepherd’s heart,” and longing for the saints of God. For instance, consider the salutations in both letters, and notice how they effuse a pastor’s sincere love and longing.

Paul writes in his first epistle, “1bGrace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:1b–2).

Paul beings his second epistle with a greeting that is similar to the first epistle: “Grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are bound to thank God always for you” (2 Thessalonians 1:2–3).

Notice the themes: Grace, God’s loving favor that He gives and cannot be merited, and Peace, like grace, a gift that comes from God, through Jesus Christ. Such peace and harmony come from the believer’s security in God’s love (John 14:27; Romans 5:1; Colossians 1:20).

Having greeted the saints with a longing and desire that they would rest in the blessings of God’s grace and peace, Paul erupted into prayers of thanksgiving! Paul wrote, “We give thanks to God always for you all” (1 Thessalonians 1:2). In his second epistle he wrote, “We are bound to thank God always for you” (2 Thessalonians 1:2-3).

When Paul remembered the saints of Thessalonica, his fond remembrances stirred his heart to rejoice and give thanks to the LORD. Those believers were not without their faults; however, they manifested three spiritual virtues that should inspire all believers: Faith, Love, and Hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Paul writes,

1 Thessalonians 1:3 – “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father.”

Their faith was more than a profession, it was a working faith (1 Thessalonians 1:3a). Believers in Thessalonica demonstrated their faith by their works (James 2:18-22, 26).

The second virtue was their “labor of love” (1 Thessalonians 1:3b). Love is an enduring motivation for ministering to others (Galatians 6:10; 1 Peter 1:22), and a sincere love for God will be demonstrated in a readiness to love and serve others (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Hebrews 10:24).

Patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3c) was the third virtue of believers in Thessalonica. Literally, a longsuffering, enduring, steadfast hope in Christ.

What motivates a believer to work, labor, and not lose hope? The promise of Christ’s coming!

Titus 2:13b – “…Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Time for a Spiritual Self-Portrait (Galatians 4-6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading completes our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our devotional commentary will focus on Galatians 5:19-25.

Paul challenged believers in Galatia to “Stand Fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (5:1).

There were many things that might have shaken the faith of first century believers living in the Roman province of Galatia. There was the ever-present threat of persecution, the rejection of family and friends, and the ever-present pressures and influence of living in the midst of a sinful, pagan culture. Understanding the cultural temptations that surrounded them, Paul’s letter urged believers to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). What is the “lust of the flesh” that the Spirit will enable a believer to overcome?

The “lust of the flesh” is manifested in what Paul defined as “the works of the flesh” (5:19-21).

1) Galatians 5:19bSexual immorality (“adultery, fornication”) and moral debauchery (“uncleanness, lasciviousness”)

2) Galatians 5:20aReligious sins (“idolatry, witchcraft”)

3) Galatians 5:20b-21aRelationship sins (“hatred [hostility], variance [contentious], emulations [envy; jealousy], wrath, strife, seditions [divisions], heresies [departure from the Truth], 21 Envyings”)

4) Galatians 5:21Moral corruption (“murders, drunkenness, revellings [drunkenness; sinful indulgence]”)

Did you notice the sins of first century Galatia are the sins of our 21st century world?

The heart of man has not changed, and the nature of sin is passed from generation to generation, from father and mother, to the son and daughter. Though “the works of the flesh” are characteristic of our fallen world and society, they have no place in a believer’s life. Paul warned, “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21b).

After admonishing believers concerning the “works of the flesh,” Paul turned his focus to a brief exposition of the spiritual graces that the Holy Spirit should manifest in the life of a believer when he is fully-yielded to the work and leading of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit-Filled Life (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that the Holy Spirit will produce a spiritual transformation in a believer’s life (5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy [gladness of heart], peace [tranquility], longsuffering[patient; restrains from vengeance], gentleness [kindness, without harshness], goodness [good deeds toward others], faith[conviction], 23Meekness [not soon angry; humility], temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law.

When a man is genuinely saved, and the Holy Spirit is present, there will be “fruit of the Spirit.” The degree of fruit produced, and evidenced in a believer’s life, will be dependent on their walk with the LORD, and obedience to His Word.

Realizing that the “works of the flesh” have no place in a believer’s life, there should be a transformation that is noticeably evident:

Where there was hatred, there is love. Where there was wrath, there is joy. Where there were divisions, there is peace. Where there was wrath, there is patience. Where there was contentiousness, there is gentleness. Where there was envy, there is goodness. Where there was heresy, there is faith. Where there was murder and hate, there is meekness. Where there was drunkenness and self-indulgence, there is self-control.

How can this be? How might a believer get victory over the “works of the flesh,” and his life and spirit evidence the “fruit of the Spirit?” Paul’s answer:

Galatians 5:24–2524 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Friend, I encourage you to take a few minutes and do an honest, self-evaluation of your life and spirit. Is the “fruit of the Spirit” apparent in your life?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Trials, Temptations, and the Tongue (James 1-5)

Scripture reading – James 1-5

Regarding the human author of today’s Scripture: The book of James is a letter, bearing the name of its author who introduces himself and his intended recipients in the opening verse:

James 1:1 – James, a servant [a slave or bondservant] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes [Jewish believers of the Tribes of Israel] which are scattered abroad [dispersed], greeting [rejoice; be glad].

With humility, James introduces himself simply as “a servant,” a slave to “God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). There are several men we might identify as James in the New Testament; however, this James did not feel the need to introduce himself, perhaps because he needed no introduction. By the time this epistle was penned, the apostle James, brother of John and the son of Zebedee, was martyred (Acts 12:2), thereby eliminating him as the writer.

Most scholars are in agreement, and identify the author as James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), being born of Joseph and Mary. James and his siblings were not followers of Jesus until after His crucifixion, death and resurrection (John 7:5). Acts 1:14, however, identifies “Mary the mother of Jesus” and “his brethren” among those who were assembled in “an upper room” after He ascended to heaven.

This same James is also identified as a leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). Also, when Paul and Barnabas were giving account to the believers in Jerusalem, it was James who addressed the assembly (Acts 15:13) that consisted of the apostles and elders. James is also mentioned by name again with the leaders of the church in Acts 21:18.

Regardless of who we might believe the author is, we know the epistle was addressed to the twelve tribes that had been scattered by persecution (1:1b), and is wonderfully practical, insightful, and convicting as it addressed a reality of life that all believers face: trials and temptations.

James 1:2–4My brethren, count [regard; judge] it all joy [i.e. a cause for rejoicing] when ye fall [stand in the midst of] into divers [various] temptations [trials]; Knowing this, that the trying [testing] of your faith [what you believe] worketh[performs; works out; produces] patience [steadfastness; endurance]. But let patience [steadfastness; endurance] have her perfect [maturing; complete] work, that ye may be perfect [mature] and entire [complete], wanting nothing [i.e. lacking not one thing].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Secret to God’s Power (Acts 4-6)

Scripture reading – Acts 4-6

One would not presume the miraculous healing of a lame man, a man unable to walk from his birth, would be the catalyst for rousing opposition to the Gospel (Acts 3:2; 4:22). However, such was the case when members of the Sanhedrin, among them the high priests, Pharisees, and scribes (4:1-6), realized the death of Jesus Christ was not the end, but only the beginning of a movement that would turn “the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

Peter, preaching with boldness the Gospel of Christ, had accused the people of Israel saying, “14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15)

Calling on the people to repent, and “be converted, that [their] sins may be blotted out” (3:19), Peter’s preaching was suddenly interrupted. “The priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them [Peter and John, Acts 3:1],Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold [prison] unto the next day.” (4:1-3, 13).

In spite of the abuse, and opposition to the Gospel, “many of them which heard the word [the Gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection] believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (4:4). The next day, Peter and John (note Acts 3:1; 4:13) were brought before the Sanhedrin to be tried by the same men who not long before had presided over Christ’s trial, and finally demanded His crucifixion (4:5-7).

The Interrogation (Acts 4:7-16)

The members of the Sanhedrin repeatedly demanded, “By what power [authority], or by what name [person], have ye done this [i.e. healing the lame man and preaching]?” (4:7) Peter’s response to their examination is instructive and noteworthy for believers facing adversaries (4:8-12).

Peter was “filled with the Holy Ghost” when he responded to his enemies (4:8). He did not respond to his inquisitors in the flesh, but was yielded to the Spirit, and empowered to speak as God would have him to respond.

Peter’s response was respectful, and not spiteful. He acknowledged the office and position the leaders held with the people, and addressed them as, “rulers of the people, and elders of Israel” (4:8b).

Peter’s faith evoked boldness and courage (4:9-11). He did not shy from identifying Jesus Christ as the source of their power to heal the lame man, and leveled against his enemies the weight of their guilt in crucifying “Jesus Christ of Nazareth… whom God raised from the dead” (4:10).

Leaving no doubt that in Christ alone is forgiveness of sin, Peter declared, “12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (4:12).

The religious leaders were amazed at “the boldness of Peter and John,” and marveled that “unlearned and ignorant men” who lacked rabbinical schooling (4:13), would have insight and discernment into the Scriptures. The Sanhedrin knew Peter and John were Galilean fisherman, but what could explain their wisdom? The leaders, “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (4:13).

The Intent of the Adversaries (Acts 4:16-18)

Unable to deny the healing of the man who had been lame since his birth (4:16), but rushing to find a solution to the spread of the Gospel (4:17), the religious leaders threatened Peter and John, and “commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (4:18).

The Instruction of a Righteous Response to Enemies of the Gospel (4:19-21)

Unwilling to be silenced by threats and intimidation, Peter and John answered their interrogators saying, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (4:19-20).

God is the Judge of right and wrong, and His authority exceeds all human authority. Jesus Christ had commissioned, and empowered them to preach (1:8), and they would not, and could not be silent.

Rather than silencing the apostles, Peter and John’s faith propelled believers to glorify “God for that which was done” (4:21). When Peter and John reported what had been said to them by “the chief priests and elders,” the people “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (4:23-24) and prayed, acknowledging God as Creator and Sovereign. They trusted God, and prayed, “do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (4:28).

Acknowledging the threats of their enemies, they prayed for God to give them boldness to speak (4:29). As they prayed, the foundations of the place were shaken, and the Holy Ghost filled the people and “they spake the word of God with boldness” (4:31).

I close inviting you to notice that God’s power was present when there was unity among believers, for the people “were of one heart and of one soul” (4:32).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You want Proof? I’ve Got Proof! (Luke 24, John 20-21)

Scripture reading – Luke 24, John 20-21

A shepherd’s memo and invitation to those who follow the 2020 edition of www.HeartofAShepherd.comToday’s Scripture reading is the 319th Bible reading of the year and is a milestone as we conclude our chronological study of the Gospels.

This year, 2020, brought not only a pandemic, but also unprecedented attacks on liberties I fear we too often take for granted. We have experienced an erosion of freedoms, as social mediums and news organizations joined forces to silence blogs and posts that are contrary to their social agenda and narrative. My Heart of a Shepherd’s Facebook Page was disabled without notice, and without any means of appeal. 

If you have not done so, I urge you to subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com, and insure you will continue to receive these daily Bible devotionals.

The proofs of Christ’s resurrection, the Great Commission, and the command to preach the Gospel are the concluding themes in our study of the Gospels.

Luke and John record undeniable proofs of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. Mary Magdalene (John 20:1), and several other women, including Joanna, and Mary the mother of James (Luke 24:1, 10) had arrived at the tomb “the first day of the week, very early in the morning (Luke 24:1) and found “the stone rolled away from the sepulchre” (Luke 24:2).

Although Jesus had on several occasions prophesied His death, burial, and resurrection, Mary Magdalene had leapt to the conclusion that the Lord’s body had been removed by His enemies (John 20:1-2). Without waiting on the other women, Mary bolted from the tomb, taking news to Peter and John saying, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (20:2).

The other women had entered the tomb, and were frightened by the appearance of “two men,” two angels who “stood by them in shining garments” (Luke 24:4) and asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (24:5)

Without waiting for the women to answer, the angels reminded them how Jesus had foretold His death, burial and resurrection, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:7).

Those women, remembered “His words,” and with joy left the tomb and ran to tell the disciples the news that Jesus was risen. The disciples, however, “believed them not” (Luke 24:11). That “same day at evening,” being “the first day of the week” (John 20:19), Jesus appeared to His disciples and said to them, “Peace be unto you” (20:19).

Proving His bodily resurrection from the dead, Jesus showed the disciples the physical scars of His crucifixion, in both “His hands and His side” (John 20:20). Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not there when Jesus revealed himself, and expressed his unbelief saying, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (20:25).

Eight days later, Jesus appeared a second time to His disciples (John 20:26), and said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (20:27). Thomas, laying aside his unbelief, confessed his faith in Christ saying, “My Lord and my God” (20:28).

Jesus was more than a prophet, or a great teacher. No mortal man could die and be raised from the dead apart from God. The days that followed Christ’s bodily resurrection, and the signs and miracles He performed (20:30), enflamed the hearts of His followers to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection with boldness and power.

John writes, “31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (20:31).

What do you believe? Do you believe the revelations of the written Word of God? Do you believe Jesus Christ was crucified for your sins, and on the third day was raised victorious from the dead? John wrote later in life his unwavering confidence in Christ:

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hope Renewed: “He Is Risen!” (Matthew 28; Mark 16)

Scripture reading – Matthew 28; Mark 16

Now Jesus had cried from the Cross with His dying breath, “It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30). Removing any doubt that the Roman cross had not fulfilled its purpose, a soldier thrust his spear through our LORD’s side (John 19:34-37), and fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy, “they shall look upon me whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10).

Departing Golgotha

The chief priests, Pharisees, and scribes might have been the first to depart Golgotha. They had plotted Jesus’ death, and after provoking the people to consent to His being crucified, went home bearing the guilt of innocent blood to begin the final preparations of the Passover Feast.

The last to leave the Cross were those closest to Jesus, including His mother Mary whom John led away to his own home (John 19:26-27), and the other women who had stood at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40). These followed Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who were members of the Sanhedrin (John 19:38-39), and placed the body of Jesus in Joseph’s own tomb (John 19:39).

The tomb was sealed and guards posted, to ensure that none of Jesus’ followers would steal His body, and then claim He had been raised from the dead as He had often taught (Matthew 27:62-66).

The Single Greatest Event in Human History: Christ’s Resurrection from the Dead (Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:1-6)

A great earthquake occurred at the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” (28:1). The “angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came [came near] and rolled back [rolled away] the stone from the door [of the tomb], and sat [sat down] upon it” (28:2).

Arriving soon after the tomb was opened, the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body were shaken by the terrifying sight of the angel, and disheartened when they found the tomb was open and the body of Jesus was missing (28:3-4). Two angels appeared (Luke 24:4-5), and one said to the women, “Fear not ye [Don’t be frightened]: for I know [understand] that ye seek [enquiring after] Jesus, which was crucified” (28:5). The next words spoken by the angel were the greatest news ever men or women would hear:

Matthew 28:6 He is not here [not in this place]: for he is risen [raised up], as he said. Come [come here], see [look and know] the place where the Lord lay.

Christ’s resurrection was the pinnacle moment in God’s plan of redemption. Jesus Christ had been crucified, buried, and was raised from the dead on the third day. The penalty of sin had been paid in full (Romans 6:23), and His resurrection promised hope to all who would believe.

Writing to believers in the city of Corinth, many of whom were concerned with the deaths of their loved ones, and wondered what would become of their souls, Paul writes:

1 Corinthians 15:12-1412  Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13  But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith isalso vain.

1 Corinthians 15:19–2219 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

The apostle John would write at the close of his first epistle:

1 John 5:1313 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Is Jesus Christ your Savior?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Judas: Remorse is Not Repentance (Matthew 27; Mark 15)

Scripture reading – Matthew 27; Mark 15

Rich with drama, the passages we are reading today bring us to the spiritual crossroads of human history. The unfolding drama is providentially God’s redemptive plan of salvation for man’s sin, conceived in the heart of our Creator before the foundation of the world was laid.

Today’s devotional could focus on many aspects of this path to the Cross; however, I must limit myself to one thought: Judas, his remorse, and death.

The chief priests and the Sanhedrin, having condemned Jesus to die (Matthew 27:1-2), had taken Him away to the palace of Pontius Pilate where He would be tried, and sentenced to death by the civil authority.

Judas had watched with remorse, the effect of His decision to betray Jesus into the hands of His enemies (27:3). For three years, he had been privileged to be Christ’s disciple. Along with the other disciples, he had listened to Him teach, and witnessed miracles that could not be explained apart from God’s power and anointing. Nevertheless, Judas was, like so many, a follower, but not a believer that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Judas, seeing Jesus was condemned, and desperate to make right his wrong, went to the chief priests and elders with the thirty pieces of silver burning in his hands. He confessed to them, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4a).

Poor, sad, miserable soul; Judas realized too late the scorn those religious hypocrites held not only for Jesus, but also for him. They answered Judas with contempt, “What is that to us? see thou to that” (27:4b).

What terror of soul! Those religious pretenders cared nothing for Judas’ soul and offered him no counsel (27:5a). He realized too late that there was no place, and no one to whom he could go to find relief for his wickedness. Unable to bear the weight of his sin, and his betrayal of “innocent blood” (27:4a), Judas realized no act of contrition could ease his guilt. Casting down the thirty pieces of silver, he fled through the streets of Jerusalem, “and went and hanged himself” (27:5b; Acts 1:16-19).

Magnifying the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, though set upon the murder of Jesus, they disingenuously debated among themselves the unlawful expenditure of blood money, the silver Judas had returned and hurled at them (27:6b). In a plan to conceal their sin, they proposed an act of charity and purchased “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (27:8). Unknowingly, they had fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10) that was recorded by Zechariah, stating:

“So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:12–13).

The public would learn the secret of their purchase, and called the place, “The field of blood” (27:8).

What sorrow, depravity, and travesty of justice and piety! Such is the way of the wicked, and the sorrow of remorse without sincere repentance. Judas was filled with regret; however, he failed to confess his sin to God. With no recourse except repentance, Judas found himself in a state of hopelessness. His remorse was too little, and his repentance came too late.

Friend, don’t make that mortal mistake. Confess your sin to God, and turn to Him knowing Christ has borne the penalty of your sin on the cross.

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

JESUS CHRIST: The Way, The Truth, The Life (John 14-17)

Scripture reading – John 14-17

The setting of today’s Scripture is in the midst of our LORD’S final Passover with His disciples, and precedes His departure from the house to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Having washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:4-12), and Judas having gone out into the night to betray Him (13:21-30), Jesus told His followers He was to depart (13:33). Peter asked, “Lord, whither goest thou?” to which “Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards” (13:36).

Christ’s revelation that He was going away, and the disciples could not follow, was distressing (13:31-36).  When Jesus foretold that Peter, the most outspoken of the Twelve, would deny the LORD three times that very night (13:38), the disciples were well-nigh overcome with fear and anxiety.

They had believed, as had many in Israel, that the Messiah would be a political Savior, and would free the nation from servitude to Rome. They were not looking for a Redeemer who would save them from their sins; they were looking for a Messiah who would overthrow Rome and restore the sovereignty of the nation. They had left everything, and everyone to follow Jesus. How could He say He was leaving them, and they could not go with Him?

Jesus answered the fears of His disciples with assurances that have been a comfort for believers for nearly 2,000 years (14:1-6). Consider three comforts found in Jesus’ promises.

The first was an Earthly [present; immediate; temporal] Comfort: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” (14:1). Don’t allow your heart to be overcome with fear and anxiety. If you trust God, whom you have not seen, trust in Christ whom you have known and seen. Christ promised, comfort in troubles and trials, and comfort in sickness and death. David wrote of that same comfort in Psalm 23.

Psalm 23:4 – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod [protects] and thy staff [guides] they comfort me.”

John 14:2-3, promised the disciples an Enduring Comfort.  It is a comfort to have a place you can call home; a place to “hang your hat,” and “lay your head at night.” Although He was going away, Jesus calmed His disciples’ fears, promising them an eternal home.

John 14:2–3In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Finally, Jesus promised an Eternal Comfort that we can find in Christ alone (14:5-6). Thomas, one of the Twelve, was shaken by the news of Jesus’ departure, and asked: “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (14:5).

Jesus’ answer provided Thomas with three assurances: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (14:6).

1) Jesus is the ONLY Way. He is “the door” and by Christ alone can a “man enter in, [and] be saved” (John 10:9).

2) Jesus is the TRUTH. There can be only One TRUTH; everything and everyone else is a LIE. (John 1:14; 17:17)

3) Jesus is the Promise of LIFE. In Christ alone is the promise of a blessed, and eternal life. (John 3:16, 18)

Acts 4:12 – “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Is Jesus Christ your Savior?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm” (Mark 4-5)

Scripture reading – Mark 4-5

We continue our chronological reading of the Scriptures with today’s assignment, Mark 4-5. You will recognize the Parable of the Soils\Sower (Mark 4:1-20]) is the same as that which is recorded in Matthew 13 and Luke 8. Rather than review the Parable of the Soils, I invite you to turn your focus to an exciting event that occurred at the close of the same day when Jesus ended His teaching (Mark 4:21-41).

Mark 4:35-41 – A Storm and a Revelation

Exhausted from teaching (reminding us that, though He was Divine, He was also man with physical challenges of hunger, thirst, and fatigue), Jesus exhorted 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, fourteen miles long and seven 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 often producing sudden, violent storms on 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 same 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 at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman (James, John, Peter, and Andrew), even 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, who “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 the 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. They had heard Him teach, but they had not understood His person. They had witnessed His miracles, but had not recognized His power.

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).

I close with some practical observations we can take from today’s devotional. The first: Storms in life might take us by surprise; however, they 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.

A second lesson: Our response to trials and troubles will 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 He commanded the wind and the waves to cease, “they feared [and asked], What manner of man is this?” (Mark 4:41).

Finally, storms and troubles are opportunities to know God’s ways personally and intimately. They remind us that God’s will for our lives will sometimes guide us into challenging trials meant to assess our priorities, and reveal our limitations apart from Him. They test our faith and trust in Him.

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith