Tag Archives: Anxiety

Count Your Blessings! (Psalm 16)

Today’s Bible Reading is Genesis 45-46, Psalm 16, and Matthew 16. Our devotional is from Psalm 16:6.

Psalm 16 is known as the “Golden Psalm”.  Quoted by Peter in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:25-28), its closing verses give a prophetic picture of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (Psalm 16:8-11).

For today, our focus is Psalm 16:1-7, a portrait of a believer’s walk of faith in the LORD. For your mediation, I invite you to consider this simple outline: Faith’s Security (16:1), Faith’s Passion (16:2-3), Faith’s Influence (16:4), Faith’s Inheritance (16:5-6), and Faith’s Instructor (16:7).

Psalm 16:10 seems to indicate David wrote this psalm at a time he was in peril.  Perhaps fearing for his life, he cries out to the LORD, Preserve [guard; protect] me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust [confidence; seek my refuge]” (16:1).  Knowing the LORD hears and answers prayer, David took refuge and comfort believing God would preserve and protect him.

Psalm 16:6 gives us a picture of a surveyor marking the boundary lines of a man’s property, perhaps the portion of his inheritance.

Psalm 16:6 – “The lines [measure; inheritance; portion] are fallen [allotted] unto me in pleasant [delightful; sweet; lovely] places; yea, I have a goodly [fair; pleasing] heritage [inheritance].”

In spite of perils and troubles he was facing, David did not allow them to drive him to despair.  With his focus on the LORD and recalling His blessings and promises, he writes, “I have a goodly heritage” (16:6b).

What a blessed truth! When your heart is burden and your thoughts tempted to despair, remember the LORD has laid out for you “pleasant places”.   He has apportioned His grace, mercies, and favor to His children.

Take a moment and count the LORD’s blessings.  Contemplate “the lines, the portion, the measure of His  grace”.  Remember the goodly heritage you have in the LORD…your salvation, His promises, your family, friends, and church family.  Cherish the moments and count the blessings!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Like a Father, the LORD Loves the Righteous (Psalm 11)

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 29-30, Psalm 11, and Matthew 11. Today’s devotional is from Psalm 11.

We are uncertain of the historical context of Psalm 11; however, we know king David was facing the threats of an enemy and weighing the counsel of advisers who urged him to flee.

There are times retreat from confrontation is a wise choice.  David fled from the presence of Saul when the king attacked him. David fled Jerusalem after his son Absalom stole the people’s affections and led an insurrection against the king.  However, as we learn in our study of Psalm 11, there are times we face adversaries and the LORD would have us stand fast and trust Him.

We do not know if the foe David faced was within or without his kingdom; however, the threat was significant and the king’s counselors advised him to flee (11:1b-2).  David answered his frightened counselors,

Psalm 11:1 – “In the LORD put I my trust [confide; flee for protection; make refuge]: how say [speak; command] ye to my soul [life; person; mind], Flee [disappear; remove] as a bird to your mountain?

The counselors answered their king, reminding him the plot of the wicked was to destroy the just and upright (11:2) and as king, he was the moral pillar, the foundation of the nation (11:3).

Psalm 11:2-3 – “For, lo, the wicked  [ungodly; immoral; guilty] bend their bow, they make ready [prepare; set up; fix] their arrow upon the string, that they may privily [secretly] shoot at the upright [right; just; righteous] in heart [mind].  3 If the foundations [purpose; support; moral pillars] be destroyed [thrown down; broken in pieces], what can the righteous [just] do?”

David’s counselors reasoned, not only was his life at risk, but so also were the lives of the people and the future of the nation (11:3b).  In other words, what will become of the righteous should the king fall?

We find David’s response in Psalm 11:4-7.

Psalm 11:4-5 – “The LORD is in his holy [sacred; hallowed] temple, the LORD’S throne [seat] is in heaven: his eyes behold [perceive; look; gaze], his eyelids try [examine; prove], the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth [proves; examines] the righteous [just; law-abiding]: but the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] and him that loveth violence [injustice] his soul hateth [as a foe].”

What a great reminder…regardless the threats of an enemy or his demands we compromise our integrity, the LORD has not abdicated the throne of heaven and He is Just!  The ways of the righteous will not go unrewarded and the ways of the wicked will surely be punished!

Our devotion ends with the assurance, “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.”(Psalm 11:7)

What a great thought!  The righteous are the objects of the LORD’s love!  Like a father looks adoringly at his children, the LORD looks upon the righteous.

My friend, perhaps there is an enemy that haunts your life with threats, maligning gossip, or with disapproving gazes.  Take confidence in this…the LORD loves the righteous and He is just. Trust the LORD!

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

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

Why Should You Trust the LORD?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 146-148

Our scripture reading today consist of three psalms, Psalms 146, 147 and 148.   I will limit my devotional commentary to Psalm 146.  The author of Psalm 146 is not known; however, his purpose in writing the psalm is obvious….it is a song of praise to the LORD.  The psalmist employs numerous names for God meant to describe His nature, personality, and character.

You will notice in the verses my amplification of the text in brackets.  Understanding a word in the Hebrew scriptures can be translated into English with more than one word, it is my desire to give you a broader understanding and insight into this beautiful psalm of praise for your own worship and edification.

Psalm 146:1-2 – 1  Praise [Hallelujah; Glory; Boast; Celebrate] ye the LORD [Yahweh; the sacred name of the LORD]. Praise the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], O my soul.
2  While I live [have life] will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises [sing psalms] unto my God [Elohim; mighty God] while I have any being.

The psalmist begins Psalm 146 directing his praise and worship to the only One worthy of praise…the LORD (146:1-2).

Psalm 146:3-43  Put not your trust [confidence] in princes, nor in the son [children] of man, in whom there is no help [salvation; deliverance].
4  His breath [man’s breath] goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day [time] his thoughts perish.

The psalmist exhorts and admonishes the people to not put their trust or confidence in man (146:3-4).  Whether a prince among men or a mere mortal man…all men live under the sentence of death (Romans 6:23); their breath disappears as a vapor, their bodies return to dust and their plans and designs perish with them.

Such is the spiritual lesson the rich man encountered in Luke 12.  Experiencing an overflow of the fruits of his labor at the time of harvest, the rich man determined to tear down his barns and hoard God’s blessings (Luke 12:17-18).   God judged the man a fool (Luke 12:19-20).  His affections were on earthly riches and he died a spiritual pauper… “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God” (Luke 12:21).

While the rich man’s affections for earthly treasure perish with him, the psalmist describes the man who looks to the LORD as “Happy” (146:5) .

Psalm 146:55  Happy [Blessed; prosperous] is he that hath the God [Almighty God] of Jacob for his help [aid], whose hope [expectation] is in the LORD his God:

Why trust the LORD (146:6-9)?  The psalmist suggests four qualities that lead us to trust the LORD.

1) The LORD is Creator of heaven, earth, the sea and “all that therein is”. (146:6a)

Psalm 146:6 6  Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth [preserves; guards] truth for ever [i.e. God is forever faithful; trustworthy]:

 2) The LORD is faithful and true. (146:6b)

Psalm 146:7-9 7  Which executeth [lit. to make or prepare] judgment [justice] for the oppressed: which giveth food [bread and meat] to the hungry. The LORD looseth [sets at liberty] the prisoners: 8  The LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth [lifts up; comforts] them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous [just]:
9  The LORD preserveth [keeps watch; regards; saves] the strangers [sojourners]; he relieveth [bear witness; admonish; protects] the fatherless and widow: but the way [journey; path] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] he turneth upside down [subverts; thwarts;overthrows].

3) The LORD is just and compassionate. (146:7-9)

Psalm 146:10 10  The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.

4) The LORD is King Eternal, the God of Zion of whose kingdom there is no end (146:10).

How foolish to trust man or place our confidence in earthly possessions!  The LORD is eternal, just, compassionate, faithful, true and our Creator!  Why trust any other?

Let all who know the LORD trust and praise Him!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Living Life in A Rearview Mirror

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 11-12

Our Scripture reading in the book of Ecclesiastes concludes today with chapters 11–12.   While the book of Proverbs chronicles Solomon’s sage instructions for a son that would one day be king, the book of Ecclesiastes reflects the pondering of that same man facing the inevitable conclusion of his earthly life — the frailty of old age and death.

Solomon’s reflections on life began with the observation, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) and concludes with the same, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:8).

Empty, vain, unsatisfactory, meaningless, hopeless, and worthless… What a sad commentary on life from a man born into privilege, power, and unimaginable wealth!  What might we learn from such a man?  What words of wisdom can we glean from such a one?

Author Warren Wiersbe suggests “four pictures of life” and for “each picture a practical admonition” found in Ecclesiastes 11-12. (1)

  • Life is an ADVENTURE—live by faith (11:1-6)
  • Life is a GIFT—enjoy it (11:7-12:8)
  • Life is a SCHOOL—learn your lessons (12:9-12)
  • Life is a STEWARDSHIP—fear God (12:13-14)

For the sake of brevity in today’s devotional commentary, I invite you to consider three exhortations from King Solomon: Rejoice (11:9-10); Remember (12:1); and Revere (12:13-14).

Rejoice in your youth, but know God will be your Judge (11:9-10)

 Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 Rejoice [Be Glad; Joyful], O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. 10  Therefore remove [depart] sorrow [anger; wrath] from thy heart, and put away [do away; remove] evil [sin; wickedness] from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Remember thy Creator while you are young (12:1)

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now [Think of; have respect of] thy Creator in the days [years] of thy youth, while the evil days [adversity; troubles; distresses] come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure [delight; desire] in them;

Revere God, Keep His Commandments and Be Ready for His Judgment (12:13-14)

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Let us hear [Listen; obey; publish] the conclusion [end] of the whole matter [account; speaking]: Fear [Revere] God, and keep [observe] His commandments [Laws; Precepts]: for this is the whole duty [purpose] of man.
14  For God shall bring every work [act; deed] into judgment, with every secret thing [hidden; concealed], whether it be good [right], or whether it be evil [sin; wickedness].

“Vanity of vanities”; what a tragic summation of a man’s life…empty and meaningless!  To his credit, Solomon was not silent regarding the sorrows he bore as a result of sinful choices.  He warned and exhorted the generations that would follow… Rejoice in your youth…Remember your Creator and His Commandments…and Revere the LORD knowing He will “bring every work into judgment” (12:14).

Many reading this devotional commentary remember the joys and carefree years of their youth with fondness and universally wish they had made better choices.  Let us not be silent and watch our children and grandchildren take paths that we, like Solomon, can testify, “all is vanity” apart from the LORD!

I close with an admonition to youthful readers:  If not guided by spiritual principles, youth squander their lives on sinful dissipations that inevitably leave them with sorrow laden souls and lives shadowed by regret.

Enjoy your youth, remember your Creator, but know this, it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

(1) Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

For Servants of God, Quitting is Not An Option!

 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 1-4

Our “Read-Thru the Bible In a Year” schedule brings us today to the Book of Nehemiah, chapters 1-4.  Permit me an opportunity to give you some background on this book.

While the Book of Ezra recorded the decree of Cyrus king of Persia setting the Jews at liberty to return to their land and rebuild the Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar 70 years earlier (Ezra 1); the Book of Nehemiah gives Nehemiah’s record of how the walls of Jerusalem were restored. Thus, the prophet and priest Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries; the elder Ezra being the first to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the Temple.

Who was Nehemiah?  He was “the king’s cupbearer” (Nehemiah 1:11).  Dwelling in the king’s palace, Nehemiah’s life was one of privilege.  He was more than his title implies; the role of the cupbearer was that of a king’s closest aide; his confidant and counselor.  The king entrusted his very life to his cupbearer who protected the king from assassination by first tasting the king’s food and sipping his wine.

In spite of the comforts and privileges he enjoyed as a cupbearer, Nehemiah’s heart was burdened for the remnant of Jews who returned to Jerusalem.  Visited by “men of Judah” (1:2), Nehemiah inquired concerning the welfare of his brethren and the state of things in Jerusalem.  The men of Judah reported the walls of the city laid in ruins and how the people suffered (1:3).  Hearing how his people suffered, Nehemiah wept, prayed, and sought opportunity to intervene (1:4-11).

Unable to mask his sorrow, Artaxerxes the king observed Nehemiah’s countenance and questioned the cause for his cupbearer’s sadness (2:1-2a).  Remembering the authority of ancient oriental kings was absolute and they held in their lands the power of life and death, Nehemiah confessed, “I was very sore afraid” (2:2b).

One great spiritual qualities found in Nehemiah’s life is he was a man of prayer. When he heard how the Jews suffered in Jerusalem, he wept and prayed (1:4-11).  When the king enquired why he was sad, Nehemiah prayed to God for wisdom (2:4) and requested the king send him to Jerusalem with letters granting him authority to acquire materials and permission to rebuild the walls of the city (2:5-8).

Nehemiah’s vision to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was immediately met by opposition when he arrived in Jerusalem (2:10, 19-20).  On the third day after his arrival in the city, Nehemiah surveyed the state of the city at night and found the walls and gates of the city in ruin (2:11-15).  Exercising discretion, Nehemiah refrained from disclosing his business to the elders of the city (2:12,16).

Why such secrecy regarding the great vision he had for Jerusalem?  There are many reasons I might offer, but surely the foremost is he needed time to contemplate the task before him, seek the LORD’s direction, and set forward a plan of attack and the organization required for so great an undertaking.

Having assessed the task to rebuild the walls of the city, Nehemiah challenged the elders among the Jews that it was time to rebuild the walls and secure its inhabitants (2:17-18).  He encouraged the people with the courage of his own faith in God saying, “The God of heaven, He will prosper us” (2:20).

Nehemiah 3 gives the organization of the laborers and their assigned tasks on the walls and gates. Noblemen, priests, and households of common men labored side by side on the walls and gates of the city. As the work to restore the walls began, enemies of God’s people were provoked to anger and began mocking the workers and ridiculing their labor on the walls (4:1-6).

Seeing the walls and gates being restored, the enemies of the Jews “conspired all of them together” (4:4-8).  When the people were tempted to be discouraged (4:7-11), Nehemiah writes, “we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night” (4:9).

I observe two responses to opposition in this passage you and I are wise to emulate in our walk with the LORD.

The first response, Nehemiah encouraged the people to pray (4:4-5, 9).  The second, Nehemiah urged the people to arm themselves against their enemies and continue to work.

Neh. 4:17-18 – “They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.  18 For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.”

Friend, serving Christ is not predicated upon convenience, but upon conviction.  If you are going to serve the LORD, be prepared for opposition from without and within.  Ridicule, mocking, scorn are all tools the enemy uses to discourage us, cause us to doubt, and eventually quit.

For Nehemiah, quitting was not an option!  When he faced opposition, he prayed.  When he faced tasks that exhausted him and the people, he prayed…and continue to work!  Nehemiah gives us this testimony:

Nehemiah 4:23 – “So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith