Tag Archives: Government

God’s Call to Holiness

Monday, July 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 16-18

After addressing the issue of leprosy (Leviticus 13-14), the opening verse of Leviticus 16 reminds us of a tragedy that occurred in the priesthood when two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, “offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1) and were slain for their sin against the LORD (Leviticus 10:2).

Reminding us the office of high priest was a holy office and Aaron’s ministry before the LORD on behalf of the people was a sacred duty; the LORD instructs Moses the high priest was only to enter the holy place, the “holy of holies”, once a year (16:2) on “the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month” (16:29).   The Day of Atonement, known as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, is the most holy day on the Jewish calendar and was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for nation’s sins against God.

The pattern of blood sacrifices was necessary to remind all sinners the penalty of sin is death and there is no forgiveness of sins apart from the shedding of blood, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Once a year and every year, the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people.  Under the new covenant, this annual ritual is no longer needed following Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for sin, His burial and resurrection from the dead. We read in the Book of Hebrews,

Hebrews 9:24-28 – “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25  Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28  So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Leviticus 17 continues the LORD’s instructions to Moses concerning sacrifices the priests were to offer for the people before the door of the tabernacle.   Thirteen times in chapter 17 the centrality of blood sacrifices for sin is mentioned and explicit instructions are given regarding the offerings to the LORD, including the prohibition regarding the consumption of blood (17:10-14).   For those curious regarding the meaning of “Kosher” meats; they are meats derived from animals slaughtered and the blood drained according to Biblical guidelines.

Morality and the sanctity of marriage is the subject of Leviticus 18:1-30 and one that should be a subject of teaching in the 21st century church.   Several moral issues are addressed including the prohibition of incest (18:6-19), adultery (18:20; Exodus 20:14), homosexuality (18:22), and bestiality (18:23).

The wicked immoral practices the people might remember from Egypt and the immorality that might observe in the new land were prohibited.  In other words, the world was not to be the standard of God’s people in conduct and lifestyle.  Israel was to not follow in the ways of Egypt and Canaan (Leviticus 18:3; 24-29).  The LORD commanded His people, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God” (18:4).  Excommunication from fellowship and living among the people was the judgment against any who chose to walk contrary to the law and commandments (18:29).

Friend, there was a time the church and God’s people set the moral standard for these United States and defined a godly lifestyle according God’s Word, law and commandments.   It troubles me to observe the average Christian home in America has an appetite for the world and looks to society, politicians, judges, and liberal media for their moral judgments.  Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until we allow our consciences to be disciplined by God’s Word, law and commandments (18:30).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Workshop”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 10

The following study is taken in part from my devotional commentary post on the Book of Proverbs dated December 10, 2014.

Today’s study in proverbs features what I will call three “stand alone proverbs” – three proverbial statements of “Uncommon Common Sense” communicating three distinct observations.

Proverbs 10:15  “The rich man’s wealth [property; possessions; savings] is his strong city [a fortified city]: the destruction [ruin; dismay; terror] of the poor [needy; helpless] is their poverty.”

“You didn’t build that!”, was an adage employed by liberal politicians in the 2012 election cycle in the United States.   Hoping to stir up class envy, the statement taunted the successful while dismissing the sacrifices and risks taken by employers and business owners.  I accept the statement if the intent is to acknowledge divine providence; however, an ideology that taunts hardworking entrepreneurs, spawns an expansive welfare state, inevitably makes citizens debtors and slaves of big government.   How tragic!   While excoriating the successful, the poor are left weak, dependent and one crisis from destitution!

Proverbs 10:15 is a statement of fact—a rich man finds comfort and security in his wealth.   In the same way citizens of a medieval city found refuge behind the walls of a city, a rich man finds security in riches providentially provided to him by God.   By contrast, the working poor are often a crisis away from desperation (an incentive to be a “saver” and not a “spender” or “debtor”).

Proverbs 10:16 – “The labour  [wages; reward] of the righteous [just; law-abiding] tendeth to life [strength; satisfaction]: the fruit [result; reaping] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] to sin [punishment; i.e. leads to greater sin].”

Though the curse of sin left man laboring for food by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3:19),  the reward of an honest day’s labor brings its own satisfaction.   I am not sure who to credit with the quote, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; however, there is a lot of truth in that statement.   The prevalence of depression in our society is, I believe, directly related to the gross amount of leisure time we enjoy as a society.  Too few of us come to the end of a day and enjoy the reward of having accomplished anything that is lasting!

Proverbs 10:17 – “He is in the way [path] of life that keepeth [heeds] instruction: but he that refuseth reproof [refuses to hear and heed correction] erreth.”

Solomon continues a common theme in verse 17—God blesses a man who heeds correction and rebuke; however, a rebel will inevitably follow a path to his own destruction.

As Solomon challenged his son to take the path of righteousness, it is the duty and responsibility of parents and spiritual leaders to challenge men and women with the same enduring truths from God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2)!

Two questions to ponder: What path are you taking?  Is your heart open to correction? 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Saying “I’m sorry” Is Often Not Enough!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Exodus 21-24

Having given Israel His Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), the LORD continued instructing the people through His servants Moses beginning with Exodus 20:22 and continuing through Exodus 23:33.  I will briefly consider the LORD’s instructions to Israel in today’s devotional commentary knowing we will derive principles and insights from them that are applicable to the 21st century church.

Exodus 20:22-26 instructs the people regarding worship and the LORD’s intolerance of idols among His people (20:22-23).   We also note the construction and sanctity of altars for sacrifices (Exodus 20:24-25) and a principle for modesty: “Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon” (Exodus 20:26).

In a day when “anything goes” and the church calls it worship, it might surprise some the extent to which God regarded not only the construction of places of worship (i.e. altars), but also the dress of those who led the people (i.e. priests). Contrary to the casual “come as you are” brashness of the majority of 21st century American churches, those who led Israel in worshipping the LORD were to conduct themselves in a manner befitting the holiness of God and never allow for any “nakedness” that would be a distraction for those who worship the LORD (Exodus 20:26).

[On a personal note: I have considered the use of robes for choir and musicians on stage as a practice in keeping with this principle, although many might criticize them as too formal].

I encourage my readers to note the fundamental basis for democratic law and order are found in Exodus 21:1-23:19.  We find God’s Laws for masters (employers) and indentured servants (employees) stated in Exodus 21:1-11.  Exodus 21:12-17 states God’s Law addressing the taking of human life, a violation of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), drawing a difference between murder and manslaughter (taking a life without intent).

For those who treat lightly the lack of respect sons and daughters often manifest toward parents, a violation of the fifth commandment (20:12), cursing a parent was a capital crime and death mandated (21:17).  The case for accidental injuries and proper compensation is also stated (21:18-32).

Knowing a man’s livelihood and a family’s well being in an agricultural society were dependent on the care of one’s livestock, the theft of ox and sheep was a serious crime (22:1-4) as was damage to a man’s crops (22:5-6).

Personal responsibility and liability were important issues among God’s people and fair compensation for losses, whether by theft or neglect, mandated (22:7-15).  I draw your attention particularly to verses 14-15 that state an obligation a borrower assumes when borrowing another man’s property.  The subject is a farmer who borrows another man’s goods and, for the sake of our illustration an ox whereby he plows his field, but the ox is injured or dies while in his care.  Under that circumstance the borrower is debtor to the lender and under obligation to “make it good” (22:14); in other words, repay or replace.  The exception is when the owner of the ox is plowing a man’s field “for his hire” (22:15).

For a practical application, honesty and integrity demand when you borrow or rent another’s property or goods, you are under obligation to make right any damages or loss that occur to the lender.  In other words, “I’m sorry” does not make whole or restore another’s loss.  Our families and society need to restore this principle to its application.  If you want your children to have integrity, teach them by your example to make whole any goods and property they have damaged or destroyed.

Various laws address other moral and societal issues (22:16-23:19), including rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).   Excessive interest that imposes unnecessary hardship on the poor is also outlawed (22:25-27).

Recognizing God is Just, it follows He demands His people be just in matters of law and make no occasion for lies and distortions of the truth (23:1-8).  Our scripture reading concludes with God’s promise to protect Israel as they journey through the wilderness and bless them (23:20-33).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“God’s Warning to a Nation on the Brink of Destruction”

Friday, March 31, 2017

Scripture Reading – Jeremiah 1-6

[Dear follower of “From the Heart of a Shepherd”, Today’s scheduled reading is Jeremiah 1-6; however, I posted this devotional a week ago when the reading for that day was actually Isaiah 62-66. I apologize for any confusion.]

For those continuing the spiritual discipline of reading through the Bible this year, today’s scripture reading bring us to the Book of Jeremiah, the record of the cry of God’s prophet by the same name to a nation on the brink of destruction.

The book of Jeremiah is 52 chapters long and spans 54 years from Judah’s glory years under the reign of King Josiah to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple under the reign of King Zedekiah in 587 BC.  The book of Jeremiah is both biographical and prophetic, chronicling the life and experience of God’s man who stood alone in his day.  For over four decades, Jeremiah called on the nation to repent of her sins and turn to God.

From a human perspective, it could be argued the prophet was a failure: Reviled by His people; scorned by the nation’s leaders; persecuted, imprisoned, and rejected by Judah’s kings.  Bearing God’s promise that He would spare Jerusalem from destruction if Jeremiah found one righteous man in the city (Jeremiah 5:1-6), Jeremiah sought for a righteous man among the poor…and found none (5:4).  He sought for a righteous man among the nation’s leaders …and found none (5:5).   Knowing God’s judgment would soon come upon the nation, we can understand why the prophet struggled with discouragement and disappointment; however, he did not quit!

Why study the warnings of God’s judgment that were directed to the Jews and the nation of Judah?  Answer, God has not changed! He is loving, patient and longsuffering toward sinners.  He is holy and just…and His judgment and punishment of sin is sure.

We will notice that America bears many striking similarities with Judah and the world of Jeremiah’s day.  Like Judah, America has enjoyed the blessings and riches of God’s grace.  Founded by men and women who came to this continent in search of religious freedom and dedicated this land to God.  Her first colonies were established on principles that were fundamentally Christian.  Although not a Christian nation, our Constitution and laws were drafted by men who were God-fearing– many of them clergy and Christian leaders in their communities.

Tragically, America parallels Judah’s movement from faith and prosperity to apostasy and decay. We were the envy of the world in my lifetime; however, we have become like ancient Judah — mocked and scorned by the nations of the world…a nation that fears God.  Like Israel of old, we are a nation that calls “evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).  We have become a reprobate nation…slaughtering tens of millions of unborn children.  America’s rejection of God has led our nation, community and homes down a path of spiritual, moral, and fiscal decay.

Is there any hope for America?  We will discuss that in the weeks that are ahead during our reading of Jeremiah.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A WELCOME REPRIEVE, BUT THE WAR CONTINUES

2016Many of you view the outcome of the presidential election as a welcome reprieve from the assaults of socialism and the lunacy of the left that have been on full, unveiled display over the past 18 months.  Although a battle has been won, be forewarned, the war for the heart and soul of our nation is being waged everyday in secular classrooms, city and county meetings, courtrooms, and the halls of government across our nation.spiritual-minutemen

The election of President-elect Donald Trump is nothing more than a brief respite in the Left’s war against this Constitutional Republic and our individual freedoms.  In the absence of a demonstrative spiritual change in the soul and moral fiber of our nation, a new administration in the White House offers only a deceleration in the liberal left’s assault on traditional values and moral absolutes.

More than a change of administrations, America needs a spiritual awakening beginning in her churches.  For a half-century, Christians have bemoaned the moral failings of American culture and decried the left’s assault on traditional marriage and family, all the while attending churches dedicated to entertaining the masses and soft-pedaling Bible Truth.  osteenRecognizing their congregations have little tolerance for strong, convicting declarative preaching, mealy-mouthed, spineless preachers deliver milk-toast sermons that tickle the ears of their adoring audiences while the media, Hollywood, educators, and politicians continue an unabated assault on our children and homes.

I close this introductory observation with an excerpt from Paul’s letter to Timothy that is a portrait of the church and society in our day.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 – “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”preach

  • In my next posts I will suggest some steps we must take to begin an assault on the left’s political and moralistic inroads into our homes, churches, schools, and government.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

A challenge to parents of school age children

Little Red School

With a new school year upon us, I thought it might be advantageous to revive a devotional I authored August 2, 2014 when “Common Core” was in the forefront of the news.

In an earlier devotional we noted that Solomon set forth eight imperatives for his son to hear and heed regarding the pursuit of godly wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-9).  He followed those imperatives with two admonitions concerning the enemies of youth:  Wicked men and their influence (Proverbs 2:12-15) and the Adulterous woman and her ways (Proverbs 2:16-19).

We continue our focus on Solomon’s warning concerning the wicked and I invite you to review my July 2, 2014 devotional from Proverbs 2:12-13 to put today’s proverbs, Proverbs 2:14-15, in context.

Proverbs 2:12-13“To deliver [rescue; save] thee from the way [path; course of life] of the evil man [wicked], from the man that speaketh [tell; say] froward things [lies and perverseness]; 13 Who leave [forsake; abandon; depart from; loosen] the paths [way; manner; race; troop] of uprightness, to walk in the ways [path; course of life] of darkness [i.e. ignorance; sorrow];”

Every godly parent shares the concern Solomon expresses in verse 12—that the lifewisdom they taught and instilled in their child’s youth will keep them from the path of sin and temptation of sinners.  Solomon warns that the wicked are not content to pursue their sinful paths alone; they purpose to lure the innocent, the foolish and naïve to follow their wicked ways.

Proverbs 2:14-15 – “Who [men who forsake the paths of righteousness] rejoice [glad; merry] to do evil [sin; wickedness], and delight [rejoice; glad] in the frowardness [perversity] of the wicked; 15 Whose [men who forsake the paths of righteousness] ways [path; manner] are crooked [perverse; false; twisted], and they froward [depart; turn aside] in their paths [ways; trench – i.e. rut]:”

I close with a challenge and warning to parents of school age children: School will be back in session in two weeks and many of you will send your children to schools where they will sit under teachers and professors who are adamantly opposed to your values, philosophy of life and Christian worldview.

common core rotten appleThere are a few Christian teachers in the midst of the public school system; however, they are few in number and the government has nearly gagged their freedom to express spiritual principles. There are a handful of teachers who, though not Christian, are principled and factual; however, be forewarned even those teachers are going to be shackled by a “Common Core” ideology that is a government mandate prejudiced against Christian values.

Mom and dad, you will be wise to hear and heed Paul’s warning to Christians in Corinth, a wicked, immoral city of the 1st century:

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Be not deceived [don’t be led astray]: evil communications [company and companions] corrupt [destroy; defile] good manners [morals; habits].”

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

Is Donald Trump right? “You have to take out their families!”

Donald Trump

Author’s note: The purpose of today’s blog is not political, but practical.  America is at war and political correctness and effeminate leadership is endangering not only our military, but also our homeland and families.  This is not an endorsement of Donald Trump, but a biblical examination of his assertion that, to defeat ISIS, “You have to take out their families!”  Is targeting the families of terrorists a virtuous casualty of war?

We noticed in an earlier devotion from Psalm 21 the prayer of thanksgiving Israel had offered the Lord in anticipation of the victory He would give King David over Israel’s enemies  (21:1-6). Psalm 21:7-13 expresses the people’s confidence in their king’s faith and echoes their own affirmation of faith in the LORD.  To make this passage both personal and practical, I challenge you to read the following verses, using the backdrop of our own nation’s lack of trust and confidence in our national leadership.

Washington prayingPsalm 21:7 – “For the king trusteth [secure; confident] in the LORD, and through the mercy [loving-kindness; grace; steadfast love] of the most High [a name for God] he shall not be moved [removed; slip; give way].

Oh that we had a president and a congress that would call upon the LORD and seek His face knowing the LORD is all-powerful.  What a difference it would make if we, the citizens of America, knew our national leadership was seeking God’s wisdom in governing our nation.

Psalm 21:8 – Thine hand [hand of the LORD] shall find out [present; get; meet] all thine enemies: thy right hand [i.e. usually the stronger, dominant hand] shall find out [present; get; meet] those that hate [enemies; foes; adversaries] thee.

Psalm 21:8-10 paints a picture of war without the political correctness that endangers our military and nation.  Israel understood her foe would not be overcome or defeated by elaborate speeches, peace initiatives or verbal assaults on one’s political rivals.  Having faith in their king and in the LORD, the people called upon the LORD to bless their king in battle and unleash His divine anger on their foes.need for prayer

Psalm 21:9-10 – Thou shalt make [appoint; set] them as a fiery [burning] oven [furnace] in the time [season] of thine anger: the LORD shall swallow them up [devour; destroy; swallow; engulf] in his wrath [anger], and the fire [burning] shall devour [consume; eat up] them.
10  Their fruit
[result; reward] shalt thou destroy [perish; lose] from the earth, and their seed [fruit; posterity] from among the children of men.

Verses 9-10 offer a graphic picture of the toll of war and modern warfare.  Verse 10 concedes that war comes at a great price and the wrath of war is not only directed at a nation’s military, but inevitably falls upon its homeland and families.  Although mocked and scorned, Donald Trump’s suggestion that he would target the families of militant Islamist terrorists to deter ISIS’ brazen attacks on our own country and families is a perpetual reality of war.  Anything short of this reality is both foolish and dangerous.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center and explodes at 9:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001 in New York City. The crash of two airliners hijacked by terrorists loyal to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and subsequent collapse of the twin towers killed some 2,800 people. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 11: Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center and explodes at 9:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001 in New York City. The crash of two airliners hijacked by terrorists loyal to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and subsequent collapse of the twin towers killed some 2,800 people. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Psalm 21:11-12 – For they [the enemy] intended [inclined; spread out] evil [wickedness; sin] against thee [the LORD]: they imagined [devised; account; plan] a mischievous device [evil plot], which they are not able [prevail] to perform.
12  Therefore shalt thou make
[place; appoint; set] them turn their back, when thou shalt make ready [prepare; establish] thine arrows upon thy strings [i.e. the string of a bow] against the face [presemce] of them.

Israel’s enemies would not be pacified and God’s people recognized the evil plot of the enemy conceived against them and the LORD (21:11).  The people called upon the LORD to be with their king and to turn the evil devices of the enemy against them (21:12).

There is a moral bankruptcy in our national leadership and a growing angst and anxiety over the present condition and future of our nation. The majority of Americans do not trust our leaders; however, we too are culpable in the reality we have elected leaders who are morally deficient in character and lack the guide of immutable moral principles.

It is time to confront political correctness for what it is…a delusionary lie or a plot to silence principled people.  America needs political leaders with core values, settled convictions, and a fear and reverence for God.  Our churches need pastors who preach God’s Word with boldness and conviction.  Our families and communities need men and women dedicated to the LORD who are fearless in expressing the tenets of their faith.

Psalm 21:13 – Be thou exalted [high], LORD, in thine own strength [power; boldness; might]: so will we sing and praise [i.e. celebrate with music on an instrument] thy power [might; victory].”

Psalm 21 ends with the people giving thanks and praising the LORD in song and music for the victory He would give the king.  I long for the same for America!

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith