Tag Archives: Bitterness

Unforgiveness: A Bitter Fruit that Steals Your Joy and Saps Your Soul (Mark 11:22-26)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 15-16, Psalm 39, and Mark 11. Our devotional is from Mark 11.

Mark 11 records the beginning of the final week of Christ’s earthly life . Tradition states Christ’s “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem occurred on Sunday (Mark 11:1-11); however, there are many who believe it likely occurred on Monday.  Christ’s cursing the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves and driving the money-changers out of the Temple are both recorded in Mark 11:12-21.

Faith” and “Forgiveness” is the focus of our devotional and the subject of Mark 11:22-26.

Following a challenge on faith and prayer, Jesus admonished: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26).

Forty years in ministry has taught me there are many believers who bear a spirit of bitterness in their souls.  In fact, one of the most besetting sins in the 21stcentury 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, spread until family, friendships, and fellowships are spiritually, emotionally, and physically infected.

The writer of Hebrews warns the same: Looking diligently [intently; be watching] lest any man fail of [fall short of] the grace [favor and blessing] of God; lest any root of bitterness [i.e. hatred or resentment] springing up [sprouting up] trouble you, and thereby many [i.e. perhaps the majority] be defiled [tainted; i.e. like one diseased](Hebrews 12:15).

Friend, have you lost your joy because bitterness festers in your soul?  Do you harbor bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights of your youth? Are you a parent who struggles with forgiving a child who has disgraced your home with foolish, sinful actions?   Have callous words and broken vows embittered your marriage?  Have you allowed slights and offenses to embitter you toward fellow believers and pastors?

An unwillingness to forgive others is indicative of a soul who has not entered into the joy of God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” is the LORD’s will (Ephesians 4:32) and when you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no reason to be unwilling to forgive others!

Harbor an unforgiving spirit and you do so at the sacrifice of joy and unanswered prayers.

Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy When Children Are Left to Themselves (Psalm 36)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 9-10, Psalm 36, and Mark 8. Our Bible devotional is from Psalm 36.

A rising tide of lawlessness, violence and moral depravity is afflicting our society.  Fatherless homes, perpetual generations of welfare mothers and grandmothers, and children left to their own wicked devices (Proverbs 29:15) has become a scourge for our nation.

The writer of Hebrews employs the term “bastard” to describe those who profess to be believers, but whose lives continue in a pattern of sin contrary to the Word of God, showing no evidence of the chastening hand of God.  Drawing a parallel with a loving father who chastens his children to bend their will to a path of obedience and righteous living (Hebrews 12:7), the author of Hebrews states: “if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons”(Hebrews 12:8).

In other words, in the same manner a loving father bears the responsibility of teaching and chastening his children, a professing believer who continues in sin without chastening is a “bastard” and not a spiritual child of God.

Consider David’s description of the wicked in his day and how it parallels the youth of our day.  David writes,

Psalm 36:1 – “The transgression [sin; trespass; rebellion] of the wicked [immoral; lawbreakers] saith [declares] within my [his] heart, that there is no fear [dread] of God before his eyes [sight; note Romans 3:18 ].”

The sins of the wicked prove they have no fear of God.  Like the fool of Psalm 14:1, they say in their ways, “There is no God(Psalm 14:1).  Their ways are “corrupt” and their works an abomination before a holy God.

Psalm 36:2  – “For he [the wicked] flattereth [favors] himself in his own eyes [opinion; sight; note Romans 3:18], until his iniquity [sin; punishment; guilt] be found [i.e. found out] to be hateful [detest; despised].”

The wicked convince themselves their sin is not bad.

If ever there has been a generation that has an inflated sense of self-worth it is this generation.  People are full of themselves and social media has afforded them a platform to boast over sins an earlier generation would have blushed.  Rather than discipline, the parents of this generation fawn over their youth and fail to address the flaws in their character.  

They are blind to the truth that every sin bears consequences.  In the words of one of my heroes of the faith, “Every dissipation of youth must be paid for with a draft on old age” (Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.).

Psalm 36:3 – “The words of his mouth are iniquity [sin; wickedness] and deceit [fraud; treachery]: he hath left off [failed; lacked] to be wise [act wisely], and to do good [well; be pleasing].”

The wicked place no value on civility, nor speak with discretion. They have no interest in godly wisdom or righteousness.

Psalm 36:4  – “He [wicked] deviseth [imagine; fabricate; plot] mischief [sin; wickedness] upon his bed; he setteth [stand; presents; places] himself in a way [road; path; course of life] that is not good [best; right]; he abhorreth [spurns; despises] not evil [sin; wickedness].”

Finally, we note the wicked are slaves and sin is their master. Their waking thoughts plot all manner of evil. They purpose to do evil because it is their nature.

Believer, don’t allow the ways of darkness and the amusements of the wicked beguile you.  Turn to the LORD and remember,

Psalm 36:9 – 9 For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

Have a blessed day!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Psychology Attempts to Reform What Salvation Promises to Transform (Mark 5)

A devotional bonus from Mark 5.

The Christian radio broadcast, Unshackled”, is the longest continually running radio program in history.   Produced by the Pacific Garden Mission of Chicago for over 69 years, “Unshackled” has conveyed the real life stories of thousands of sinner’s whose lives were transformed by trusting Jesus Christ as Savior!

The great validating testimony of the Christian faith above all the world’s religions is not reformation but transformation!   For more than a century doctors have practiced “psychology” attempting to address the ailments of man’s mind and soul. Medications, rehab centers, and mental institutions have all failed to “fix” troubled souls.  Today’s “bonus devotional thought” from Mark 5:1-20 tells the story of the terrible ravages sin takes on a man’s life.

Crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the eastern shore known as Gadara where they were met by a man with an “unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).  We are not told when the man gave his soul over to demons; however, sin had taken every corner of his thoughts and affections, degrading and destroying his life.

Notice three visible details about the man.  The first, his pitiful physical appearance:  His body scarred by self-inflicted wounds; ropes hanging around his ankles and chains about his neck and wrists, all evidencing the desperate attempts of loved ones to control him (5:3-4).  The second characteristic of this troubled man is his social isolation: cut off from family, friends, and neighbors, he made his abode among the caves and tombs (5:5).  The third detail is his emotional condition exhibited by his tormented screams echoing off the hillsides “always, night and day” (5:5).

Seeing Jesus, in a fleeting moment of desperation, the man ran out of the hills and came to Him and worshipped Him (5:6).  Jesus, evidencing His authority over demons cast them out of the man and they entered swine that could not abide the indwelling of such wickedness (5:10-13).

Rather than the protracted steps and methods of “reformation” that is the methodology of psychologists and psychiatrists, the demon-possessed man’s life immediately gave evidence of his conversion and transformation (5:8, 15).   The change was so transformative that his family, friends, and neighbors observed he was “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (5:15).  Sitting”… he was at peace, no longer needing to be bound with chains and ropes; clothed”… no longer a wild man crying and cutting himself;  in his right mind… repentant and rational.

How great was this transformation?  In Mark 5:7 he wanted nothing to do with Jesus; however, in Mark 5:18 his love and gratitude for Jesus moved him to want nothing more than to be with Jesus.

Everything about the maniac of Gadara changed: His attitudes— he was “in his right mind” (5:15); His actions— he was “sitting” with Jesus (5:15); His appearance— he was “clothed” (5:15); His affections— “prayed Him that he might be with Him [Jesus]” (5:15).

God’s power not only overcame his rebellious spirit, it transformed his thoughts, mind, and affections.  The power of the Gospel of Christ promises not only reformation; it promises total transformation!

2 Corinthians 5:17 – 17 Therefore if any man bein Christ, he isa new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD Hears the Cry of a Broken Heart (Psalm 3)

You will notice in your Bible an editor’s note identifying Psalm 3 as a psalm of David composed when his son Absalom rose up against him forcing the king to flee his throne and the capital city of Jerusalem.  Recorded in 2 Samuel 15, this event is the culmination of years of rebellion on the part of Absalom against his father.  Absalom conspired against his father and stole the affection of the people by implying his father the king cared little for them (2 Samuel 15:3-6).  Psalm 3:1-4 records David’s cry to the LORD.

David, once the champion of Israel, finds himself surrounded by enemies who had once shouted his praises. The loneliness of the king and his desperate cry to God rouses the heart of any who have been in leadership and felt the blow of betrayal and the burden of humiliation.  The king’s flight emboldened his enemies to deride, “not even God will deliver him!” (Psalm 3:2)

Betrayed by his son and rejected by his people, David took solace in the character and promises of God (Psalm 3:3).   He remembered the LORD was his “shield”, Defender, and Sovereign.  Though driven from the throne by his enemies, the king was confident God would exact vengeance and justice would prevail.  Humiliated and discouraged, but not defeated; David was confident God saw his plight and heard his cry (Psalm 3:4).

My friend, I am afraid the delusional, wicked spirit of David’s son, Absalom is characteristic of our generation.  As Absalom was devoid of a son’s natural affection and respect for his father (Romans 1:30-31), this generation mirrors the same disregard of its elders in its lusts for rights and privileges it has neither earned nor deserves.  Like Absalom, too many of this day are a grief to their parents.

No doubt there are parents reading this devotional who, in their own circumstance, identify with David’s sorrow.  To face an enemy is sorrow enough, but when that enemy is your own son or daughter, mere words fail to express the grief and anguish of a parent’s broken heart.

I close with a word of encouragement—God hears and answers the cry of His people in the night.  The LORD is for you, Who he was for David, your Shield and Defender.

Psalm 3:8 – 8  Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

A Curse of Ingratitude

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 21-24

Our study in 2 Chronicles continues today with a nation in mourning when we read, “Now Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead” (2 Chronicles 21:1).

Jehoshaphat’s reign over Judah was aptly summed up in these words: He “walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:32).

Jehoshaphat and his father Asa reigned over Judah sixty-six years and the LORD blessed the nation with peace and prosperity; however, the latter years of each king’s reign was stained with alliances that compromised not only their life testimonies and the nation.

King Asa made a foolish alliance with Syria in the latter years of his reign and went to his grave ruling a nation at war (2 Chronicles 16:9).  Like his father before him, Jehoshaphat’s last act as king was an alliance with the Ahaziah, the wicked king of Israel, “to make ships to go to Tarshish”  (2 Chronicles 20:35-36); ships that were apparently lost in a storm and “broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish” (2 Chronicles 20:37).

Jehoram, unlike his father and grandfather before him, began to reign over Judah with no evidence he loved or aspired to serve the LORD (2 Chronicles 21:1).  Rather than peace and prosperity, the reign of Jehoram began with him commanding the murders of his own brethren to secure the throne of Judah and eliminate any challenge to his reign (2 Chronicles 21:2-5).

Though he ruled only eight years, Jehoram’s reign was not only a terror to his father’s household, it began Judah’s decline into all manner of evil.  Taking the daughter of Ahab, Israel’s wicked king, to be his wife, Jehoram “walked in the way of the kings of Israel…and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD” (21:6).  Jehoram’s godless example was far reaching, for “he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto” (21:11).

God raised up Elijah, the great Old Testament prophet, to confront Jehoram (21:12-13), who warned the king his wickedness not only provoked the LORD’s judgment against Judah (21:14), but would also result in his own dreadful death described as a “great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day” (21:15).  We are not told what the intestinal disease was, but I suspect it might have been a cancer for we read, “his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore diseases…” (26:19).  Unlike his father’s memorial service, Judah did not honor Jehoram with a king’s burial.

Continuing on a path of compromise with the wicked, one that would eventually lead to Judah’s destruction, Ahaziah, the youngest son of Jehoram, secured his father’s throne in Jerusalem and following the counsel of his mother, having his brethren slain (22:1).  Though he reigned for only a year, Ahaziah “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (22:4) and followed the counsel of the idolatrous and wicked “house of Ahab” (22:4).

Ahaziah was slain after reigning only one year over Judah (22:9) and was succeeded by his wicked mother Athaliah, who ordered the slaying of all the royal line of David (22:10-12).   Josah, the infant son of Ahaziah, was spared when Ahaziah’s sister concealed him for six years while Athaliah reigned in Judah (22:11-12).

2 Chronicles 23 records the coronation and ascension of Joash to the throne led by the high priest Jehoiada and the priestly tribe of Levi (23:1-11), the slaying of Athaliah and her followers (23:12-15).  Having crowned the new king, the high priest Jehoiada boldly led the nation in revival, purging the land of the worshippers of Baal (23:16-21).

Joash began to reign when he was seven years old and Jehoiada, the high priest served as his counsel and guide (24:1-3).  Under the influence of Jehoiada, Joash set his heart to repair the temple that had fallen into decay during the six-year reign of Athaliah (24:4-7).  Joash made a proclamation for a collection to be taken from the people and the offerings of the people used to hire workman to repair the temple (24:8-14).

The high priest Jehoiada counseled and guided Joash until his death at one hundred and thirty years old (24:15-16).  With Jehoiada dead, the “princes of Judah” (24:17) were emboldened to come to the king who turned the heart of the king and the nation from the LORD and provoking His wrath (24:18).

The LORD raised up prophets to prophesy against the sins of the nation; among them was Zechariah, the son of the Jehoiada the high priest.   Zechariah confronted the sins of the nation, warning of the LORD’s judgment (24:19-22).  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.

The LORD judged Joash and Judah, giving Syria victory who slew the “princes of the people” (24:22-24).  The servants of Joash rose up and slew the king while he slept on his bed and buried him without the honors given to kings (24:25).

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 Bob Jones College, reminded the student body, “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, but slew his son…” (24:22a).

How could a man whose life was saved by the selfless act of another, not only fail to remember his kindness, but be guilty of the merciless death of his son?

I suppose every believer can answer that question when we bear in our heart a spirit of bitterness, forgetting the LORD sacrificed His Son for our sins.  Thus we read this exhortation:

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 2017 – 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

Unforgiveness is a Bitter Fruit

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Mark 11-12

Today’s reading in the Gospel of Mark records the beginning of the final week of Christ’s earthly ministry.  Tradition states the “Triumphal Entry” of Christ (Mark 11:1-11) into Jerusalem occurred on Sunday, although there are many that believe it most likely occurred on the Monday before the Day of the Passover and our LORD’s appointment with the Cross.

Christ’s cursing the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves and driving the money-changers out of the Temple are both recorded in Mark 11:12-21.

Two topics, “Faith” and “Forgiveness”, are the subject of Mark 11:22-26 and the LORD’s instructions are both beautiful in their simplicity and convicting in their application (Mark 11:22-26).  Many profess faith in God; but how many believe God will not only hear our prayers, but will answer them?

Christ’s challenge on faith and prayer precedes the admonishment: if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26).  Thirty-eight years in ministry has taught me there are many church members who bear about in their souls a spirit of bitterness.  In my opinion, 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.  Too many allow bitterness to fester in their soul and, like cancer in the body, spread until it infects spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Some reading this devotional harbor bitterness toward parents for what you perceive were slights during your youth.  There are parents struggling with bitterness because their child has disgraced the family by foolish, sinful actions.  Hurting words and broken vows have embittered marriages.  Church members are bitter with fellow believers and pastors are hurt by slights and offenses.

You need not wonder why you have lost your joy and your prayers go unanswered if an unforgiving spirit haunts your soul!   I challenge you to meditate on this truth:  An unwillingness to forgive others is not only a seed that will eventually bear bitter fruit; it is indicative of a soul that has never entered into God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).  Harbor an unforgiving spirit and you do so at the sacrifice of  your prayers going answered (Psalm 66:18).

Believer, you 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).  Grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you and you will find no excuse to not forgive others!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith