Tag Archives: church

Life Got You Down? (Psalm 43)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 27, Psalm 43, and Mark 15. Our devotional is from Psalm 43.

Heavy heart, cast down soul, melancholy, and depression are terms men employ to define what the Scriptures describe as a “weary” soul (Job 10:1) and a broken spirit (Proverbs 17:22). 

While words defining depression have evolved, no one denies it afflicts men’s souls.  Robert Burton, the 17th century Oxford scholar and author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, wrote: “If there be a hell upon earth, it is to be found in the melancholy [of] man’s heart.”

Let’s take a page out of King David’s life and learn how he not only identified the loneliness of depression, but also the one place he could turn for deliverance. David writes.

Psalm 43:1-2– “1Judge [vindicate] me, O God, and plead [argue] my cause against an ungodly [unmerciful] nation: O deliver [preserve] me from the deceitful [dishonest; deceptive] and unjust [wicked; unrighteous] man.  2For thou art the God of my strength [place of safety]: why dost thou cast me off [forsake]? why go I mourning because of the oppression [distress; affliction] of the enemy [adversary]?”

David does not name his enemy; however, the tactics of his enemy were the same as those you and I face in our day.  Lies, libel, slander, threats, and attacks on one’s integrity are the modus operandi of the enemies of God, His Church and His people.

Rallying his heart, David states what he knows, “God is my strength”(43:2); literally, my fortress, stronghold and refuge.  David struggled that his knowledge of the LORD and His promises was at odds with his feelings and state of mind.  The king knew God was faithful; however, he confessed he felt forsaken, alone and overcome by adversaries (43:2).

Psalm 43:3-4– “O send out [stretch forth] thy light [illumination] and thy truth: let them lead [guide] me; let them [God’s light and truth] bring me unto thy holy [sacred] hill [mount], and to thy tabernacles [place representing the presence of God]4 Then will I go unto the altar [place of sacrifice] of God, unto God my exceeding joy [gladness]: yea, upon the harp [string instrument] will I praise [give thanks; worship] thee, O God my God.”

Turning his heart and thoughts from his despair, David looked to the LORD in the same manner the captain of a ship peers through the fog and darkness for the piercing beam of a lighthouse.  David appealed to God to illuminate his way and guide him with His Truth to the safe haven of God’s “holy hill” and the “tabernacles” where the saints of God gather to worship (43:3).

Though despairing, the king rallied his heart to look past his sorrows and set his heart upon the joy of once again offering sacrifices to the LORD and singing His praises (43:4).

Psalm 43:5– “Why art thou cast down [depressed], O my soul [life; heart]? and why art thou disquieted [troubled] within me? hope [wait; trust ] in God: for I shall yet praise [give thanks; worship] him, who is the health [deliverer; salvation] of my countenance [face], and my God.”

David counseled his soul with two questions (43:5a): Why are you depressed?  Why are you so troubled?

Realizing the error of his fear, David counseled his heart, “hope in God” (43:5b)! 

Resetting his spiritual compass from the delusion of self-pity to trust and faith in the LORD, David took courage and declared, “I shall yet praise Him [the LORD], who is the health of my countenance [face], and my God” (43:5c).

My friend, I do not know what fears and doubts haunt your soul, but I challenge you to pass through this time of trouble by turning your thoughts from self-pity to trust in the LORD!

1 Corinthians 10:13 –   “There hath no temptation [trial] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. your trouble is not unique]: but God is faithful [true], who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [lit. to pass through the trial], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

You Can’t Take It With You! (Leviticus 25)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 25-26, Psalm 42, and Mark 14. Our devotional is from Leviticus 25.

Leviticus 25 instructs the children of Israel in matters concerning the land the LORD promised would be a perpetual inheritance for Abraham’s lineage (Genesis 12:1; 13:14-15; 17:8).  Two occasions are discussed in this chapter, the seventh year Sabbath and the fiftieth year of “Jubilee” (25:2 -4, 8-13).

The “Sabbath year” occurred every seven years and was, as its name implies, a year of ceasing from labor for the farmers and their lands.  The people were instructed to labor in their fields for six years, but on the seventh year they were not to sow seed, prune their vineyards, or harvest any fruits or vegetables that “groweth of its own accord” (25:3-7).

Seven “Sabbath years” were to pass (numbering forty-nine years) and the fiftieth year would be to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13).  The year of Jubilee was an additional Sabbath, meaning the lands and vineyards were idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11) [although some scholars argue the “Jubilee” was actually the 49th year].   The year of Jubilee was also a year of celebration and restoration. Families who, due to poverty, sold their plots of land had them restored to their original owners (25:23-28).

The year of Jubilee was also a year of liberty for those who, because of poverty, had become indentured servants (25:39-43).  The children of Israel were not to enslave their brethren, but treat them as hired servants; however, all indentured servants were set at liberty and restored to their families in the year of Jubilee.

The Sabbath years and years of Jubilee are foreign concepts to us in our 21st century economy; however, there are some principles in Leviticus 25 we should not pass by lightly.

The Sabbath year (25:2) was more than a year of rest from labor in the fields; it was also an acknowledgement that blessings and prosperity come from the LORD.  The Sabbath year served as an opportunity for the people to reflect on the goodness and provision of the LORD (25:20-22).

Reminding us we are temporal owners of the things we possess, the LORD instructed the people, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Leviticus 25:23).  While we do not follow the pattern of Sabbath years or the year of Jubilee, the principle found in Leviticus 25:23 is nonetheless true!

Whether you live in a mansion or a shanty, count your millions or your pennies; you are at best a temporal owner of your possessions.   Estate sales and auctions are perpetual reminders…You cannot take it with you!  After all, you will go to your grave and others will eventually claim your possessions.  As someone has observed, you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer to the cemetery.

Matthew 6:20-21 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

* A fitting reminder given this devotional is my 2,000th blog post to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Is a “Strange Fire” in Your Place of Worship? (Leviticus 10:1-7)

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

Our study in Leviticus continues with the ordination and consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood.  While Moses offered sacrifices to the LORD, Aaron and his sons remained at the Tabernacle for seven days (8:31-36) and on the eighth day began ministering before the LORD offering sacrifices on behalf of the nation (Leviticus 9:1-24).

What a glorious day for Israel when “the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people” (Leviticus 9:23) and “there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (9:24).

One would hope the visible display of God’s favor would induce a perpetual spirit of humility and obedience; however, such was not the case.  Tragedy soon befell the tribes of Israel when “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron…offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1).

We are not told why the eldest sons of Aaron offered strange fire; however, I suppose the privilege of the priesthood incited pride.  Whatever the motive, the LORD was swift to judge and “there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD” (10:2).

No doubt the sinful actions of his sons and their deaths devastated Aaron and Moses reminded him how the LORD sanctified the priesthood (Exodus 19:22) and demanded He alone be glorified before the people.  Of Aaron we read, he “held his peace” (10:3), meaning he was silent.

To add a greater solemnity to the tragedy, the LORD commanded the bodies of Nadab and Abihu be taken outside the camp of Israel for burial (10:4-5) while Aaron and his younger sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, remained at the “door of the tabernacle” (10:7).  Lest the people be tempted to sorrow and grieve over the deaths of those who sinned against the LORD, Moses warned Aaron and his sons to not make a public display of their grief (10:6-7).

I close today’s devotional wondering if there is a “strange fire” (10:1-7) in your place of worship. 

 “I lost my church sitting in the pew”, has become a familiar refrain from saints longing for the days when, in the words of evangelist Dr. Ron Comfort, “Preaching was king and music was queen”.  With rare exception (in fact, I cannot think of an exception), those saints point to a subtle change in music as the commencement of their churches drift from its historical conservative, Biblical roots.

I believe the “strange fire” of our day is music and pastors of my generation and the one following have failed God and His church.  We have given “worship leaders” a prominence in our ministries akin to the pastoral office, but failed to require of them Biblical virtues and spiritual discernment requisite of elders in the church (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9).

Our failure has permitted a flood of music from ministries whose doctrine we would never tolerate in our fellowships and associations, let alone in our pulpits!  We allowed an integration of music from those movements, albeit repurposed and arranged to make it palatable to churches and institutions historically fundamental, but the slow creep of carnality and the erosion of spiritual values has followed.

“Strange fire?”

Do you remember when the “new music” was introduced to your church?  Do you remember the sensitivity in your spirit that something was not right?  Do you remember being told, either verbally or tacitly, “You’re being an old fuddy duddy!” and the church needs to adapt for the sake of the youth?

I have come to realize music is and has been the catalyst for a drift in the culture and doctrine of our families, churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.  (I highly recommend a new book on the subject of worship music by Evangelist Ben Everson titled “Fusses, Fights, and Funerals”).  Like Nadab and Abihu, we are offering “strange fire” from religious movements foreign to the historical character of our fundamental churches and institutions.  Unlike the swift judgment of fire experienced by Israel (Leviticus 10:2), I fear our compromise in music and preoccupation with the taste of the masses has resulted in God removing His power from our pulpits and blessings from our ministries.

“Be Holy!”

God commands His people to be holy, because He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).  We are to be imitators of Christ and not imitators of the world (1 Peter 1:14; Romans 12:2).  If what we call worship finds its origin in religious movements that look, sound, and mimic the world, it is not holy.

Like Israel bewailing “the burning which the Lord has kindled” (Leviticus 10:6), I fear there are many who too late, mourn the decline of our fundamental churches and the erosion of institutions that once sang with passion, “Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry”.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

At the Heart of the Problem is a Problem of the Heart (Leviticus 13-14)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 13-14, Psalm 38, and Mark 10. Our devotional is from Leviticus 13-14.

I confess, it is easy to read Leviticus 13-14 and feel overwhelmed with the text, its application, and the issue of leprosy addressed in its verses.  Before you dismiss the passage, give this pastor an opportunity to make its meaning plainer.

Leprosy, known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD), is a bacterial, infectious disease.  Treatable, even curable in the 21st century; in ancient times it was a dreaded disease not only feared, but also inevitably leading to its victim’s isolation from society and assignment to miserable leper colonies.

In addressing the scourge of leprosy, the LORD directed Moses and Aaron in steps required to not only diagnose the disease, but also isolate its carriers from the people of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).  “Unclean, unclean” (13:45) was the leper’s warning to any who approached.

Should the leper be deemed healed of the disease, steps and sacrifices were prescribed in Leviticus 14 to insure the legitimacy of the healing and the purification of the leper.  After following the prescribed rituals, the leper would be deemed clean and restored to the fellowship of his family and the nation (14:9-32).

Leprosy is the disease God chose to illustrate the infectious danger of sin among his people. Notice in chapter 13 the number of times leprosy is described as “unclean”.  Leprosy is more than a skin issue; it inevitably infects the tissues, nerves and eventually the extremities of the body.  Leprosy so scars the body it is a well-nigh unbearable ugliness of rotting, putrid flesh.

Such is the way of sin.  Liberals would have you believe man is born innocent and it is his environment (i.e. home, society, religion) that is the origin of man’s societal deprivations.

God’s diagnosis is that man’s sin is a problem of the heart!  Rather than innocence, God’s Word declares, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  The apostle Paul likened sin to a physical ailment writing, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

Jesus taught His disciples,For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man”  (Matthew 15:19-20).

Without a cure for leprosy, lepers prayed for a miraculous healing, a divine intervention that would be verified by examination and sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).  In the same vein, man has no cure for sin apart from divine intervention.  21stcentury doctors and judges prescribe psychiatric evaluations, counseling, and drug-therapy for lawbreakers deemed to have “mental-disorders”; however, all fall short of addressing the heart of the issue, which is the issue of the heart.

There was no cure for leprosy without the LORD; in the same way, there is no cure for a sinful soul without turning from sin and placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

Isaiah 53:4-5 – “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  9But he waswounded for our transgressions, he wasbruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace wasupon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Who Is Really #1? (Mark 9)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 11-12, Psalm 37, and Mark 9. Our devotional is from Mark 9.

Mark 9:1-13 records the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ; an event when Jesus permits His inner circle, Peter, James, and John, to witness the unveiled brilliance of His heavenly glory.  Luke writes the disciples fell asleep after ascending the mountain with Jesus (Luke 9:32), but were suddenly awakened and witnessed Jesus, “His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller [launderer] on earth can white them (Mark 9:3).

Two heavenly visitors, Moses and Elias (Mark 9:4), visited Jesus and Peter suggested the event be memorialized with three “tabernacles” (temporal earthly structures) dedicated to Jesus, Moses and Elias (Mark 9:5).  Peter was, in effect, giving no more honor to Jesus than he was His heavenly visitors. From a cloud that overshadowed the scene, the disciples heard the voice of God saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear him” (Mark 9:7).

Descending the mount, Jesus commanded the three to “tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).  Arriving at the base of the mount, Jesus was immersed in a great crowd gathered to witness the disciples’ failed attempt to cast a demon out of a man’s son (Mark 9:14-18).

Imparting a lesson on the power of faith and prayer, Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).  Embarrassed by their failure, the disciples questioned Jesus privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” (Mark 9:28).  Jesus’ answered, “…This kind [i.e. of spirit] can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Passing through Galilee, Jesus prophesied His arrest, death, and resurrection a second time in the chapter (Mark 9:31); however, the disciples “understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him” (Mark 9:32).

A spiritual lesson on servant leadership (Mark 9:33-35) emerges as we learn along the way the disciples “disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest”(Mark 9:34).

The words “servant” and “humility” are foreign to our American ideas of success.  Striving for #1, climbing the “ladder of success”, counting the number of people who serve your beckoning call has become the essence of success. Such is not the case in our LORD’s definition of success Who taught His disciples, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

Two lessons we take from that principle

The first, self-centered ambition blinds one to spiritual truth.  Jesus spoke plainly of His death, but the disciples’ ambition for thrones in Christ’s kingdom blinded them (Matthew 20:21, 24).  So it is, a heart with the wrong focus is blind to spiritual truths and struggles with fear and anxieties (Mark 9:32; 1 John 4:18).

A second lesson: Greatness in God’s kingdom is defined, not by how many serve you, but by how many you serve (Mark 9:35).  

Someone has observed, “the mark of spiritual maturity is when a believer takes off a bib and dons a servant’s apron.”

Friend, who and how many are you serving?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Holy Calling of the Pastor\Shepherd (Leviticus 7-8)

Today’s Bible reading and devotional are from Leviticus 7-8.

The institution of sacrifices began in Leviticus 1 and continues today through the ordination of the Levitical priesthood (Leviticus 8).  Our study of the sacrifices continues with the “law of the trespass offering”, a sacrifice identified with an individual’s sin (7:1).  A “peace offering” served as an acknowledgment of God’s grace and an offering of thanksgiving (Leviticus 7:11-21).  The portions of the “peace offering” not consumed by the fire were given to the priests for their households.

Some portions of the sacrifices were forbidden to be eaten including the “fat of the beast” and the “blood” (Leviticus 7:22-27).  Blood was never to be consumed because it was the means and object of atonement (Leviticus 17:11).

Leviticus 8 establishes the Levitical priesthood, publicly ordaining and consecrating Aaron and his sons to serve as priests before the LORD on behalf of the nation (8:1-5).  Each step of the ordination is described beginning with the ceremonial washing of Aaron and his sons with water (8:6).

Aaron, the first high priest, is distinguished by his garments (8:7).  The high priest would wear a breastplate (8:8), referred to as “the breastplate of judgment” (Exodus 28:30), upon which was mounted twelve precious stones bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  “Urim and the Thummim” (8:8) are believed to be so form of dice that were cast by the priests in matters of judgment, trusting the LORD to determine the outcome.

As a word of caution for some tempted to adopt a manner of the same in making judgments, either tossing dice or “putting out a fleece” (Judges 6:36-40); God has given us a superior means of determining His will and making good judgments…His Word!

Moses continued to offer sacrifices for seven days while Aaron and his sons remained at the tabernacle as they consecrated themselves to the LORD as priests (8:31-36).  On the eighth day Aaron and his sons began ministering before the LORD and offering sacrifices on behalf of the nation (Leviticus 9:1-24).

I close today’s devotional, reminded of the great responsibility borne by those who minister for the LORD before God’s people.

An offering of sacrifices is no longer necessary because Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, is our sacrifice and high priest ever making intercession for us before the throne of God (Hebrews 7:25-28).  Nonetheless, God has called and ordained men He has set apart for the purpose of shepherding His church.  The apostle Peter challenged pastors,

1 Peter 5:2-3 – “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”

Such is the great calling of the pastor…teacher, shepherd and spiritual leader.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Invited for a Special Sunday at Hillsdale Baptist Church

 

This Sunday, February 17, 2019, Hillsdale Baptist Church will welcome to our ministry evangelist Dr. Ron Comfort and his wife Joyce.  The Comforts will be ministering to our church family throughout the day beginning with a split session for our Adult Bible Fellowship at 9:15am.  

Mrs. Comfort will be teaching a combined class of our ladies and teen daughters in our Friendship Hall.  Dr. Comfort will teach our men and teen sons in Cox Hall.  A lobby fellowship with pastries and coffee will precede our 9:15am ABF classes.

Dr. Comfort will be preaching in both the 10:30am and 6:00pm services.  His wife, an accomplished pianist, will be playing and she and Dr. Comfort will be singing before each message.

Dr. Comfort has been an evangelist for 58 years, beginning his ministry in 1961.  In 1989 he founded Ambassador Baptist College (ABC) in Lattimore, North Carolina.  Dr. Comfort serves today as ABC’s Chancellor and the college continues its mission of preparing young men for the Gospel ministry under the leadership of its second president, Dr. Alton Beal.  ABC is best known as an “old-fashioned, preacher-training Bible college” and is dedicated to the task of training men and women for ministry.  

Dr. Comfort recently published his autobiography, “A Fire in My Bones”, sharing his testimony of salvation and his lifetime of experiences as an evangelist serving the LORD faithfully as a preacher of the Gospel from 1961 to our day.

You are not only invited to our services this Sunday, but also encouraged to bring family and friends with you to what I pray will be an old-fashioned day of revival.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor