Tag Archives: Flesh

Living Life in A Rearview Mirror

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 11-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson and Admonition for Social Drinkers

Friday, October 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Habakkuk 1-3

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” challenge continues today focusing on a small prophetic book in the Old Testament, the Book of Habakkuk.  Habakkuk was a prophet whose brief ministry served as a final warning of the LORD’s judgment on Judah for the sins of the people.  A contemporary of Jeremiah, Habakkuk’s lamentation over Judah and the imminent invasion of the Chaldeans was an ominous conclusion of a succession of warnings faithfully delivered by the prophets.

Only three chapters long, Habakkuk’s prophecies were as much an appeal to the LORD for Judah as they were a lamentation over the devastation God’s people would soon face as the invading armies of Babylon (the Chaldeans) swept over land, destroying Jerusalem and the Temple.

Habakkuk 1 is a record of Judah’s sins (1:1-4) and a warning that God would use the wicked Chaldeans to punish the sins of His rebellious people (1:5-17).  Habakkuk questioned why the LORD would use Babylon, a heathen nation whose wickedness far exceeded the sins of Judah, to punish His chosen people (1:12-13).

Habakkuk 1:13 – “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked [Babylon] devoureth the man [i.e. Judah] that is more righteous than he?”

Having questioned the ways of the LORD, the prophet waited for an answer (2:1) and the LORD graciously responded (2:2-4).  The judgment of God was set against Judah; however, God had not forsaken His chosen people, therefore, “the just shall live by his faith” (2:4; note Romans 1:16-17).

Although God would use Babylon as a tool to exact justice on Judah for the wickedness of the people, He was not blind to the sins and wickedness of the Chaldeans (2:5-20).  There are several grievances the prophet raises against Babylon, among them their drunkenness (2:5, 15-16), greed and covetousness (2:6-9), violence (2:10-14, 17-18), and idolatry (2:19-20).

Habakkuk began with a cry of lamentation over the sorrows and sufferings that would soon engulf Judah (1:1-4), but ends with the prophet praying and acknowledging the LORD’s sovereignty (3:1-2) and majesty (3:3-16).  The prophet had moved from questioning the LORD to trusting His ways and rejoicing in His faithfulness (3:17-19).

Habakkuk 3:17-19 – “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19  The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”

I close this devotional drawing your attention to two verses too many 21st century Christians trivialize and dismiss as they assail any who dare question their “Liberty”.   Berating the sins and wickedness of Babylon, one in particular is mentioned twice…wine and drunkenness (Habakkuk 2:5, 15).  The Chaldeans are condemned not only for their drunkenness, but also for giving strong drink to mock and take advantage of their neighbor.

Habakkuk 2:5 – “Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:”

Habakkuk 2:15 – “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!”

Lesson: Wine and strong drink chart the path to unrestrained pride, shameless adultery, uninhibited lust, and gross immorality.

Warning: What foolish parents and charlatan pastors exercise in moderation, their children will practice to excess…and heartache and ruin will invariably be the end!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Living a Purposeful Life

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 1-2

Reading the Book of Ecclesiastes might raise in some a spirit of hopelessness; however, such should not be the case for children of faith whose focus and trust is in the LORD.

Ecclesiastes chronicles the pondering of elderly King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (the one exception is Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God).  The king’s subject is the challenges and difficulties of this earthly life and, apart from the LORD, its vanity (emptiness).  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3  What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

Penned in the latter years of his life, his youth far spent and the frailty of old age his daily haunt, Solomon’s outlook was hardly an attitude of rejoicing.  Solomon wondered, what is a man’s life apart from God?  To what ends should a man live?  What profit, what gain, what value is there for a man who spends his life in labor?  One generation dies and another takes its place (Eccl. 1:4); the sun rises and the sun sets (Eccl. 1:5); the wind blows and the waters run (Eccl. 1:6-7) and, in Solomon’s observation, a man’s heart is never satisfied (1:8).

Eccles. 1:8 – “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

What a sad commentary on the life of a king whom God promised to give wealth unimaginable and wisdom incomprehensible (1 Kings 3:7-14)!  He gave his heart searching for purpose apart from God and, near the end of life summed up his search saying, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).

What happened to this man who had everything, but whose life was empty?  We find the answer to that question in 1 Kings 11:4.

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.”

His soul spiritually cold, his life viewed from a horizontal, human perspective, his heart turned from God; no wonder Solomon writes thirty-four times in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity, all is vanity!”

What a tragic end for a man whose youth was a testimony of God’s blessings!  When he was young, he loved the LORD and chose wisdom over wealth and worldly pleasures (1 Kings 3:9).  God honored his request, imparting to him not only wisdom, but also riches and power.  Tragically, in his old age, Solomon turned from the LORD and His Word.  Ecclesiastes is the philosophical discourse of an old man out of fellowship with God.

Eccles. 2:11 – “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”

I believe it is author and preacher Chuck Swindoll who tells the story of a deeply disturbed, troubled individual who went to a psychiatrist seeking help with his anxieties.   Every morning the man awoke melancholy and in the evening, went to bed deeply depressed.  Desperate and unable to find relief, he decided to seek the counsel of a medical doctor.

The psychiatrist listened to the man share his thoughts, fears and anxieties and finally leaned towards his patient and said, “I understand an Italian clown has come to our local theatre and the crowds are [rolling] in the aisles in laughter… Why don’t you go see the clown and laugh your troubles away?”

With a sad, forlorn expression, the patient muttered, “Doctor, I am that clown.”

Friend, a life lived apart from God and in contradiction to His Law will never be satisfying!  No pleasures can mask the sadness, nor riches satisfy the void of a sinner’s heart apart from the LORD.  Solomon writes,

Eccles. 2:26 – “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that He may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Millennials and their “Temper Tantrums” Are Threatening to Destroy the United States!

I once again have the privilege of preaching and teaching God’s Word in Hillsdale’s 10:30 AM and 6:00 PM services this Sunday.   I am continuing my series in Genesis titled “Lessons on Faith from the Life of Abraham” in the evening service.

I am in the midst of a Sunday morning series titled “The Commandments of the LORD” and my focus this Sunday is on the 5th Command:

“Honour [glorify; boast] thy father and thy mother: that thy days [time; years] may be long [lengthened; prolonged; draw out; endure] upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).

Never one to shy away from difficult and controversial subjects, I plan to make some relevant observations regarding this Millennial generations’ penchant for throwing what one dear saint observed is nothing more than “Temper Tantrums”.

For nearly 50 years, America has made idols of her children and we are beginning to reap the consequences.  Parents of my generation failed to teach their children to “Honor thy father and thy mother” and now they are creating chaos and threatening anarchy!

This is the generation that was kicking and screaming in WalMart’s toy aisle, except now they are screaming in the public square.

This is the generation that was not taught to respect authority, to be quiet and listen…now they are shouting down every voice they don’t want to hear and willing to shed blood and destroy the lives of any who get in their way.

I have a prophetic warning for this nation and our politicians: 

Continue to capitulate to the demands and temper tantrums of this generation and they will not stop with demanding the removal of monuments they dislike… They will eventually silence and eliminate the voices and people who stand in the way of their demands.

I invite you to join me at Hillsdale this Sunday as I exhort parents to teach their children and challenge children to “Honor thy father and thy mother”.

For those who follow this years’ scripture reading schedule and my daily devotional commentary, the following are readings scheduled for today and Sunday:

Saturday – Scripture Reading – Gospel of John 7-9

Sunday – Scripture Reading – 2 Timothy 1-2

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2-17 – Travis D. Smith

“The Path And Ways Of A Floozy”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 5-6

Our scripture reading for today is Proverbs 5-6; however, my focus for this devotional commentary is limited to Proverbs 5:3-6.  As a reminder, my www.heartofashepherd.com site is host to my devotional commentary on the Book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 5 addresses a salacious subject—the strange woman (5:3-6) and is an appropriate subject in a day when some of the leading voices of women boast they are “dirty women”.

 The raunchy nature of our society has not only made women the objects of vulgarity, but has diminished their role as the purveyors of grace and innocence.  As wife and mother, womanhood has served humanity as the bulwark of human civility.   However, the 21st century woman embodied in the likes of Madonna, Ashley Judd and Miley Cyrus, are racing for the extremity of debauchery.   Abdicating the God-given roles that were her strengths, she has diminished her influential virtues—this in the name of liberation!

Ponder Solomon’s warning to his son concerning the “strange woman”.

Proverbs 5:3-5 – “For the lips [conversation] of a strange woman  [adulterous]  drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil [full of flattery]But her end [the end of the adulterous woman] is bitter as wormwood [cursed], sharp as a twoedged sword. Her feet [path] go down to death; her steps take hold on hell [the path to hell].”

 Proverbs 5:6 – “Lest thou shouldest ponder [consider] the path of life, her ways [adulterous woman] are moveable [uncertain; wander], that thou canst not know [understand; discern] them.”

Solomon warns his son, the path of an adulterous floozy is aimless and her ways mesmerizing.  She flatters and her words are sweet as a honeycomb (Proverbs 7:13-20), but they are poison to the fool who believes them.

Fools believe they are the exception to the consequences of sin.  I assure you that breaking God’s commandments regarding the sin of adultery (Exodus 20:14, 17) will lead you down a path of self-destruction.  Indeed, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a) and adultery is no exception—death of a marriage, family, career, reputation and friendship.

What?  You say the pornographic nature of your sin is on your computer in the privacy of your home and no one will get hurt?

Matthew 5:27-28 “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

 Heed Paul’s exhortation and “Flee also youthful lusts…” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Absolute power corrupts absolutely!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 51-53

Our scripture reading today is Psalms 51-53; however, my devotional commentary will focus on Psalm 51 and the setting of that great psalm.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance and a plea for restoration following the prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation (2 Samuel 12:7-13) with king David because of his secret sins…his adultery with Bathsheba and his foolish attempt to conceal his sin by directing the murder of her husband Uriah.

It is frightening to consider the depth to which a man or woman might descend into sin and wickedness when they attempt to cover sin rather than confess and forsake it.  Many a great man and woman have found themselves in the unenviable position we find king David…at the pinnacle of success and power; and too often unaccountable to any who might mercifully, but bravely like the prophet Nathan warn his superior, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Such is true, not only of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, teachers, and pastors; but also men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms have roles that go unchecked by personal accountability to others and a holy, omniscient God.

One should ponder how a man like David fell from the innocence of a shepherd boy in his teens, a national hero in his early-adult years (1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11), crowned king by age 30, but at the age of 50 becomes in fact an adulterer and murderer.

Every reader should awaken to this truth…the potential of so egregious sins is within each of us.   David acknowledges in Psalm 51:5 the nature and curse of sin: “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  The inclination for sin is within the nature and heart of all men and women and, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

It is not the depths of sin to which David descended, but the fact he tolerated the curse and burden of such sins while acting as king and righteous judge in other men’s matters.  One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if it weren’t for God employing his prophet to confront the king while he sat on his throne.   We also appreciate the tenuous position Nathan found himself when we remember oriental monarchs like David had absolute power and the power of life and death rested with them.

The words, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the king’s judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to God:

Psalm 51:1-4a – “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3  For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…”

Psalm 51:10-12 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”

Psalm 51:16-17 – “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

Make no mistake; among the hundreds who will read this devotional commentary are some who, like David, are living out a pretense of good works, maintaining appearances, while concealing a sin that will, like cancer, destroy you, your family and witness.  I find three failures in David’s life that are the haunt of men and women of all ages.

The first, David entertained unbridled passions in his soul that led inevitably to a sinful neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king.   Friend, your greatest temptations will arise when you are physically and spiritually indolent.  Nearly 40 years in ministry have taught me when a believer is unfaithful and carries a gunny sack of excuses, Sound the Alarm and shout… “Thou art the man!”

The second failure seen in David’s life was his role as king isolated him from accountability.  His moral failure occurred when he was alone…far from the battlefield and apart from his wives and children.  The same is true of many who have leisure time, are self-employed, and home alone…the temptations of the television and Internet are no more than a mouse-click away.

Finally, in spite of David being a man with a heart for God, he was nevertheless too proud to confess his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-22) and accept the consequences of his moral failures.

Believer, if you are concealing sin, be forewarned:  You are living on borrowed time before the consequences catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).   I invite you to, like David, humble yourself before God for He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

WARNING: A Contentious Man is A Spiritual Cancer

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Mark 13-14

The Gospel of Mark, chapters 13-14, is a fascinating reading taking us from the LORD’s discussion of “Eschatology”, the Biblical doctrine of the “Last Things” and His Second Coming (Mark 13) to the dinner at the house of “Simon the Leper (Mark 14:3-9), the institution of “The Lord’s Supper” (Mark 14:16-28), His betrayal and arrest (Mark 14:43-65) and Peter’s threefold denial of the Lord (Mark 14:66-72).  Realizing a thorough commentary on these historical events is impossible; I limit my focus to Judas and his presence and influence on the other disciples.

Mark 14 finds the LORD, His disciples, and dearest friends Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha, having dinner at the home of one “Simon the Leper” (14:3).  Leprosy is a physically disfiguring and was a dreaded disease in Jewish society.  Because lepers were outcasts, the occasion of this feast was most likely a celebration of our Lord delivering Simon from leprosy.  Setting aside postulating regarding Simon’s identity, the central focus of the feast becomes the sacrificial gift offered by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the disciples’ criticisms of her actions led by Judas (14:3b-9).

In an act of sincere love, Mary entered the room where Jesus and His disciples were eating and, breaking the neck of an alabaster jar, a milky cream-colored jar containing spikenard, she poured out its contents on Jesus’ head (14:3b).  John identifies “Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray Him” (John 12:4), as the disciple who led the chorus of criticism of Mary’s actions, suggesting the spikenard, a perfume fit for royalty and, in Judas’ estimation worth over 300 pence (a full year’s salary in that economy), should have been sold and its proceeds given to the poor (John 12:5).  Leaving no doubt as to Judas’ motives, John writes, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).  At the time, the disciples did not know that Judas, the trusted treasurer of the Lord and His disciples (i.e. he “had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (John 12:6b) was a thief.

Consider with me Judas’ character and his influence on the disciples.  Judas’ objection carried the appearance of a charitable soul, but in reality he was a thief, a traitor and a deserter.  His words not only implied Mary’s sacrifice was a waste, but it was also a slight against the LORD for receiving Mary’s sacrificial act of love and devotion.

Offering us insight into the influence and leadership of Judas amongst the disciples, we read they shared his objections.  Rather than defend the LORD’s honor and Mary’s action, the disciples “murmured against her” (Mark 14:5).  Jesus rebuked the disciples and silenced them saying, “Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me” (Mark 14:6).  Then, affirming Mary’s act of love, Jesus once again spoke of His death and burial (Mark 14:7-8; John 12:7), revealing Mary’s sacrifice would be a lasting testimony of her faith and devotion (Mark 14:8-9).

I close by challenging you with a proverbial principle: Beware an angry man for he will spoil and destroy you with his contentious spirit!  Proverbs 16:21 describes men like Judas who are, “As coals [i.e. black coals] are to burning coals [red hot coals], and wood to fire; so is a contentious man [brawling; strife provoking; quarreling] to kindle [incite; burn] strife [controversy; contest; dispute; quarrel].”

 A contentious spirit has the same destructive effect on a family, church, and an organization as a burning ember of an unattended campfire in the middle of a forest…it has the potential of destroying everything…and the LORD hates it!

Proverbs 6:16, 19 – “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abominationunto him…19A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith