Category Archives: Theology

Tie a Knot and Hang On…God is Working! (Genesis 41-42)

Today’s Bible Reading and Devotional is Genesis 41-42.

The LORD continued to prosper Joseph as he served faithfully in Pharaoh’s prison. Two years passed before the butler remembered Joseph, the man who brought him comfort and interpreted his dream in prison (41:1a).

In God’s providence, dreams disturbed Pharaoh’s sleep which he feared were omens of bad things that would befall him and his kingdom (41:1-8).  Setting the stage, the butler remembered Joseph and Pharaoh commanded he be brought from prison before him (41:9-32).

Joseph credited his skill to interpret dreams to His God  (41:16) and his faithfulness was rewarded as Pharaoh appointed him to serve Egypt, second only to himself (41:33-44).  Promoted when he was only thirty years old (41:46), Pharaoh entrusted Joseph with the granaries of Egypt as the nation prepared for seven years of famine followed by seven years of plenty (41:45-57).  Genesis 41 closes with the revelation; “all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands” (41:57).

God sovereignly and providentially set the stage for Joseph’s brothers to come to Egypt seeking food for their households.  No doubt believing the brother they betrayed was either dead or toiling away as a slave, they did not know their fate would rest in the hands of the brother they sold as a slave (42:1-20).

Joseph recognized his brothers, but wisely concealed his identity.  Through an interpreter he questioned them to learn not only know the fate of his father Jacob, but also his brother Benjamin.  Joseph no doubt wondered if his brothers regretted their sins committed against him (42:21-23).  Speaking in Hebrew among themselves, his brothers did not know the man they presumed was a powerful Egyptian was their brother and understood their remorseful confessions (42:23). Rather than bitterness and vengeance, Joseph “turned himself about from them, and wept” (42:24).

Genesis 42 closes with a dramatic scene as Joseph set in motion a plan to force his brothers to return to Egypt with his brother Benjamin.

Joseph ordered Simeon, the second oldest brother (Reuben being the eldest), be bound, led away, and demanded they not return to Egypt without their youngest brother.  Unable to intervene, they began their journey home and were overcome with grief when they found the money they used to purchase grain in their grain sacks.  Sharing all that befell them in Egypt, their father Jacob was overcome with grief (42:29-38).

We conclude today’s devotional with Joseph beginning to understand not only that God rewards faithfulness, but He also orchestrates events in our lives for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29).  Joseph faithfully served the LORD…as a slave, a steward, a prisoner, and as a powerful man of wealth and position.  He was providentially in the place of God’s choosing where he would save and shelter his father, brethren and their families from famine.

I close wondering if someone reading this devotional might find themselves like Joseph, far from the place you might have chosen and wondering what God is doing.  Remember, God is faithful and protection and promotion come from Him.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

What is in Your Heart? (Genesis 7-8)

It is not too late to take up the challenge of reading through the Bible in a year.  You can download the Bible Reading Plan at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org. Today’s assignment is Genesis 7-8, Psalm 4, and Matthew 4.

The historical narrative of the universal flood begins in Genesis 6 where we read, “5the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…7And the LORD said, I will destroy man…” (Genesis 6:5, 7).

Out of all the earth, one man “found grace [divine favor] in the eyes of the LORD”(Genesis 6:8).  “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

The last four words of verse 9 answers the question, “Why did God spare Noah and his family?”  He was a man of faith “and walked with God”.  While wickedness and rebellion were universal, Noah believed God, called upon Him, and walked with Him.

A testimony of Noah’s faith and God’s grace is he and his family were saved from the greatest cataclysmic event to ever come upon the earth.  It rained 40 days and 40 nights (7:12,17) and when the rains stopped the waters covered the earth another 150 days.

The story of God’s universal judgment is interrupted with a phrase that is a joy to read; “God remembered Noah…”(Genesis 8:1).  Altogether, Noah and his family remained in the Ark 370 days until the waters receded (Genesis 8:14-16).  When God commanded him to leave the Ark, Noah’s first act as spiritual leader of his household was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God (Genesis 8:20-21a).  The LORD accepted Noah’s sacrifice, promising He would never again destroy the earth.

We read an ominous statement regarding the heart of man after the flood;  “the imagination [thinking; inner thoughts] of man’s heart [mind; understanding; center of his thinking] is evil [sinful; wicked; ] from his youth”(Genesis 8:21b).

The pre-flood world had been laid waste and the face of the earth scarred as a lasting reminder of God’s wrath [example – the Grand Canyon]; however, one thing had not changed…the heart of man.

God’s observation before the flood was, “every imagination of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  The same malady was true of the heart of man after the flood (Genesis 8:21b).

Sadly, that reality will be too soon apparent in Genesis 9.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Know That a Prophet Hath Been Among You (Ezekiel 33:33)

After enjoying a vacation in the Smoky Mountains, I look forward to being back in Hillsdale’s pulpit this Sunday.  We will return to our verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of John, taking up our study with the closing verses of John 9 and introducing one of the most beautiful and beloved passages of the Gospels… the Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

Knowing the shepherd is a metaphor for a spiritual leader and the sheep is a metaphor for God’s people throughout the scriptures, I invested several hours focusing on the role of the shepherd and his relationship with the sheep.  In the Parable of the Good Shepherd we identify not only the character of the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ), we also see the evil characteristics of Israel’s spiritual leaders portrayed as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8) and as the “hireling” who flees “and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:13).

Israel was cursed with spiritual shepherd’s like those described in John 10.  When the nation needed shepherds to boldly declare the Word of the Lord and condemn the sins of the nation, she instead promoted men to be her pastors who not only failed to lead the nation spiritually, but also exploited her vulnerable state.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the “pastors” (spiritual shepherds) of Israel, “1Woe be unto the pastors [lit. shepherds] that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD…I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1-2).

Ezekiel prophesied “against the shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:1-2), condemning the spiritual leaders for putting their self-interests before the needs of the people (34:2).  Israel’s pastors had taken the best of everything for themselves (34:3), neglected the weak and injured (34:4a), failed to seek the lost, pursued sinful pleasures, and failed to call God’s people to be a holy people (34:4).  Israel had become an immoral, lawless nation and God determined to turn the nation and their shepherds over to be afflicted (Ezekiel 34:10).  God, however, did not leave His people hopeless and promised them He would one day deliver them (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

The task of a faithful prophet is not a popular one and God warned Ezekiel he would become the object of scorn (Ezekiel 33).  God challenged the prophet, “I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:7).  Ezekiel was admonished, should he fail to warn the wicked in his sin and the wicked man “die in his iniquity”, the blood of the wicked would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8).

Ezekiel 33 closes with a malady that in my observation is present in fundamental churches and colleges of our day…a generation that is “talking against” the prophet, expressing a faux-piety of hearing “the word that cometh forth from the LORD” (33:30), and “with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31).  God warns Ezekiel, “they hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).

From a perspective of outward results, Ezekiel was a failure for Israel did not repent of her sins and her pastors continued in their wickedness.  Ezekiel was promised, when God’s judgment falls upon Israel, all would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:33).

The words of a faithful, prophetic (forth-telling), uncompromising preacher are not welcome in most pulpits and one need not look far in our churches, colleges, and seminaries to understand there are many who “hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).  I pray God might find me faithful and some “shall know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

At the Risk of Being Misunderstood

John McCain’s death has drawn tributes from all quarters of the world…political and religious; however, I fear we too easily overlook the one lasting lesson we might take from his life … “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Lest I be accused of callousness, I extend to John McCain’s family sincere condolences, being reminded the grief and sorrow of death is a universal certainty. Indeed, death is no respecter of persons and we all, great and small, live under the shadow of death, “For all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

I am not privy of John McCain’s spiritual relationship with God at his death.  Commended by many for his service to our country, the only commendation that has lasting, eternal value is whether or not God received him on the basis of his faith in the redemption found in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

Of all the acclamations expressed to a man for a life-time of service, the most important is not one he deserves, but one promised as an expression of God’s grace: “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

United States Naval Academy graduate, naval aviator, tortured prisoner of war, and life-time politician…all earn the acclaim of an adoring public, but I wonder if God received John McCain as a believer saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  After all, “there is no respect of persons” before God’s judgment (Colossians 3:24-25).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

The Journey’s End

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 27-28

Our scripture reading today is Acts 27-28 and chronicles the apostle Paul’s journey to Rome as a prisoner where he will inevitably give his life as a martyr for Christ.

Paul’s journey to Rome was by ship and he was in the company of other prisoners under the escort of “one named Julius, a centurion of [Caesar] Augusts’ band [regiment]” (27:1).  The ship would stop at several ports on its journey to Rome, including Sidon where Paul notes the centurion’s favor in allowing him to fellowship with other believers (27:3).

Departing from Sidon enroute to Myra, the centurion transferred Paul and the other prisoners to a “ship of Alexandria” [i.e. Egypt] that was sailing directly to Italy (27:4-6).  The sailing was slow (27:9) and knowing storms would soon make sailing dangerous, “Paul admonished” the captain of the ship and the centurion guard to seek safe harbor until the stormy season was past (27:9-11).

Dismissing Paul’s warning, the ship set sail and the vessel was soon caught up in a great storm so that, in Paul’s words, “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (27:12-20).

Acts 27:21-44, Paul turns from prisoner to encourager and tells the men, although the ship would be lost, God revealed to him no lives would perish (27:21-24).  Blown several hundred miles off course and hearing the roar of waves landing upon rocks on the shore, some shipmen prepared to abandon the ship and its passengers and were preparing to cast off in a small boat (27:30).  Heeding Paul’s warning that any who abandon ship would be lost, the soldiers cut away the ropes of the small boat (27:32).  Acts 27 closes with Paul and all 276 souls on the ship being saved alive (27:33-44).

The ship ran aground on the island “called Melita”, our modern-day Malta (Acts 28:1).  Warming themselves around a fire, God miraculously spared Paul’s life when a poisonous viper took hold of his hand (28:3). Those who witnessed the viper’s attack wondered if Paul was not being punished for his wickedness, but then marveled he did not perish (28:4-6).

We often wonder why God allows His people and choice servants to go through difficult trials…sickness, disappointments, accidents, sorrows, losses.  In the immediate we may not rightly see God’s purpose; however, we are surely no different from the apostle Paul.  What a great example of a suffering, faithful servant Paul gives us as we witness him arrested and tried, but turning the occasions to an opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Festus (Acts 25) and Agrippa (Acts 26).

As a prisoner on a ship setting sail for Rome, Paul turned the storm into an opportunity to share God’s revelation He had the LORD’s assurance their lives would be saved for he “must be brought before Caesar” (27:23-25).  Finally, bitten by a viper, God spared Paul’s life as a testimony that the power of God rested upon him (28:6).

Acts 28 concludes with Paul’s safe travel and arrival in Rome (28:11-31) where he had freedom to visit with fellow believers (28:11-16). 

In an incredible testimony of God’s providence and Paul’s passion for preaching the Gospel, Paul’s “house” imprisonment in Rome opened the door for him to not only share his own conversion and calling with Jewish leaders (28:17-22), but also declare to all who would listen that Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited suffering Messiah foretold by the prophet Isaiah (28:23-31).

Acts 28:30-31 – “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31  Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”

My friend, if you have followed our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year schedule, today marks the end of your journey for it is our 364th daily reading assignment of 2017.   It is easy to begin a spiritual discipline; however, there are few who know the joy of persevering to the end!  Congratulations on this blessed milestone in your spiritual walk with the LORD.  I bid you God’s blessings and wish you a Happy New Year!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Esther 6-10

I introduced the Book of Esther last week stating, “Divine providence is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Esther.”   That observation is illustrated in a hilarious and tragic way in today’s scripture reading, Esther 6-10.

The world call its, “Instant Karma”; derived from an ideology attributed to Buddhism and Hinduism.  “Karma” represents a principle we might define as “Cause and Effect” suggesting, whether disparaging or showing grace, you should anticipate “instant karma”, in other words…payback!

“Instant Karma”, suggests a fatalism that belies, even belittles the “Providence of God”… that He is sovereignly directing the course of humanity to His purpose and end.  The apostle Paul summed up the doctrine of God’s sovereignty writing, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Solomon taught his son the same; “The king’s heart is in the hand [power; rule; authority; under dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [streams] of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor] (Proverbs 21:1).

Esther 6 is a beautiful example of God working in the heart of a king.  King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes), finds himself in a place many of us have found ourselves…enduring a sleepless night.  We know by revelation the king’s insomnia (Esther 6:1) was used by God to direct the thoughts and the heart of the king to His divine end; however, from the king’s perspective, it was a sleepless night and he determined to have his servants read historical records chronicling his reign.

Providentially, the name of Mordecai, the uncle of Queen Esther, came to the king’s attention and how he had intervened to foil a plot to assassinate the king.  Recalling that event, the king wondered, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” (6:3).  Realizing the Jew named Mordecai had not been rewarded for his service, the king determined to immediately correct that slight and reward him for his service.

Providentially, in that very moment, Haman, the adversary of the Jews who successfully plotted to have the king sign a decree for the extermination of all the Jews, entered the king’s court to request that Mordecai be hanged from the gallows he had constructed in his courtyard (6:4-5).

In a wonderful twist of what some might call “Instant Karma”, Haman listened as the king sought his advice on the means of honoring a servant in “whom the king delighteth to honour” (6:6).  Haman, believing he was the man to be rewarded, suggested a very public honor, parading the servant in “royal apparel”, riding on the king’s horse, and wearing the “crown royal…set upon his head” (6:8-9).  Ah, the irony when Haman was commanded to be the one to honor Mordecai, the man whom he was plotting to hang (6:10-11)!

The balance of Esther 6 and the remaining chapters (Esther 7-10) give testimony to the sovereignty of God as He providentially directs the thoughts, plots and plans of men to His divine purpose and end.  Haman’s wicked designs to annihilate the Jews was not only foiled, but he falls himself victim to the gallows he constructed to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:7-10).

Friend, man is a free will agent and not a robot; however, God can and does steer the course of human choices to accomplish His plan and purpose.  King, president, governor, judge, sheriff, employer, teacher, parent, son or daughter…none are beyond the sovereign purpose and reach of God.

Remember: “He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Earnestly Contend for the Faith

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jude 1:1-25

The theme of the book of Jude, only 25 verses in length, is summed up in two words, exhortation and admonition:  Jude exhorts believers to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3) and admonishes the church to beware of apostasy.

A century ago, the pulpits of most Baptist and Protestant churches in America unapologetically preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There were differences in the mode of baptism and church government; however, the preaching of the cross was almost a universal theme in America’s churches.

By the 1920’s a spiritual apostasy crept into many denominational churches and began eroding fundamental Bible doctrines.  Bible colleges and Seminaries became hotbeds of liberalism and apostasy.  In a generation, mainline Protestant churches departed from the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Christ taught His disciples a sign of His Second Coming would be, “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Matthew 25:5, 11).

The apostle Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when they [professing believers in the church] will not endure [tolerate] sound doctrine; but after their own lusts [sinful desires] shall they heap [invite] to themselves teachers, having itching ears [desiring to hear something that tickles, scratches or pleases the ear]; 4 And they shall turn away their ears [stop listening] from the truth, and shall be turned [aside] unto fables [myths; false teaching]” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The book of Jude, written to the late 1st century church, warned believers apostates were already in their midst.  Sounding a warning reminiscent of a bugle playing “Charge” for the Calvary, Jude challenged believers to engage in spiritual warfare.

“Earnestly contend for the faith” is a call to spiritual battle (1:3). To wage war for the faith is to be intolerant of doctrinal error and compromise.   Some argue, “Times have changed and Christians should not be so dogmatic about their faith.”

Times have changed; however, the Truths and Doctrines of the Word of God are timeless!

Psalm 119:160 – “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.”

1 Peter 1:23 – “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”

1 Peter 1:25 – “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.  And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

To “earnestly contend for the faith” is to stand and agonize unapologetically for the TRUTH.

Paul challenged Corinthian believers, “Watch ye [Stay awake; be alert], stand fast [persevere; adhere] in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Paul exhorted Timothy, “Fight [agonize; be disciplined] the good fight of faith…” (1 Timothy 6:12).

The balance of Jude’s epistle describes the challenges confronting the churches at the end of the 1st century.  Jude described the character of apostates: Denying the truth (1:4-7), immoral (1:8b), rejecting spiritual authority (1:8c), and irreverent (1:8d-10).  The apostasy of the 1st century church is a mirror image of the decadence found in many 21st century churches.

Vigilance is the cause of the hour; however, rather than “contending for the faith”, I am afraid the majority of believers and churches are in full retreat.

The greatest threat to the Church is not persecution without, but false teachers within. 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith