Tag Archives: Devotional

If You Had One Wish…What Would You Choose?

September 19, 2017

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 1-5

We come today to a new history book in our daily reading in the Old Testament.  2 Chronicles, like 1 Chronicles, are parallel books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings.   While 1 Kings and 2 Kings are written from the viewpoint of man; 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, covering the same age as the Book of Kings, are written from God’s perspective.

1 Chronicles concluded with King David’s benediction on his life and exhortation for Israel to give allegiance to Solomon as king and support him in the greatest undertaking of his life and reign as king…building a Temple for the LORD in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 29:1-25).   With understated fanfare, David, Israel’s greatest king, “died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead” (1 Chronicles 29:28).

2 Chronicles opens with Solomon sitting on his father’s throne and the power and blessing of God resting upon him (2 Chronicles 1:1).   Solomon began his reign where all men should begin their day…he worshipped the LORD (1:2-6).   God appeared to Solomon “and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee” (1:7).

What an incredible proposition!  Solomon, ask what you will and I shall give thee!  I wonder, what would you request should you have opportunity to ask for something, for anything, and it would be granted?    Would you ask for riches?  Possessions?  Power?  Popularity?  Fame?   The answer to that question reveals a lot about your character!

Solomon’s humble request no doubt puts us all to shame!  His request was not for those things which is the pursuit of carnal, worldly-minded men.   Solomon’s desire revealed a heart of deep humility.

2 Chronicles 1:10 –  “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?”

God commended Solomon for his request and promised to reward him with not only wisdom and knowledge, but also “riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (1:12).   The closing verses of 2 Chronicles 1 reveal the vastness of Solomon’s wealth as the LORD blessed him as He had promised.

2 Chronicles 2–4 gives us the record of Solomon directing the building of the Temple as his father David had instructed him.  The design, the carvings of wood and the gold that overlaid the walls and doors made the Temple Solomon built one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

With the Temple complete (5:1), Solomon directed the golden vessels assembled by his father David and the ark, representing the earthly presence of God among His people, be brought to the Temple (5:2-9).   With the ark in the “holy place”, the people celebrated with singing, trumpets and cymbals praising the Lord, saying, “For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever” (5:13).

Having reflected on the glorious beginning of Solomon’s reign and his humility before the LORD; it saddens me to recall the spiritual and moral failures that would overshadow his accomplishments, wisdom and knowledge.  Of Solomon, we read:

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

That same truth has played out in the lives of some I have known.  Too many saints go to their graves, remembered, not for their accomplishments, but for the tragedy of their moral failures.

Friend, don’t allow that to be true of you; discipline your heart, thoughts, eyes and affections.   Follow Job’s example:

Job 31:1 – “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Scripture Reading for September 16-17, 2017

Dear followers of Heart of a Shepherd,

If you are continuing in the spiritual discipline of reading through the Bible in a year, the following are the scriptures for Saturday and Sunday, September 16-17, 2017.

Saturday – John 16-18

Sunday – Philemon

I regret I am unable to post a devotional commentary on John 16-18 today; however, my obligations as pastor are too demanding this Saturday morning with an adult choir Christmas Music reading from 8:30am to 11:30am.

Please remember Houston, TX and South Florida, the Florida Keys and Jacksonville, FL in your prayers as the recovery efforts have begun.  I expect to hear a damage report to Independent Baptist Churches in the Keys toward the end of next week.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Woe to the Nation That Celebrates Perversity and Attacks Morality!

September 15, 2017

Scripture Reading – Amos 1-4

Borrowing the modern vernacular of politics, the prophet Amos was an outsider when God called him to deliver a word of prophecy against Judah and Israel (Amos 1:1).  He lived and worked in obscurity as a common herdsman with no political ties or religious lineage.   When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

“Uzziah king of Judah” (1:1) presided over the southern kingdom and the nation maintained an outward form of worshipping the LORD (5:21-22); however, the hearts of the king and people were far from Him.  “Jeroboam the son of Joash” was king of Israel (1:1), the northern kingdom; making no pretense of worshipping the LORD, that nation built an altar in Bethel and offered sacrifices to a golden calf.

Amos, a layperson “who was among the herdmen of Tekoa” (1:1), was a courageous prophet.  With the word of the LORD upon his lips, he delivered a series of prophecies against six Gentile nations: Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5)… Philistia, identified by its principal cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1:6-8)… Tyre (1:9-10)… Edom (1:11-12)… Ammon (1:13-15)… and Moab (2:1-3) all were warned the judgment of God was imminent.

Turning his focus from the six Gentile nations, Amos warned Judah the nation would be judged “because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments” (2:4).

Amos then declared the sins and wickedness of the kingdom of Israel and warned the nation would suffer God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the nation how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9) and given them the land of the Amorites (2:9-10).  God sent prophets, but the people said, “Prophesy not” (2:12).

In chapter 3 Amos prophesied reminding the people the LORD had chosen the “children of Israel” (meaning both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah) as His people and made Himself known to them (3:1-2).  Israel, however, rejected the LORD and He set Himself against them saying, “I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:1).

Adding to the Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations, Ashdod, a Philistine city, and Egypt to witness God’s judgment against Israel (whose capital was Samaria).  A sad commentary on the deception of sin is the condemnation: For they know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

How did the nation to whom the LORD had revealed Himself, His Law and Commandments come to this?  How could they be so blind they lost sense and discernment of right and wrong?

Warning: Here is the beguiling way of sin and wickedness.  When a people make light of God’s Truth, trivialize and rationalize sin, eventually their hearts becomes desensitized to wickedness, they no longer know how to do right.  Perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe an accurate one:  Israel had strayed so far from God’s law the people no longer had “common sense”—they had no sense of right (3:10).

My friend, the same condemnation is true of our beloved United States!

The lunacy of atheism coupled with the perversity of humanism is so entrenched in government, education, religion and media it has crippled our judgment as a society.   Having rejected God and His Laws, our moral judgment as a nation is twisted and perverted and we “know not to do right” (3:10).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Slay the Three-headed Monster: Gluttony, Booze and Self-indulgence”

September 14, 2017

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 23-24

Proverbs 23-24 is our scripture reading for today as we continue to mine truths found in this book one author described as “Common Sense in Overalls” (source unknown).   The principles and precepts found in Proverbs leave no room for ambiguity if one believes Solomon wrote exactly what the Holy Spirit directed him to write (2 Peter 1:21).  Today’s devotional commentary focuses on Proverbs 23:20-21 and Proverbs 23:29-32.

Proverbs 23:20  “Be not among winebibbers [drunken; heavy drinkers]; among riotous eaters [gluttons; squanderers] of flesh:”

Solomon addressed a pattern of sin that has been the ruin of the greatest of men and women—drunkenness and gluttony.   American families are a tragic testimony of excess in each.   A 2009 survey found 63.1% of Americans are overweight [there are medical reasons for some; however, the majority cannot take refuge behind that defense].   Gluttony is not only sinful (Proverbs 23:2; Philippians 3:19); it is a leading cause for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancers and arthritis.  As a nation, we are eating ourselves to death!

Believers are not only guilty of gluttony, there is a growing number of believers trivializing imbibing in wine and alcohol.   Championing Christian liberty, some pastors are leading their families and congregations to accept wine and alcohol proving the adage: Liberty for one becomes a license for another.

Wonder what those torchbearers of “liberty” will say to parents burying a child killed in an alcohol related accident?   What rationalizations will they offer when a vice they approved leads a family to the morass of abuse and addiction?

Proverbs 23:21  “For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty [driven to poverty]: and drowsiness [sleepiness; indolence; slumber] shall clothe [dress] a man with rags.”

Solomon observed that a man given to excesses of drunkenness and gluttony tends to laziness [i.e. “drowsiness”] and follows a path to want [“poverty” and “rags”].  Solomon warned his son alcohol may desensitize a soul, but it never solves problems.  A series of six questions describe the sad lot of those given to wine and drunkenness (23:29-30).

Proverbs 23:29-30 – “Who hath woe [grief; despair; cry of lamentations]? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions [strife; brawlings]? who hath babbling [complaints; disparaging talk]? who hath wounds [bruise] without cause [for naught; for no good reason]? who hath redness [dullness, implied from drinking wine] of eyes [sight]? 30 They that tarry long [delay; remain] at the wine [strong drink]; they that go to seek mixed wine [with herbs or honey].”

Those who indulge in strong drink have a penchant for “woe” and “sorrow” or what some today describe as “mental illness” and depression.  The excessive cost of alcohol consumption in the United States in 2006 was estimated to be $223.5 billion.

Of course, we cannot place a dollar amount on alcohol’s human toll.   Solomon described the suffering of alcoholism as “wounds without cause…redness of eyes”.   Failing health, physical and sexual abuses, failed marriages, splintered families, ruined careers, crime, murders and suicides can all be ascribed to drunkenness.   Solomon admonished his son:

Proverbs 23:31-32 – “Look [examine; choose] not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth [walk; behave] itself aright. 32 At the last [in the end] it biteth [sting; strike] like a serpent [viper], and stingeth [wound] like an adder [poisonous serpent].”

The phrase “moveth itself aright” describes the redness of the wine and its sparkle when it is strongest and most alcoholic in content.   Solomon warned his son…don’t look at it; don’t desire and imbibe in wine when it has fermented for it will be like the bite of a poisonous viper when it delivers its mortal wound.

Someone reading today’s devotional will take an exception to my commentary and dismiss Solomon and this simple author.  You indulge your liberty and take solace in others coming to your defense; however, I wonder where those “friends” will be when your son or daughter descends into the dark, dismal hole of sinful indulgence attempting to fill the void and emptiness of their soul with drugs and alcohol?

1 Corinthians 6:9-10  “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Return to a Semblance of Normalcy (part 2)

September 13, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalm 108-110

Apparently, everything is back to normal with the exception of my scheduled readings!  I realized too late I repeated last week’s Scripture reading assignments.

The following is my correction for those reading through the Bible in a year.:

Saturday – September 9 – John 13-15

Sunday, September 10 – Titus

Monday, September 11 – Numbers 17-20

Tuesday, September 12 – 1 Chronicles 25-29

Wednesday, September 13 – Psalm 108-110

I plan to return to posting a daily devotional commentary this Thursday, September 14, 2017.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm”

September 10, 2017

A Sunday Devotional Thought from Mark 4:35-5:1

Canceling worship services this Sunday, September 10, 2017 is something I did not want to do; however, facing the uncertainty of Hurricane Irma’s direction and arrival in Tampa Bay, Hillsdale’s pastoral leadership felt it wise to not place upon our church family an expectation to leave your places of safety.

I am writing this devotional knowing I will miss the opportunity to worship, sing, and study God’s Word with you this Sunday, but purposing to remind you the LORD gives peace to those who put their faith in Him, even in the midst of storms.  Storms, trials and troubles are, after all, our lot because we live in a sin cursed world.

The focus of this Sunday devotional is Mark 4:35-5:1.   Jesus had been teaching parables throughout the day and when the crowd became too large and pressed upon Him, He sat in a fishing boat and taught them near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other side, some seven miles away.  Lying down in the boat, Jesus slept.

Although named a Sea, the body of water known as the Sea of Galilee is a large lake, only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide.  This body of water; however, is notorious for violent storms that without warning turn the lake into a raging sea.

Lying 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round, much like our own Tampa Bay.   Encircled by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift.  To the north is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Hermon whose melting snows feed the tributaries that form the Jordan River, running southward into the Sea of Galilee and finally into the Dead Sea.  Cold winds from mountain peaks in the north drift down through hillsides funneling cold air into the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.  It is a storm such as this we find the disciples and Jesus.

Luke writes, “as they sailed He [Jesus] fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy” (Luke 8:23).  Matthew writes of the same incident, “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

The magnitude of the storm is evident when we remember at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman on the Sea of Galilee; however, not even veteran fishermen were able to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.  Cold winds whipped up the waves threatening to overwhelm the ship while exhausted disciples fought to keep the vessel afloat.  Finally, when all seemed lost, we read, “they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Master, master, we perish…” (Luke 8:23-24).

Physically and emotionally exhausted, the disciples realized they could not save themselves and cried out to Jesus: “Master [lit. – Teacher], carest though not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)

Embodied in that question is sadly, a revelation of their lack of faith and understanding of the LORD.   In their distress, they questioned the LORD’s compassion, “Carest thou not” (Mark 4:38).  Years later, Peter would write, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

It was not a lack of compassion, but a lack of faith that was the problem.  The disciples viewed the storm as a challenge and threat to their physical well-being.  The LORD was not surprised by the storm, nor overwhelmed; He had a far greater purpose for the storm…a lesson in faith.

Mark 4:39-40 – “And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40  And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith and their failure to trust Him.   When He rebuked the storm and the winds immediately ceased and the water was stilled, “they feared exceedingly [terrfied], and said [lit. kept saying] one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)

They had heard Him teach, but did not know Him.  Witnessed His miracles, but failed to understand His divine power and nature.  What manner of man is this?

The disciples should have known the man sleeping in the hindermost part of the boat and whose command, “Peace Be Still” the winds and waves obeyed was no mere man…He was Jesus, the Son of God, Creator.

King David wrote of the LORD, “Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people” (Psalm 65:7).

Another psalmist wrote, “O Lord God of host….Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8-9).

Many reading this Sunday devotional are in the midst of a very real storm.

My church family in Tampa Bay is awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  Many in Houston are nigh overwhelmed by the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.  Some are in storms deeply personal in nature…a crisis of health, problems at home, in marriage or a financial crisis.   Many are ill-prepared for storms because their faith is anchored on a shallow, unbibilical theology duping them to believe “Something good is going to happen!”

Friend, God does not promise to spare us from trouble or trials; however, He promises to be with us!  Before ascending to heaven Jesus promised His disciples, “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b).

What spiritual benefits can we derive from storms?

Storms remind us we are weak and incapable of saving ourselves.  Storms are opportunities to know God personally and intimately.  Storms invite us to turn our focus from oursevles to the LORD.   The disciples experienced what David as shepherd wrote, “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

I assure you, the safest place in the world is in the will of God and yes, He sometimes leads you into the midst of storms!

I close inviting you to listen to Evangelist Ben Everson singing, What Manner of Man Is his?”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Reminder before Hurricane Irma: “The World Always Has Room for One More Servant”

September 9, 2017

Scripture Reading – John 13-15

My heart is blessed to observe our “Divided United States” pulling together as neighbor helps and encourages neighbor throughout the State of Florida.   With the exception of a few fringe anarchists, when lives are at risk the majority of Americans set aside political differences, come together and serve others.

Foot washing was a cultural practice in Jesus’ day as households in the first century lacked plumbing and running water.  Wealthy citizens of towns and villages went to public baths to bathe and, after walking home on dusty streets, were met by a household servant who would wash their feet in a basin of water and dry them with a towel.

Carrying forward the theme of serving others, today’s scripture reading is John 13-15; however, I am limiting my focus to John 13:1-17 and the beautiful portrait of humility and love seen in our LORD washing the feet of His disciples.  The setting of John 13 is the night Judas betrayed Jesus and His disciples deserted Him fleeing into the night.

Pride and a lack of humility prevented the disciples from taking up the task of washing the feet of the LORD or their peers.  Rising from the Passover feast, Jesus took up a towel and began washing the feet of the disciples, among them Judas who had arranged to betray the LORD to His enemies that night (John 13:1-2).   What an act of grace!  It is one thing to stoop to wash the feet of another; however, to wash the feet of a traitor is grace (John 13:2, 11)!

Although an awkward moment, the disciples allowed Jesus to wash their feet.  Peter, however, piously protested Jesus’ act of servitude (John 13:6-11).

John 13:14-15If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Consider three spiritual lessons in this brief devotional.  The first is Salvation: Washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus Christ taught them He alone can forgive and spiritually cleanse sinners of sin.  The disciples believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; however, not all believed.  Judas rejected Jesus Christ and his lack of faith forever damned his unbelieving soul (John 13:10-11).

Sanctification is the second spiritual lesson.  Jesus washing the feet of His disciples reminds us that a believer needs daily cleaning from sin.  The apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Our third spiritual lesson is that of Service—serving others (John 13:1, 5, 12-16).  To bear a servant’s towel requires three things in my estimation.  The first, “persevering love”.  We read of the LORD, “…having loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end [continually; to the uttermost]” (John 13:1).

The second requirement for those who earn a servant’s towel is “unpretentious humility”–Jesus “began to wash the disciples’ feet” – (John 13:5).  Paul exhorted the believers in Philippi to follow Christ’s example of humility.

Philippians 2:5-7 – “Let this mind [attitude] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God [possessing all the attributes of God], thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation [setting aside the glory and dignity that was His], and took upon him the form of a servant [slave], and was made in the likeness of men [became man]:”

Finally, to earn a servant’s towel requires “enduring commitment” to follow Jesus’ example.  Jesus commanded His followers:

John 13:14-15If I then, your Lord and Master [teacher], have washed your feet; ye also ought [duty, obligation] to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Hillsdale family and friends, I do not know what trials Hurricane Irma may bring us in the next 48 hours; however, I close with a challenge for you to consider three characteristics of a servant:

The first, a servant is proactive and seeks opportunities to serve others.

The second, a servant meets needs others disregard.

The third, a servant serves when others falter.

The world will always make room for one more servant.  Will you be that servant?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith