Tag Archives: church

God is Faithful, His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-15)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 12-15

Genesis 11 closed with Abraham (Abram) departing from “Ur of the Chaldees” (located in the vicinity of what would become Babylon) with his father Terah (Genesis 11:27-32). Journeying north from Ur, Abram stopped in Haran where he remained until his father’s death (11:32).

Genesis 12 is one of the great pivotal crossroads in history and God’s plan of redemption.

The LORD commanded Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (12:1).  The LORD set a covenant of seven promises He would fulfill in and through Abram’s lineage (Genesis 12:2-3) if he obeyed.

Although he was elderly (“seventy-five years old” – 12:4) and childless, Abram believed God’s promises and obeyed; departing from Haran, he traveled to Canaan.  Arriving at Bethel, he built an altar and there he worshipped the Lord (12:7-8).

Soon after Abram faced a crisis of faith when we read, “there was a famine in the land” (12:10). Abandoning the land and his faith in the LORD to provide and keep His promises, Abram journeyed to Egypt; a decision that put in jeopardy God’s covenant promise of a son (12:10-13).

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, was a beautiful woman.  Fearing for his own life, Abram requested she to tell others she was his sister (12:11-13).  Sarai’s beauty was soon noticed and Pharaoh took her into his harem putting into jeopardy God’s covenant promise of an heir she was to bear to Abram. The LORD mercifully intervened and sent a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealed to the ruler he had been deceived by Abram (12:17-20). Sarah was spared and Abram led his household out of Egypt and back to Canaan.

The vastness of their wealth and possessions soon provoked a conflict between Abram’s servants and those of his nephew Lot (13:1-7).  To avoid strife, Abram suggested they divide their households and possessions, graciously offering to Lot the first choice of the land (13:8-9).  Rather than defer to his elder, Lot revealed the covetousness of his heart and chose the best part of the land that included the cities in the plain; among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13).  Lot departed and God again renewed His covenant promises with Abraham (13:14-18).

Genesis 14 gives us a history of the nations that inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times; in the midst we read, “the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled…And they took Lot…and his goods” (14:10-12).  Abram had become rich and powerful; arming 318 servants (14:14) he led a mission that saved Lot, his household, and the citizens and material possessions of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:15-16).

Genesis 15 begins a narrative regarding Abram’s longing for a son and heir.  The LORD assured Abram he would have an heir, a son born to his wife Sarai (15:2-4) and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5). In spite of their age, Abram “believed the LORD; and He (the LORD) counted it to him [Abram] for righteousness” (15:6).

God also revealed to Abraham that his heirs would be “strangers”, foreigners, in another country for 400 years (15:13); however, when the 400 years were fulfilled, they would return to Canaan with great possessions (a prophecy fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude – Exodus 12-14).  Genesis 15 sets the boundaries of the land the LORD promised to give Abram and his heirs (15:18-21).

I close today’s devotional commentary with this promise:

God assured Abraham he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield”…his protector and defender (15:1). 

Friend, you may be at a time in your life that is a place of “spiritual famine.”  You are tempted to resign to fear or plan and plot your own course…Don’t abandon your faith.

Trust God to be your “Shield”, your protector and Savior.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

What is Man? Where Were You When God Created? (Job 38-39)

Daily reading assignment: Job 38-39

Elihu’s overzealous, arrogant rebuke of Job (Job 32-37) was suddenly answered, not by Job, but by the LORD Himself.  We read, Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1).

With the wind of a storm raging, God begins to challenge his servant with a series of questions that should silence every man, especially those who dare boast they have knowledge and understanding of God apart from His revelations.  Let’s briefly consider the profoundness of the LORD’s questions to Job (38:4-41).

1) Where were you when I (the LORD) laid the foundations of the earth (38:4)? 2) Who do you think has measured and set the boundaries of the earth? (38:5)

We do not know what a man of antiquity like Job could have known about the stars and planets singing together after the foundations of creation were laid (38:6-7); however, we know some details recorded in this chapter were not proved scientifically until the 20th century! For instance, NASA has discovered there are sounds in space!

Consider the sounds of space and the planets (Saturn’s rings, the sounds of Neptune, the sounds of the Earth, and the sound of the Sun).  Such wonders give new meaning to Psalm 19:1 where we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1).

Unlike evolutionists who propose to know the hidden secrets of nature and relegate the wonder of life to a primordial sea out of which life is supposed to have emerged; Job knew design demands a designer and creation a Creator (38:8-41).  The apostle Paul declares the same in the 1st century writing, “For the invisible things of Him [Creator] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

God’s loving invitation for Job to ponder all He had created and sustains continues in Job 39.

The LORD invited Job to consider the wonders of nature and how He, the Creator, has set in order the lives and life cycles of beasts and birds (39:1-4).  Six beasts, including the wild unicorn (not the mystical horse, but a one horned species of antelope, 39:9-11), and birds are named as examples of God’s care and providential oversight of His creation (39:12-30).

Appreciating “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork” (Psalm 19:1), we agree with the psalmist when he writes, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Church, Her Spiritual Leaders and Their Failures

On a personal note: By God’s grace I recently celebrated four decades of ministry and have been blessed to serve on the pastoral staff of Hillsdale Baptist Church for thirty-four years.  The following article is written from my perspective as a pastor and graduate of a Christian University that historically made no apology for its Bible fundamental, separatist stance.

For two decades I have pondered the waning of conservative, independent, Bible-preaching churches, schools, and colleges in our nation.  While I pray for a spiritual awakening in America, I see little hope when our own families and ministries are following the spiritual erosion of our culture. Indeed, should we who identify as Bible-believers continue our flirtation with sin, I fear Bible-preaching is at risk of being silenced within a generation.

Having experienced social media vilification in the past, I fear my perspective will offend some and is not shared lightly or with a desire to offend. Nevertheless, I am compelled to share my concerns, not as a provocation, but as an exposé of what I believe is the primary factor contributing to the failure of historic, conservative Bible-Christianity in America.

Across our nation, a millennial consortium of progressive preachers is assuming the pulpits of conservative, Bible-preaching churches, schools, and colleges.  Preaching a message of grace without a call to personal sanctification and holiness, they have spawned a pseudo-piety and tolerance of sin and carnality the generation before them decried.  

A brief history lesson on conservative, fundamental Bible Christianity

From the 1950’s to the closing years of the 20thcentury, Bible-fundamentalism inspired a Gospel awakening (not so much a spiritual revival) in America.  Veterans of World War II returned to America with an evangelistic zeal giving rise to conservative, fundamental Christian Colleges whose student bodies experienced phenomenal growth until the late 1990’s.

Tens of thousands of young men enrolled in Bible colleges and became pastors across America and missionaries around the world.  That generation inspired the School Bus Ministry movement in the 1960’s and began the Christian School movement in the 1970’s continuing through the 1990’s.  The birth of the Home School movement in the 1990’s revived the prospect of a generation of youth who might surrender their lives to the LORD and dedicate themselves to serve as pastors, teachers, and missionaries.

The 21st century; however, has proved disastrous for conservative, Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches and institutions.

Failing churches, Christian schools, Bible colleges and seminaries dot the American landscape.  Spiritual apathy has taken hold on our homes, churches, and schools.  Aging congregations, falling church attendance, and a precipitous decline in young men going into ministry now threaten the future of conservative Biblical Christianity.

While there are many explanations for the spiritual erosion we are witnessing in our Bible-believing churches and institutions, I will limit myself to a few.  The first, cultural wars within and without our homes. Some will argue the church has failed to adapt to cultural changes.  Others will argue, in an attempt to be relevant, the church lost its identity and has become irrelevant.  The disparity between what the Bible teaches and what our homes, churches, and institutions practice is another reason for the diminishing of our churches. We are hearers of the Word, but are we doers?  Christian educators fault the churches for pervasive spiritual apathy in the students, while pastors accuse those same institutions of accommodating carnality at the sacrifice of spiritual zeal.

Believing everything rises and falls on leadership, I conclude the responsibility for the spiritual failings of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and universities, and seminaries rests with the spiritual leaders of this, my generation. 

My peers have served as the spiritual leaders of our institutions for more than two decades.  Unlike any generation before, my generation has faced and grappled with an unprecedented intrusion of technology.  While the pastors of my youth sounded the alarm regarding the secular influences of radio, television, movies, and rock music; the ministers of my generation pastor congregations that, with a few clicks of a mouse, surf the internet and introduce to their families every imaginable influence… doctrinally, culturally, and socially.

Cable television, internet, social media, and cell phones are seducing the hearts of our children and empowering the parasitic nature of secularism and progressive theology.  While Christian parents prove either ambivalent or ill-prepared for the seduction of “worldliness”, their spiritual leaders are encountering a radical cultural shift and failing to address the intrusion of sin in their own homes and ministries.

Facing a spirit of rebellion in their homes, churches, and Christian schools, the spiritual leaders of my generation, in an attempt to parley peace with their own youth, have accommodated their sins. The consequence is an extra-biblical liberty that embraces the sins of the world, its pleasures, and inevitable consequences (1 John 2:15-17).

Warning: Spiritual leaders who accommodate the sins of their children will invariably compromise the core values of the ministries entrusted to their care.

To understand why Bible-believing churches, Christian schools, colleges, and seminaries are forsaking spiritual disciplines, one need only to look to the pulpits and the leaders who occupy them. My generation has failed to call the church to sanctification and holiness because we have succumbed to a paralysis induced by our own spiritual failings.

Almost without exception, the failure of churches and the compromise and eventual closure of Christian institutions in my sphere have one thing in common… leaders who sacrificed their spiritual integrity to accommodate the sins of their children.

Consider Paul’s admonition to Titus.  Having declared the virtues and spiritual qualifications of the leaders of the church (Titus 1:6-9), including “blameless”, the principal, indispensable qualification of the pastor that includes his role as the “husband of one wife” and “having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6), Paul warns:

“For there are many unruly [disobedient; rebellious] and vain talkers [empty, useless talk] and deceivers [impostors; seducers]…whose mouths must be stopped [silenced; bridled], who subvert [overturn; destroy] whole houses [families], teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake [dishonest gain]…Wherefore rebuke [reprove; convict] them sharply [cut off; severely].” (Titus 1:10, 11, 13)

Principle – Leaders deficient in the spiritual qualifications of their office will invariably lack the spiritual power and authority “to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” [opposed to Truth and sound doctrine](Titus 1:9)

I close this introductory article on spiritual leaders and their failings, urging you to take away three lessons from the failed example of my generation:  

1) Technology will seduce the hearts of your children and empower the parasitic nature of secularism and progressive theology; 2) Accommodate the sins of your children and you will invariably sacrifice your core values;   3) Compromise your convictions and you will lack the spiritual power and authority to exhort and rebuke those who oppose sound Biblical truths.

1 John 2:15-17– 15  Love not the world, neither the things that arein the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him
16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 
17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

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Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Who is Responsible? The One with the Axe over His Neck! (Numbers 29-30)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 29-30, Psalm 54, and Luke 10. Our devotional is from Numbers 29-30.

As a reminder, the geographical setting of the closing chapters in Numbers is on the east side of the Jordan River at the threshold of the Promise Land.  Israel is encamped once again where the previous generation had turned back forty years before.  Knowing his days with Israel are numbered (Numbers 27:13), Moses set his heart on the task of preparing his successor, Joshua, to lead the nation (27:16-17, 23).

Making vows and being bound by them is the subject of Numbers 30.   Vows and covenants are not to be treated lightly and once they are made, without the intervention of a superior authority, they are binding with few exceptions.

One exception is a girl or young woman living under her father’s roof.  In explanation: A father who discerns a daughter’s vow to the LORD has the right and authority to cancel the vow.  Should the father be silent, his daughter’s vow stands (30:3-6).

Another exception is the vow of a married woman.  Should a wife make a vow to the LORD, her husband is empowered to cancel the vow and accept responsibility for his decision, while his wife’s obligation to the vow is absolved (30:6-8).

Widowed or divorced women were bound by their vows to the LORD and could not cancel them (30:9).  Reminding us the husband is the head of the wife and home, the husband had authority to cancel the vow of his wife or allow it to stand (30:10-16).

Friend, it is the bent of our nature to focus on the authority aspect of this subject and fail to see the protection and accountability a father and husband bears in the sight of God.  In God’s plan, a father and husband bears not only the authority as head of his household; he is also directly accountable to God for acting as the shield, the watchman, and counselor of his family.

In other words, fathers and husbands are accountable for the vows and decisions of their households and the axe of God’s judgment will fall upon their necks.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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

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

Consider three spiritual lessons from today’s Bible reading.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Many follow pastors, but few encourage them. (Luke 7)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 23-24, Psalm 51, and Luke 7. Our devotional is from Luke 7.

Luke 7 records some of Jesus’ greatest miracles: Healing a dying servant in response to a Roman centurion’s faith (Luke 7:1-10; note also Matthew 8:5-13) and raising the son of a poor widow from the dead in a village identified as Nain (7:11-17).

We are also made privy to an intriguing interview when the followers of John the Baptist, the forerunner and maternal second cousin of Christ, come to Jesus desiring on John’s behalf the affirmation that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (Luke 7:18-35).  Lest we be tempted to criticize  John the Baptist, we should remember John was in prison after boldly confronting king Herod’s adultery (Luke 3:19-20).  There is little doubt the hardships of prison, his isolation from the people, and knowledge his own life and ministry are nearing the end moved John to seek assurance Jesus was the promised One, Israel’s Messiah.

Rather than rebuke John for doubting, Jesus responded to the questions with reassurances. The first response was in deeds; we read, “in that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight” (Luke 7:21).  Having performed many miracles, Jesus sent the Baptist’s followers away commanding them, “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (Luke 7:22).

Turning to the people, Jesus affirmed the ministry of His forerunner (7:24-28) and hailed his character saying, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).

I close with an exhortation to believers: If John the Baptist, the greatest of the prophets (Luke 7:28), could succumb to doubts and fears, realize the same is true of your pastor. 

The number of disciples who followed John the Baptist is uncertain; however, in his most vulnerable hour there were “two of his disciples” (Luke 7:19) to whom he expressed his earnest desires and “sent them to Jesus saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?” (Luke 7:19b).

I have learned there are many who follow faithful pastors, but few who encourage them.

John the Baptist had at least “two of his disciples” in whom he confided (Luke 7:19-20); however, I am afraid that number may be two more than many pastors feel they have.

Many pastors quit the pastorate prematurely and the pulpit of many Bible-believing churches has become like a revolving door. Why? Why is the minister retention rate so deplorable in our churches?  I am of the opinion many pastors feel taken for granted and there are few church members who make an effort to encourage them.

A hurting pastor in the midst of his sheep might raise the anxiety level of a church; however, loving, understanding and compassionate church members will get their pastor through dark days and trying times.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Muzzle the Ox to Your Own Detriment (Numbers 18; 1 Timothy 5:17-18)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 17-18, Psalm 50, and Luke 6. Our devotional is from Numbers 18.

The challenge to Moses and Aaron’s authority led by Korah, the son of Koath of the tribe of Levi, had tragic consequences (Numbers 16:1).  While the earth opened up and carried to their deaths the small circle of rebels who followed Korah (16:31-33), another “two hundred and fifty princes…men of renown” lost their lives for participating in the uprising (Numbers 16:1-2, 35).

When the congregation of Israel gathered and “murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD” (16:41-49), the LORD descended visibly in a cloud upon the tabernacle and urged Moses and Aaron to depart from the congregation. The LORD sent a plague among the people and, in spite of Moses and Aaron’s intervention, another 14,700 lives were lost before the plague was stayed (16:41-49).

In Numbers 17 the LORD determined to leave no doubt the priesthood would descend from Aaron’s lineage and no other.  The LORD then commanded Moses to instruct the heads of each tribe to bring a wooden rod, a symbol of authority, to the tabernacle with the names of the elders of the tribes inscribed on them (17:2).  Aaron’s name was inscribed upon the rod for the tribe of Levi (17:3).  A visible testimony of God’s favor was the rod of the man whom God had chosen would blossom (17:5-7).

On the next day, of the twelve rods representing the twelve tribes, the rod of Aaron alone miraculously budded and “bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” (17:8-9).  Moses displayed Aaron’s rod to the children of Israel as a sign his lineage alone would lead the priesthood (17:10-13).

Numbers 18 records the charge and ordination of Aaron’s household, including the responsibility of the tribe of Levi over the tabernacle, vessels, and sacrifices (Numbers 18:1-7).  Unlike the other tribes whose labor and the fruit of their labors would sustain them, the tribe of Levi would derive a portion of the sacrifices brought to the LORD by the people as the means of providing for their households (Numbers 18:8-19).

Because the provision for the households of the tribe of Levi was a portion of the sacrifices brought to the tabernacle, the tribe of Levi would “have no inheritance in their land” (18:20-24).  The Levites were in turn to give a tithe (literally a “tenth part”) of the portion that fell to them as an inheritance (18:25-26).

I close with a reminder the principle of providing for the priesthood found in today’s scripture does follow over into caring and providing for those who minister in the church. The apostle Paul writes,

1 Timothy 5:17-18– “17  Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18  For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer isworthy of his reward.”

While all who minister to the church are to be well cared for, those whose lives are especially dedicated to laboring in, preaching and teaching “in the word and doctrine” are to be particularly honored (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith