Category Archives: Theology

A History Lesson for Bible Fundamental Churches, Colleges, and Their Leaders

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The following is a repost of a devotional I wrote for my church family, October 16, 2017. I am publishing it today as a challenge to my peers and friends to take time to review the history of 20th century Bible fundamentalist.  Read their writings and sermons.  Do not fall victim to progressives who pull a quote out of context to support a position the men they quote would have never taken.  

I am today a 63-year-old pastor who had the privilege of standing in the shadows of great fundamentalists who are now with the LORD.  Were they perfect men?  Of course not; however, the same is true of my generation and the rising millennial generation. The following is a copy of the devotional, posted two years ago.

Deuteronomy is a record of Moses’ final words and exhortations to the people he had shepherd for forty years.  We read:

Deuteronomy 1:3 – And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;”

It was important for Moses to rehearse with that generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for the nation (Deuteronomy 1:8).  Much like you might search your ancestral family tree to know your physical lineage, Moses recognized his days were numbered among the people and he wanted them to know not only their physical lineage, but more importantly, their spiritual lineage as God’s chosen people.

The Hebrews who were 19 years old and younger when Israel refused to cross into the Promise Land, were now in their late fifties and Moses feared their children and grandchildren would be tempted to turn back from the challenges of the new land.   Knowing many were either too young to remember or not yet born when the people rebelled against God, Moses rehearsed the failure of their forefathers to trust God and cross the Jordan River into the Promise Land (Deuteronomy 1-2).  Concerned they lacked an understanding of what faithlessness cost their parents and grandparents, Moses made certain the people appreciated the tragic consequences of disobedience and understood the challenges before them (Deuteronomy 2).

The late Dr. Richard Rupp who succeeded Dr. Gilbert Stenholm as the leader and mentor of the Preacher Boy’s Class of Bob Jones University in the late 1970’s and 1980’s.

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many Gospel preaching churches, Bible colleges, and fundamental Christian institutions in recent years.

I am old enough to remember well the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp and Dr. Bob Jones Jr. in “Preacher Boys” during my Bible college years at Bob Jones University.   Those men had fought spiritual ecumenical battles, sometimes open warfare, against the progressives of their day who compromised their ministries fellowshipping with men and institutions that denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Thirty, forty, even fifty years passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith; however, their passion had not abated, nor their determination to pass on to the men of my generation not only knowledge of the past, but a warning and exhortation.   I graduated Bob Jones University knowing compromise with those who trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness or reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith would eventually be a cancer destroying ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible fundamental churches, Bible colleges, and Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the fundamental spiritual heritage of those institutions.

The result of ignorance or leadership contemptuous of the past is the same; those institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Warning: When the leadership of a Bible fundamental church, Bible college, or ministry distances itself from its heritage, it will invariably sacrifice its identity and forget God’s providences.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Lunging Toward the Cliff of “No Return”

More than a year has passed since I first published my concerns regarding the direction the board and administration of Bob Jones University is taking my alma mater.  “Silent No More” and “A Failure to Stay the Course” tallied a pattern of compromise that has taken the University far from its historical moorings as a separatist institution.

BJU Seminary Seminar, November 11-12, 2019

Board members, administrators, and faculty who have any longevity with the University are well aware they have taken the institution down a path far from its historic legacy as an unapologetic bastion of Biblical fundamentalism.  For over a year I refrained from addressing the drift until I learned of yet another example too egregious to ignore.

The latest conference identified as the “Stewart Custer Lecture Series” (November 11-12, 2019) is illustrative of how far and how fast Bob Jones University is lunging toward the cliff of “no return”.

Who is Andy Naselli? 
Andy Naselli is an associate professor of New Testament and theology at John Piper’s Bethlehem College & Seminary and a pastor\elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN where Piper served as pastor for 33 years (Piper is the founder and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary).  

Staff Leadership Photo; Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN

While I hate to admit Naselli was trained in the vein of a fundamentalist (BA from Baptist College of Ministry  MA & Ph.D. from Bob Jones University), I can at least take some solace that he has followed the path of his most recent institution, with a Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

For perspective: John Piper is a non-cessationist and believes in the present-day employment of Charismatic gifts (tongues, healing, and prophecy).  While Piper believes the office of the Apostle has ceased, he does believe in some sense of the prophetic gift.  Understanding Andy Naselli serves as a pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church and is employed by institutions associated with John Piper, it is safe to say…Andy Naselli is not a Biblical separatist fundamentalist.

Make no mistake… Andy Naselli was privileged to serve as the highlighted guest speaker at BJU’s Seminary and the University and its administrative leadership has accepted the baggage that goes with Piper and his cronies—The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel, to name two. 

Under Dr. Steve Petit’s leadership, Bob Jones University continues to follow a path of ecclesiastical compromise, embracing the spirit of Neo-evangelicalism, and rejecting its historical legacy as a Bible fundamental, separatist institution.

Dr. Bob Jones, Jr.

At least we who were in classes and privileged to be challenged by separatists like Drs. Bob Jones Jr., Bob Jones III, Gilbert Stenholm and Richard Rupp can take consolation in this:   While the current administration has sadly tarnished the reputation of Dr. Stewart Custer, they have so far spared the Jones’ that humiliation.

Jude 1:3 – 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“When You Know Your Time is Up” (Numbers 27-28)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 27-28, Psalm 53, and Luke 9. Our devotional is from Numbers 27.

Numbers 27 marks the end of an era and inevitably, a changing of the guard for Israel.

Numbers 27 opens with Moses bringing a problem before the LORD (27:1-5), seeking His wisdom, and returning to the people to state God’s will in a matter (Numbers 27:6-11).

Knowing Moses was nigh 120 years old, the immediacy of his death was a given; however, such is rare in the human spirit that is deeply invested in this world.  With what seems a unceremonial abruptness, the LORD reveals to Moses his death is imminent and commands him saying,“Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13 And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” (Numbers 27:12-13).

With meekness that has characterized his life (Numbers 12:3), Moses accepted the consequence of his sin without protest” (27:14; 20:7-13) and wisely requested the LORD “set a man over the congregation before his death (27:15-16).

Evidencing his love for the people in his charge, Moses desired to prepare the nation to move forward in his absence.  He did not want his successor to be a man chosen by a popular vote of the people; he wanted the man of God’s choosing.  A man who would “go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd”(27:17).

Israel needed a leader with a shepherd’s heart and God chose “Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit” (27:18).

Moses confirmed Joshua before “all the congregation” (27:19) and challenged the people to honor and obey him (27:20).  Making certain “Eleazar the priest…and all the children of Israel” (27:21) understood Joshua was God’s man, Moses “laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded” (27:23).

Moses was one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth; however, his death was inevitable (Numbers 27:13).   Miriam, Moses’ sister was dead.  Aaron his brother was dead.  Because he had sinned before all the people, Moses would die short of the Promise Land (27:14).

My friend, I close reminding you, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).   This earthly life is temporal, like “a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14b).   The author of Hebrews writes, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

In our youth we dream and plan for careers, marriage and family.  We make vocational choices and set goals.  Too many of us are guilty of failing to plan for the inevitability of our own death.  What about you?  Is your household in order?

Wise men and women plan for the future.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap” (Numbers 25-26; Galatians 6:7)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 25-26, Psalm 52, and Luke 8. Our devotional is from Numbers 25-26.

Today’s reading assignment (Numbers 25-26) sets the stage for the beginning of the end of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness.  

Reminding us “evil communications (companions) corrupt good manners (morals)” (1 Corinthians 15:33), Numbers 25 opens with a tragic decision made by some in Israel.  We read, “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1).  The influence of the Moabite women did not stop with the lust of the flesh, for we read in the next verse they invited the men of Israel to share in sacrificing, eating, and bowing down to their gods (25:2).

Consider three spiritual lessons from today’s Bible reading.

The first, familiarity with the ways of the wicked leads inevitably to the Temptation of Sin.  Having cast aside all moral restraint (Numbers 25:1-3), the people provoked the LORD to wrath, worshipping Baalpeor, the Canaanite god of fertility represented as a bull (25:3).

A second lesson is the Tragic Consequences of Sin (25:3b-5, 9).  The sins of the people were so egregious they provoked the LORD to anger and He demanded justice (25:3b-4).   Placing the responsibility for the sins upon the “heads of the people” (25:4), the LORD demanded they be slain and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the nation (25:5).

One sin led to another until one man was so brazen in his sin he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (Numbers 25:6, 14-15).  Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, and grandson of the late high priest Aaron, was so moved with godly zeal, he rose up and slew the man and the woman, and the LORD stopped the plague leaving 24,000 dead in Israel. (25:10-13).

Numbers 26 opens with a reminder of the plague that had taken 24,000 lives (26:1; 25:9) and closes with a review of an entire generation that perished in the wilderness, save two men, Caleb and Joshua (26:65).

The LORD commanded Moses and Eleazar to take a second census of the males, 20 years and older, by tribe and household, before they crossed the Jordan River.  The census served two purposes: The first, to number men by tribe who were old enough to go to war (25:2).  The second, to use the count of each tribe as the basis for assigning geographical territory in the Promise Land (Numbers 26:52-56).  With the exception of the tribe of Levi, twelve tribes of Israel are named and include a total of 57 families (26:5-50).

The priestly tribe of Levi and its households is also named and numbered (26:57-62).  Unlike the other tribes that will be assigned lands, the Levites were assigned forty-eight cities in the Promise Land (Numbers 35:1-8).

A third lesson from today’s Bible reading is, the LORD is faithful to His Word and promises.

“The LORD had said…They shall surely die in the wilderness” (14:29; 25:65a).  Murmuring, faithlessness, and a love for the sins and idols of Egypt had dominated the affections of the first generation and all had died with the exception of two men, Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 26:65).  I close with a timeless truth:

Galatians 6:7 – 7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Are You Standing at A Spiritual Crossroads? Trust in the LORD! (Numbers 13-14)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 13-14, Psalm 48, and Luke 4. Our devotional is from Numbers 13-14 .

Numbers 13:1-2 1  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2  Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan…”

The fate of a nation rested in the hands of twelve leaders, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, chosen by Moses and charged with the responsibility of spying out the land (13:4-15) the LORD had promised Abraham would be an inheritance for his chosen seed (Genesis 12:1, 7; 13:14-17).

Forty days passed while Moses and the nation waited to hear the report of the land.  Returning with “a branch with one cluster of grapes ”that was so full of fruit the men “bare it between two upon a staff” (13:23-25), the twelve confirmed the land was all the LORD had promised saying, “surely it floweth with milk and honey” (13:27).

The spies report; however, did not conclude on a good note: “Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” (13:28) along with the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites” (13:29).

Realizing the obstacles the nation would face, the hearts of the people melted with fear until Caleb, one of the twelve spoke and said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).

Take a moment and reflect on the charge Moses had given the spies (13:17-20).  Their responsibility was to spy out the land; not assess Israel’s ability to take the land.  Focusing on obstacles and not the promises of the LORD, ten of the spies sowed seeds of doubt saying, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we…we saw giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:31-33).

Caleb urged the people “go up…we are well able”(13:30); however, ten of the faithless spies urged, “we be not able to go up”(13:31).

What made the difference in their assessments?  The report given by Caleb and Joshua was different from the other spies in two aspects: Focus and Faith.

FocusCaleb and Joshua focused, not on the size of the obstacles, but on the promises of the LORD.  They reported, the land was all He promised it would be… “surely it floweth with milk and honey” (13:27) and “we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).

FaithCaleb and Joshua’s faith was in the LORD.  They challenged the people, If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land… 9  Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land…the LORD is with us: fear them not” (Numbers 14:8-9).

Israel’s failure to take possession of the land was not due to giants or the heathen nations that dwelled in the land.  Israel’s impediment was her lack of faith in the LORD.

What about you? Are you facing giants? 

The LORD never fails to keep His promises; however, the fear of man and faithlessness has deprived many of His blessings (Jeremiah 17:5).

Jeremiah 17:7 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

God is ever faithful and His promises never fail. (Numbers 1-2)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 1-2, Psalm 44, and Mark 16. Our devotional is from Numbers 1-2.

Our Bible Reading Plan, this 1st day of March 2019, bring us to the Book of Numbers.  The author of Numbers is Moses and the opening verse (Numbers 1:1) gives us the exact chronological timeline for events found in its pages:  “first day of the second month, in the second year after they [the Twelve Tribes of Israel] were come out of the land of Egypt” (1:1).

The Book of Numbers traces the journey of the Twelve Tribes of Israel from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the threshold of Canaan, the land God promised Abraham for an inheritance.  The book derives its name from the fact it records three separate census counts of Israel during her sojourn in the wilderness.  Admittedly, one can get lost in the details enumerated in Numbers 1-2; however, there is an important truth concealed in the verses:  God is faithful and remembers and keeps His promises!

God charged Moses and Aaron to take a census of the men of Israel, twenty years and older; men who are identified by their tribe, father’s name and own name, and described as “able to go forth to war” (1:1-4).  These are the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the offspring of the twelve sons of Jacob the Old Testament patriarch whose name God changed to Israel, who was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham.

The thousands numbered in these verses are a testimony God remembered His covenant with Abraham whom He called out of ancient Ur (modern-day Iraq), commanding him to leave his country and kindred and journey to a land God promised would be an inheritance for his lineage (Genesis 12:1-3).  God promised Abraham would not only be father to a great people, but also “all families of the earth be blessed” through him (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ as our Savior Redeemer – Genesis 12:3b).

Thirteen tribes (Numbers 1:5-15) are named; however, two tribes descended from Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh – Numbers 1:10, 32-35) and the priestly tribe of Levi was excluded from the census because of their dedication and service to the LORD (1:47-54).

The LORD had set the tribe of Levi apart for Himself in lieu of the first-born from every tribe and family being set apart for the priesthood (Numbers 3:12-13).  The Levites were charged with the responsibility of the tabernacle and the vessels used for worship and offering sacrifices (Numbers 1:50; 3:8).  When the nation was on the move, the Levites were responsible for taking down the tabernacle and erecting it (Numbers 1:51, 53).  Numbers 2 gives the organization of the encampment by tribe.

I close today’s devotional reflecting on two lessons. The first, the tabernacle was located in the center of the encampment serving as a constant reminder of not only God’s presence, but also the privilege of access the people enjoyed in worshipping, sacrificing, and serving the LORD (1:53).

The second lesson is how the people obeyed the LORD’s commands:  “And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers” (2:34).

Friend, is worshipping and serving the LORD central to your life or have you relegated Him to Sundays only?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Hey Millennial Pastors: God has not called you to be “real”; He has called you to be “holy”! (Leviticus 21-22)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 21-22. Our devotional is from Leviticus 22.

Leviticus 21 reminds us God’s calling to ministry is a sacred calling.  Whatever laws God commanded His people, the priests ordained to minister sacrifices and offerings were to strictly observe in their homes, marriages, and families (21:5-15).  Indicating God’s demands for his ministers to be holy and unblemished, no sons of the Aaronic priesthood could serve as priests if there was a physical blemish (21:16-24).

The opening verses of Leviticus 22 remind 21st century ministers and believers that God sets forth the highest ideals for those who minister before Him on behalf of His people.  I understand the context of Leviticus 22 is in its immediate application guidelines for the priesthood; however, we find enduring principles for those who serve the LORD.

The first, priests were to treat as sacred the sacrifices brought to them by the people (22:2).   The work of continually offering sacrifices might have easily become routine for priests and, rather than treat their duties as a sacred responsibility, a sense of doldrums and lethargy might set in that would treat the offerings as less than holy.

There is also a danger of failing to take account of one’s spiritual standing before the LORD (22:3).  Samuel’s rebuke of king Saul’s pretentiousness in offering sacrifices echoes this same principle when we read, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).  The people bringing sacrifices might not have known the priest ministering before them was merely going through the motions; however, the LORD knows the hearts of those who serve Him and requires holiness.

A third example of treating the priesthood with less than the holiness God demanded was a laxness in who might share the portions set aside for the priest and his immediate family (22:10-16).  In other words, the heart of a priestly father might be to give a portion of meat to family members and guests who did not qualify to partake of the portions God set aside for priests and their families.

Finally, sacrifices offered to the LORD were to be of the highest standard (22:17-32).  Like those who offer the LORD less than a tithe, there was the temptation to offer animals for sacrifice that were deformed, ill or injured.  God’s standard was “there shall be no blemish therein”(22:21).

Pastors who fail to live above reproach and take the high road when it comes to so-called “gray areas” in life are a leprosy in the 21st century church.  Projecting an ideology of being “real” and approachable, our pulpits are sacrificing holiness, embracing carnality, and our church members are following the same (1 John 2:15-17).

I close reminding pastors and believers, God’s call for holiness is for us all.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – 15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith