Tag Archives: hillsdale

Scripture Reading for Friday, Nov. 17

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Followers and Hillsdale Family Members,

I am unable to post my daily devotional commentary for the next few days due to a surgical procedure I am undergoing and the time it will take for recovery. For those following my “Read-Thru the Bible” schedule this year, I plan to continue posting the assigned daily scripture readings.

Friday, Nov. 17

Scripture Reading – Zechariah 1-7

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Scripture Reading for November 16, 2017

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Followers and Hillsdale Family Members,

I am unable to post my daily devotional commentary for the next few days due to a surgical procedure I am undergoing and the time it will take for recovery. For those following my “Read-Thru the Bible” schedule this year, I plan to continue posting the assigned daily scripture readings.

Thursday, Nov. 16

Scripture Reading – Ecclesiastes 7-8

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

The Call to Ministry and Missions

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 13-14

My apologies to those following our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year schedule.  In my diligence to prepare for Hillsdale’s Sunday worship services, I overlooked the need to post today’s scripture reading.

Today’s passage from the Book of Acts, particularly Acts 13:1-3, has been a joy and challenge to this pastor’s heart over the years.  I am blessed to pastor a church with a legacy of supporting and sending missionaries.   I draw your attention to four simple, central principles of ministry and missions found in Acts 13:1-3. 

The first, God calls to ministry those who are already serving Him (Acts 13:1).  The men and women God calls to ministry are not idle spectators or pew warmers.  When God called Barnabas and Saul (i.e. Paul), we find them numbered among “certain prophets and teachers” serving “in the church that was at Antioch” (13:1).

The second principle of ministry is, God’s call is specific.  We read, “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (13:2).

Many were serving in the church at Antioch (3:1); however, the Holy Spirit explicitly called Barnabas and Saul to a specific work: “for the work whereunto I have called them” (3:2b).

The third principle of ministry and missions is separation (13:2-3).  The call to ministry and missions separates a man from home, friends and aspirations of wealth.  Oceans, faraway lands, hardships and adversaries would separate Barnabas and Saul from their families, friends and earthly comforts.

The fourth principle of ministry and missions is the church and its leaders sanctioned and confirmed Gods call on Barnabas and Saul.

We read, “when they [the church and its leaders] had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:3).

I sorrow so few are answering God’s call to ministry and missions in our day.

Looking back on the four principles I noted, it seems the failure rests upon us all.  There are too many spectators and not enough servants in the 21st century church.  Some resist God’s call and others refuse to separate from family, friends and comforts to serve where God has called.  Finally, I believe there are churches that resist ordaining their best and finest for the work of ministry and missions.

Romans 10:14-15 – “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15  And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Consider Your Ways!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Haggai 1-2

Only two chapters in length and easily overlooked in the pages of our Bibles, the Book of Haggai is a calling to God’s people of the day to “Get to Work!

The historic timeline of Haggai is, as the opening verses state, “In the second year of Darius the king [the king of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1).  Having toppled Babylon, Persia emerged as the dominant world empire under Cyrus king of Persia (Ezra 1:1). As a testimony of God’s sovereignty over men and nations, we read:

Ezra 1:2 – “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”

The 70 year Babylonian captivity ended (Ezra 1:3-4), a remnant of Jews answered the king Cyrus’ invitation to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.   Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, who served as governor of Judah, and Joshua the high priest (Ezra 2:1-2), the foundation of the new Temple was laid (Ezra 5:16).

After laying the Temple foundation, critics arose and the people’s focus moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their own homes  (Haggai 1:4).  When reminded the task of rebuilding the Temple was not complete, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (Haggai 1:2).

Does that remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps yourself?  You do not say “No!” outright; however, by your procrastination you justify not obeying the will of the LORD.  Are you in the throes of wrestling with the will of the LORD and when His Word convicts and His Spirit moves you say, “The time is not come”?

The LORD was longsuffering; however, the time of reckoning had come and He sent His prophet Haggai to rebuke the people for failing to build the Temple.  Haggai admonished, Consider you ways!(1:5, 7), and warned, the LORD was withholding His blessings and the labor of the people in the fields would be futile until they rebuilt the Temple (1:6-11).

Hearing the Word of the LORD spoken by the prophet, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (1:12).  Because they responded with humility, the LORD encouraged the people, “I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13).

Haggai 1:14 – “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,”

Criticism and opposition soon arose against those building the Temple and the LORD sent Haggai to remind the people He was with them and would bless their labor (Haggai 2:1-2).  The most verbal critics were the elders, those one would think should be the most ardent supporters for rebuilding the Temple.  The book of Ezra reveals there were “many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men”; remembering the first Temple, they bemoaned the superiority of that Temple compared to the one being built (Ezra 3:12-13).  [Remember the saying, “the good old days”?].  The LORD answered the critics of His people saying,

Haggai 2:4 – “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:”

There were also enemies without who, on at least three occasions, attempted to disrupt and curtail the rebuilding of the Temple. Some made a pretense of assisting in building the Temple; however, Zerubbabel wisely refused their offer (Ezra 4:1-3).  Those same enemies later accused Judah’s leaders of sedition (Ezra 5:3-17).  After Darius became king of Persia, they attempted a third time to stop the work on the Temple accusing the Jews of lacking authority to build (Ezra 6).

I close with a few observations from this small prophetic book.

The first, those who labor in ministry ought always be ready for opposition.  Looking back over 38 years of ministry, the last 22 years as Senior Pastor at Hillsdale, my most vocal critics were among those I thought would be my most ardent supporters.  My friend, if you dedicate your life to live by faith and serve the LORD, expect criticism and opposition!

An inspirational lesson we take from today’s scripture reading is, when God’s people receive the Word of the Lord with humility and obey His will, a spirit of unity pervades the work and God blesses His people (Haggai1:13-14).

A third lesson concerns the sin of misplaced priorities and procrastination.  When confronted with the unfinished work on the Temple, the people said, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.” (Haggai 1:2).

Some reading this commentary have made procrastination a lifestyle.  You don’t outright refuse to obey the LORD; however, your excuses and failure to “Do Right” and obey Him has become emblematic of squandered years and a wasted life!

Friend, putting off to tomorrow what God would have you do today is foolish!  Failure to obey the LORD today soon turns into weeks, months and years.  Before you realize it, a lifetime has passed!  An old gospel song captures the tragedy of procrastination.

Wasted Years

By Dallas Holm

1) Have you wandered along
On life’s pathway
Have you lived without love
A life of tears
Have you searched for that
Great hidden meaning
Or is your life
Filled with long wasted years

Chorus
Wasted years, wasted years
Oh, how foolish
As you walk on in darkness and fear
Turn around, turn around
God is calling
He’s calling you
From a life of wasted years

2) Search for wisdom and seek
Understanding
There is One who always cares
And understands

3) Give it up, give it up
The load you’re bearing
You can’t go on
With a life of wasted years

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Take Time to Be Holy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 5-6

When I was young and with a lifetime ahead of me, reading the Book of Ecclesiastes was a chore.   I confess; I read its verses, but did not relish its truths.  The ponderings of Solomon, his youth spent and his heart laden with the weight of sin, was depressing.

Solomon’s counsel in his old age stands out in sad contrast to the proverbs of wisdom he taught his sons when they were young.  Rather than exhortations of wisdom and cautions to walk in the way of the LORD, Ecclesiastes calls to mind the counsel of foolish parents who say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Such is the counsel of too many fathers and mothers in our day.

Ecclesiastes, the Book I found discouraging in my youth, has become a challenge for me to examine my walk with the LORD and walk in wisdom.  I hope you will find today’s reading, Ecclesiastes 5-6, will be the same for you.

Solomon stated his counsels in Ecclesiastes 5 so clearly there is little commentary you need from this country parson to grasp and apply them to your life.  Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 instructs us regarding the preparations of our heart and attitude when worshipping the LORD.

Permit me to suggest four ways we offend God when we worship Him.

The first, we offend the LORD when we open our checkbook before we open our heart to Him (5:1).  

Ecclesiastes 5:1 – “Keep [guard; watch] thy foot [i.e. be careful] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear [listen; obey], than to give the sacrifice of fools [silliness]: for they [fools] consider not that they do [commit] evil [sin; wickedness].

The definition and practice of “worship” in American churches has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  What was once a deliberate act of solemnity, conscious a holy God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b) and knows our thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 17:10), has become raucous entertainment with “worshippers” dancing to the beat of drums and the blare of deafening music.  Oh how far we have strayed from the call to, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

Secondly, we offend the LORD when we speak before we think (5:2).

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash [hasty; eager] with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty [swift; quick] to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

God may seem distant; however, He hears every word!  Too many of us are so busy making requests and “doing ministry” we fail to take time to be quiet and listen to the soft voice of God’s Spirit.

Saying one thing and doing another is a third offence committed by those who worship the LORD in haste with little thought of heart preparation (5:4-7a).

Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 – “When thou vowest [promise] a vow unto God, defer not [dont be slack] to pay [perform] it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay [render] that which thou hast vowed.
5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6  Suffer not [do not allow or permit] thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel [i.e. a messenger or servant of God], that it was an error [mistake]: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work [labor] of thine hands?   7  For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities [meaningless; no purpose]: but fear thou God.”

God remembers every prayer, every vow, and every thought.  Before you open your mouth and make a vow, remember, God will not forget the vows you make.  Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 12:36-37  – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Finally, we offend God when we fail to revere and worship Him in humility and sincerity.  We read, “but fear thou God” (5:7b).

When you come before the LORD to worship Him, whether in the quietness of your daily devotions or in the congregation of His saints on Sunday, slow down, take time to be quiet, weigh every word, and humble yourself before Him.

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 128-130

Today’s scripture reading consists of three brief songs of worship in the Book of Psalms, chapters 128, 129 and 130.  As noted in previous devotions, we are in the midst of a set of Psalms known as, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134) and believed to have been psalms pilgrims sang as they approached Jerusalem and the Temple for feasts days celebrated by the Hebrews.  My focus for today’s commentary is Psalm 128.

Psalm 128 is a song of rejoicing in the LORD for His many blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears and walks in the ways of the LORD (128:1).

What does it mean to fear the LORD?

The fear of the LORD is not a fear that, like Adam, flees or cowers in God’s presence (Genesis 3:8-9).  It is a reverential fear; a fear that moves a man to conduct himself in a manner that is upright, honest and just.  Such a man is “blessed” (i.e. happy; joyful; satisfied) because he “walketh in His ways” (the ways of the LORD’S commandments).

Drawing upon a picture that is rural and agricultural (128:2-3); the man who fears the LORD is promised he will enjoy success in his labor, be happy in his pursuits, and fare well in life (128:2).

Wow; what a picture of a rewarding, satisfying life!  However, it gets even better!  It is one thing to be well-off, have money in savings and enjoy material success; however, it is quite another to have family in whom you take pleasure.

The world might say such a man lives a “charmed life”; however, nothing could be further from the truth!  He is not lucky; he is blessed because he fears the LORD and walks in His ways!

Unlike the wicked whose lives are cursed with the ways of sin that never satisfy, the life of a man who fears the LORD and walks in His ways is not choked with the weeds of ungodliness.  God blesses his labor (128:2) and his household enjoys the fruit of God’s blessings upon his life (128:3).

His wife is “a fruitful vine” and finds her strength in him and his children are “like olive plants”, a source of joy to his soul.  Leaving us no doubt the way of the LORD is blessed, the psalmist repeats his assertion, the man be blessed that feareth the LORD (128:4).

The closing verses of Psalm 128 serve as a benediction for those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways (128:5-6).

Psalm 128:5-6 – “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. 6  Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

We have seen the family portraits of three generations in this psalmThe first is a portrait of a young man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), is like “a fruitful vine” …a source of joy and blessing to her household.

The second portrait is that of the man’s children who, sitting around his table, are trained and cultivated to grow up “like olive plants” and prosper (128:3).

The third portrait is one of contentment (128:5-6) and was taken in the latter years of the godly man’s life.  He is old, his back stooped in age; however, his heart aspires to see God bless his nation (128:5).  He rejoices in seeing his “children’s children”, and prays for peace (128:6).

Many reading this devotional aspire to the same.  We long for success and to be a blessing to our spouse and children.  We pray for God to pour out His blessings on our nation and, when we are old, to grant us the joy of seeing and loving our grandchildren.

My friend, those are admirable goals; however, they are the blessings of those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Sutherland Springs, Texas and One Shepherd’s Heart

November 6, 2017

Already there are a multitude of pundits weighing in on the tragedy that unfolded Sunday morning, November 5, 2017 at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, a small quiet town southeast of San Antonio.

(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The name of the gunman (whom I choose to not name), his militant atheistic views, antichristian rhetoric, failed life and empty soul will be the subject of news reports, commentary and conspiracy theorists until another tragedy grabs the news cycle headlines.

While the media will make much of this spectacle of human suffering, sorrow and death; news anchors, psychotherapists, psychologists and politicians will probe for motives and ask with faux-astonishment, “Why? How could this happen? What went wrong in this man’s life that spawned an act of violence sweeping at least 26 innocent lives into eternity?”

King David pondered the same tragic reality when he penned Psalm 2, asking: Why do the heathen [the people and nations of the earth] rage, and the people imagine [ponder; declare] a vain thing [empty; worthless]?” (Psalm 2:1).

The raging of people and the nations of the world and their proclivity for bloodshed and war dominate the nightly news of our nation and world.   Politicians pass laws, courtrooms uphold them, and law enforcement agencies enforce them in a vain attempt to keep peace apart from and in opposition to the Prince of Peace.

Psalm 2:2 – “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD [God of Heaven], and against His anointed [Christ The Messiah]

Why?  Why this provocation of sin and rebellion against God (Psalm 2:2a)? Why this hatred for the LORD and His anointed (Psalm 2:2b)?

It is because men have rejected God, His Law and the order of His creation.  The nature of man is one of sin and rebellion and when a man rejects His Creator, casts aside the “bands” and “cords” of God’s Law (Psalm 2:3), he becomes a law unto himself.

The mass murderer of 26 souls in Sutherland Springs, Texas was a fervent, irreligious atheist; a fool living like all sinners who reject God, His Law and Commandments (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).   He died declaring in word and action, his rejection of the God of heaven and earth; however, that did not diminish God’s person or the reality of His eternal judgment.

What is God’s response to the foolishness of men and nations that reject Him? 

Psalm 2:4 – “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”

Liberal politicians, their media cohorts, and anti-America\anti-liberty antagonists will make hay of this tragedy, all the while, sin and human depravity continue its path of destruction through our homes, communities, schools, churches, and nation.  Peter warned the last days would be marked by a generation of “scoffers”, men who openly mock the God of Heaven (2 Peter 3:3); holding in derision those who look for the coming of the Lord (2 Peter 3:4).

I sorrow to see the state of our nation and world and my heart breaks for families and friends whose loved ones looked into the face of evil Sunday morning, but opened their eyes in eternity to see the LORD Whom they worshipped welcoming them home.

Psalm 2:12b – “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”

Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith