Category Archives: Prayer

Today’s Scripture Reading – Luke 17-18

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Scripture Reading – Gospel of Luke 17-18

Dear followers of “From the Heart of a Shepherd”,

Today’s scripture reading is in the Gospel of Luke, chapters 17-18.

I encourage you, be faithful in the scriptures, even in the absence of my daily devotional commentary.  Time permitting, after my preparations for Hillsdale’s Sunday services, I may have time to post a brief devotional taken from Luke 17-18.

Have a blessed day and…take some time to rest and meditate!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Three Psalms of Worship and Prayer

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 78-80

Our scripture reading consists of three chapters today, Psalms 78, 79 and 80.  The human author is a priest and musician named Asaph and God’s people would have sung his psalms in worshipping the LORD.

Psalm 78 is a study in Israel’s history as Asaph reminds the people of God’s faithfulness to Israel throughout her history and His longsuffering toward the people when they were a faithless, complaining and disobedient people during their sojourn in the wilderness (78:12-53).

Fathers and mothers were charged with the responsibility of not only remembering, but also teaching their children who would teach their children not only the nation’s history, but God’s providential care of His people (78:3-8).

Psalm 79 is a prophetic psalm that would not occur until Nebuchadnezzar and the armies of Babylon conquered Judah and destroyed the city and Temple (79:1).  The devastation was great and the bodies of the dead would be left in the streets (79:2-3).  The psalmist, jealous for the name of the God of Israel, worried the people had “become a reproach” to their heathen neighbors (79:4).    The psalmist prayed for the LORD to deliver His people (79:5-12), promising to offer the LORD perpetual praise.

Like Psalm 79, Psalm 80 is a prophetic psalm most likely set in the time of the Babylonian invasion.  The opening verse is a petition to the LORD identified as the “Shepherd of Israel” and “thou that dwellest between the cherubims” (referring to the Ark of the Covenant as the earthly symbol of God’s heavenly throne).

The psalmist cries out to the LORD on behalf of the nation to come to the aid of His people and restore the nation (80:2-7).  Three times we read the petition, “Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved” (80:3, 7, 19).

Beginning with Psalm 80:8, the psalmist pictures Israel as a “vine out of Egypt” and remembers how God had blessed the nation and “cast out the heathen” and gave His people the land of Canaan.

Israel prospered as long as the hearts of the people were turned to the LORD (80:10-11); however, the psalmist pondered how long God’s providential protection would be departed and the heathen nations allowed to rob her prosperity (80:12).

Psalm 80 concludes with the psalmist petitioning the LORD to “Turn us again” and “cause Thy face to shine” (80:19).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Devotional Reading for Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Luke 13-14

Good morning!   I hope to post a devotional commentary over some portion of today’s scripture reading (Luke 13-14) before the day has past; however, of necessity my first priority is my preparation for preaching in Hillsdale’s Sunday morning (10:30 am) and Sunday evening (6:00 pm ) services.

In the absence of my commentary, I trust you will take time to read God’s Word and pray.  As a personal prayer request, pray for me (and your pastor if you are a member of another church), your church family, and God’s anointing power on those who will minister in your church services this Sunday.  The erosion of family units and good churches is frightening and disheartening.   If your pastor is faithful to proclaim God’s Word unashamedly and without apology, you are blessed!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor, Hillsdale Baptist Church

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Feel Like Complaining, “Life’s Not Fair”?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 72-74

Three psalms make up our scripture reading today.  Psalm 72 is believed to be David’s prayer for God’s blessings on the reign of his son Solomon; however, a careful study of the psalm brings me to believe it is ultimately a psalm describing the universal kingdom over which Christ will reign and is therefore a prophetic psalm to be fulfilled when Christ returns and sets up His righteous kingdom upon the earth (72:1-3, 7).

Solomon’s kingdom was a great kingdom; however, Christ’s future kingdom will span “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” (72:8).  His will be a compassionate kingdom, “For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. 13  He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (72:12-13).

Psalm 73, introduced as “A Psalm of Asaph”, is followed by ten additional psalms attributed to him.   Asaph was a priest and musician in David’s court (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7) and the author of Psalms 50 and Psalms 73-83.

Psalm 73 is a psalm of praise to the LORD and a testimony of Asaph’s own journey of faith in the God of Israel.  Asaph opens the psalm with an affirmation of God’s goodness:  Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (73:1).  Unlike sinful man of whom it is said, “there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:12), God is wholly, absolutely good and there is no evil or sin present in Him.  God is always and only good to Israel and to those who are of “a clean heart” (meaning pure, innocent and sincere heart).

In his heart, Asaph remembered the promises of God and the goodness of the LORD; however, in the midst of trials he struggled when he saw the wicked prosper (73:2-14).  The ungodly appeared to prosper while he faltered (73:13-14).  In other words, Asaph’s heart told him one thing (“trust the LORD”), while his feelings cried, “It’s not fair!”

Asaph appeared ready to quit his ministry as the king’s musician until he weighed the consequences of his decision and the offense it might be to the younger generation (73:15-16).  However, when Asaph entered the “the sanctuary of God” his perspective of the wicked and their end changed (73:17-20) and he confessed “my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins” (73:21).  Understanding the prosperity of the wicked is temporal (73:27), Asaph’s faith in the LORD and his desire to serve Him were renewed (73:28).

“Maschil of Asaph” is the subtitle of Psalm 74 and is an instructive or reflective poem.   Although attributed to “Asaph”, the content of the psalm describes the destruction of Jerusalem and temple (74:3, 6-8) that took place many years after David’s Asaph was dead.  Psalm 74 was most likely penned by a descendant of Asaph.

While Psalm 73 described Asaph’s personal struggles, the focus of Psalm 74 is on Israel’s struggles as a nation.  In the midst of numbering the nation’s sorrows and devastation (74:1-11), the psalmist recounts how God delivered Israel in past days (74:12-17) and cried out for the LORD to deliver His people (74:18-23).

Allow me to close by reflecting on Psalm 73 and Asaph’s renewed commitment to serve the LORD.

Although few will admit it, there are many who have known the temptation to say, “I quit!” and walk away from the burdens of marriage, family, friends, church and ministry.    In fact, for a season the ones who walk out on responsibilities appear happy, giving little thought to the ripple of consequences that might follow in the wake of their decision.   Driving Asaph’s motivation to continue his ministry was not only his love for the LORD and the king, but also his concern for how his decision would affect the next generation.  Surely that is a concern every pastor, teacher and parent should share.

May the LORD, our family, friends and the generation to follow us find us faithful!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Salute and Challenge to Gray-headed Saints

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 69-71

Note from the author of “From the Heart of a Shepherd”:  Today’s post is the 900th blog post by this simple shepherd.  I pray the thoughts and spiritual ponderings of this pastor continue to be a blessing.  

Our scripture reading for today is a gold mine of truths and spiritual principles found in Psalms 69, 70 and 71; however, for the sake of brevity my focus will be two golden nuggets of truths taken from Psalm 71:9, 17 and 18.

Some believe king David is the author of Psalm 71 and I am inclined to lean that way; however, others make an argument its author is the prophet Jeremiah.  I will leave the debate of its authorship to others and am content it was written by a man of faith; a man who by God’s grace was young in spirit, but chronologically old in years.  The psalmist, confident in God’s providential care, had faith God’s hand had been upon him from his mother’s womb (71:6), through his youth (71:5) and was with him in the frailty of his old age (71:18).

Of the many fears that potentially haunt the elderly, surely the fear of being forgotten and forsaken is foremost.  The dynamics between youth and the aged presents a challenge; however, the technological revolution of the past 30 years with computers, iPads, cell phones and social media has made the generational divide a precipice.  The fast pace mobility of our 21st century society and an attitude of narcissism that dominates this generation has strained family ties and sadly, left as its victims millions of elderly who feel forgotten and forsaken.

Complicating the interaction of familial generations and contrary to what some aged might think, one is never too old to sin!   Many elderly fall into a sinful pattern and become cantankerous and difficult.  Because a negative, critical spirit only exasperates our loved ones and caregivers, let us who are grey-headed consider the prayer of the ancient psalmist to the LORD.

Psalm 71:9 – Cast me not off [down] in the time [season] of old age; forsake me not when my strength [power; vigor] faileth [consumed; finished].

The aged psalmist petitions the LORD for two things in verse 9. The first, “cast me not off in the time of old age” (71:9a).  Strength of youth inclines one to pursue independence…independent of family, friends and sadly, independent of God.  However, when the vigor of youth fails and the frailty of old age advances, we are reminded how much we need the LORD’s grace.

The second petition expressed by the psalmist is, “forsake me not when my strength faileth” (71:9b).  Visiting the elderly in nursing homes has been a pattern of my life from childhood.  I remember fondly accompanying my maternal grandparents, Roland and Sadie Whitley, in their Saturday visits to family and friends in nursing homes.  It comes as no surprise that, when they found themselves in those same beds, the Whitley’s were never lacking in visits from family and friends.

As a pastor\shepherd, my calling has me making frequent visits to hospitals, nursing homes and homes of shut-ins.  Sadly, there are many in those places that not only feel forsaken, they are all but forgotten.  At a time when their strength is gone, their eyesight is dim and hearing has failed…they are alone.  What a tragedy that our society looks upon its elderly as a burden rather than a blessing!

The elderly psalmist continues his prayer:

Psalm 71:17-18 – O God [Elohim; Mighty God], thou hast taught [instructed; goad or disciplined] me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared [tell as a messenger] thy wondrous works [miracles; acts that surpass human skill or works]. 18  Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed [declared; informed] thy strength [power] unto this generation, and thy power [might] to every one that is to come.

The psalmist declares in his old age, LORD, the things you taught me in my youth I continue to declare in my old age!  My elderly friend, when life affords you an opportunity to praise the LORD, whether in private or public, be among the first to declare God’s love, salvation, mercy and grace.

The psalmist’s prayer moves from affirmation and adoration in verse 17 to petition and purpose in verse 18.  Unlike the old sassy commercial that declared, “I’m going to wash the gray right out of my hair”, the psalmist acknowledges, “I am old and grayheaded” and petitions the LORD for His power and presence in his life (“forsake me not”).

Finally, the psalmist declares his purpose for living: “until I have shewed [declared; informed] thy strength [power] unto this generation, and thy power [might] to every one that is to come” (71:18b).  The old psalmist’s thoughts turned to his spiritual legacy.  Thirty-eight years of ministry has brought home to me the sad realization that few give any thought to the spiritual legacy they are leaving for the next generation.  They have their wills written, their possessions planned for parceling, but the urgency of declaring a lifetime testimony concerning God’s faithfulness and blessings seems forgotten.

Elderly believer, I know you and I share the sentiment of the psalmist…Oh Lord, don’t forsake me when I am old and frail; however, will you also purpose to declare to all who will listen God’s faithfulness? I close with an appropriate quote and challenge:

“How many people in our churches, at an age when they ought to be tearing the world apart, are instead sliding home?” – Dr. Howard Hendricks

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Three Things That Are Good”

Friday, June 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Lamentations

The Book of Lamentations is only five chapters in length and is as its names suggests, five “laments” (i.e. cries; groanings; howls) over the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah.

The laments, cries and sorrows revealed in Lamentations are those of the prophet Jeremiah who, through the reigns of five successive kings, faithfully warned the people God’s judgment was inevitable if the nation did not repent, turn from her sins and turn to God.  Recorded in these five chapters are the laments of the prophet over the devastation suffered by the city, people and nation.

For those who might want to “dig a little deeper”; notice Lamentations chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 are twenty-two verses in length. There are twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each of the verses in chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 begin with a word using successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (in other words, like our A-Z in English). Lamentations 4 is sixty-six verses long and the Hebrew alphabet in that chapter begins couplets that are three verses each.

Before moving to a practical spiritual application, I invite you to read Lamentations 1-5 and ponder the laments of God’s faithful prophet as he witnesses the devastation and destruction of the city and nation he loved. The sorrows and disgrace suffered by the people as a consequence of their sins needs no explanation.

Lamentations 1 records the suffering and sorrows of the capital city summed up in this: Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed” (Lamentations 1:8a). Lest some dismiss Jerusalem’s plight and credit Nebuchadnezzar and his army, the prophet makes it plain her destruction is the work of God’s judgment. Jeremiah writes:

Lamentations 1:15 – “The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress.”

God’s judgment against Judah, the testimony of His wrath against the city of Jerusalem, and the captivity of her king and elders continue in Lamentations 2:1-9. The focus turns from the city and her king to the people, the sorrows they suffer (2:10-14) and their humiliation before their enemies (2:15-16). Jeremiah reminds the people their sins had brought them to this for the “LORD hath done that which He had devised” (2:17).

Jeremiah’s lamentations became personal in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this book.   Jeremiah expresses his own distress and sorrow for the sufferings of His people and nation. He lived to see all he had prophesied against the nation come to pass; however, the plight of God’s people was his dilemma as well. In Lamentations 3:11-18, Jeremiah expresses his sorrows with the personal pronouns “I” and “me” and identifies the LORD as “He”.

In the midst of his sorrows, Jeremiah gives expression to one of the most beautiful and best-known expressions of worship and hope found in the Book of Lamentations and is the inspiration of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. Jeremiah writes:

Lamentations 3:22-23 – “It is of the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] mercies [loving-kindness; grace] that we are not consumed, because His compassions [mercies; tender love] fail not [never ends or ceases].
23  They are [mercy and tender compassions] new every morning: great [sufficient; plenty] is thy faithfulness [steadfastness].”

I close with a brief exposition of three things Jeremiah states as “good” [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] from Lamentations 3:25-27.

Lamentations 3:25 – “The LORD is good unto them that wait [tarry; patiently wait; hope] for Him [the LORD], to the soul that seeketh [follows; searches; asks] Him” (3:25).

It comes as no surprise that the “LORD is good”; however, notice the twofold condition for experiencing the goodness of the LORD.

1) The first condition: the LORD is good to those who “wait for Him” (3:25a).  Counseling others to be patient and wait on the LORD is easy; however, to practice the same is an exercise of faith, hope and trust.   Are you willing to wait upon the LORD when you have been hurt?   When you are ill?  When you have been misused or misunderstood?  Are you willing to wait upon the LORD when your spouse or child makes choices that break your heart.  Too many of us are where we are today because we were not willing to “wait for the LORD.”  “Patience is a virtue” is an old English adage and from my vantage point is in short supply.

2) The second condition for experiencing the LORD’S goodness is “to the soul that seeketh” the LORD (3:25b).  To seek the LORD is to read and meditate in His Word; follow in His ways and pray.

Lamentations 3:26 – “It is good that a man should both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD.”

We find two things that are good in Lamentations 3:26.  It is good for a believer to “hope”.  This hope is more than an emotional and mental aspiration; it is a practice; a discipline of heart and soul.  It is a hope that waits with expectation for prayers to be answered knowing God is faithful to His Word and promises.

It is also good for a believer to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b).  Wait without complaining; literally, wait in silence for the LORD to answer prayer and move in His timing.  I am afraid the pews of American churches are filled with many who are neither patient nor quiet!

Lamentations 3:27 – “It is good for a man [lit. a man child; son] that he bear the yoke [disciplines; burdens] in his youth.”

Finally, we come to a third good thing and that is, it is good when a son bears the yoke of manhood.

Did you know a majority of 18-35 year olds live at home with their parents in 2017?  For the most part, the Millennium generation has yet to grow up and bear the yoke of adulthood with real-life burdens.  Too many parents coddle their sons and daughters and the result is a narcissistic, lazy generation ill prepared for the sufferings and trials that inevitably come and require discipline and endurance.

Mom and dad, you rob your teens and young adults of a “good” thing when you fail to make them bear the burdens and consequences of their choices.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Forgiveness: What a blessed promise!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 66-68

Of the three psalms assigned for our scripture reading today, the best known is probably the first, Psalm 66; a psalm of praise and adoration inviting the nations of the earth to “Make a joyful noise unto God” (Psalm 66:1).

Lest someone is tempted to draw a parallel between today’s style of worship music and singing with the phrase “joyful noise” (66:1), I hasten to educate you that the “noise” is the sound of trumpets and shouts of victory and triumph.   David exhorts all people to praise the God of heaven in songs that honor His name (66:2) and invites “All the earth” to worship and sing praises to the LORD (66:4).

The focus of Psalm 66 moves from an invitation to all people to worship the LORD to God’s chosen people, Israel, praising Him (66:8-12).   David’s praise recalls how the LORD had preserved His people and brought them through times of trial and trouble (66:9-12).

Beginning with Psalm 66:13, David’s focus becomes personal: “I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows” (Psalm 66:13).

The psalm concludes with David inviting the people to hear his adoration of the LORD and “what He hath done for my soul” (66:16).  David writes of the LORD’s mercies, grace and willingness to hear his prayers and forgive his sin.

Psalm 66:17-20 17  I cried unto Him [the LORD] with my mouth, and he was extolled [exalted] with my tongue.
18  If I regard [see; perceive; observe] iniquity [sin; wickedness] in my heart, the Lord will not hear [hearken; listen] me:
19  But verily [surely] God hath heard [hearken; listen] me; he hath attended [hear] to the voice [sound] of my prayer.
20  Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy [loving-kindness; love; grace] from me.

David’s life and testimony remind us the LORD is longsuffering, patient and willing to forgive our sins if we will confess and forsake them.  The king had experienced the silence of heaven and the fate of men who “regard iniquity” and continued in sin (66:18).   With praise and confidence, David rejoiced in God hearing his prayer and extending to him His grace (66:19-20).

Some reading this brief devotional might find they are where David was–bearing a weight of sin that has left your soul listless and your heart despondent.  You are too aware of the sorrows and consequences that accompany sin.  Friend, please don’t stay there and risk a seared conscience and a calloused heart.

The apostle John promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith