Tag Archives: Anger

Time for a Spiritual Self-Portrait (Galatians 4-6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading completes our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our devotional commentary will focus on Galatians 5:19-25.

Paul challenged believers in Galatia to “Stand Fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (5:1).

There were many things that might have shaken the faith of first century believers living in the Roman province of Galatia. There was the ever-present threat of persecution, the rejection of family and friends, and the ever-present pressures and influence of living in the midst of a sinful, pagan culture. Understanding the cultural temptations that surrounded them, Paul’s letter urged believers to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). What is the “lust of the flesh” that the Spirit will enable a believer to overcome?

The “lust of the flesh” is manifested in what Paul defined as “the works of the flesh” (5:19-21).

1) Galatians 5:19bSexual immorality (“adultery, fornication”) and moral debauchery (“uncleanness, lasciviousness”)

2) Galatians 5:20aReligious sins (“idolatry, witchcraft”)

3) Galatians 5:20b-21aRelationship sins (“hatred [hostility], variance [contentious], emulations [envy; jealousy], wrath, strife, seditions [divisions], heresies [departure from the Truth], 21 Envyings”)

4) Galatians 5:21Moral corruption (“murders, drunkenness, revellings [drunkenness; sinful indulgence]”)

Did you notice the sins of first century Galatia are the sins of our 21st century world?

The heart of man has not changed, and the nature of sin is passed from generation to generation, from father and mother, to the son and daughter. Though “the works of the flesh” are characteristic of our fallen world and society, they have no place in a believer’s life. Paul warned, “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21b).

After admonishing believers concerning the “works of the flesh,” Paul turned his focus to a brief exposition of the spiritual graces that the Holy Spirit should manifest in the life of a believer when he is fully-yielded to the work and leading of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit-Filled Life (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that the Holy Spirit will produce a spiritual transformation in a believer’s life (5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy [gladness of heart], peace [tranquility], longsuffering[patient; restrains from vengeance], gentleness [kindness, without harshness], goodness [good deeds toward others], faith[conviction], 23Meekness [not soon angry; humility], temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law.

When a man is genuinely saved, and the Holy Spirit is present, there will be “fruit of the Spirit.” The degree of fruit produced, and evidenced in a believer’s life, will be dependent on their walk with the LORD, and obedience to His Word.

Realizing that the “works of the flesh” have no place in a believer’s life, there should be a transformation that is noticeably evident:

Where there was hatred, there is love. Where there was wrath, there is joy. Where there were divisions, there is peace. Where there was wrath, there is patience. Where there was contentiousness, there is gentleness. Where there was envy, there is goodness. Where there was heresy, there is faith. Where there was murder and hate, there is meekness. Where there was drunkenness and self-indulgence, there is self-control.

How can this be? How might a believer get victory over the “works of the flesh,” and his life and spirit evidence the “fruit of the Spirit?” Paul’s answer:

Galatians 5:24–2524 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Friend, I encourage you to take a few minutes and do an honest, self-evaluation of your life and spirit. Is the “fruit of the Spirit” apparent in your life?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Judas: Remorse is Not Repentance (Matthew 27; Mark 15)

Scripture reading – Matthew 27; Mark 15

Rich with drama, the passages we are reading today bring us to the spiritual crossroads of human history. The unfolding drama is providentially God’s redemptive plan of salvation for man’s sin, conceived in the heart of our Creator before the foundation of the world was laid.

Today’s devotional could focus on many aspects of this path to the Cross; however, I must limit myself to one thought: Judas, his remorse, and death.

The chief priests and the Sanhedrin, having condemned Jesus to die (Matthew 27:1-2), had taken Him away to the palace of Pontius Pilate where He would be tried, and sentenced to death by the civil authority.

Judas had watched with remorse, the effect of His decision to betray Jesus into the hands of His enemies (27:3). For three years, he had been privileged to be Christ’s disciple. Along with the other disciples, he had listened to Him teach, and witnessed miracles that could not be explained apart from God’s power and anointing. Nevertheless, Judas was, like so many, a follower, but not a believer that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Judas, seeing Jesus was condemned, and desperate to make right his wrong, went to the chief priests and elders with the thirty pieces of silver burning in his hands. He confessed to them, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4a).

Poor, sad, miserable soul; Judas realized too late the scorn those religious hypocrites held not only for Jesus, but also for him. They answered Judas with contempt, “What is that to us? see thou to that” (27:4b).

What terror of soul! Those religious pretenders cared nothing for Judas’ soul and offered him no counsel (27:5a). He realized too late that there was no place, and no one to whom he could go to find relief for his wickedness. Unable to bear the weight of his sin, and his betrayal of “innocent blood” (27:4a), Judas realized no act of contrition could ease his guilt. Casting down the thirty pieces of silver, he fled through the streets of Jerusalem, “and went and hanged himself” (27:5b; Acts 1:16-19).

Magnifying the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, though set upon the murder of Jesus, they disingenuously debated among themselves the unlawful expenditure of blood money, the silver Judas had returned and hurled at them (27:6b). In a plan to conceal their sin, they proposed an act of charity and purchased “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (27:8). Unknowingly, they had fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10) that was recorded by Zechariah, stating:

“So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:12–13).

The public would learn the secret of their purchase, and called the place, “The field of blood” (27:8).

What sorrow, depravity, and travesty of justice and piety! Such is the way of the wicked, and the sorrow of remorse without sincere repentance. Judas was filled with regret; however, he failed to confess his sin to God. With no recourse except repentance, Judas found himself in a state of hopelessness. His remorse was too little, and his repentance came too late.

Friend, don’t make that mortal mistake. Confess your sin to God, and turn to Him knowing Christ has borne the penalty of your sin on the cross.

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

WARNING: A Contentious Man is A Spiritual Cancer (Matthew 26; Mark 14)

Scripture reading assignment: Matthew 26; Mark 14

The Gospel of Mark, chapters 13-14, is a captivating reading of historical events that took place in the last week of Christ’s earthly ministry. We have considered the LORD’s teachings on “Eschatology,” the Biblical doctrine of “Last Things,” including His revelation of universal occurrences that will precede His Second Coming (Mark 13).

The record in Mark 14 begins with supper at the home of Simon, the leper (Mark 14:3-9), followed by the Passover meal (Mark 14:16-28), prior to the betrayal and arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:43-65), and Peter’s threefold denial of Christ (Mark 14:66-72). Understanding a commentary of those historical events in the confines of a devotional is impossible, I will limit today’s devotional to an examination of the betrayer Judas, and his presence and influence on the other disciples.

Mark 14 finds the LORD and His disciples having dinner at the home of Simon the leper (14:3). Because lepers were outcasts, the occasion of the feast was probably a celebration of our Lord healing Simon, and a festive occasion for Lazarus being raised from the dead. The central focus of the feast became a sacrificial gift that was offered by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the disciples’ criticisms of her actions led by Judas (14:3b-9).

In an act of sincere love, Mary had entered the room where Jesus and His disciples were eating, and breaking the neck of an alabaster jar (a milky cream-colored jar containing spikenard), she poured out its contents on Jesus’ head and feet (14:3b; John 12:3).  John identified “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray Him” (John 12:4), as the disciple who led a chorus of criticism of Mary’s actions. Judas had suggested the spikenard, a perfume fit for royalty, and in Judas’ estimation worth over 300 pence (a full year’s salary in that economy), should have been sold and its proceeds given to the poor (John 12:5).  Leaving no doubt as to Judas’ motives, John writes,  “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).

Consider with me Judas’ character and his influence on the disciples.  Judas’ objection carried the appearance of a charitable soul, but in reality, he was a thief, a traitor, and a deserter.  His words not only implied Mary’s sacrifice was a waste, but was also a slight against the LORD for receiving Mary’s sacrificial act of love and devotion. Rather than defend the LORD’s honor and Mary’s action, we read that the disciples “murmured against her” (14:5).

Jesus rebuked the disciples, and silenced them saying, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me” (14:6).  Affirming Mary’s act of sacrificial love, Jesus once again spoke of His imminent death and burial (14:7-8; John 12:7), and revealed Mary’s sacrifice would be a lasting testimony of her faith and devotion (14:8-9).

I close on a practical note, challenging you with a proverbial principle: Beware an angry man, for he will spoil and destroy you with his contentious spirit!

Proverbs 16:21 describes men like Judas who are, “As coals [i.e. black coals] are to burning coals [red hot coals], and wood to fire; so is a contentious man [brawling; strife provoking; quarreling] to kindle [incite; burn] strife [controversy; dispute; quarrel].” 

A contentious spirit has the same destructive effect on a family, church, and organization, as a burning ember of an unattended campfire in the middle of a forest. An angry, contentious spirit has the potential of destroying everything, and the LORD hates it!

Proverbs 6:16, 19 – “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him…19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Individual Responsibility: A Parable of “Sour Grapes” (Ezekiel 18-20)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

Today’s Scripture reading is a lengthy one, consisting of 95 verses, housed in three chapters (Ezekiel 18-20). I will limit the focus of this devotional commentary to Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

There was no dispute over Israel and Judah’s provocation of God’s justice and the judgment of His people. The people had broken their covenant with God, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and provoked the LORD to wrath. The LORD commanded Ezekiel to go to the people and confront their insinuation that the troubles that had befallen them were an injustice to them for the sins of their forefathers (18:1-2a).

There was a parable in Babylon among the people of the captivity that said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”  (18:2). In other words, the younger generation was blaming their fore-fathers for the troubles and miseries they were suffering. The implication was that God was not just, and was punishing children for the sins of their parents.

Sadly, that same spirit is pervading our own society. Blame shifting has become epidemic in our culture. The evils committed 150 years ago by the forefathers of this generation has fostered a spirit of entitlement that some suggest excuses wrath, violence, bitterness, rioting, and even murder.

Ezekiel 18 addresses the matter of individual responsibility and personal accountability to God.

God commanded Ezekiel to declare the universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).

Though all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and true. God promised to bless the man that chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).  However, every son and every generation will bear God’s judgment for its sins, and God will not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13).

Should a son see his father sin, but the son chooses the way of righteousness, he will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17), but the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

 So, who are you going to blame for your troubles and sorrows?

There is no denying a family suffers for the choices of its members; however, we each bear the burden of choosing how to respond to the troubles and sorrows that arise in our lives.

God is just and “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (18:20). The LORD is merciful and compassionate (18:21). He is ready to forgive our sins when we repent and has promised, our sins “shall not be mentioned” or remembered against us (18:22).

Let’s stop wallowing in the mire of self-pity, blaming others for our sinful choices and the consequences that befall us!  God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30a). If we repent of our sins and turn from our sinful ways, the LORD promises, sin “shall not be your ruin” (18:30b)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Tragedy: When We Forget the Kindness of Others (2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our Scripture reading focuses on two parallel accounts of the life and times of Joash (i.e. Jehoash), the young king of Judah, who began to reign when he was seven years old, and Jehoiada who served as the chief priest in the Temple and was the spiritual mentor for the king until his death at 130 years old.

2 Kings 12

Jehoash ascended to the throne of Judah when he was seven years old (2 Kings 11:3-4, 12) and under the influence of the chief priest Jehoiada, the young king began a revival of worship in the Temple (12:2). The Temple had been neglected and fallen into disrepair during the reign Queen-mother Athaliah (2 Chronicles 24:7).

The king, therefore commanded that offerings be collected and dedicated to repairing the “house of the LORD” (12:4-6). When he realized the repairs were not being made as he had commanded (2 Chronicles 24:5), the king demanded a report on the state of the offerings (12:7-8) and ordered that the money given by the people would be secured and the repairs a priority (12:9-16; 2 Chronicles 24:8-13).

2 Kings 13 – Death of Elisha

There is an interesting dynamic recorded here between the great prophet Elisha and Joash, the king of Israel (13:14). Although we read that the king “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (13:11), he nevertheless respected the old prophet and his ministry in Israel. King Joash came to Elisha’s death bed and “wept over” the venerable prophet saying, “O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (2 Chronicles 24:11).

Elisha left the king with one final prophecy, that Israel would defeat Syria in three battles (13:15-19); however, the nation would fail to completely destroy their adversary (13:19).

To complete today’s devotional, I invite you to turn your attention to 2 Chronicles 24 and the record of the death of the chief priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:15-16), and the assassination of Jehoash (i.e. Joash) who reigned forty years over Judah (2 Chronicles 24:1, 24-25).

2 Chronicles 24 – The Death of the Priest Jehoiada and the Conspiracy to Kill King Joash

Jehoiada, the chief priest and mentor of King Joash (i.e. Jehoash), died at the age of 130 (24:15). Without his godly, aged mentor, the king was soon encouraged by younger leaders in Judah to tolerate idol worship in the kingdom (24:17-18).

Having turned to idols, Judah provoked the LORD’S wrath against the nation. Restraining His judgment for a season, the LORD mercifully sent prophets to call the people to repent (24:19). One of those faithful prophets was Zechariah, the son of the late chief priest Jehoiada (24:20), who had been the king’s spiritual mentor.

Zechariah confronted the sins of the nation and warned of the LORD’s judgment (24:19-22). Rather than heed the words of the prophet, the king conspired with the young leaders and killed the son of the man who had spared his life when he was an infant (2 Kings 11:3).

Zechariah was stoned to death, even as he warned the LORD would avenge his death (24:21-22). Fulfilling Zechariah’s dying prophecy, the stage was set for Jehoash to be wounded in battle against the King of Syria (24:23-25a). Recovering from his wounds suffered in battle, the king was slain by his servants (24:25b-26).

Having forgotten the kindness of Jehoiada the high priest, who had saved his life as an infant and made him king, Joash was complicit in the prophet Zechariah’s death, whom the people rose up and stoned.

A quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind as I read, “Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (2 Chronicles 24:22a).  Dr. Bob, as he was affectionately known by students of then, Bob Jones College, reminded the students, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless.”

Indeed, there was no hope for Joash when he turned from the LORD and “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him” (24:22a).  How could a man whose life was spared by the selfless act of another, not only fail to remember his kindness, but be guilty of the cruel death of his son?

Bitterness! When Joash’s sin was exposed and confronted, rather than repent, the king became enraged! You and I can avoid the same folly if we will heed Ephesians 4:31-32.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Sin Will Rob You of Everything You Hold Dear. (1 Samuel 28-31)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 28-31

Knowing Saul was bent on killing him, David and his warriors had withdrawn from Israel and for sixteen months lived among the Philistines (27:8-11). Having earned the trust of Achish, king of the Philistines, David and his men prospered. Indeed, the opening verses of 1 Samuel 28 finds David being invited by Achish to go to battle with the Philistines against Israel (28:1-2).

1 Samuel 28 – A Portrait of Desperation

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Samuel is dead and Saul and all Israel lament his passing (28:3). Having put away some of the evil present in the land, Saul sees the armies of the Philistines gathered against Israel. Out of fear and desperation, Saul made a pretense of seeking the LORD (28:4-6); however, heaven was silent.

The king had rejected the LORD, and now the LORD rejected him. “The LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim (meaning the high priest), nor by prophets” (28:6).

Desperate and seeking a revelation for the battle he would soon face, Saul disguised himself and reverted back to the practice of divination, the practice he had just recently put out of the land. Saul sought the counsel of a witch (28:7-10; Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31). Asked whom he was seeking, Saul requested Samuel be called from the dead (28:11). When Samuel’s visage appeared the witch realized her guest was the king (28:12).

Saul confessed, “God is departed from me, and answereth me no more” (28:15). Rather than give hope, Samuel warned the battle that would follow would bring the death of Saul and his sons, and the throne of Israel would pass to David (28:17-18). Saul learned the tragic consequences of his sins for himself, his sons, and the nation.

1 Samuel 28:19Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.

Terrified, Saul “fell straightway all along on the earth” (28:20).

1 Samuel 29 – A Providential Dismissal from Battle

Unlike King Achish, the princes of the Philistines did not trust that David would war against Israel and demanded he and his men be removed from the battle lest they turn their swords against them (29:1-5).

Achish yielded to his leaders’ demands and dismissed David and his men (29:6-7).  David pretended to protest his dismissal from the battle (29:8) and retreated from the field early in the morning (29:11).

1 Samuel 30 – Tragedy in Ziklag

After a three days journey to their homes in Ziklag, David and his men found the Amalekites had attacked their city, destroying their homes by fire and taking their wives, sons, and daughters captive (30:1-4). Overcome with grief, the hearts of David’s men were stirred to revenge, and some would have stoned him (30:6a).

How did David respond? Like a man after God’s own heart: “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” and “enquired at the LORD” (30:6, 8).  Learning where the Amalekites had taken their loved ones (30:9-16), God answered David’s prayer and restored to him and his men their families and possessions (30:17-20).

1 Samuel 31 – The King is Dead!

One might feel compassion for Saul in the latter years of his life and reign.  The king was old, and the strength and vitality of his youth had faded.  He had made David, the man who had served him faithfully, his enemy. Saul was haunted by the knowledge the LORD was no longer with him (28:6).

On the next day, the battle went against Israel, and Saul received word his sons were dead and the army was in disarray (31:1-2).  Having suffered a mortal wound from an arrow, Saul commanded his armor bearer to slay him, but his servant refused.  Realizing he would soon fall into the hands of his enemy, Saul fell upon his own sword (31:3-4).  Adding to his ignoble death, when Saul’s body was discovered on the battlefield, the Philistines cut off his head, stripped his body of his armor, and “put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan” (31:10; 1 Chronicles 10:8-10).

Sin and disobedience cost Saul everything. He lost his army (31:1), his sons (31:2), his life (31:3-4), and his honor (31:9-10).

Numbers 32:23 warns: “Your sin will find you out” and James concludes, when it is finished, brings forth death (James 1:15b).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy of Sin and Its Consequences (Genesis 3-4)

We read in the Genesis account that God provided a “garden eastward in Eden” for Adam; an orchard not only beautiful to behold, but its trees provided fruit “good for food” (Genesis 2:8-9).  In the midst of the garden God planted two trees described as the “tree of life” and the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

God charged Adam to act as the steward (Genesis 1:28) and servant (laborer) of His creation (Genesis 2:15); and commanded him, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

“Why did God put a tree in the midst of Eden and forbid Adam to eat its fruit?”

Adam and Eve were not robots and the forbidden fruit was a test of man’s love for God. Tragically, Adam and Eve disobeyed the LORD, ate of the forbidden fruit, “and the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:1-8).  In an act of grace, the LORD covered their nakedness with animal skins (Genesis 3:9-21).

The curse and tragic nature of sin was soon evident in the conflict between Cain, Eve’s firstborn son, and his brother Abel (Genesis 4).  Obedient to God’s model of atonement for sin, Abel brought a sacrificial offering to the LORD (Genesis 4:4); however, God refused Cain’s bloodless sacrifice (Genesis 4:3, 5).  Rejected, Cain burned in anger toward the LORD and his “countenance” betrayed his rebellion (Genesis 4:5).  Ever merciful, the LORD questioned Cain,

Genesis 4:6-76  And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall behis desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Rather than repent and do right, Cain’s wrath escalated and he slew his brother (Genesis 4:8).  Consider the dialogue between the LORD and Cain after he killed his brother.

Genesis 4:9– “And the LORD [Jehovah] said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: AmI my brother’s keeper [watchman; guard; keeper]?”

Presented with an opportunity to confess his sin, Cain turned insolent and defied the LORD asking, Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).

Why did Cain refuse to humble himself and repent of his sin?  The answer: “[Cain’s] own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). Cain murdered Abel for he hated his brother’s righteousness.  When the LORD confronted Cain, he shirked responsibility for his sin and refused to repent (Genesis 4:9-12).  Characteristic of  hardened sinners, Cain’s focus was not on the evil he had done, but on the punishment, the consequences of his sin (Genesis 4:13-16).

“To grieve over sin is one thing; to repent is another.”– Anonymous

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Prayer for Students and Families of Broward County, FL

The news of the senseless slaughter of innocent young lives in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, Wednesday afternoon, February 14, 2018 dominates the news this morning.  As of this morning, the death toll remains at 17 and the names of the dead, students and teachers, has not been released.

Like you, I am aware the tragedy of the loss of life reaches far beyond the dead…siblings, parents, grandparents, friends, classmates, teachers, administrators, neighbors, and yes, our state and nation…are all affected and scarred by the violence, suffering and death.

Liberal pundits will stand in their bully-pulpits and blame firearms for the loss of life.  The media and anti-liberty zealots opposed to the 2nd Amendment, will attack the NRA and conservatives, and advocate the need to limit, if not eliminate private ownership of guns and rifles.

Few will look deeper and honestly examine why this happened.  Why 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student expelled last school year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, would plan and unleash a hail of gunfire on students of his former high school?

We are learning Cruz’s life is scarred as much as the wounds he inflicted on innocent lives Wednesday.  USA Today reports, “teachers and former classmates say [Cruz] had an angry disposition that led to him being expelled and flagged as a danger on school grounds.”

Former classmates describe Cruz as a troubled soul and many say they are not surprised he unleashed his fury in an act of violence. According to Fox News, an unnamed student told a news station, “kids joked around that the student [Cruz] would be the one to ‘shoot up the school.’”

Cruz is a troubled soul and tragedy seems to have been the haunt of his life.  Fox News reports Cruz and a younger brother were adopted and both his father and mother, Roger and Lynda Cruz, are dead.  Roger apparently died of a heart attack several years ago and Cruz’s mother, Lynda, died of pneumonia November 1, 2017.  Unhappy with family members who took him in, sometime after Thanksgiving 2017, Cruz moved into a mobile home with a high school friend who is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cruz’s anger, rage and violence are pandemic in a generation educated in classrooms and nurtured in a society with an irreligious view of human life.  The doctrine that human life is sacred and every life is to be cherished is lost on a generation that mocks God, denies the Creator, and is entertained with acts of violence in video games and television programs from early childhood.

I am not surprised a 19-year-old murdered 17 classmates; I am surprised it does not happen more often.  Look into the eyes of today’s youth and you will find many who appear soulless…unloved and unloving; desensitized by bitterness, rejecting authority, angry with God, and waiting to be triggered into an act of rage that will not only destroy their lives and future, but leave countless others broken and dismayed.

Remembering Cain, the first son of Adam, murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8), we understand the problem is not guns and rifles; the problem is sin.  The invitation to this generation is the same as it was to Cain when God wrestled with his sinful soul and asked, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?…” (Genesis 4:6-7).

God warned Cain, “…if thou doest not well, sin lieth [crouches] at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire [sin drives our desires], and thou shalt rule over him [man will either master sin or sin will become his master](Genesis 4:7).

King Solomon taught his son the same truth, “[A sinner’s] own iniquities shall take [trap] the wicked himself, and he shall be holden [entrapped] with the cords [ropes] of his sins.”

Nikolas Cruz, and I am afraid many like him, is the personification of hopelessness.  Sinners have but two paths to choose in life…Remorse or Repentance.  Cruz followed the path of remorse and dejection and left in his wake 17 lost lives.

Repentance, on the other hand, assumes responsibility, admits guilt (Psalm 51:4), confesses sins, and seeks forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

Let us pray for the lives touched by the loss of 17 lives, but remember there are many Nikolas Cruz’s in our midst who feel unloved, act unloving, need to know the love of God, and our lives serve as the conduit of compassion for their lost souls.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Attitudes are an External Indicator of the Bent or Direction of One’s Heart and Thoughts

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 13

Our society defines attitudes from an emotional perspective and deflects personal responsibility.  If someone exhibits a bad attitude, psychologists deem them victims—victims of poverty, neglect, rejection or abuse. Rather than taking responsibility and self-correcting one’s bad attitude, people find it easier to cast dispersion upon a peer or an authority figure they feel has failed them.  In the process of deflecting responsibility for one’s attitudes, they dig a deeper emotional and spiritual rut!

Today’s devotional will challenge you to look into your own heart for the cause of attitudes that beset you.  More than emotions, attitudes are an external indicator of the bent or direction of one’s heart and thoughts.

Proverbs 13:1  “A wise son heareth his father’s instruction [correction]: but a scorner [scoffer] heareth not rebuke [firm reproof].”

Notice the heart attitude of the “wise son”—he hears and heeds his father’s correction, reproof and rebuke.  His attitude toward his father’s discipline is that of a learner, unlike the scorner. The scorner “heareth not rebuke”—he mocks the authorities in his life and holds them in derision. He blames others for his attitudes and justifies his rebellion by focusing on what he perceives as their failures. He is a slave to “stinking thinking”, a pattern rooted within the bent of his heart and thoughts. Allow me to illustrate this truth with a childhood memory.

I remember NASA illustrating the entry of space capsules into earth’s atmosphere in the 1960’s and emphasizing the attitude of the nose of the capsule.  Attitude was the word NASA used to define the direction of the top or nose of the capsule as contrasted with the heat shield at its base. If the attitude of the nose were right, the heat shield at the base of the capsule would deflect the fiery heat of earth’s atmosphere. If the attitude of the capsule were wrong, the capsule and its occupants would burn up upon re-entry. Life and death were directly related to the attitude of the capsule’s nose.

That same principle is true concerning our attitudes. A pattern of bad attitudes will drive one emotionally and spiritually down a path of self-destruction.  However, the answer to a life of bad attitudes [anger, rebellion, resentment, jealousy, etc.] is not to merely confess and correct negative attitudes or emotions…it is to get to the heart of the problem, which is the problem of a sinful heart! In other words, as goes the heart so goes the attitude!

A Right Heart/Mind/Pattern of Thoughts = A Right Attitude

A Wrong Heart/Mind/Pattern of Thoughts = A Wrong Attitude

My friend, if you are waging war with sinful attitudes, the solution is not for others to change, but for you to change. Too many look outside themselves for a solution to enslaving attitudes…a different spouse, different school, different job, different church…foolishly thinking different will make a difference! Not so!

If you are weary of battling with enslaving attitudes, look to the bent and direction of your own heart and “stinking thoughts”.  Take a few minutes and do an honest, spiritual heart check-up and take responsibility for your attitudes! Get control of your thoughts and you will overcome your attitudes (Philippians 4:8; Proverbs 23:7).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Forgiveness: What a blessed promise!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 66-68

Of the three psalms assigned for our scripture reading today, the best known is probably the first, Psalm 66; a psalm of praise and adoration inviting the nations of the earth to “Make a joyful noise unto God” (Psalm 66:1).

Lest someone is tempted to draw a parallel between today’s style of worship music and singing with the phrase “joyful noise” (66:1), I hasten to educate you that the “noise” is the sound of trumpets and shouts of victory and triumph.   David exhorts all people to praise the God of heaven in songs that honor His name (66:2) and invites “All the earth” to worship and sing praises to the LORD (66:4).

The focus of Psalm 66 moves from an invitation to all people to worship the LORD to God’s chosen people, Israel, praising Him (66:8-12).   David’s praise recalls how the LORD had preserved His people and brought them through times of trial and trouble (66:9-12).

Beginning with Psalm 66:13, David’s focus becomes personal: “I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows” (Psalm 66:13).

The psalm concludes with David inviting the people to hear his adoration of the LORD and “what He hath done for my soul” (66:16).  David writes of the LORD’s mercies, grace and willingness to hear his prayers and forgive his sin.

Psalm 66:17-20 17  I cried unto Him [the LORD] with my mouth, and he was extolled [exalted] with my tongue.
18  If I regard [see; perceive; observe] iniquity [sin; wickedness] in my heart, the Lord will not hear [hearken; listen] me:
19  But verily [surely] God hath heard [hearken; listen] me; he hath attended [hear] to the voice [sound] of my prayer.
20  Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy [loving-kindness; love; grace] from me.

David’s life and testimony remind us the LORD is longsuffering, patient and willing to forgive our sins if we will confess and forsake them.  The king had experienced the silence of heaven and the fate of men who “regard iniquity” and continued in sin (66:18).   With praise and confidence, David rejoiced in God hearing his prayer and extending to him His grace (66:19-20).

Some reading this brief devotional might find they are where David was–bearing a weight of sin that has left your soul listless and your heart despondent.  You are too aware of the sorrows and consequences that accompany sin.  Friend, please don’t stay there and risk a seared conscience and a calloused heart.

The apostle John promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith