Category Archives: Sickness

Failure to Thrive

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 119

Today’s scripture reading is Psalm 119.  With the exception of Psalm 23, Psalm 119 may be the favorite psalm of saints down through the centuries.  Its celebration of the Word and Law of God might seem out of step with many 21st century believers’ emphasis on grace [which is in danger of becoming “lawless grace” that knows little of the holiness of God]; however, its truths are eternal and its lessons regarding what manner of people the saints ought to be timeless.

I preached a series of messages on Psalm 119 in January 2016 and authored a brief series of devotions on the chapter during that time.  Today’s devotional commentary was first posted on this blog, January 25, 2016.

Psalm 119:129 – “Thy testimonies [witness; admonitions; ordinances] are wonderful [marvelous]: therefore doth my soul [life; person] keep [preserve; guard] them.”

“Failure to thrive” is an ominous term I have heard doctors use for both the very young and elderly patients.  The terminology is not a disease, but a description of a patient who is failing; failing to gain weight, failing to grow and failing to mature.  It is a state of being undernourished despite heroic actions taken to encourage physical weight gain and well-being.

The term, “failure to thrive”, is a fitting diagnosis for many church members.  They come to church faithfully and sit in pews year after year with no visible signs of spiritual life, health or growth.  

American Christians are hardly undernourished when it comes to physical weight; however, there are too many who are spiritually undernourished…failing to grow and mature.

The writer of Hebrews observed the same malady in the 1st century church when he wrote:

Hebrews 5:12-14 – “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers [Instructors], ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God [Old Testament sayings]; and are become [having degenerated] such as have need of milk [unable to chew solid food], and not of strong meat [solid food; advance doctrines].
13  For every one that useth [drink] milk is unskilful [ignorant; inexperienced] in the word [doctrine; preaching] of righteousness: for he is a babe [spiritually immature].
14  But strong meat [solid food] belongeth to them that are of full age [mature], even those who by reason of use [exercised in the Word and Law of God] have their senses [discernment] exercised [train; workout; disciplined exercise] to discern both good and evil [moral and immoral].”

anorexic ChristiansFailure to thrive” is the malady of the 21st century church.   Although we live in a day of mass communication and modern technology has put within our reach opportunities of studying and hearing God’s Word taught 24\7; the reality is there is a gross ignorance of the scriptures.  Like the 1st century, there are Christians who should be faithful students and teachers of the Bible, but are content with being spoon-fed the puree of elementary truths in churches more focused on entertaining the masses than the faithful exposition of God’s Word.

A spiritually anorexic Christian is the portrait of 21st century Christianity in America!  No wonder sin and lawless liberty abounds within our churches; we have fostered a generation of carnal Christians who demand pandering because they are spiritual babies desensitized to sin by their ignorance of the Truth!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Second Appeal From Outside the Bubble (part 2)

* Unlike my first appeal “From Outside the Bubble” that I addressed primarily to Bible fundamental churches and graduates of Bob Jones University living in Greenville, SC, this article goes well-beyond the borders of Greenville to the breadth of Bible fundamental pastors, churches, and administrators of fundamental Bible colleges and institutions.

I have pondered the root cause for a lack of vitality in Bible fundamentalism that is contributing not only to the failings of our institutions, but also more importantly, the weakening of our churches (understanding the weaknesses observed in fundamental institutions once hailed as citadels of the faith are symptomatic of compromises within our local churches).   As much as it pains me to state it, I have observed a near universal characteristic in the senior leadership of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and seminaries that is the catalyst to compromise:

God’s Men Have Failed to Stand on Immutable Principles

Twenty-first century Bible fundamentalism is facing a moral crisis in leadership giving rise to a tolerance of sin and pervasive carnality in our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.  Taking a lesson from the life of King David, I suggest the failures and shortcomings of historical flagship ministries in fundamentalism reveal a pattern of compromise among Christian leaders who, facing the duress of their children’s sinful choices, have become pragmatic and weak.  A tolerance of sin has emerged in our homes, pulpits and chapel platforms that is leading our youth, churches, and schools down a path of ruin.

Consider the consequences of David’s failed leadership after his moral failures left him enfeebled and unwilling to address the sins and moral failures of his adult children.

David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, was a scandalous sin that forever damaged his reign as king (2 Samuel 11).  His notorious sins gave cause for his enemies and members of his own household to disdain him.  Confronting David with the words, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7), the prophet Nathan warned, “the sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Samuel 12:10).  The sins David had committed in secret eventually bore the bitter fruit of public humiliation “before all Israel” (2 Samuel 12:11-12).  Weakened by his own failures, David’s leadership faltered and he failed to address the sins of his sons.

When Amnon, a son of David, raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-19), we read the morally compromised king’s response was merely, “he was very angry” (2 Samuel 13:21).  David’s failure to confront Amnon’s sin gave cause to Absalom to revenge his sister’s disgrace and plot the murder of his half-brother (2 Samuel 13:20-29).   Fearing the consequences for murdering his half-brother Amnon, Absalom fled Israel and dwelt as an exile in Geshur for three years (2 Samuel 13:34, 37).

In spite of Amnon’s death, we read, “king David longed to go forth unto Absalom” (2 Samuel 13:30).   Every loving parent understands David’s longing for his prodigal son; however, there were issues greater than paternal affections in question.  Would the king be a man of integrity?  Would he rule his kingdom judiciously, knowing his own son was a fugitive from justice and guilty of murder?

Such is the dilemma of spiritual leadership: When our sons and daughters turn from the LORD and the instructions of their youth, we may long for peace and their love and affection, but we should not compromise our principles and convictions.

Among the qualifications of a pastor is he is to “ruleth [preside over] well his own house, having his children in subjection [under control] with all gravity [dignity; respect]” (1 Timothy 3:4).   Why is it important for Christian leaders to evidence an ability to manage the children in their households? Paul’s answer: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5).

Pastor’s with children “in their households” is the topic of 1 Timothy 3:4; however, the principle found in 1 Timothy 3:5 serves as a warning to churches and Christian institutions:  Be wary of spiritual leaders who fail to rule their households for they will invariably fail to “take care of the church”.   Adult sons and daughters are no longer children under the management or rule of their parents, and as much as we are pained to accept it, they bear their choices and associated consequences.   As it was for David, so it is for all who are spiritually minded parents:

Will we be men and women of integrity if our adult children walk contrary to the Word of the LORD and spiritual principles?

For those in spiritual leadership, the cost of compromise extends far beyond our family relationships and affects our churches, schools and institutions.   I need not enumerate the tragedy that followed David’s failure to be a man of integrity and conviction.  His weak response to his son’s sins incited Absalom to lead a rebellion against David (2 Samuel 14:23-24, 33; 15:1-6), fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy and humiliating his father in front of the nation (2 Samuel 15:7-16:23). Twenty thousand men perished in battle before David took back his throne; however, even then David’s heart was such toward his son he commanded his men to, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom” (2 Samuel 18:5).

Such is the way of spiritual leaders when they promote paternal affections over eternal principles.  My generation, my peers who are pastors, administrators, and professors in Bible fundamental colleges and seminaries have, under duress, compromised immutable spiritual principles because our children and grandchildren have rejected the guiding principles of God’s Word.

Make no mistake, our compromises have become mortal wounds for our churches and institutions, and if pastors, churches, and the spiritual leaders and boards of our Bible colleges and seminaries do not soon repent, the demise of Bible fundamentalism is sure.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Got Wisdom?

got-wisdomFriday, January 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Job 7-8

Poor Job continues his soliloquy in chapter 7 expressing his despondency over all he had suffered and lost. So low is his spirit, he despairs of life and reasons that only death might give him relief from his sorrows.

Contrasting his life to others, Job reasoned laborers look forward to their wages at the end of a day (7:1-2), but for him there was no end to his sorrows apart from death (7:3-5).  Reflecting on the brevity of life, Job grieved his days, though brief, were filled with sorrow (7:6-10). Acknowledging the omniscience of God (7:12-19), Job confessed God watched over him (7:12) and his dreams in the night ever reminded him God’s eye was upon him (7:13-14).

jobs-despairAssuming all he had suffered was a consequence of sin (7:20), Job 7 closes with the man seeking forgiveness before death should claim his life (7:21).

Job 8 opens with the rebuke of another of Job’s friends, Bildad the Shuhite (8:1). Believing the sorrows that had come upon Job and his family were a result of sin, Bildad challenged Job’s defense of his innocence (8:2-4) reasoning God is just and advising Job if he was “pure and upright” God would quickly deliver him out of trouble and bless him (8:5-7).

Reflecting on the testimonies of generations that had gone before (8:8-10), Bildad encouraged Job to ponder the justice and judgments of God upon the wicked.

What about you and me? From whence do we acquire godly wisdom and discernment? Certainly our elders have wisdom obtained in life that is worth hearing and weighing, but do we not have a richer, more certain fount of wisdom and understanding?

Indeed! We have an opportunity of wisdom and discernment Job did not have…God’s Word, Law, Commandments and Precepts!psalm-119-100

Psalm 119:97-100 – “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
98  Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
99  I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
100  I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Psalm 31:1-3 – A Shelter in the Time of Storm

trustWhere do you turn when everything seems against you?   Where do you flee for comfort and hope when circumstances are wretched (Psalm 31:1, 6, 14, 19)?   How do you respond when enemies attack your character and friends betray you (31:8, 13, 15, 18, 20)?  David in Psalm 31 models the righteous answer to those questions.  Today’s devotional will focus on the opening verses of Psalm 31.

Psalm 31:1-3 – “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.
2  Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.
3  For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.”

in the midst of a crisis, too many of us seek out the counsel of peers who reflect our struggles and sinful attitudes instead of turning to the LORD.   Posts on Facebook become a platform for venting and seeking sympathy.  Secular counselors lack spiritual discernment and weigh in with their human analysis, contributing to the temptation to blame shift and magnify our “right” to be angry and bitter.

David’s example in Psalm 31:1-3 challenges us to turn to the LORD and trust Him when we are assailed by trials and troubles!   In verse 1 we find the basis of David’s prayer was his faith, confidence and security in the LORD.

prayerPsalm 31:1 – “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust [confidence]; let me never [lit. never ever] be ashamed [confounded;confused; shamed]: deliver [escape; carry away] me in thy righteousness [justice; virtue].”

We find five requests in David’s prayer (31:1b-3).  David’s first request was, “let me never be ashamed”; literally, let me never ever be confounded or have cause for shame.  David then prayed for the LORD to “deliver me in thy righteousness” (31:1).   David did not reason that he merited the LORD coming to his defense; instead, he appealed to the LORD on the basis of the LORD’s “righteousness”—knowing the LORD is holy, just, gracious and merciful.

Psalm 31:2 – “Bow down [incline; stretch out; turn] thine ear to me; deliver [recover; rescue; save] me speedily [quickly; with haste]: be thou my strong [fortress; defence] rock [refuge; boulder], for an house [home; household] of defence [fortress; castle] to save [deliver; rescue] me.”

David’s third request was for the Lord to hear his prayer (“Bow down thine ear to me” – 31:2a), literally, to listen to every word.  God hears the prayers of His people without regard to their station in life, the offices they hold or their financial status.

Fourthly, David prayed for the LORD to save him, “deliver me speedily” (31:2b).  I sympathize with the king’s request for the LORD to not only hear his prayer, but also hasten to save him!  Let’s be honest; it often seems the LORD’s answer to our prayers is to wait.  The LORD does answer the prayers of His people; however, He does so in His time and in His will.  The LORD’s answer to prayer is never too late! resurrection

Consider the story in John 11 when Jesus received word that Lazarus; the brother of Martha and Mary, was deathly ill (John 11:1-6).   Martha and Mary expected the Lord would come quickly to heal their brother; however, the opposite was true.  We read, Jesus “abode two days still in the same place where he was” (John 11:6).  After two days, Jesus announced He would go to his friends who lived in Bethany; sending a panic among the disciples who warned His enemies in Jerusalem plotted to kill Him (John 11:7-8).  Knowing Lazarus was dead (John 11:14), Jesus arrived in Bethany and was confronted by those who mourned Lazarus’ death and his sister said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21).  You see, the Lord had not answered Martha’s prayers when she deemed it was necessary; instead, we find Jesus had a greater purpose in tarrying: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4).

David’s fifth request was embodied in his entreaty that the LORD would “be thou my strong [fortress; defence] rock [refuge; boulder], for an house [home; household] of defence [fortress; castle] to save [deliver; rescue] me.”

rockPsalm 31:3 – “For thou art my rock [strong hold; fortress] and my fortress [castle]; therefore for thy name’s [honor; fame; reputation] sake lead [guide; bring] me, and guide [lead; conduct] me.”

With confidence and conviction, David’s states that the LORD was his ROCK, his stronghold and FORTRESS.  David pled to be saved, not to salvage his name or reputation, but for the LORD’s name.

Notice David’s urgent request for the LORD’s direction (31:3).  Lead me, like a soldier goes into battle against an enemy, placing his confidence in his commander, David prays, LORD, lead me and I will follow; guide me, without your physical presence, give me your Word as my guide.

Dear friend, I don’t know what storms, trials or enemies you are facing, but I urge you to turn to the LORD and trust Him.  He hears your prayers, and when it is time, He will answer your cry.  Make the LORD your Rock, Fortress and His Word the guiding light of your life.

Psalm 119:81, 105 – “My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word… 105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith