Category Archives: Salvation

LOOK AND LIVE!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 21-24

The historical context of today’s scripture reading, Numbers 21-24, finds Israel near the end her 40-year sojourn in the wilderness after she left Egypt.   The generation that departed Egypt and refused to trust the LORD to enter Canaan and possess it had perished.  Miriam, Moses’ sister, died in the opening verse of Numbers 20 (20:1) and Aaron, his brother and the high priest of Israel, died in the closing verses of Numbers 20 (20:28).

The final six months of Israel’s 40 years wandering in the wilderness is the setting of Numbers 21 where we find Israel murmuring against Moses and the LORD (21:4-5).  Like their parents who had perished in the desert, this new generation followed the sinful, faithless pattern of their fathers and mothers, became discouraged and accused God and Moses of leading them “out of Egypt to die in the wilderness” (21:5).

The LORD answered their murmuring with “fiery [poisonous] serpents” and “much of the people of Israel died” (21:6).   Chastened by the LORD, the people confessed their sin and asked Moses to intercede and pray the LORD  would “take away the serpents” (20:7).

God answered Moses’ prayer and provided a way of salvation, instructing His servant to fashion a serpent of brass and suspend it in the air above the people (21:8).  The LORD promised, if the people looked upon the brass serpent they would live (21:9).  It was that same symbol Jesus referred to when He foretold His own sacrificial death on the cross when He said:

John 3:14-16“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  [16] For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

My friend, as the brass serpent suspended on a pole was the object God provided for Israel to look to and be spared death, Jesus Christ is the answer for the curse of sin of all sinners.

The invitation to Israel is the invitation to all…Look to the Cross…See with eyes of faith Jesus Christ crucified for your sin…and Live.

1 John 5:11-13 – “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.”

LOOK and LIVE!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Performing Faith: The Life of Corrie ten Boom” – Sunday, October 8

Dear Hillsdale and Heart of a Shepherd Followers,

The troubles and trials suffered by our nation in recent weeks in the wake of Hurricane Harvey (Texas) and Hurricane Irma (FL and GA) and the violent protests of anarchists on college campuses and in major cities threatening our Freedom of Speech, moved me to invite Dr. Melissa Cancel and her students to revive for one Sunday morning performance the play, “Performing Faith: The Life of Corrie ten Boom”.

Because the play is so powerful and moving, I have taken the unusual step of scheduling it for 10:30 AM, Sunday, October 8, 2017 in Hillsdale’s auditorium.

The testimony of Corrie ten Boom’s faith in a Nazi concentration camp is nothing short of inspiring and convicting.  Her’s was a testimony of faith, perseverance, humility, and confidence in God’s mercy and grace.

Dr. Melissa Cancel is the director of the Chamber theater production and stars in the production as Corrie ten Boom.  Performing with her are four of Hillsdale’s teens who are students in Dr. Cancel’s Speech and Drama studio.

There is no cost for admission and I encourage you to invite family and friends to see this moving drama of life and faith set in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for women, located in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

 

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm”

September 10, 2017

A Sunday Devotional Thought from Mark 4:35-5:1

Canceling worship services this Sunday, September 10, 2017 is something I did not want to do; however, facing the uncertainty of Hurricane Irma’s direction and arrival in Tampa Bay, Hillsdale’s pastoral leadership felt it wise to not place upon our church family an expectation to leave your places of safety.

I am writing this devotional knowing I will miss the opportunity to worship, sing, and study God’s Word with you this Sunday, but purposing to remind you the LORD gives peace to those who put their faith in Him, even in the midst of storms.  Storms, trials and troubles are, after all, our lot because we live in a sin cursed world.

The focus of this Sunday devotional is Mark 4:35-5:1.   Jesus had been teaching parables throughout the day and when the crowd became too large and pressed upon Him, He sat in a fishing boat and taught them near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other side, some seven miles away.  Lying down in the boat, Jesus slept.

Although named a Sea, the body of water known as the Sea of Galilee is a large lake, only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide.  This body of water; however, is notorious for violent storms that without warning turn the lake into a raging sea.

Lying 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round, much like our own Tampa Bay.   Encircled by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift.  To the north is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Hermon whose melting snows feed the tributaries that form the Jordan River, running southward into the Sea of Galilee and finally into the Dead Sea.  Cold winds from mountain peaks in the north drift down through hillsides funneling cold air into the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.  It is a storm such as this we find the disciples and Jesus.

Luke writes, “as they sailed He [Jesus] fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy” (Luke 8:23).  Matthew writes of the same incident, “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

The magnitude of the storm is evident when we remember at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman on the Sea of Galilee; however, not even veteran fishermen were able to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.  Cold winds whipped up the waves threatening to overwhelm the ship while exhausted disciples fought to keep the vessel afloat.  Finally, when all seemed lost, we read, “they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Master, master, we perish…” (Luke 8:23-24).

Physically and emotionally exhausted, the disciples realized they could not save themselves and cried out to Jesus: “Master [lit. – Teacher], carest though not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)

Embodied in that question is sadly, a revelation of their lack of faith and understanding of the LORD.   In their distress, they questioned the LORD’s compassion, “Carest thou not” (Mark 4:38).  Years later, Peter would write, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

It was not a lack of compassion, but a lack of faith that was the problem.  The disciples viewed the storm as a challenge and threat to their physical well-being.  The LORD was not surprised by the storm, nor overwhelmed; He had a far greater purpose for the storm…a lesson in faith.

Mark 4:39-40 – “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. 40  And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith and their failure to trust Him.   When He rebuked the storm and the winds immediately ceased and the water was stilled, “they feared exceedingly [terrfied], and said [lit. kept saying] one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)

They had heard Him teach, but did not know Him.  Witnessed His miracles, but failed to understand His divine power and nature.  What manner of man is this?

The disciples should have known the man sleeping in the hindermost part of the boat and whose command, “Peace Be Still” the winds and waves obeyed was no mere man…He was Jesus, the Son of God, Creator.

King David wrote of the LORD, “Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people” (Psalm 65:7).

Another psalmist wrote, “O Lord God of host….Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8-9).

Many reading this Sunday devotional are in the midst of a very real storm.

My church family in Tampa Bay is awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  Many in Houston are nigh overwhelmed by the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.  Some are in storms deeply personal in nature…a crisis of health, problems at home, in marriage or a financial crisis.   Many are ill-prepared for storms because their faith is anchored on a shallow, unbibilical theology duping them to believe “Something good is going to happen!”

Friend, God does not promise to spare us from trouble or trials; however, He promises to be with us!  Before ascending to heaven Jesus promised His disciples, “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b).

What spiritual benefits can we derive from storms?

Storms remind us we are weak and incapable of saving ourselves.  Storms are opportunities to know God personally and intimately.  Storms invite us to turn our focus from oursevles to the LORD.   The disciples experienced what David as shepherd wrote, “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

I assure you, the safest place in the world is in the will of God and yes, He sometimes leads you into the midst of storms!

I close inviting you to listen to Evangelist Ben Everson singing, What Manner of Man Is his?”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Lonely? The LORD is Waiting

August 30, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 102-104

Our scripture reading today is three psalms, Psalm 102, Psalm 103 and Psalm 104.

Psalm 102 is a psalm of confession and repentance.  Although the author is not known, sincere believers will readily identify with his cry of repentance and the blessed promise the LORD hears our confession, forgives sin and restores His child to fellowship (Psalm 102:1-4).

In a series of vignettes (portraits), the psalmist paints for us the sorrows and afflictions he felt when he looked honestly at the spiritual, physical and emotional toll sin had taken on his life.   His days were like a puff of smoke, empty and void (102:3).   Like grass withering in the midday sun, his heart was dried up (102:4).   His flesh was gaunt and wasted, like a dead man walking (102:5).   “Like a pelican of the wilderness… an owl of the desert… a sparrow alone upon the house top”, he felt alone in his misery (102:6-7).   Summing up his miserable state, the psalmist declared his life was “like a shadow that declineth…[and] withered like grass” (102:11).

Notice the psalmist’s despair turned to hope when his focus moved from his sin to the LORD (Psalm 102:12-28). 

Psalm 102:12 – “But thou, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God]], shalt endure [dwell; abide; sit enthroned] for ever [eternity]; and thy remembrance [memorial] unto all generations [evermore].

The psalmist’s emphasis on “Zion” (the mount upon which Jerusalem is built) most likely places this psalm toward the end of the Babylonian captivity when the LORD promised Israel would be restored to her land as a nation (102:13-21).

With eyes of faith, the psalmist takes comfort knowing the LORD reigned in heaven and had not forgotten His people (102:17-20).   Longing to see Israel restored before his death, the psalmist prayed that his life would not be cut short (102:23-24).

Psalm 102 concludes with the focus upon the character of the LORD.  The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 102:25-28 and identifies Jesus Christ as the subject (Hebrews 1:10-12) revealing the Lord is Creator (102:25), Enduring (102:26), Immutable (102:27a), Eternal (102:27b) and Faithful (102:28).

I have no way of knowing the challenges we may face today; however, be confident of this…we are secure in the LORD (Psalm 102:28).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Quit…God is With You!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 9-12

We pick up our reading in the Book of Numbers by reading Numbers 9-12 today.  I stated in two earlier commentaries that the early chapters in Numbers are dedicated to Moses taking a people who served as slaves of Pharaoh for 400 years and instructing and organizing them into a nation.

Numbers 1-4 records a census of the tribes of Israel.  Numbers 5-6 state the specifics for addressing disease and sin among the people.  Because worshipping, serving and offering sacrifices were central to Israel’s individual and corporate life, the Tabernacle of the LORD was located in the heart of the encampment (Numbers 7).   Numbers 8 established the character and bloodline of the Aaronic priesthood.  A perpetual observance of the Passover is commanded in Numbers 9, serving as a memorial to the LORD for delivering Israel out of Egypt (Numbers 9:1-14).

When Israel journeyed in the wilderness, the people found security in the LORD’s presence by a cloud that was present in the day and a fire that was present at night (9:15-23).  Making it clear the LORD alone dictates the “starts and stops” of His people, the people followed the movements of the cloud and fire in their journey (9:21-23).

Friend, there is much to learn in today’s scripture reading; however, I would be remiss to not remind you the LORD, though He no longer leads His people with a cloud or fire, nevertheless leads, directs and guides His children by His Word and the wooing of His Spirit.   Should Numbers 9 appear irrelevant or inapplicable to 21st century Christians, I remind you we have this history for a reason…that you and I might be reminded of the abiding, perpetual presence of the LORD!

Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul challenged believers there are spiritual lessons we should derive from our study of the saints of the Old Testament.  Paul writes:

1 Corinthians:1-2 – “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2And were all baptized unto Moses [united under Moses in the same way believers are united in Christ by baptism] in the cloud and in the sea;”

Symbolizing the expressions of God’s grace in types or symbols, we read:

1 Corinthians 10:3-4 – “And did all eat the same spiritual meat [manna miraculously provided by God]; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink [water that came from the rock]: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Illustrating God’s judgment against those who lacked faith and those who sinned:

1 Corinthians 10:5-10 – “5 But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust  [set our heart upon sin] after evil things, as they also lusted. 7 Neither be ye idolaters [setting their affection and priorities on things before God], as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. 8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. 9 Neither let us tempt Christ [refusing to trust God], as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. 10 Neither murmur [grumbling and complaining] ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.”

And why is it important to know the ways and manner the LORD dealt with Israel?   Paul explains:

1 Corinthians 10:11-1211 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [setting an example; a pattern]: and they are written for our admonition [warning; rebuke], upon whom the ends of the world are come [a special warning to those living in the last days]. 12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

Reading and understanding the way the LORD guided and protected Israel’s journey in the wilderness gives us confidence in this promise:

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [trial; test] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. many others have faced the same]: but God is faithful [trustworthy; true], who will not suffer [permit; allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [i.e. pass through], that ye may be able [possible] to bear it [endure].”

What a blessed promise!   Whatever test or trial you may face, be assured God is faithful!  You will face times of testing (for these are “common to man”); however, the LORD is with you and will tenderly care for you, protect, strengthen and be with you through your trials.

Don’t quit…God is with you night and day as He was with Israel!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“The LORD Bless You and Keep You”

Monday, August 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 5-8

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” plan brings us today to Numbers 5-8.  As noted in an earlier commentary, the early chapters of Numbers are for the purpose of organizing hundreds of thousands of men and women who for 400 years knew only the burdens of slavery.   God tasked Moses with the responsibility of bringing discipline to the Twelve Tribes of Israel and organizing them into a body that will become a nation.

Numbers 1:2-54 recorded a census of able-bodied males, 20 years and older, who were able to go to war (Numbers 1:2-54).   Numbers 2 provided an organizational map of Israel’s encampment with the Tabernacle representing the presence of God being the central focus of the tribes.   Numbers 3 records a census of the Levites, the priestly tribe and their responsibility for the Tabernacle is found in Numbers 4.

While the Commandments of the LORD are recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, the specifics for addressing disease and sin in the midst of the people is given in Numbers 5.  God desired that His people be a clean and holy people and the people were to be intolerant of sin in their midst.  Contagious diseases like leprosy were not trifled with and sin was confessed and restitution made where another had been injured (5:1-10).

Because marriage is a holy covenant between a man and woman instituted by God, the nation was intolerant of adultery and an adulterous man and woman would be put to death (5:11-31).

The law of the Nazarites is instituted in Numbers 6.  A man or woman taking the vow of a Nazarite was voluntarily setting themselves apart from lawful liberties and dedicating themselves to the LORD (6:1-8).  Because a Nazarite dedicated themselves to the LORD, they denied themselves the pleasures of “wine and strong drink…vinegar…[and] grapes” (6:3).   As an outward sign of his devotion to God, a Nazarite male did not cut his hair (6:5) and were forbidden to touch dead bodies (6:6-8).

Numbers 7 records the dedication of the Tabernacle, the altar, instruments and vessels employed in offering sacrifices and the sacrifices brought by the tribal leaders of Israel (Numbers 7:1-89).

Numbers 8:1-4 takes us into the inter-sanctum of the Tabernacle and the area that was veiled from all but the high priest and known as the “holy of holies”.  Within this sacred place there was a golden altar, a table, and a golden lampstand with seven candles.

While Aaron and his sons served God as priests, the tribe of Levi was consecrated to assist the priests and serve the people when they came to worship and offer sacrifices (Numbers 8:5-26).  The leaders of the tribes put their hands on the Levites identifying them as the substitute who would serve the LORD on their behalf (8:9-11).   Rather than the eldest son of each tribal family being set apart to serve as priest for the family, God chose the Levites to serve on their behalf (8:14-18).

I close this devotional acknowledging much of what you read might leave you at a loss for a personal application.  Consider the following lessons:

1) The LORD wants those who minister before His people to be a holy, consecrated people.  Although none are perfect or sinless, the church should hold its ministers, pastors and teachers to the highest standard knowing God would not require less.

2) Whether a Nazarite or a Levite, the privilege of serving the LORD required consecration and sacrifice.  I remind you God requires the same of us all when Paul writes:

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.
2  And 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.”

I close today’s commentary with a prayer for God to bless you, a prayer know as the Aaronic Blessing:

Numbers 6:24-26 – “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25  The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26  The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

News Flash: Everyone who eats Ice Cream…Broccoli or Carrots… eventually Die!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Chronicles 5-9

Our reading of the history of Israel and her people continues in 1 Chronicles 5-9.   As mentioned in the earlier devotional based on this historical book, the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles is largely dedicated to the genealogical record of the sons of Jacob (i.e. Israel) and the Twelve Tribes of their lineage.

1 Chronicles 5 is the record of the lineage of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh that requested and eventually settled on the east side of the Jordan River (5:1-17).   Reuben was the firstborn son of Israel, whose name was Jacob at birth.   Although he was Jacob’s firstborn, Reuben sinned against his father by lying with Bilhah his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22; 49:3-4) and the consequence of his sin was his inheritance passed to the sons of Joseph’s (1 Chronicles 5:1) and the privilege of his birthright as Jacob’s firstborn son to Judah (5:2).

1 Chronicles 6 gives us the lineage of the priestly tribe of Levi that includes Aaron, Moses, and Miriam (6:1-53). The cities assigned to the Levites in the midst of the tribal lands are noted (6:54-81).

1 Chronicles 7 documents the tribal lineages of Issachar (7:1-5), Benjamin (7:6-11), Naphtali (7:13), the half-tribe of Manasseh (7:14-19), Ephraim (7:20-23), and Asher (7:30-40).

The lineage of Benjamin, of who was born Saul, Israel’s first king (8:29-32), is recorded in 1 Chronicles 8.

1 Chronicles 9 concludes the genealogical record up to the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity.   The tribal records were stored in the temple and returned to Judah after the captivity where they were maintained until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The genealogical records were lost in the destruction of the temple.

The genealogical record of the Levites and their occupation in the ministry of the temple is recorded in 1 Chronicles 9:2-34. 1 Chronicles 9 concludes with a record of the lineage of king Saul and his sons (9:35-44).

On a personal note, in recent years I have explored my family lineage and, with the aid of Ancestry.com and my own sleuthing through courthouse records and cemeteries, I have built my own ancestral tree.   My research has reinforced in my soul a universal truth we must inevitably face…death!  (As suggested in my title, everyone who eats Ice Cream…Broccoli or Carrots… eventually Dies!)

As it was with my ancestors of generations past, so it is for you and me… “thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17) for “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27).  Physical death is inevitable and spiritual death; eternal separation from God and Hell is the destiny of all sinners apart from a Savior who will take our place and bear the punishment we deserve for our sins (Isaiah 59:2).   Friend, God has provided us a substitute, a Savior-Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:8 – But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith