Category Archives: Sickness

We Will Obey God! (Acts 4)

Scripture reading – Acts 4

Our chronological study of the Scriptures is taking us through the first days and months of the early church following Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1). Christ’s final words to His apostles (literally, His messengers) comprised a promise, command, and the scope of their mission: “But ye shall receive power [might; strength], after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses [more than messengers; literally, martyrs] unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). With that command, known by believers as “The Great Commission,” Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9)

It was on the Day of Pentecost, 50 days following the Passover, when the promise of the Holy Ghost’s coming was fulfilled (Acts 2). The filling of the Holy Ghost empowered the men from Galilee to “speak with other tongues [languages], as the Spirit gave them utterance” (2:4). Simon Peter had denied Jesus three times, but after witnessing the bodily resurrection of Christ, He was so transformed He would not be silent (2:14-21). He called upon the Jews to, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (2:37-38).

In Acts 3, we find Peter and John making their way to the Temple as was their custom (3:1). Sitting in the gate of the Temple, they found a “man lame from his mother’s womb” (3:2-5). With the command, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk,” the man leaped to his feet and entered the Temple “walking, leaping, and praising God” (3:8). The miraculous healing of the man whom everyone knew as a cripple, gave Peter an opportunity to confront those who were guilty of denying Christ, and demanding He be put to death (3:12-15). While none denied their guilt, Peter revealed Christ’s suffering and death were necessary that the prophecies be fulfilled (3:17-22).

Acts 4

The miraculous healing of the lame man (Acts 3), became the catalyst for stirring opposition to the apostles preaching the Gospel (Acts 3:2; 4:22). As Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were suddenly confronted by “the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees” (4:1).  Those men, all adversaries of Jesus and guilty of His blood, were stirred to indignation, knowing Peter and John “preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (4:2). (Remember, the Sadducees taught there was no resurrection.)

Because it was late in the day, the religious leaders decided to arrest Peter and John, and hold them in prison for the night as they debated what they would do with them (4:3). In spite of the abuse, and opposition to the Gospel, we read “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 Interrogation (Acts 4:7-16)

The next day, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin to be tried by the same men who not long before presided over Christ’s trial, and demanded His crucifixion (4:5-7). The apostles were asked, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” (4:7). Rather than fear and cower before Christ’s enemies, Peter and John were bold, and being “filled with the Holy Ghost” (4:8), declared their authority and power to heal the “impotent man” was done “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole” (4:10).

What a powerful moment in the Scriptures! Peter not only declared the power and authority Jesus promised they would be given, he dared to confront the wickedness and sin of those who crucified Him (4:10). Peter’s faith evoked boldness and courage (4:9-11). He did not shy from identifying Christ as the source of his power to heal the lame man. He leveled against his enemies the weight of their guilt in crucifying “Jesus Christ of Nazareth… whom God raised from the dead” (4:10).

Then Peter, revealing an aptitude for the Scriptures exceeding a mere fisherman of Galilee, quoted a messianic prophecy from the Psalms: “22The stone which the builders refused Is become the head stone of the corner” (Psalm 118:22). With fortitude, Peter declared, Jesus “is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner” (4:11). Leaving no doubt forgiveness of sin is in Christ alone, 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” (men who lacked rabbinical schooling, 4:13), would have insight and discernment into the Scriptures. 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 miraculous healing of the man who had been lame since his birth (4:16), the Sanhedrin were pressed to agree on a solution to address Peter and John, and the spread of the Gospel (4:17). They finally determined to threaten them, and “commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (4:18).

A Righteous Response to An Enemy 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).

Closing thoughts (4:21-32) – God is the Judge of right and wrong, and His authority exceeds all human authority. Because Christ had commissioned, and empowered Peter and John to preach (1:8), they would not, and could not be silent. Rather than silencing them, Peter and John’s faith propelled many 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,” other believers “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (4:23-24). They prayed, acknowledging the LORD as Creator and Sovereign. They trusted Him, and prayed, “do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (4:28).

Acknowledging the threats of their enemies, they prayed God would give them boldness to speak (4:29). As they prayed, the LORD confirmed His blessing, shaking the foundations of the place, and filling them with the Holy Ghost so that “they spake the word of God with boldness” (4:31).

Let us be so filled, and given over to the Holy Ghost, that we will speak with boldness even when men might seek to silence us.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Turn Your Sickness or Trial Into a Backdrop for God to Display His Glory (Acts 3)

Scripture reading – Acts 2; Acts 3

Attitudes toward the physically handicapped have evolved over the years, as has our vocabulary to define them.  The words crippled, lame and physically challenged evoke mental pictures of men and women who overcome extraordinary obstacles to live productive lives.  Fortunately, 21st century society has accommodated the infirmed and given them opportunities of independence never dreamed of only a century ago.

Accommodating favor has not been the case throughout history. From first century culture and throughout successive generations, those with maladies and deformities were looked upon negatively by every generation. In the first century a physical handicap was often seen as a judgment from God, and the Greeks considered the sick inferior. So when we come to the passage in John 9:1-3, we see the disciples questioning Jesus regarding a man “blind from his birth.” They asked Jesus, “who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1-3).

The subject of our reading in Acts 3 had no doubt experienced the self-righteous judgment of many who passed through the gates of the Temple.  Some pitied him, but many gave little notice and considered him scarcely more than a daily nuisance when they made their way to the Temple for worship and prayer.

Consider what we know about the man whose miraculous healing caused a great stir among the Jews and their religious leaders.

He was forty years old and “lame from his mother’s womb” (Acts 3:2; 4:23).  He had never known the joy of walking, running or playing with his peers.  He was a burden to his family, who carried him to the gate of the Temple where he begged for coins to feed himself and his family (Acts 3:2).  He was well known in Jerusalem. Begging daily at the gate of the Temple (Acts 3:9-10), he was an object of charity for some and scorn for others who wondered out loud if his malady was not caused by sin.

There is much we might consider in this man’s healing and the events that followed it; however, let us ponder one question and some principles we can derive from it.:

Why was he born a cripple and what good did his life serve?

God allows afflictions in our lives as opportunities for His power and glory to be displayed.  Job said of his afflictions, “[the LORD] knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).  For some, the will and glory of God are accomplished through healing; for others, sickness, suffering and even death.

The miraculous healing of the man who was a paralytic from birth gave undeniable proof of God’s power and anointing on Peter and John’s lives and ministry (Acts 3:6-7; 4:14-16). Seeing a man whose paralysis had made him an object of pity or scorn for forty years suddenly walking, leaping and praising God filled the people “with wonder and amazement” (Acts 3:10).   They were dumbfounded, stupefied, astonished and “all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.” (3:11).

Closing thoughts (3:11-19) – First, consider the powerful testimony of loving compassion.  Peter and John lacked “silver and gold;” however, they gave what they could and declared, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (3:6).

Notice also the powerful testimony of sincere gratitude: “And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John…” (3:11).  The man who was healed “held” to Peter and John…meaning he clung to them, held fast with all his might.  They might have slipped away unnoticed, however, the man would not release them from his grip!

The backdrop of loving compassion and sincere gratitude opened an opportunity for Peter and John to deflect attention from themselves, and put the focus of the miracle where it belonged…Jesus Christ. We read, “[Peter]answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? 13The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go” (3:12-13).

Peter used the opportunity to glorify God and declare Jesus Christ holy, just, crucified and raised from the dead (3:13-15).  Enumerating their sins, Peter declared the Jews guilty, and called them to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ (3:13, 19).

Challenge – When you are tempted to complain about some infirmities, sickness, or sorrows, take time to pray, and ponder how God might use them as a testimony of His grace and for His glory.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Dead Man Walking (John 11)

Scripture reading – John 11; Luke 18

The Resurrection: Dead Men Will Walk Again! (11:1-45)

Bethany, the hometown of three siblings, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, is the setting of our devotional study in John 11. Verse 2 reminds us this was the same Mary who anointed Jesus “with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair (11:2). The scene is one of a crisis and desperation, for “Lazarus was sick” (11:2). His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent for Jesus, and said “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (11:3).

Surely, Mary and Martha believed Jesus would come quickly to their home in Bethany, and heal Lazarus whom they believed was terminally ill. Nevertheless, Jesus expressed with certainty: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (11:4b). Though He tarried, John 11:5 assures us, Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Still, Jesus’ love did not spare Lazarus of his illness, nor move Him to leave with haste to where Lazarus resided. Two days passed, when Jesus suddenly announced to His disciples, “Let us go into Judaea” (11:6).

The mention of going to Judaea raised alarm with the disciples. Knowing the village of Bethany was to the east of Jerusalem, the disciples desired to dissuade Jesus from going (11:8). They reminded the LORD His enemies had threatened to stone Him (John 10:31; 11:8). Then, Jesus announced plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (11:14).

After a day’s journey, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the outskirts of Bethany, about “fifteen furlongs off” (i.e., 2 miles out, 11:18). They were met by some who informed Him Lazarus was dead, and had been “lain in the grave four days already” (11:17). When Martha heard Jesus was close by, she came to Him and complained, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:21). Nonetheless, Martha expressed her faith that, with God’s power, Jesus could perform a miracle. Jesus answered her faith, “Thy brother shall rise again” (11:23).

Martha stated her faith in the “resurrection at the last day” (11:24); however, Jesus encouraged her weak faith saying, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (11:25-26)

Confessing faith that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of God” (11:27), Martha rushed back to the house, and finding Mary, whispered, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee” (11:28). Mary instantly rushed out of the house, and came to Jesus overcome with sorrow, and through tears said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:32). Moved by her tears and sorrow, Jesus asked, “Where have ye laid him?” (11:34). The Scriptures, wonderfully and tenderly recorded the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (11:35).

Martha protested when Jesus commanded the removal of the stone that sealed the cave where Lazarus was buried (11:39), saying, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (11:39). Jesus lovingly rebuked Martha when He asked, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (11:40).

Then, lifting His eyes up to heaven, Jesus prayed, and with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth” (11:43). Miraculously, Lazarus came from the tomb, his hands and feet bound “with graveclothes: and his face…bound with a napkin” (11:44a). Jesus then said to the people, “Loose him, and let him go” (11:44b).

An Intolerable Crisis (11:45-57)

Looking back, the apostle John realized Jesus raising Lazarus after he had been dead four days was the zenith of Jesus’ miracles. Two responses to Lazarus being raised from the dead are noted (11:45-46). The miracle gave cause for many Jews to believe Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (11:45).  For His enemies, however, the miracle was intolerable and they determined Jesus must be die, or else their power and position among the people would be lost (11:46-53).

Jesus withdrew from Jerusalem, for He knew the hearts of His enemies were against Him (11:54). Only when it was time to present Himself as the Passover Lamb did He return to Jerusalem, and present Himself as the Christ, the Son of David, and heir to the throne of Israel (11:54-57).

Closing thoughts – God has appointed a day when Christ will return, and on that day: “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout…and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Are You Ready for His Coming?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Guidelines for Living, and an Attitude of Gratitude (Luke 17)

Scripture reading – Luke 17

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures continues with today’s devotional in Luke 17. We will consider two spiritual truths in our study.

Four Spiritual Principles (guidelines) For Life in a Sin Cursed World (17:1-10)

As we draw nearer the Cross, we find Jesus’ teaching moving from employing parables, to teaching His disciples specific spiritual principles. Consider four guidelines, or cautions the LORD taught His disciples regarding their lives, relationships, and sojourn in the world.

The first: “It were better for him [a man or woman] that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (17:2). Understanding offenses are inevitable in a sin cursed society, Jesus warned: Offend, discourage, or lead astray a younger or weaker believer, and you will invoke God’s wrath (17:1-2).

A second principle was a command to address offences when they arise: “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him” (17:3). Some offenses are so grave we dare not overlook them, otherwise, we give place to bitterness. What should we do when we are offended by the words and sinful actions of another believer? We are to go with a spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1), “rebuke him” (meaning to address the sin, 17:3), and be ready to forgive (17:4).

The essential of faith, was the third spiritual guideline, and it was summed up in this: “Faith as [i.e. little or small as] a grain of mustard seed,” is powerful (17:5-6). The final guideline was in the matter of obeying God: As a servant is duty bound to serve his master (17:7-9), so is a believer to serve the LORD (17:10). A believer has no cause or grounds for pride or boasting. When we have served the LORD faithfully, let it be said, “we have done that which was our duty to do” (17:10).

Gratitude: A Blessed Attitude (Luke 17:11-19)

Luke 17:11 reminds us Jesus was on His way, His final journey, to Jerusalem. Knowing the shadow of the Cross was growing nearer, Jesus passed “through the midst of Samaria and Galilee” (17:11). As He traveled with His disciples, He encountered ten lepers who appealed to Him from afar crying, “Master, have mercy on us” (17:12-13).

Jesus commanded the lepers, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests” (as was required by the law), and “as they went, they were cleansed” (17:14). Though ten men had been healed of that horrific, disfiguring disease, only one “turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (17:15-16).

Notice the phrase, “he was a Samaritan” (17:16).

“Misery loves company,” is a trite saying that might aptly describe the unity of the ten lepers. They had all experienced the shame and sorrow of outcasts, but when they were miraculously healed, only one, a Samaritan expressed sincere gratitude. As a Samaritan, he had known a life of rejection in Israel. He had borne not only the scars of leprosy, but the scorn of Jews who looked upon his lineage with disdain. Yet, he alone was thankful, and demonstrated the humility of one profoundly aware that he was the object of God’s grace. He turned back to the LORD, “and with a loud voice glorified God” (17:15).

Jesus asked, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” (17:17); “18There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger” (17:18).

Why a “stranger?” He was a Samaritan. Unlike the nine ungrateful men who were apparently Jews by lineage, he was born a “stranger” from God’s covenant promises with Israel. He felt his unworthiness, and was sensitive to his need. Though a “stranger,” he had been transformed, not merely physically, but spiritually.

Jesus commanded the Samaritan, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (17:19). He was whole! Not only delivered from leprosy, but delivered from the curse of sin, by his faith in Christ!

Closing thought – Are you whole? Not merely physically, but spiritually whole. You can be whole, by turning from sin, putting your faith and trust in Christ, and receiving Him as your Savior.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Sir, I Have No Man” (Mark 2, John 5)

Scripture reading – Mark 2, John 5

Today’s Scripture reading is Mark 2 and John 5. The focus of the devotional will be John 5:1-16.

John 5

We find Jesus and His disciples returning to Jerusalem for the Passover, as was their custom (5:1). Making His way to the Temple, the LORD passed through the sheep gate (notice the word “market” is in italics and was added by translators). The setting of the Scripture was a pool of water (5:2), located near the “sheep gate” (the same through which sheep were led into the city and to the Temple Mount to be sacrificed). The pool was called, “Bethesda,” meaning “House of Mercy” (5:2), and was shaded by five porches. As He passed the pool, Jesus gazed upon a “a great multitude of impotent folk [sick; feeble], of blind, halt [lame], withered [shrunken limb]” (5:3).

Why was this crowd of suffering souls waiting at the pool of water called Bethesda?

John wrote, they were “waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had” (5:4).

In the midst of this great crowd of needy souls was a man afflicted with an ailment for 38 years (5:5). He was described as having an “infirmity,” and was suffering from a chronic, debilitating disease (some suggest a stroke). Remembering the LORD knows all men, and what lies within the hearts of men (2:24-25), He took pity on him and asked, Wilt thou be made whole [sound]?

The man answered the LORD, saying, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (5:7). Thirty-eight years he had been afflicted, and I presume his family, loved ones, and friends had no hope of his recovery. There was none who waited to assist him to the healing waters when they were stirred. Those who shared similar afflictions showed him no mercy, and would not defer their distress, to prefer the man who had suffered so long.

I invite you to consider three divine attributes Jesus displayed on that Sabbath day. The first, His Omniscience: He “saw” the man and knew not only how long he had been afflicted, but the reason for his suffering (the LORD later warned him, “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee,” 5:14).

Consider also the Grace of God Jesus demonstrated for the man. When the LORD asked, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (5:6c), the man answered with a despairing grievance, “I have no man” (5:7). Yet, the LORD had compassion for him, though there were many others who suffered. He was no more deserving than others, yet, it was grace, not merit that moved Jesus to heal him.

Jesus also displayed Omnipotence and divine authority over sickness and disease. When He commanded the man, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (5:8), “immediately [he] was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (5:9). Thirty-eight years he had suffered, and with the power of Jesus’ spoken Word, he was made whole.

Closing thoughts (5:9-16) – There is much more to this story, and events that occurred that Sabbath day (5:9). As the man who was healed passed through the Temple grounds, he was accosted by some Jews for carrying his bed on the Sabbath (the same bed on which he had lain for 38 years). Wonder how many times those men passed that poor man when he waited at the pool of Bethesda? Adding to their hypocrisy, rather than rejoice with the man’s healing, they set their hearts to persecute Jesus when they learned it was He who had healed the man. They “sought to slay Him,” because He healed him “on the Sabbath day” (5:16).

Lest we be hypocritical ourselves, consider how many hurting people we pass in a day. How many do we walk pass and show no pity or compassion for their sorrows? Are we sensitive to the troubles borne by others? Are there some who know us, and would say, “I have no man who cares for my soul?”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Jesus Knows the Hearts of Men (Luke 5, John 2)

Scripture reading – Luke 5, John 2

We continue our chronological study of the Gospels, and return to Luke’s account of Jesus calling His first disciples. You will notice how each of the Gospel writers add dimensions and color to the same events. Never in error, but each presenting the LORD’s ministry from his perspective as inspired and guided by the Holy Ghost (2 Timothy 3:16).

Luke 5

As Jesus walked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (referred to here by its Roman name, “Gennesaret,” 5:1), a great crowd followed Him and desired He would teach “the word of God” (5:1). Providentially, Jesus came upon two empty ships, for Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, James and his brother John “were gone out of them, and were washing their nets” (5:2). Jesus entered Simon Peter’s ship, “sat down, and taught the people out of the ship” (5:3b). When He finished teaching, He asked Peter to launch out and drop his nets into the deeper waters (5:3-4).

Peter resisted, and stated they had fished all night and had “taken nothing (5:5). Yet, he complied to Jesus’ request, and was rewarded with so many fish his net began to brake (5:6). Peter called his “partners,” James and John, who launched out to help, and both ships were so full “they began to sink” (5:7). Acknowledging he had witnessed a miracle, Peter fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (5:8). “And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” (5:10). We are reminded the call to be a follower of Christ should never be half-hearted. Simon Peter, Andrew (though not named), James and John had this testimony: “for when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him” (5:11).

Several miracles follow that confirmed Jesus was no mere prophet or teacher, for he healed “a man full of leprosy” (5:12-16), and raised up a paralytic that was confined to his bed (5:17-26). There was also the miracle conversion of Levi, a reviled publican, who left his lucrative post as a tax collector, and became Jesus’ disciple when he heard, “Follow me” (5:27-28). Like the fishermen, “he left all, rose up, and followed [Jesus]” (5:28). Levi’s life, whom we know as Matthew and the author of the Gospel of Matthew, was so transformed, he hosted a banquet at his house, and invited his peers, his fellow publicans, to meet Jesus (5:29).

Closing thoughts – The proud, self-righteous scribes and Pharisees were provoked that Jesus would “eat and drink with publicans and sinners” (5:30). He responded to their objections with three illustrations (5:31-39) that were summed up in this: You cannot apply patches of righteousness to an unrighteous person.  The unrighteous must become [new] righteous. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

John 2 – The First Miracle

The first verse of John 2 begins with a statement that connects us with events recorded in the preceding chapter. We read, “and the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there” (John 2:1). I believe it was the “third day” since Nathanael expressed his faith in Christ, saying, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (1:49).

Jesus arrived in Cana of Galilee and joined His mother, Mary. Together, they attended a wedding celebration (2:1), and one to which Jesus and His disciples were invited (2:2). The wedding feast would serve as the setting for Jesus’ first public miracle. There, He turned water into wine (2:1-11), and in doing so “manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (2:11). With that miracle, the faith of the disciples grew from Philip’s confession when he said Jesus was “the son of Joseph” (1:45), to those men believing He was the Messiah (2:11).

Jesus then went up to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed (2:13-23). As He entered the Temple, He was sickened at the sight of the corruption He found there. The Temple had become commercialized, men exploited (2:14) those who came to worship and give offerings.

With righteous indignation, Jesus fashioned a “scourge of small cords” (2:15a), and “drove them all out of the Temple, and the sheep ,and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables” (2:15b). The commotion was so great, that Temple officials demanded of Jesus, “What sign [i.e., sign of authority] shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (2:18) In other words, what right do you have to take upon yourself the purging of the Temple?

Jesus answered with a sign, but not one they understood until His death, burial, and resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). The Jews were incredulous that Jesus would claim he had the power to raise up the Temple in three days, citing the edifice had taken 46 years to build (2:20).

John interjected his own explanation, and confessed neither he or the disciples realized Jesus was speaking of His bodily resurrection, “the Temple of His body” (2:21-22).

Jesus began to perform miracles in Jerusalem and there were “many who believed in His name when they saw the miracles which He did” (2:23). He, however, “did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (2:24-25).

Closing thoughts – There were many who believed Jesus, for they observed His miracles; however, He knew their hearts, and He did not believe in them (2:24-25). The prophet Jeremiah professed, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The LORD declared to Jeremiah, “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10). The LORD admonished the prophet Samuel, “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Believer, God knows your heart better than you know yourself!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Beginning of Christ’s Galilean Ministry (Luke 4)

Scripture reading – Luke 4

We have considered the temptation of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 4:1-17), and find the same recorded by Luke in his Gospel (4:1-13). I will not take time for a thorough examination of the temptations, other than invite you to consider one difference. The second temptation in Luke’s gospel, in which the devil tempted Jesus to worship him and be ruler of the kingdoms of the world (4:5-8), was the third temptation recorded by Matthew (Matthew 4:9-12). That is not a discrepancy, but the order probably suggests where each author wanted to put an emphasis.

The Commencement of Jesus’ Public Ministry (4:13-15)

The temptation being ended, Matthew continued his narrative with Jesus leaving Nazareth for Capernaum (Matthew 4:13). Luke, however, filled in details of what transpired before and after Jesus was in Nazareth (4:14-32).

His temptation being ended, Jesus departed the wilderness and with “the power of the Spirit” upon Him, began to minister in Galilee (4:14). Before His arrival in Nazareth, Jesus’ fame had spread “through all the region round about” (4:14b). Jesus had begun teaching in synagogues in that region, and when He came to Nazareth the homecoming of their native son was much anticipated (4:15).

Nazareth: A Homecoming (4:16-31)

A Hometown Response (4:16-27)

On the Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue of Nazareth, the one He attended as a child. Faithful to worship in “the synagogue on the sabbath day,” as was His custom, Jesus was chosen to read the Scriptures (4:16b). Standing as a sign of respect for the Scriptures (4:17), Jesus read the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah (4:17-19; Isaiah 6:1-2), and then sat down (the traditional posture of a teacher, 4:20). With all eyes upon Him, Jesus “began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (4:21).

The people understood the passage Jesus read foretold the coming of the Messiah. Many in the audience had known Jesus as a child, and understood He lacked the formal training of a scribe, yet, He spoke with eloquence and understanding (4:22). They were astonished, and some asked, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” (4:22)

Though they were impressed with His words, the people expressed their disbelief, and demanded proof to support His claim to be the Messiah (4:22). They had heard of His miracles in other places, and desired to see those things He was said to have done in Capernaum (4:23). Jesus refused, and declared, “No prophet is accepted in his own country” (4:24).

Jesus then gave two historical illustrations to support his refusal, and reminded the people the unbelief of their ancestors had limited God’s work among His people (4:24-27). The first illustration was of a time of drought and famine in Israel. At that time, the prophet Elijah fled to the home of a widow of Sarepta (a Phoenician city). While Israel suffered hunger, the LORD supplied food for Elijah and the widow’s household (4:25-26; 1 Kings 17:8-24). A second illustration was when Elisha healed the leper Naaman, a Syrian, though there were many lepers in Israel (4:27; 2 Kings 5).

A Hometown Rejection (4:28-30)

Rather than rejoicing, Jesus’ neighbors “were filled with wrath” (4:28), and drove Him out of the village (4:29). Pushing him toward a cliff, they would have “cast Him down headlong” (4:29). By a miracle, Jesus passed through their midst” (4:30) and journeyed to Capernaum (4:31).

Christ’s Ministry in Capernaum (4:31-44)

Capernaum, located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, would be the base of Christ’s ministry in Galilee. The people of that village were amazed at His doctrine (teachings), and that Jesus taught with power and authority (4:32). In Capernaum, He performed many miracles, and healed many diseases (4:33-44). He demonstrated His authority over demons (4:33-37). When a man indwelt by a demon testified, “I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God” (4:34), Jesus rebuked the demon and commanded, “Hold thy peace, and come out of him” (4:25).

Jesus also healed Peter’s mother-in-law, who was ill (4:38-39). As news of His miracles spread, people from all over brought their sick, “and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them” (4:40).

Closing thoughts – What must it have been like to live in Capernaum? Jesus had power and authority to heal all sickness, and cast demons out of men (4:40-41). Yet, though He was incarnate Son of God, we are reminded He was a man, for He sought solitude for rest and prayer (4:42). The citizens of Capernaum would have Him continue in their midst, but Jesus was on a mission, and said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. 44And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee” (4:43-44).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Set Your House in Order, For You Will Die (Isaiah 38; Isaiah 39)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 38; Isaiah 39

The capital city of Jerusalem, had been gloriously delivered by the LORD from Sennacherib, the Assyrian king. Hezekiah was 39 years old at the time, and at the peak of his manhood. With the promise the nation would be delivered from the Assyrian menace, Hezekiah was confident he had many years to rule Judah and reign in Jerusalem. Yet, one visit from Isaiah, and the king’s world was suddenly turned upside down.

Isaiah 38

The Power of Prayer (38:1-3)

Isaiah 38 is a remarkable chapter, for God sent Isaiah to deliver a sobering message to the king, saying, “Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (38:1).

Such a message ought to be expected by all, for it is a reality that all sinners, great and small, will inevitably face death. The Scriptures warn, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27). Nevertheless, we cherish life as a precious gift, and younger men and women give little thought to the brevity of life.

How did Hezekiah respond to the news of his imminent death? He “turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord” (38:2). Hezekiah’s prayer is a model for all believers. He prayed earnestly, and reminded the LORD how he had been faithful. He gave testimony that he had walked in the sight of the LORD “in truth and with a perfect heart, and [had] done that which is good in [God’s] sight. And Hezekiah wept sore” (38:3).

God Answered Hezekiah’s Prayer (38:4-8)

The LORD sent Isaiah with a second message, and what a pleasant message it was! The prophet assured the king his prayers had been heard, and God would “add unto [his] days fifteen years.” Not only would he continue to live, but the king was promised the LORD would be the defender of Jerusalem and He would “deliver [the king] and this city [Jerusalem] out of the hand of the king of Assyria” (38:6).

Isaiah then prescribed a treatment for Hezekiah’s affliction (38:21), and the king requested a sign that he would be restored to health (38:22). So, God gave Hezekiah a miraculous sign leaving no doubt what the LORD promised would come to pass. What was the sign? That the shadow on the sun dial would turn back “ten degrees” (38:8; 2 Kings 20:8-11).

Hezekiah’s Psalm of Praise and Thanksgiving (38:9-22)

Hezekiah was overwhelmed with the good news, and when he was “recovered of his sickness” (38:9), he related in a song his emotions and sorrow when he first received the news he would soon die.

He had reasoned with the LORD, “I am deprived of the residue of my years” (38:10). He bemoaned he would not live to see “the LORD, in the land of the living,” and would be cut off from fellowshipping with his family and friends (38:11). He made observation how the life of a man is temporal, like taking down a tent. When a man’s life is finished, it is like the weaver removing the beam from a tapestry loom (38:12). The king confessed he was a man with a broken spirit, for he had borne the pain of his sickness night and day (38:13). His eyes hurt from weeping, and his spirit was oppressed (38:14).

The news he would be healed, and the promise the LORD had added 15 years to his life, had revived his spirit. The king declared he would make God’s mercies and healing known to all (38:15-16). His heart rejoiced, for his sins were forgiven, for the LORD had “cast all [his] sins behind [His] back” (38:17).

How would the king use the gracious gift of years he had been promised? He set his heart to praise the LORD, observing the grave and death “cannot celebrate” the LORD (38:18). He would live with the earnestness of a father teaching his children truth, for the LORD had saved him from death (38:19-20a). Restored to health, the king set his heart to go to the Temple and sing “songs to the stringed instruments” all the days of his life (38:20).

Isaiah 39 – Hezekiah’s Foolish Decision

Emissaries from Babylon came to Jerusalem under the guise they had brought good tidings from the king of Babylon on the news he had been healed (39:1). Hezekiah felt honored by the visit, and in his zeal to welcome his guests, he made a foolish decision. The king allowed those strangers to observe his wealth, and see the riches with which the LORD had blessed him and the nation (39:1-2).

Hearing of the strange visitors, Isaiah came to the king and questioned him: Why had the men come? From where had they come? “What have they seen in thine house?” (39:3-4)

Hezekiah confessed; he had showed the men of Babylon all he possessed. Isaiah then admonished the king, and declared that Hezekiah had made a foolish decision. The prophet foretold all the wealth he had displayed to the strangers would inevitably be taken to Babylon. Even the sons of his lineage would become servants “in the palace of the king of Babylon” (39:8). Hezekiah repented for his arrogance, and humbly accepted the consequences of his pride (39:8).

Closing thoughts: I have seen men who, after experiencing a degree of success in their endeavors, allowed their hearts to swell with pride. Those men set aside their dependence on the LORD, and sacrificed the humility that had been the incentive and catalyst for God’s blessings on their lives.

Life Lesson: Wise men deflect the best things men say about them, and don’t believe the worst, for somewhere in the midst is the truth about their character and person.

Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Now That I Have Your Attention: A Renewed Appeal From Outside the Bubble

* In 2017 I penned a series of articles on this website, and stated at that time my concerns for the failings of leaders who had taken the helm of what were once flagship ministries in Fundamentalism. Sadly, my concerns have proved somewhat prophetic, for the cancer of spiritual compromise has only intensified in the past 5 years. The following is that 2017 article, and I repeat it as a timely warning…if some within the bubble do not soon speak out, historic fundamentalism will be lost to this generation, and the LORD will turn to another people to bear His immutable Word. 

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 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 that has given rise to a tolerance of sin and pervasive carnality in our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.

Take a lesson from the life of King David.

I suggest the failures and shortcomings of historical flagship ministries in fundamentalism reveals 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 lived 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 family 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. If pastors, churches, and the boards of our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries do not soon repent, the demise of Bible fundamentalism is sure.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith
Edited and revised – Copyright © 2022 – Travis D Smith

The Final Clash: Elijah vs. Wicked King Ahaziah (2 Kings 1)

Scripture reading – Psalm 83, 2 Kings 1

This is the second of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading, and is focused upon 2 Kings 1.

2 Kings 1 – The Death of King Ahaziah

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Second Book of the Kings, a time when Israel is a divided nation. The ten tribes to the north, known as Israel, had been under the reign of a succession of wicked kings. With the death of Ahab, the son of Omri, the Moabites saw an occasion to rebel against Israel, and cast off the yoke of servitude they had borne since the days of David (1:1).

King Ahaziah’s Failing Health (1:1-2)

Ahaziah, the son of the wicked king Ahab and his wife Jezebel (who had sworn she would kill Elijah after he slew the prophets of Baal), had become king in Israel, but had fallen through a window of his palace in Samaria, the capital city of Israel (1:2). Stricken with failing health, Ahaziah wondered if he would recover from the fall, and sent messengers to consult with “Baalzebub the god of Ekron” (Ekron being a Philistine city, 1:2).

God’s Intervention Through His Prophet Elijah (1:3-8)

God sent an angel to Elijah, and directed the old prophet to intercept Ahaziah’s messengers, “and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron?” (1:3)

Ahaziah had offended the God of Israel, and Elijah was tasked with rebuking the king, and foretelling he would never “come down from that bed on which [he had] gone up, but [would] surely die” (1:4). Elijah obeyed, and the king’s envoy returned to the king with the prophet’s message (1:5). Because he had returned too soon, the king questioned the messenger, “Why are ye now turned back?” (1:5).

The messenger then conveyed to Ahaziah the fateful message of the his impending death, The king inquired saying, “What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?” (1:7) Though the messenger did not know the man, the physical description was known to Ahaziah who said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite” (1:8).

The King’s Summons to Elijah (1:9-15)

Three times Ahaziah sent a “captain of fifty” men to Elijah, and demanded the prophet come to him (1:9-14). The first summons was direct, “Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down” (1:9). Elijah answered, saying, “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty” (1:11).

A second captain of fifty came to Elijah, and addressed the prophet saying, “O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly” (1:11) [come down now; come down without delay]. Elijah answered the second summons as he had the first, and fire came down from heaven.

Ahaziah summoned the prophet a third time, sending a “captain of fifty,” but he entreated the prophet with humility and begged, “O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight” (1:13). This time the “angel of the LORD,” assured Elijah, “Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king” (1:15).

Elijah Proved the God of Israel was God Alone (1:17-18)

Elijah obeyed, and with the boldness of a man whose life had been dedicated to serve the LORD, he confronted Ahaziah’s decision to consult with “Baal-zebub the god of Ekron,” and his rejection and betrayal of the LORD. Elijah declared, “thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die” (1:16), and “he died according to the word of the Lord” (1:17).

Our study of 2 Kings 1 concludes with Jehoram, the brother of Ahab ascending to the throne of Israel, meaning the end of the lineage of Ahab, who had no son. In that same year, another Jehoram, who was the son of Jehoshaphat, reigned in Judah (1:17).

Closing thoughts – In a day when the world, and religious leaders call for tolerance, and compromise, believers would be wise to remember the passion and conviction of Elijah! Here we find the character of the man who walks with God, and whom the LORD will in our next study, be taken up “by a whirlwind into heaven” (2:11).

Preachers of Truth will not tolerate error, nor will believers sacrifice spiritual principles for peace. How did Elijah come to be that man? He was a man of prayer, and a man who faithfully walked with God (James 5:17).

Is the same true of you?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith