Category Archives: Prayer

Count Your Blessings! (Psalm 16)

Today’s Bible Reading is Genesis 45-46, Psalm 16, and Matthew 16. Our devotional is from Psalm 16:6.

Psalm 16 is known as the “Golden Psalm”.  Quoted by Peter in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:25-28), its closing verses give a prophetic picture of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (Psalm 16:8-11).

For today, our focus is Psalm 16:1-7, a portrait of a believer’s walk of faith in the LORD. For your mediation, I invite you to consider this simple outline: Faith’s Security (16:1), Faith’s Passion (16:2-3), Faith’s Influence (16:4), Faith’s Inheritance (16:5-6), and Faith’s Instructor (16:7).

Psalm 16:10 seems to indicate David wrote this psalm at a time he was in peril.  Perhaps fearing for his life, he cries out to the LORD, Preserve [guard; protect] me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust [confidence; seek my refuge]” (16:1).  Knowing the LORD hears and answers prayer, David took refuge and comfort believing God would preserve and protect him.

Psalm 16:6 gives us a picture of a surveyor marking the boundary lines of a man’s property, perhaps the portion of his inheritance.

Psalm 16:6 – “The lines [measure; inheritance; portion] are fallen [allotted] unto me in pleasant [delightful; sweet; lovely] places; yea, I have a goodly [fair; pleasing] heritage [inheritance].”

In spite of perils and troubles he was facing, David did not allow them to drive him to despair.  With his focus on the LORD and recalling His blessings and promises, he writes, “I have a goodly heritage” (16:6b).

What a blessed truth! When your heart is burden and your thoughts tempted to despair, remember the LORD has laid out for you “pleasant places”.   He has apportioned His grace, mercies, and favor to His children.

Take a moment and count the LORD’s blessings.  Contemplate “the lines, the portion, the measure of His  grace”.  Remember the goodly heritage you have in the LORD…your salvation, His promises, your family, friends, and church family.  Cherish the moments and count the blessings!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

 

Like a Father, the LORD Loves the Righteous (Psalm 11)

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 29-30, Psalm 11, and Matthew 11. Today’s devotional is from Psalm 11.

We are uncertain of the historical context of Psalm 11; however, we know king David was facing the threats of an enemy and weighing the counsel of advisers who urged him to flee.

There are times retreat from confrontation is a wise choice.  David fled from the presence of Saul when the king attacked him. David fled Jerusalem after his son Absalom stole the people’s affections and led an insurrection against the king.  However, as we learn in our study of Psalm 11, there are times we face adversaries and the LORD would have us stand fast and trust Him.

We do not know if the foe David faced was within or without his kingdom; however, the threat was significant and the king’s counselors advised him to flee (11:1b-2).  David answered his frightened counselors,

Psalm 11:1 – “In the LORD put I my trust [confide; flee for protection; make refuge]: how say [speak; command] ye to my soul [life; person; mind], Flee [disappear; remove] as a bird to your mountain?

The counselors answered their king, reminding him the plot of the wicked was to destroy the just and upright (11:2) and as king, he was the moral pillar, the foundation of the nation (11:3).

Psalm 11:2-3 – “For, lo, the wicked  [ungodly; immoral; guilty] bend their bow, they make ready [prepare; set up; fix] their arrow upon the string, that they may privily [secretly] shoot at the upright [right; just; righteous] in heart [mind].  3 If the foundations [purpose; support; moral pillars] be destroyed [thrown down; broken in pieces], what can the righteous [just] do?”

David’s counselors reasoned, not only was his life at risk, but so also were the lives of the people and the future of the nation (11:3b).  In other words, what will become of the righteous should the king fall?

We find David’s response in Psalm 11:4-7.

Psalm 11:4-5 – “The LORD is in his holy [sacred; hallowed] temple, the LORD’S throne [seat] is in heaven: his eyes behold [perceive; look; gaze], his eyelids try [examine; prove], the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth [proves; examines] the righteous [just; law-abiding]: but the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] and him that loveth violence [injustice] his soul hateth [as a foe].”

What a great reminder…regardless the threats of an enemy or his demands we compromise our integrity, the LORD has not abdicated the throne of heaven and He is Just!  The ways of the righteous will not go unrewarded and the ways of the wicked will surely be punished!

Our devotion ends with the assurance, “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.”(Psalm 11:7)

What a great thought!  The righteous are the objects of the LORD’s love!  Like a father looks adoringly at his children, the LORD looks upon the righteous.

My friend, perhaps there is an enemy that haunts your life with threats, maligning gossip, or with disapproving gazes.  Take confidence in this…the LORD loves the righteous and He is just. Trust the LORD!

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

To Know God’s Will You Must First Be Doing His Will! (Genesis 23-24)

Genesis 22 puts the faith of Abraham to the test as God proves his faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of God’s covenant promise.  Isaac questioned his father, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7); John the Baptist answered that question 2,000 years later when he said concerning Jesus, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

Reminding us God’s people are sojourners in this world, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same isHebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

A theme for Genesis 24 is simply stated,“Here Comes the Bride”.   Following Sarah’s death, Abraham was burden to find a fitting wife for Isaac, his heir of God’s covenant promises. Fearing Isaac might be tempted to take a wife of the heathen tribes in Canaan, Abraham sent his “eldest servant”  (24:2-4) to his kindred residing in “Ur of the Chaldees” (11:27-31).

Reflecting the faith of his master, Abraham’s servant prayed for the LORD to make His will clear in choosing a young woman who would become Isaac’s wife  (24:12-14).  God heard and answered the servant’s prayer even as he was praying (24:15-26).

In a prayer of praise and a lesson to all who desire the will of the LORD, the servant prayed, being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).  Perhaps someone is reading this devotional and find themselves sincerely seeking the will of God in a matter or His direction for their lives.

Take a lesson from Abraham’s eldest servant: To know the will of the LORD you must be “in the way” of the LORD. You cannot pray sincerely for the LORD to reveal His will if you are not “in the way” of the LORD…obedient to His Word, walking the path of His choosing, and submitting to the authorities He has providentially placed in your life.

Do Right, my friend and you will not only do the will of the LORD, you will also be confident in it!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“He saw the multitudes [and] was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Today’s Bible reading assignment is Genesis 21-22, Psalm 9, and Matthew 9.  Today’s devotion is taking from the Gospel of Matthew 9.

Matthew 9 gives us a beautiful portrait of Christ’s compassion for the physical suffering and hurting of His day.  Among the objects of His compassion was a paralyzed man “sick of the palsy” (9:2-7), a leader’s daughter raised from the dead (9:18-19, 23-25), a woman healed from “an issue of blood” (9:20-22), two blind men given sight (9:27-30), a man delivered from a demon (9:32-33), and the healing of “every sickness and every disease among the people” (9:35).

What an extraordinary record of compassion and miracles!  To almost overstate the obvious, we read, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (9:36a).

What a compassionate Savior!  Men’s afflictions moved Jesus; however, His compassion also plunged to the depths of men’s souls who “fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36b).  What lessons might a believer take from Jesus’ extraordinary example of compassion?

Christlike compassion is deeper and broader than empathy.  Cultural icons and American institutions frequently make hit and run “feel good” gestures in the name of charity.  Stars and athletes drop a few coins in a kettle, establish a “Go Fund Me” account, pledge money to a good cause, and hold a Money-thon for an emergency; however, when the popularity of the cause has waned, the hurting are forgotten.

Christlike compassion is deeply invested in the well-being of men’s souls. Author William Barclay observes the compassion Jesus expressed was “no ordinary pity or compassion, but an emotion which moves a man to the very depths of his being.”  (N.T. Words; Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1964), p. 276.

What moved Jesus with compassion in Matthew 9:36?  The spiritual condition of the people moved Him.  He observed they “fainted”, tired of pursuits that left them spiritually and emotionally wanting. They were like sheep, “scattered abroad…having no shepherd”.

Knowing, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37), moved Jesus with compassion.  Harvest speaks of judgment when the sickle is employed to cut grain (Isaiah 17:11; Joel 3:9, 13; Revelation 14:14).   When the harvest comes, good grain is separated and stored, but bad grain is gathered and burned (Matthew 13:24-30).

We should be moved to compassion knowing the harvest and judgment of men’s souls.  Lost sinners are dying everyday without the  Shepherd.

What would Jesus have us do?

Matthew 9:38– “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Lot: The Tragic Consequences of One’s Father’s Sinful Choices

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 19-20, Psalm 10, and Matthew 10. Our devotional is taken from Genesis 19-20.

We read in Genesis 18 that the LORD and two angels appeared to Abraham and Sarah as men.  That elderly couple soon realized the three visitors were not mere mortals, for the LORD revealed He knew Sarah’s private thoughts and how she scoffed and laughed within herself when she heard the promise she would bear a son in her old age (Genesis 18:11-15).

We are made privy to the LORD’s love for Abraham and His desire to not keep from the man the great judgment that would soon befall the cities of the plain, specifically Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-17, 20-21).

Abraham pled for Sodom, proposing if ten righteous souls be found there the city might be spared God’s judgment (Genesis 18:23-33).  The LORD heeded Abraham’s petition and promise to spare the city from destruction should ten righteous souls be dwelling among its citizens (Genesis 18:32).

After “the LORD went His way” (Genesis 18:33), the angels made their journey into the valley, arriving at Sodom that even (Genesis 19).   Entering the city, the angels found Lot sitting “in the gate” (Genesis 19:1) where city leaders transacted business and settled disputes.  Lot recognized the visitors were not like the wicked of Sodom and urged them to find refuge in his home for the night (19:2-3).

As darkness fell on the city, the wicked men of Sodom encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sodomized (19:4-6).  Unable to prevail against them (19:7), Lot foolishly offered his daughters to satisfy their depraved lusts (19:8-9).  Refusing Lot’s offer, the citizens of Sodom pressed upon the man threatening to break down the door of his home.  Lot was saved when the angels drew him into the house and striking the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).

Exhibiting grace, the angels urged Lot to gather his family and flee the city before God destroyed it (19:12-13).  A desperate Lot went out of the house into the night hoping to persuade his sons, daughters, and sons-in-laws to flee the city; however, they dismissed the man as “one that mocked” (19:14).

As the sun began to pierce the eastern horizon, the angels forced Lot, his wife and daughters out of the city, warning them to no look back upon its destruction (19:15-23).  Adding sorrow upon sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope the deaths of loved ones and the judgment that befell the cities might transform Lot and his daughters; however, such was not the case. Lot’s daughters enticed their father with strong drink and committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.

The tragic consequences of Lot’s sinful choices has shadowed God’s people as the lineages of Lot’s sons, the Moabites and Ammonites, became adversaries and a perpetual trouble for Israel to this day.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Too Late!” (Genesis 17-18)

* Today’s Bible reading assignment is Genesis 17-18, Psalm 7, and Matthew 7. Our devotional is from Genesis 17-18.

God renewed His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 and ten years later when Abraham was nearly 100 years old, God announced the impossible: 90-year-old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17).  Abraham laughed, saying in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)

Betraying his lack of faith and willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham suggested Ishmael be his heir (17:18).   God, however, renewed His covenant with Abraham stating Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19). While God refused Ishmael as Abraham’s heir, He comforted him promising Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20).

A “theophany”, the LORD appearing in the form of man, occurs in Genesis 18 when He and two angels appeared as men before Abraham’s tent bringing news within Sarah’s hearing that she would bear a son.  We read how Sarah “laughed within herself” at the thought that she, a woman “waxed old” would bear Abraham’s son (Genesis 18:12).  The LORD questioned Abraham, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” (Genesis 18:13).

Sarah, was surprise Abraham’s visitor not only knew she scoffed at the promise she would bear a son, but laughed at the thought of it!  The LORD asked Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:15) The LORD asserted He would return when the promise son was born (Genesis 18:14).  Sarah, perhaps fearing the visitor who knew her thoughts, denied she laughed at the birth announcement, and the LORD rebuked her lie (Genesis 18:15).

The closing verses of Genesis 18 contain the fateful message the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would be judged and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing his nephew Lot and his family lived in Sodom; Abraham interceded that the LORD might spare the city (18:23-33).  The LORD mercifully agreed to Abraham’s request when he proposed if ten righteous people be found in Sodom the city would be spared God’s judgment.

Ten righteous souls; perhaps the size of Lot’s own family, would have spared a city of lost, hell-bound souls.  Of course, Lot’s presence in Sodom was not ordered of the LORD nor was Lot’s interest the lost souls of his neighbors. Abraham cared for the inhabitants and interceded for the city, but all was lost when Lot was unable to stir the hearts of his own children to flee before God’s judgment (Genesis 19).

Allow me to close by suggesting you and I have a sphere of influence, a providential presence, among lost souls.  While the fate of a city does not rest within our realm, I wonder how many might?

Comparing the two, Abraham and Lot, whom did you most resemble? Abraham who compassionately made intercession for the wicked of that city or Lot who lived in the midst, but waited too late to plead even for the souls of his children?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

A National Missionary Worthy of Your Support: Yaovi Kpogno, Hillsdale’s Missionary Appointee to Togo

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Reader,

Greetings from Hillsdale Baptist Church!  I have enjoyed a reprieve from the pressure of writing daily devotional posts in recent months.  During this season of rest, I am enjoying an in-depth study of the Gospel of John as I prepare for my Sunday morning series, “Reflections on Compassion and Grace”.  I plan to begin regular posts in the near future and once again enjoy the privilege of ministering to saints around the world.

The purpose of this letter is to introduce you to a young man Hillsdale Baptist Church has come to love and appreciate.  Mr. Yaovi Kpogno is a national of Togo, West Africa.  I had the opportunity of meeting and interviewing Yaovi a year ago and my heart was touched and challenged as I listened to his testimony of salvation and God’s calling on his life to return to Togo as a church-planting missionary pastor.

Yaovi was born in a small village in Togo and raised by his mother in a hut where she continues to live today.  In fact, one of Yaovi’s goals when he returns to Togo in July, 2018 is to build a small concrete home for his mother.  

Yaovi accepted Christ as His Savior in August 1996 and publicly dedicated his life to serve the Lord in 2002.  Yaovi moved to Lome’, the capital of Togo, in 2005 to begin his formal education and ministered in Bible Baptist Church of Adakpame until he came to the United States to attend Bible College.

 Yaovi has earned four college degrees from The Crown College of the Bible while working full-time and paying his way through Bible college.  His hard work and dedication has paid off and his long-awaited return to Togo as a church-planting missionary has arrived.  Yaovi has purchased tickets to return to Togo this July 2018 and will begin his ministry in Lome’.

That brings me to the purpose of this letter.  Unlike American missionaries who travel for 3-5 years raising support, go to language school for another year, and require thousands of dollars in support each month, Yaovi is returning to Togo determined to live by faith, believing God will meet his financial needs through the giving of His people.

After completing four months of his five months missions internship, Hillsdale Baptist Church voted this past Sunday to be Yaovi’s supporting and stateside sending church.  We have estimated Yaovi needs a minimum monthly support of $2,500.  This amount includes not only his personal support funds, but also ministry funds to support his evangelistic endeavors and eventually rent a meeting place for his church.   It is Hillsdale’s missions policy to commit to 20% of a missionary’s support when we are the “sending church”.  In keeping with our policy, Hillsdale will be supporting Yaovi for $500\month, leaving a balance of $2,000\month needed for support.

We estimate Yaovi will need at least $20,000-25,000 to fully fund his ministry as he returns to Togo.   This amount includes $15,000 to purchase a used truck to carry equipment for public evangelistic campaigns and to transport children for summer Vacation Bible Schools and Sunday School programs.

Yaovi will eventually have a means for support dollars to be designated to him through a missions agency; however, until that time you can make designations for “Yaovi Kpogno” to Hillsdale Baptist Church  and our Deacons will insure 100% of the designated funds will go for Yaovi’s ministry in Togo.  It is my prayer many who read this letter will take the initiative to support a young man who loves the LORD and returns to Togo determined to reach the souls of his countrymen with the Gospel.

Please note that Hillsdale and this pastor will serve as Yaovi’s accountability partners.  If you have questions, please contact me directly at pastorsmith@HillsdaleBaptist.org.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor