Category Archives: Trials and Temptations

Don’t Quit! (Galatians 6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 6

Today’s Scripture reading concludes our study of the Epistle to the Galatians. Previous chapters answered enemies who attacked the doctrine of salvation by grace, and were an exposition on the Law and grace of God through Christ. You will see Galatians 6 is practical, and needs little commentary. The focus of this devotional is Galatians 6:1-9, where Paul urged the believers of Galatia to be faithful and compassionate toward others, and in particular fellow believers.

Restoring Sinning Believers (6:1)

Paul urged spiritually-minded believers to be gracious, and patient with those who were overcome by the temptation to sin (6:1). Ruling out a spirit of judgment that is too often seen in churches, Paul encouraged “spiritual” believers to address the fault of another in a “spirit of meekness” (6:1b). The goal for going to a sinning believer is not to judge and condemn, but to the end they might be restored to the fellowship of believers (6:1b). Lest a believer be tempted to be harsh or judgmental, Paul urged, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (6:1).

Loving Encouragement (6:2)

Notice restoring a backslidden believer is to be done not only with a spirit of meekness (6:1), but is also a labor of love. Paul writes, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (6:2). The word “bear” indicates the need of coming alongside a faltering believer, and steadying them as they have stumbled. Such an effort is to be done with patience, love and compassion, which is “the law of Christ” (6:2b).

What is the “law of Christ?” It is the sum of all of the commandments stated in one directive regarding man with man, to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus quoted Leviticus when He taught His disciples, “Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 19:19). When He was questioned near the end of His earthly ministry, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36), Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

A Call to Humility and Self-examination (6:3-5)

Because the nature of man is prone to be proud, harsh and judgmental, Paul admonished the Galatian believers, “3For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (6:3). You see, when we have a right perspective on who we are, we realize we are nothing apart from Christ and His righteousness. Pride and self-righteousness have no place in the fellowship of believers.

How can believers avoid an attitude of pride and a spirit of judgment? Paul exhorted, “4But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For every man shall bear his own burden” (6:4-5). We need to honestly examine ourselves, and avoid the error of fools, for comparing ourselves with other is foolish, and “not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

The Duty of Believers to Support Those Who Minister (6:6-8)

Continuing the practical application of our devotional, Paul challenged believers to remember those who were faithful teachers “in all good things,” and “communicate unto him” (6:6). To “communicate” meant to share in the financial support of those who dedicated their lives to instructing believers in the highest truths and moral principles of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Timothy 5:17).

Within the context of supporting faithful teachers, Paul taught the spiritual principle known as “Sowing and Reaping” (6:7-9). Unfortunately, those verses are seldom taught in their context, notice what Paul wrote:

Galatians 6:6–87Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Stated simply, the duty of believers is to support their ministers, knowing God will not be ridiculed (mocked, 6:6a). Taking a lesson from the farm, what a farmer sows, he reaps (i.e., sow wheat, you harvest wheat; the more you sow, the more you reap). Then, as a believer sows (in this context, supports those who minister the Word), so he will reap (6:6b). Please the flesh and you will reap the consequences. Obey the Word, feed the spirit, and your will reap eternal life (6:8).

Closing promise (6:9) – We conclude our devotional commentary with Paul’s exhortation, “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (6:9). It is the promise of the harvest that encourages the farmer to labor long hours and days in his field. So it is the spiritual promise of reaping “if we faint not” (6:9b) that encourages and stirs hope. When the time is right, faithful believers will reap eternal rewards. Don’t Quit!

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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 Commencement of the Mission of the Great Commission (Acts 14)

Scripture reading – Acts 14

Continuing our study of the Acts of the Apostles, we observe an ever-rising tide of persecution. Paul and Barnabas had left the believers in Jerusalem, and took with them John Mark (12:25). Returning to Antioch, the Holy Spirit moved on that church to “separate” and consecrate Barnabas and Saul to be sent forth as the first missionary team (13:2-4). Traveling with that dynamic duo was John Mark; however, he soon deserted their company and “returned to Jerusalem” (13:13). (John Mark’s departure would later prove to be a divisive issue between Barnabas and Saul, Acts 15:38-40).

Paul and Barnabas came to another Antioch, known in the Scriptures as “Antioch in Pisidia” (13:14). This Antioch began in Asia Minor as a Roman outpost, but by Paul’s day was the capital city of Galatia in modern day Turkey. Antioch’s population of Jews was large enough to have a synagogue, and as it was their custom, Paul and Barnabas worshipped there on the Sabbath (13:14). As was the tradition, as guests of the synagogue, Paul and Barnabas were invited to give a “word of exhortation for the people” (13:15).

Trained in the Scriptures, Paul was a powerful, persuasive speaker, and he began to declare God’s providential work and care for Israel (13:18-22). He beckoned them with his hand saying, “26 Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent… 28And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. 29And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. 30But God raised him from the dead” (13:23-41).

At that time there were many Jews and Gentiles who heard the Gospel, believed and were baptized (13:42, 47-48). Nevertheless, there were many who rejected Christ, opposed Paul and Barnabas, and “expelled them out of their coasts” (13:45, 50). In turn, Paul and Barnabas rejected their rejectors, and “shook off the dust of their feet against them” (13:51). Yet, though rejected by man, those preachers “were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (13:52).

Acts 14 – Preaching the Gospel in Iconium (14:1-7)

Paul and Barnabas continued their missionary journey from Antioch in Pisidia to Iconium (a distance of approximately 120 miles). As they spoke in the synagogue, there was once again “a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed” (14:1). Isn’t it interesting, how the same message that convicted and moved Jews and Gentiles to repent and believe, stirred up others to reject and persecute? (14:2).

In spite of the opposition, Paul and Barnabas persevered and remained in Iconium “a long time…[and] speaking boldly in the Lord…gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders [miracles] to be done by their hands” (14:3). Yet, “the city was divided,” and some followed the Jews, and others believed the apostles (14:4). The opposition was so great, that some were determined “to stone them” (14:5). They fled Iconium, and came unto “Lystra and Derbe” where they “preached the gospel” (14:6-7).

A Crippled Healed (14:8-17)

Paul healed a crippled man in Lystra, who had been so from birth, and had never walked (14:8). Paul, saw the crippled man “had faith to be healed,” and “said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked” (14:9-10). The people of Lystra saw the miracle, and their thoughts shaped by their mythology, began praising Paul and Barnabas as gods (14:11-12). Indeed, the “priest of Jupiter” came, and would have offered the apostles sacrifices had they not protested and said, we “are men of like passions with you” (14:15).

Paul then declared the true God had made Himself known in creation:  “The living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein… left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (14:15, 17).

Persistent Enemies (14:19-21)

Though they had traveled 120 miles, Paul’s enemies from Antioch and Iconium came to Lystra, and proved the fickle nature of sinners, and stirred up the people who “stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead” (14:19). Left for dead, Paul regained consciousness, “rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe” (14:20).

Closing thoughts (14:21-28) – Bold, courageous, and Spirit-filled, Paul and Barnabas returned to the cities where they had preached (14:20-21). They instructed “the souls of the disciples” and exhorted “them to continue in the faith” (14:22). They made their journey back to Antioch, (of Syria) where they “rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (14:21). Perhaps tired, and weary, Paul and Barnabas stayed a long time with the believers in Antioch (14:28).

* 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.

Be Strong in the LORD and Bold in Your Witness! (Acts 7; Acts 8)

Scripture reading – Acts 7; Acts 8

Recorded in Acts 7 and 8 are two of the great pivotal points in the maturing of the early church: The death of Stephen, the first martyr of the church (Acts 7); and the conversion of Saul the great persecutor of the church (Acts 8).

We first met Stephen in Acts 6 when he was named among the seven men chosen to assist the apostles in the rapidly growing congregation. Though there is some debate, I believe the seven were the first Deacons, one of only two Biblical offices in the New Testament church, the other being the Pastor\Elder (1 Timothy 3).

The role of the seven was defined as serving tables (Acts 6:2), meaning the menial, but intimate care of the members of their assembly. Particularly noteworthy was the spiritual character that was demanded of those who would be Deacons. Those men were to be “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).

Of the seven chosen, Stephen, was specifically distinguished as a man, “full of faith and power, [who] did great wonders and miracles among the people” (6:8). His testimony and boldness in faith, spiritual wisdom, and power in the spirit made him a formidable witness among those in the synagogues (6:9-10).

As it was with Christ, so it was for Stephen; the enemies of the Gospel were determined to silence him. After arresting Stephen, evil men were employed to bring false accusations against him (6:11-13). Hurling lies against his character, those who sat in the council were amazed, for his countenance was “as it had been the face of an angel” (6:15).

Having heard the charges of his accusers, Stephen was asked by the high priest, “Are these things so?” (7:1).

Stephen’s defense reflected a breadth and depth of knowledge in the Old Testament Scriptures, that made his argument before the council powerful and convicting (7:2-53). He systematically set forth a historical case for Christ beginning with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon (7:2-50). Concluding his defense, Stephen fearlessly rebuked the council, exposed their hypocrisy, and charged them and their fathers with the deaths of the prophets (7:51-53).

Rather than answer Stephen’s indictment, the lawless members of the council broke their laws, and without an answer or passing judgment, stoned him to death (7:54-58).

The religious hypocrites were guilty. They were guilty of the blood of the prophets, and having already rejected Jesus Christ, they added to their condemnation the blood of Stephen. There was, however, one exception in that crowd of mockers: “the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul”(7:58). Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the church, would soon come face to face with the reality of a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

Closing thought – I trust Stephen’s knowledge of the Scriptures, and his courageous example will stir your heart to study the Old and New Testament Scriptures, and embolden your faith to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

Scripture reading – Acts 2; Acts 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

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.

Dead Man Walking (John 11)

Scripture reading – John 11; Luke 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Intolerable Crisis (11:45-57)

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

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

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

Are You Ready for His Coming?

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Peace in the Storm (Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Mark 6; Luke 9

Note – The length of today’s Scripture reading (118 verses) encourages me to be brief in commentary. In addition, you will find we have covered similar content in the Gospel of Matthew.

By now, the term, “Synoptic Gospels” has become familiar as we continue our study of the Gospels by that term (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). You will notice in our Scripture reading a parallel of events that were considered in Matthew 13. For instance, we have seen Jesus rejected by the people of Nazareth, His hometown (Matthew 13:53-54), and the same rejection was recorded in Mark 6:1-6.

Matthew and Mark observed the tragic result of Christ’s final visit to Nazareth. Though His neighbors were astonished at His teaching, and had heard of the “mighty works…wrought by His hands,” they nevertheless rejected Him (Mark 6:2). They knew Him as “the carpenter, the son of Mary,” and knew His brothers and sisters (Mark 6:2-3). By the way, Mark 6:3 debunks the perpetual virginity of Mary, the false doctrine espoused by the Roman Catholic Church. Mary was the virgin mother of Jesus (He being of the seed of the Holy Ghost); however, she and Joseph were blessed with sons and daughters after our Lord’s birth (Mark 6:3). Tragically, because the people of Nazareth did not believe, Jesus “could there do no mighty work” (Mark 6:5).

A second example of a parallel event discovered in today’s Scripture reading is of when Jesus sent out the Twelve as apostles (Mark 6:7-12; Luke 9:1-5, Matthew 10:1-14). A third parallel event recorded in the Synoptic Gospels was the beheading of John the Baptist by Herod (Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-20; Matthew 14:1-12).

The news of John’s fate, and the return of the disciples with news of their ministering to the cities and villages of Galilee, gave impetus for Jesus to seek a quieter place in the desert (Mark 6:30-32), yet the people followed Him along the seashore until they came to the place where He and the disciples anchored (Mark 6:33-34; Luke 9:10-11; Matthew 14:13-14).

Hardheaded, Hardhearted Disciples (Mark 6:35-52; Luke 9:12-17)

Two other events found in today’s study have captured the imaginations of children for two millennium: “The Feeding of the 5,000” (Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:12-17; Matthew 14:15-21) and Jesus “Walking on the Water” and saving the lives of His disciples who were caught in a great storm (Mark 6:45-52; the same was recorded in Matthew 14:22-33).

Closing thoughts – Time and space do not allow a thorough study of today’s Scripture; however, I close with a question to ponder: After the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 (with only two fish and five loaves), why did Jesus send His disciples into a great storm where they feared for their lives?

Answer – The disciples “considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened” (Mark 6:52). Of course, Jesus knew the condition of their hearts. Though they had witnessed the miracles, and served the bounty of the miracle to the people, they were spiritually blind. They missed the significance of the feeding of the 5,000, though that miracle demonstrated Jesus’ power and authority over nature. When they saw Jesus walking on the troubled waters of the Sea of Galilee, they “worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).

Are you in a personal storm of doubt, disappointment, sickness, or sorrow? Is your trial about to overwhelm you? Think for a moment and consider, as the storm worked God’s purpose in the lives of the disciples, so too did the words of the Savior, when He spoke: “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid” and the “wind ceased” (Mark 6:50). You may find the extremity of your need is the window of opportunity for the LORD to speak into your life, and give you His strength and comfort.

Psalm 18:30 – As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

* 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.