Category Archives: Sin

“The Gospel: God’s Grace Through Christ” (Galatians 1)

Scripture reading – Galatians 1

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to Paul’s Epistle to believers living in Galatia (modern Turkey). Ancient Galatia was due north of the isle of Cyprus, and was a thriving Roman province in the 1stcentury. The Greeks referred to the people of that region as “Gauls,” a name derived from the Latin word, “Gallia.” They were believed to have been Celtic, a Germanic tribe of western Europe. Major cities of the southern region of Galatia included Antioch of Pisidian, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.

Paul’s Defense of His Apostleship

Judging by the subject matter of the Epistle to the Galatians, we find false teachers had infiltrated the churches. Those heretics called into question Paul’s credibility and authority as an apostle, and were undermining the doctrine of grace that is central to the Gospel. Paul had two objectives in writing the epistle: The first, a defense of his apostleship. The second, a defense and declaration of the Gospel of Grace through Jesus Christ.

Paul commenced the letter introducing himself as its author, and boldly declaring his apostleship was “not of men, neither by man” (1:1b). In other words, he did not look to a council of men for his office. Paul proclaimed his apostleship was from God, and wrote: “Paul, an apostle…by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised [having raised] him [Jesus Christ] from the dead” (1:1c).

Four Qualifications of an Apostle (1:1-2)

The Scriptures reveal a man had to meet four qualifications to be an apostle. The first, he had to have seen the LORD after His resurrection (Acts 1:22; 9:3-5; 22:6-8; 1 Cor. 9:1). Secondly, he had to receive His calling from Christ Himself (Luke 6:13; Acts 9:6; 22:10; Galatians 1:1). The third qualification was that his teaching had to be divinely inspired (John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 9:15; 22:14; 1 Thess. 2:13). Finally, he must evidence the power to perform miracles as a sign of his apostleship (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; 14:8-10; 16:18; 10:10-12; 1 Cor. 12:8-11).

Paul met the four requisites of a man divinely appointed as an apostle. Not only had he been commissioned “by Jesus Christ” (1:1b), he was called by “God the Father, who raised Him [Jesus Christ] from the dead” (1:1c). He had the witness of “all the brethren” (1:2), which were traveling with him. Though not named, it is certain the believers in Galatia were aware of those men who labored with Paul.

The Recipients of the Epistle (1:2b)

In the custom of formal letters of his day, Paul introduced himself as the author, and addressed the intended recipients of the letter: “unto the churches [assemblies or congregations] of Galatia” (1:2b). The letter served as a general message to the believers of “the churches of Galatia,” and would have been read publicly, and shared with each of the assemblies of believers.

The Historical Context (1:6-9)

Having formally greeted the Galatian believers, Paul moved to address the provocation of the letter, stating: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (1:6). Like a loving shepherd, Paul was concerned some believers had been so easily led astray. Not only had some lost confidence in his authority as an apostle, but there were some who even defected from the faith and followed “another gospel” (1:6b). Yet, it was not another gospel, but a contradiction of the gospel of grace Paul had preached (1:7a).

Who were those false teachers? They were known as Judaizers, men of Jewish descent who troubled the congregations, and perverted the “gospel of Christ” (1:7b). They were men who taught, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, 5). Paul was not opposed to believers following the Law and Commandments (Acts 15:20-21, 29); however, he was passionately opposed to teachers who contradicted the “gospel of grace.” Paul declared, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (1:9).

Paul’s Spiritual Authority and Biography (1:10-24)

We have followed Paul’s life through the Acts of the Apostles: From his zeal as the persecutor of the church (Acts 8:1-4; 9:1-2), to his dramatic encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus and his salvation (Acts 9:3-22). Galatians 1:11-17 fills in the blanks in Paul’s personal testimony, and gives us how he was taught, not by man, but by the Lord Jesus in the desert of Arabia for three years (1:17-18a). He writes he “went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” (1:18-19).

Closing thoughts (1:20-24) – Rather than look to man for his authority, Paul looked to the LORD and the authority of His Word. The first chapter of our study concludes with Paul’s transition from the persecutor of the Church, to becoming its greatest preacher (1:21-24). Though he was known best among the believers in Asia Minor, his reputation as a preacher of the faith proceeded him to “the churches of Judaea” which he once persecuted.

Paul’s life and testimony should inspire believers of which, Paul writes, “glorified [magnified] God in me” (1:24).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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 Key to Overcoming Trials and Troubles (James 4; James 5)

Scripture reading – James 4; James 5

Continuing our study of trials, troubles, and temptations, we consider today’s Scripture reading, James 4 and 5. This devotional is taken from James 4.

James 4 opens with a provoking question: “From whence [where] come wars [battles; conflicts] and fightings[disputes; quarrels] among you?” (4:1) Sadly, that question was not addressed to the unsaved, but to those who professed to be believers and were members of the church. Twenty-one centuries later, churches find themselves asking the same question, as some are embroiled in conflicts and disagreements.

Why do conflicts arise in a body of believers, when they are commanded to love one another? (4:2-3)

We noticed in James 3, how the tongue is a primary candidate for inciting trouble in friendships, marriages, families, and churches (3:2a, 6, 8). An unbridled, undisciplined tongue will exasperate, infuriate, and bring envy and strife. Unfortunately, the “tongue” is no longer confined to whispers and gossip. The 21st century has given the tongue new means of expressing itself, sowing discord, and provoking conflict through texting, emails, blogs, and social media posts (4:1).

It comes as no surprise that the “wars and fightings” of the 21st century have their origin in the same source as the 1st century. James writes, “Come they [“wars and fightings”] not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (4:1b) The author cited unfulfilled, selfish desires as a root of frustration. James wrote, “2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain… ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (4:2-3).

Why are so many church members frustrated and unhappy? (4:4-6)

Although the culture of the 1st century was very different from our day with its technology, conveniences, and amusements; nevertheless, the issue was the same: spiritual infidelity (adultery) and worldliness, which produces unhappiness (4:4-6). James warned, embrace the world and its sinful lusts (1 John 2:15-17), and you will find yourself “the enemy of God” (4:4). Walk humbly, and the Lord promises grace, but be forewarned: He “resisteth the proud” (4:6; Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5).

Ten Commands to Overcome Temptation (4:7-10)

James presented us with the problem (man’s sinful pride), but he did not leave us hopeless. Understanding trials and temptations are ever present, James stated ten commands that encourage a righteous response to trials and troubles (James 4:7-10).

1) “Submit…to God, by accepting His sovereign authority in your life (4:7a).
2) “Resist the devil” by opposing him, “and he will flee” (4:7b).
3) Maintain an intimate fellowship with the LORD: “draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (4:8a).
4) “Cleanse your hands,” submitting to His conviction (4:8b).
5) Have spiritual integrity, “and purify your heart,” knowing a “double minded” man is unacceptable to God (4:8c).
6) “Be afflicted” and broken over your sin (4:9a).
7) “Mourn,” expressing a genuine sorrow for sin (4:9b).
8) “Weep” tears, and express outward sorrow (4:9c).
9) Set aside silliness, and “let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (4:9c).
10) “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (4:10).

Closing thoughts (4:11-17)

Believer, you are not exempt or insulated from trials; however, you have something the world does not—the Lord. He longs for you to submit to His will, obey His Word, and cling to Him. Remember, unhappiness and conflicts arise when we become proud and self-sufficient (4:11-12). Remember: Your life is “even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (4:14). Be wise, acknowledge the sovereignty of God, and say, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (4:15).

Proverbs 3:55Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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 Tongue and Its Nature (James 3)

Scripture reading – James 3

Our study of the Epistle of James continues with chapter 3, and the focus is three major themes of the book: Trials, Temptations, and the Tongue. Wonderfully practical and convicting, the overriding subject is the tongue and the trouble it is for all mankind.

A Warning to Teachers (3:1)

James 3 opens with a warning to all who aspire to be teachers: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (3:1). The word “master” is in essence the teacher (an experienced professor may be called a “master teacher”). James included himself in the admonition, saying, we [teachers]shall receive the greater condemnation” (3:1b). Because the tongue is the tool of all who teach, James warned: We will face God’s greater judgment.

The Tongue: Its Characteristics and Dangers (3:2-12)

The author identified man’s tongue as an instrument for both good and evil. The tongue has the power to bless or curse, to affirm or offend, and to cause some to err. In fact, the tongue is so powerful and influential, only a “perfect man” (one mature and spiritually disciplined) has the power to restrain and bridle his tongue (3:2).

Though small, the tongue boasts much and has power and influence. Consider two analogies James drew upon to illustrate the influence of the tongue. The first compares the tongue to a small bit in the mouth of a horse. Small in size, the horse’s bit has the power to harness the strength and direct the will of the horse to submit to the authority of its rider (3:3). The same is true of the rudder of a ship (3:4). Though a small mechanism in proportion to the ship, the rudder can guide a massive vessel through “fierce winds” and troubled seas.

The application: What the bit is in the horse’s mouth, and the rudder is to a ship, so is the tongue to mankind. Though small, the tongue can boast, and destroy lives, marriages, families, and institutions (3:5). “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity [evil]: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth [inflames] the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (3:6). Like a spark can turn into a raging forest fire, so the tongue unchecked can destroy everyone and everything.

The tongue of man is also restless, and untamed (3:7-8). Men have been able to capture and tame different “beasts…birds…serpents, and of things in the sea,” but man has never been able to tame his tongue (3:7-8a). Why? For the tongue is by nature, “an unruly evil” and full of venomous poison (3:8b). Treacherous and hypocritical by nature, men pretend to bless God, and curse men; yet, man is made in the likeness and “after the similitude of God” (3:9b). James then declared, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (3:10).

Three Things that Cannot Be (3:10-12)

To illustrate the intolerable nature of a tongue that pretends to worship God, and curse men, James proved his point with three things that are unnatural. The first, it is unnatural for a water fountain to spew both sweet and bitter water. It is impossible for a fig tree to bear olives, or a vine to bear figs (3:12a). Finally, it is impossible for a fountain to “produce salt water and fresh” (3:12b).

A Contrast Between Earthly and Heavenly Wisdom (3:13-16)

This passage began with an admonition to teachers (3:1), and I suppose the “wise man” in the passage is the teacher. Consider then, teachers with heavenly wisdom will epitomize three qualities: Their conversation [not just their words, but their ways] should uphold the highest, moral good, and their works should reflect meekness, and wisdom (3:13b).

Worldly wisdom is the antithesis of heavenly wisdom—it is neither good, nor wise. The wisdom of the world spues bitterness, and envy (3:14a). The wisdom of man is selfish, ambitious, proud, and deceitful (3:14b). Such wisdom is born in the bowels of the hearts of evil men, and is worldly and demonic. The Spirit of God does not abide envy and strife (3:15). Warning: Reject implementing the Word of God and confusion and evil will prevail (3:16).

Closing thoughts (3:17-18) – True wisdom has it source in God, and its character reflects His nature. True wisdom is morally pure, peaceable (pursues peace with others), gentle (kind, patient), reasonable (“easy to be intreated”), merciful (compassionate, caring), bears “good fruits” (caring, loving actions), is impartial and just(“without partiality”), and honest and sincere (“without hypocrisy)” (3:17).

What is the effect of godly wisdom? Righteousness [obeying God’s law and commandments] that results in peace with God and others (3:18).

Are you wise or foolish? Which wisdom is characteristic of your heart and life?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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.

Persevering in Trials, and Overcoming Temptations (James 1; James 2)

Scripture reading – James 1; James 2

Our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures continues with a brief departure from our readings in the Acts of the Apostles, and picks up in the book of James. Completing our prior study of Acts 14, we found Paul and Barnabas returning from their first missionary journey to towns and cities in Asia Minor (an area we know today as modern Turkey). Jews and Gentiles were professing faith in Christ, being baptized, and added to the church daily. That diversity, Jew and Gentile (many of them of Greek and Roman backgrounds), introduced differences that arose between the circumcised Jews and the uncircumcised Gentiles. (That will be a topic of study in Acts 15, when Paul and Barnabas journey to Jerusalem and account for their ministries to Gentiles.)

Why interrupt our study of the Book of Acts, and focus on the Epistle of James? That question is answered by identifying its author.

Introduction (1:1)

The “Epistle of James” is a letter that bears the name of its author. The writer introduced himself and his recipients in the opening verse: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes [the Tribes of Israel] which are scattered abroad [dispersed], greeting [rejoice; be glad]” (James 1:1).

With humility, James identified himself as “a servant,” a slave to “God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). There are several men identified as James in the New Testament; however, this James did not feel the need to introduce himself, perhaps because he needed no introduction. By the time this epistle was penned, the apostle James, brother of John and the son of Zebedee was martyred (Acts 12:2), and thereby eliminating him as the author. Most scholars identify the writer as James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), being born of Joseph and Mary. We know James and his siblings were not followers of Jesus until after His crucifixion, death and resurrection (John 7:5). Acts 1:14, however, identified Jesus’ “brethren” among those who assembled in “an upper room” after He ascended to heaven.

This same James was recognized as a leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). In a future devotional, Paul and Barnabas will give account to the believers in Jerusalem, and it will be this James who addressed the assembly (Acts 15:13) of apostles and elders. James was also mentioned by name with leaders of the church in Acts 21:18. The letter was addressed “to the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad” (some of the captivity who never returned to Israel, and others recently scattered by persecution, 1:1b). You will find the Epistle of James is practical, insightful, and convicting.

A Righteous Attitude Toward Trials and Temptations (1:2-4)

James opened his letter with a bold exhortation for believers: “My brethren, count [regard; judge] it all joy [a cause for rejoicing] when ye fall [stand in the midst of] into divers [various] temptations [trials]; Knowing this, that the trying [testing] of your faith [what you believe] worketh [performs; works out; produces] patience [steadfastness; endurance]. But let patience [steadfastness; endurance] have her perfect [maturing; complete] work, that ye may be perfect [mature] and entire [complete], wanting nothing [i.e. lacking not one thing]” (James 1:2–4).

Means to Overcome Trials and Temptations (1:5-12)

What should you do when you face hardships and persecution? Ask God for wisdom (1:5), trust Him (never give in to doubts and fears, 1:6), and rejoice (1:9). Whether you are brought low by poverty, or tempted to be exalted and dependent on riches, remember wealth is temporal (like grass that withers, or flowers that fade, 1:10-11). Do not forget, the person who loves the LORD will be blessed, when he endures trials (1:12).

Origin of Trials and Temptations (1:13-18)

Among the great truths we might take from trials and troubles, is foremost the promise God will never tempt you to sin (1:13). In fact, when you are tempted to sin, remember temptations arise from within the heart: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (1:14). Some might whine, “the devil tempted me;” however, the appeal to sin arises from lust seeded in the heart of sinners, and comes with a death sentence: “sin, when it is finished bringeth for death” (1:15).

The effect of lust and sin is death (Hebrews 9:27). Sin deals a death-blow to marriages, families, careers, hopes, and one’s health. Sin ends with physical, spiritual, and eternal death (Romans 6:23). Remember: God is the source of only good (1:16-18).

Closing thoughts (1:19-27) – How might believers prepare for trials and temptations? I find three major principles that answer that question in the closing verses of James 1.

1) Be Quick to Hear the Word of God, and Slow to Speak (1:19-21). In other words, obey God’s Word (1:19), restrain your anger (1:20), and renounce any sin that comes between you and God (1:21).

2) Be a Doer of the Word, not a Hearer Only (1:22-24). Hearing, but failing to obey God’s Word ends in self-deception (1:22). The Word of God is a perfect, flawless spiritual mirror of man’s soul, if he will remember what it reveals, and obey its truths.

3) Bridle Your Tongue (1:26). Some appear pious, and spiritually devout; however, if they do not bridle their tongues, they are self-deceived and their religion is vain and empty.

A devotional study of James 2 will need to wait for another year.; however, I conclude our study of James 1, by spotlighting the qualities of a sincere heart: Selfless and compassionate (caring for orphans and widows), and unstained by the sins of the world (1:27).

How’s your heart?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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 Fury and Death of Herod, Enemy of God (Acts 12; Acts 13)

Scripture reading – Acts 12; Acts 13

Acts 12 begins with the phrase, “about that time,” and gives us cause to consider “the time” that was the setting for today’s devotional. Putting our Scripture reading in its historical context, it was “the time” that followed Peter learning the Gospel was to be preached to all men, Jew and Gentile (Acts 10:1-48). Peter had given a defense of his doctrine before the believers of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18), and they “glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (11:18).

The church in Jerusalem commissioned and “sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch” (11:22). The work was so great that Barnabas determined to travel to Tarsus, and invite Saul to minister with him in Antioch (11:25-26). It was also at the time when a believer named Agabus prophesied the world would experience a “great dearth” (a time of famine, 11:28). Exercising love and compassion for their brethren in Jerusalem, the believers in Antioch “determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea,” and “every man [gave] according to his ability” (11:29). Barnabas and Saul were sent with an offering for believers in Jerusalem (11:30).

Acts 12

Perhaps for political reasons, and to distract the people from the famine, king Herod (the grandson of Herod the Great), began a systematic pattern of persecuting the church. The king “killed James the brother of John with the sword” (making him the first of the apostles to be martyred, 12:2). When he realized his actions “pleased the Jews” (12:3), he determined “to take Peter” and would have put him to death had God not intervened (12:3-4).

With Peter in prison, the believers of the church began to pray “without ceasing” (12:5). While they prayed, “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison” (12:6). What faith, and confidence Peter had in God’s care and providences. Then, God miraculously intervened, and sent an angel who struck Peter in his side to awaken him, and commanded him, “Arise up quickly” (12:7). So deep was his sleep, the angel instructed him to put on his shoes and his garments. Even then, Peter believed it wasn’t so, and he was having a vision (12:8-9).

Peter was delivered from the prison by the angel, and then made his way through the streets to where believers were gathered to pray at the home of Mary, whose son was named “John, whose surname was Mark” (12:12). (This is the same John Mark who would be the author of the Gospel of Mark).

Arriving at the house, Peter knocked and a young lady named Rhoda, answered the door (12:13). Hearing and recognizing his voice, Rhoda was so excited she neglected opening the door for Peter to enter the house (12:14). She told the believers Peter was outside the gate, but they accused her of being “mad” (literally out of her head or mind, 12:14). Some suggested she had seen Peter’s angel, though Peter continued to knock (12:16).

Finally opening the door, the believers rejoiced to find Peter standing before them! (12:16) He quieted their enthusiasm, and explained how he had been delivered from the prison (12:17). He then instructed them to send a message to “James, and to the brethren” (this is probably James, the half-brother of Jesus, and the son of Joseph and Mary, 12:17b). By this time, James appears to be the leader of the believers in the church in Jerusalem. Wisely, Peter departed from Jerusalem, “and went into another place” (12:17c).

Herod’s Fury and Death (12:18-23)

When it was day, the soldiers and keepers of the prison discovered Peter was missing (12:18). Those who slept in his cell, and those who stood guard at the door of the prison, had no explanation for Peter’s absence (12:19). Herod then ordered the execution of those men who failed to keep Peter prisoner (12:19).

The king then departed for Caesarea (a city on the Mediterranean Sea), and remained there (12:19b). Proud of his position and power, the king set a day of pageantry for himself, and “arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them” (12:21). The people flattered the foolish king, “saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man” (12:22). Herod accepted their blasphemy, and even as they praised him, an “angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (12:23). Imagine the horror of seeing the king struck down, and worms consuming him till he was dead! (12:23).

Closing thoughts (12:24-25) – While the persecution of believers increased, so did the reach of the “Word of God,” which increased more and more (12:24). Acts 12 concluded with Barnabas and Saul departing Jerusalem and returning to Antioch, and this time in the company of “John, whose surname was Mark” (12:12, 25).

Though today’s Scripture reading continues with Acts 13, and the historical record of the beginning of modern missions, I must leave that study for another time.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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.

Rejoicing in Suffering and Persecution (Acts 5; Acts 6)

Scripture reading – Acts 5; Acts 6

Our Scripture reading in the “Acts of the Apostles” continues with today’s study, Acts 5 and 6. Acts 4 chronicled the early stirrings of persecution against followers of Christ, and concluded with a testimony of love, unity, and selfless, sacrificial giving among the believers (4:32-35). One prominent example of generosity was displayed by Barnabas, a Levite of Cyprus, and a wealthy man. We read concerning Barnabas, he, “having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (4:37). (This is the same Barnabas who will be Paul’s fellow missionary.) Our devotional is taken from Acts 5.

Acts 5

There was a man in the Jerusalem congregation named Ananias, whose wife was Sapphira. Perhaps not to be outdone by Barnabas and others, it appears Ananias and Sapphira vowed to sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the apostles. Tragically, they determined to portray they were giving all the earnings from the sale, and deceive other believers. Peter, though, discerned the disingenuousness of Ananias, and asked the man, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” (5:3)

Ananias did not deny the deception, and Peter continued, “4Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (5:4). God’s judgment was swift, and when “Ananias [heard those] words [he] fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things” (5:5). We are not told the physical cause of his death, but the spiritual cause was that he lied to the Holy Ghost (5:3).

Three hours past, and unknowingly Sapphira, now the widow of Ananias, entered the meeting. Sadly, it was apparent she was complicit in her husband’s sin (5:7-8), and Peter asked her, “How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out” (5:9). Because her sin was public, so was Peter’s judgment, who publicly denounced her sin, and Sapphira fell dead (5:10).

The effect on the congregation concerning the consequences of lying to the Holy Ghost, was immediate and understandable. We read, “great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things” (5:11).

The balance of Acts 5 chronicled a single-hearted, vibrant growing body of believers (5:12-15). Yet, the blessing of the Spirit on the congregation was also accompanied by a growing persecution (5:17-27). Once again, the apostles were arrested, brought before the Sanhedrin, and questioned by the high priest (5:27). Stirred with indignation, the high priest asked, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (5:28).

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men!” (5:29) What a great model of courage, faith, and fortitude! Fearless and faithful, the apostles condemned those religious hypocrites, and ascribed to them the slaying of Jesus, and declared: “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (5:31-32).

Closing thoughts (5:33-41) – What was the effect of that bold, unapologetic confrontation with the men who were guilty of the blood of Christ?

We read, “they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them” (5:33). They were convicted, but rather than humility, they were infuriated and renewed their determination to add to their guilt the blood of the apostles. There was no reasoning with calloused-hearted, wicked men of Jerusalem. They were murderers, and the spirit of murder was in their heart (John 8:44). Confronted by a message of truth that was powerful and unapologetic, they were incensed, and beat the apostles, warning them “they should not speak in the name of Jesus” (5:40).

How did the apostles respond? “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (5:41-42).

Lesson – If you find yourself suffering for your faith in Christ, remember to rejoice that God has chosen you to suffer for His name (5:41).

* 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.

Innocence Betrayed: Jesus Tried and Condemned (Matthew 27)

Scripture reading – Matthew 27

Rich with drama, the passage we are reading today brings us to the spiritual crossroads of human history. This is God’s redemptive plan of salvation for man’s sin, conceived in the heart of our Creator before the foundation of the world was laid (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:18-20). Our devotional could focus on many aspects of Jesus’ path to the Cross; however, I will limit myself to one thought: Judas: his remorse, and death.

Judas: Remorse is Not Repentance (27:1-10)

The chief priests and Sanhedrin had tried and condemned Jesus to die (Matthew 27:1-2). They led Him away to the Roman governor’s palace where Pontius Pilate held court, and where Jesus would be tried, and sentenced to death by civil authority.

Judas watched the proceedings with regret, and the effect of his betrayal brought a wave of remorse over his soul (27:3). Perhaps it was when they led Jesus away to be tried by Pilate (27:2), that he realized the treachery of his betrayal. How could one privileged to be numbered among Christ’s Twelve, betray Him into the hands of His enemies? How could Judas, after enjoying the intimacy of Jesus’ company, now be His enemy? When they took Jesus away, Judas did not confess, “I made a mistake.” No, he said, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4). Nevertheless, Judas was like so many; a follower, but not a believer that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

Poor, sad, miserable soul. Judas realized too late the scorn those religious hypocrites held not only for Jesus, but for him. They answered him with contempt, saying, “What is that to us? see thou to that” (27:4b). Those religious pretenders cared nothing for Judas’ soul, nor did they offer him counsel (27:5a). He realized too late there was no place, and no one to whom he could go to find relief for his wickedness. Unable to bear the weight of his sin, and betrayal of “innocent blood” (27:4a), Judas realized no act of contrition could ease his guilt. Casting down the thirty pieces of silver, he fled through the streets of Jerusalem, “and went and hanged himself” (27:5b; Acts 1:16-19).

Magnifying their hypocrisy (for they were determined to kill Jesus), those religious leaders disingenuously debated the lawful expenditure of blood money, the silver Judas had hurled at them (27:6b). In an effort to conceal their sin, the chief priests and elders proposed an act of charity, and purchased “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (27:8). Unknowingly, they fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10) that was recorded by Zechariah, saying: “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:12–13). The public would later learn the secret of their purchase, and did call the place, “The field of blood” (27:8).

Closing thoughts – What sorrow and depravity. There was no justice that day, instead all was a charade of justice and pseudo-piety! Yet, such is the way of the wicked. Too many learn too late, the sorrow of remorse is not sincere repentance. Judas confessed to the religious leaders, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4); however, he failed to confess his sin to God. Judas found himself in a state of hopelessness. His remorse was too little, and his repentance came too late.

Friend, don’t make that mortal mistake. I invite you to confess your sin to God, and turn to Him knowing Christ has borne the penalty of your sin on the Cross.

1 John 5:11–1311 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.

* 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.

Beware Wolves in the Midst of Sheep (Luke 20)

Scripture reading – Luke 20

Putting today’s Scripture reading in its historical context, remember Jesus is ministering in the midst of the week He will be betrayed by Judas, face a mock trial, and be crucified.

We find Jesus teaching in the Temple in the introductory verses of Luke 20.  His antagonists, the religious leaders (“the chief priests and the scribes…with the elders”), came and confronted Him in the Temple (20:1). They demanded by whose authority He performed miracles and taught the people (20:1-2; Matthew 21:27-27; Mark 11:27-33).

Jesus, evidencing divine wisdom and discernment into the heart of man answered their question with a question: “I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: 4 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?”  (20:3b-4). Fearing the people, the leaders refused to answer (20:5-7). Then, Jesus responded, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (20:8).

Parable of the Wicked Tenants (20:9-19)

Jesus then turned from the hypocrites who masqueraded as devout religious men, and taught the people the Parable of the Vineyard (20:9-19; Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12).

The parable told the story of tenants [religious leaders] who labored in their master’s [God the Father’s] vineyard [Israel] while he was away. When the master sent his trusted servants [prophets] to collect the profits he was due from the vineyard, those who labored there refused. Those wicked men beat the servants, and sent them away. Finally, the master sent his own son and heir [picture of Jesus Christ] (20:13), and reasoned the tenants would surely pay his son respect and his due (20:13). The laborers [chief priests, Pharisees, and scribes], however, rose up and slew their master’s son (20:14-16).

Quoting Psalm 118:22, Jesus made it clear the application of the parable was that those who rejected the Son would themselves be rejected (20:17-18). The application was so obvious, the chief priests and scribes realized the parable described their own wicked designs against Jesus, and thus renewed their plot to kill Him (20:19-26).

A Question Concerning the Resurrection (20:27-38)

Over the years, I have had some ask me if the husband and wife relationship is bound in heaven. This is especially a concern to those who have, whether by death or divorce, had more than one husband or wife.  While I am convinced the saints of God will know one another in heaven, I am also convinced there will be no marriage in heaven. We read in Luke 20:35, “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [heaven], and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage (20:35).

Jesus, having silenced the scribes by His answers and questions (20:39-40), turned to His audience, and warned His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47  Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation”  (20:46-47).

Closing thoughts – The proud and pious often are the same in the world, and their presence is found as much in the church as it is in the realm of education and politics. As it was in Christ’s day, so it is today—there are many who burden others with a demand to be favored, often while they ravage the poor and vulnerable.

Remember: Reject Christ, and you will surely suffer His judgment one day. He who knows the hearts of men, will see past the religious veneer and every man will receive his due according to his works (Matthew 16:27).

* 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.

Bitterness: A Cancer that Destroys Everything (Mark 11)

Scripture reading – Mark 11

We are reminded the Gospel of Mark is one of the three Synoptic Gospels (the others being the Gospels of Matthew and Luke), and today’s Scripture reading is a parallel to our study of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-16). His entrance into the city set in motion the final days that concluded with His appointment with the Cross.

Having already considered His grand coronation as the King of Israel, I forego another detailed study of Jesus’ approach to the city, and the great crowd that greeted Him. Remember though, He was greeted as “He that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (11:9-10). Yet, in a few days many of those same voices would scorn Jesus as He hung dying on the Cross.

Mark 11 also recorded the miracle when Christ cursed the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves, and it withered and died (11:12-14; Matthew 21:18-22). Both Mark and Matthew noted Jesus driving the money-changers out of the Temple.

Faith and Forgiveness (11:22-26)

Two topics, “Faith” and “Forgiveness,” are the subject of Mark 11:22-26, and the LORD’s instructions for both are beautiful in their simplicity and convicting in their application (11:22-26). Christ’s challenge on faith and prayer was followed by the admonishment: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (11:25-26).

One of the most besetting sins in the 21st century church is an unwillingness to deal with offenses in a biblical manner, motivated by love for God and love for others. Many allow bitterness to fester in their souls, and like cancer in the body, it sometimes spreads until “many be defiled” spiritually, and infected emotionally and physically (Hebrews 12:15).

Closing thoughtsIf you harbor an unforgiving spirit, be sure it will not only rob you of joy, but also hinder your prayers.

Have you been infected by an angry, unforgiving, bitter spirit? Are you are harboring bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights during your youth?  Perhaps you are a parent, and find yourself struggling with bitterness because a child has disgraced you and the family by foolish, sinful actions.  Has your marriage become embittered, because of harsh words and broken vows?

Believers are commanded to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).  When you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no justification for an unwillingness to forgive others!

Warning: An unwillingness to forgive is indicative of a soul that has never entered into God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

* 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 Last Week Before Golgotha (Matthew 21; Luke 19)

Scripture reading – Matthew 21; Luke 19

Our Scripture reading brings us to two pivotal chapters in the week leading up to the Cross. Luke 19 records Christ and His disciples passing through Jericho (Luke 19:1-27), and beginning His final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 19:28). The setting of Matthew 21 is what is traditionally referred to as Palm Sunday (although, many believe the day was most likely Monday).

Luke 19A Friend of Sinners

Luke 19 followed Jesus’ journey through Jericho, as He made His final journey to Jerusalem. Jericho, one of the oldest cities in the world, is located on an oasis in the desert, about ten miles northwest of the Dead Sea. It was in Jericho that Jesus providentially encountered a wealthy publican, a tax collector, named Zacchaeus, and demonstrated his love for sinners (19:1-10).

An Unexpected Guest for Supper (19:1-10)

Let’s step into the scene where Zacchaeus, a notorious sinner, came face-to-face with Jesus. In earlier devotions we have stated the disdain the Jewish people held for tax collectors (publicans). Employed to collect taxes for Rome, publicans were viewed as traitors of Israel. Men like Zacchaeus were infamous for cheating the people and skimming monies from taxes they collected. Publicans enriched themselves at the expense of their own people, and were named among the worst of sinners.

We read, “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (19:5). Of all the homes in Jericho, the home of a publican was the last place the people would have pictured Jesus dining. Nevertheless, He knew the heart of Zacchaeus, and was received into his home with rejoicing (19:6).

The people began to murmur among themselves, and were appalled Jesus would “be guest with a man that is a sinner” (19:7). Zacchaeus, however, was humbled and moved to repentance by the LORD’s love and compassion. His sorrow over his sins moved him to rise from the table, and proclaim, “Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (19:8). Genuinely repentant over his sins, Zacchaeus desired to make restitution of all he had wrongfully taken (19:8).

Closing thoughts – Jesus, seeing in Zacchaeus the fruit of sincere repentance, announced: “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of man [a Messianic title; Daniel 7:13] is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (19:9a–10).

Though a notorious sinner in the eyes of men, Zacchaeus placed his faith in Jesus Christ, and was saved from the condemnation of his sins. By birth he was a physical “son of Abraham.” By grace through faith, he became more than a “son of Abraham” (19:9-10), he became a child of God. Abraham and Zacchaeus were saved from the curse of sin because they believed God would place His righteousness to their account.

Romans 3:23–2423For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

 Matthew 21

Jesus and His disciples were coming near Jerusalem. As they passed through Bethphage, a village near the Mount of Olives, the LORD directed two disciples to go a nearby village (21:1), and find a colt He would ride as He approached Jerusalem (thus dramatically fulfilling the prophecy recorded in Zechariah 9:9). The news of Jesus’ approach spread through the city of Jerusalem, and “a very great multitude” (perhaps tens of thousands), poured out of the city to greet Him (21:7-8).

The scene was like the coronation of a king, as the people “cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (21:9). Because it was about the time of the Passover, people from all over the known world were gathered in Jerusalem, and some who did not know Jesus. Thus, we read there were some who asked, “Who is this? 11And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (21:10-11).

Briefly, you will notice in Matthew 21 the rising tension between Jesus and His enemies (the priests and Pharisees). I believe it was on the next day, after His triumphant entry, when Christ entered the Temple, drove out the “moneychangers,” and condemned them saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (21:13).

Rebuking the hypocritical Pharisees, the LORD taught the people three parables. The Parable of Two Sons (21:28-32), the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (21:33-41), and the Builders’ Rejection of the Cornerstone (21:42-44). The Pharisees, and Israel as a people, were prophetically represented in the parables as rejecting Christ (which they would fulfill when Jesus would be led away to be crucified).

* 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.