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Nothing is Impossible (Matthew 17; Mark 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 17; Mark 9

Today’s chronological Scripture reading brings us to within six months of Christ’s appointment with the cross. The crowds following Jesus throughout Israel are growing, while the anxiety and fear of His enemies are inflamed. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and High Priest plot His arrest, as His disciples debate among themselves who would be the greatest in His earthly kingdom.

Matthew 17 and Mark 9 record the transfiguration of Christ when He unveiled His heavenly glory.

Words and imagination fail me to describe the transformative moment when Peter, James, and his brother John (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:1-13) witnessed Christ’s transfiguration. Those three disciples, identified as Christ’s inner circle, gazed upon Jesus, “and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (17:2). As the disciples looked on, suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus “talking with Him” (17:3). It has been suggested by many, and I believe the same, that Moses was representative of the Law and Elijah the prophets.

Peter, never one to be at a loss for words, interrupted the moment and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias [i.e. Elijah]” (17:4). Even as the words were in Peter’s mouth, he was interrupted by a sight and sound that silenced him and struck fear in the three disciples.

Matthew 17:5–6 – “5While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.”

With a touch of compassion (17:7), Jesus bid the disciples to rise, and challenged them to tell no man what they had seen, “until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (17:9). Peter would write later of this experience on the mount: “[We] were eyewitnesses of his [Christ’s] majesty. 17For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him [Christ] in the holy mount” (2 Peter 1:16–18).

After He had descended the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus found His other disciples embroiled in a controversy with scribes (experts in the Law of Moses), who were “questioning,” and mocking the disciples’ failure to cast a demon out of a father’s son (Mark 9:14; Matthew 17:14-16). Rebuking His disciples for their lack of faith (Matthew 17:17), Jesus commanded the demon to depart from the son, “and the child was cured from that very hour” (17:18).

The disciples, embarrassed by their failure and humbled by Jesus’ rebuke (Mark 9:19), later questioned why they had been unable to cast the demon out of the child (Mark 9:28).  Christ’s answer revealed the power and necessity of faith and prayer (Mark 9:29; Matthew 17:20-21).

Matthew 17:20–2120And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

The disciples had failed to cast the demon out of the child because they had faltered in both the matter of faith and prayer.

Jesus taught, even a small amount of faith can grow and overcome obstacles as great as a mountain (I believe the idea of moving a mountain was figurative or symbolic of great obstacles, and not literal mountains). To overcome a great obstacle, like that of the possession and influence of a demon, required both faith (believing “nothing shall be impossible” – Matthew 17:20) and “prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29).

Are you facing obstacles that seem to tower over you like mountains? Are you struggling to believe and trust God?

Set your heart to seek the LORD in prayer. Desire Him more than you crave food!

Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Whose Doctrine Are You Following? (Matthew 16; Mark 8)

Scripture reading – Matthew 16; Mark 8

There are times when I read and study the Scriptures that I feel overwhelmed by the necessity to choose one truth from a passage that is rich in content. Today’s Scripture reading in Matthew 16 and Mark 8 presents us with that challenge: Mining one truth in a passage of Scripture arrayed with diamonds of truth too numerous to be counted.

Mark 8:1-9 begins with the account of the Feeding of the Four Thousand. Immediately after, Jesus and the disciples departed by ship to an area known as “Dalmanutha,” which was located on the western short of the Sea of Galilee near Magdala (8:10). It was in Dalmanutha that the LORD had a confrontation with the Pharisees, the religious legalists of His day. The Pharisees came to Jesus and demanded that He prove Himself with a “sign [i.e. a miraculous sight] from heaven” (8:11). Mark declares that the purpose of the Pharisees was to tempt Jesus, meaning to put Him to the test in hopes that He would fail (8:11).

Understanding Jesus knew the hearts of men, He rebuked the Pharisees saying, “There shall no sign be given unto this generation” (8:12b). Jesus then departed, setting sail for Bethsaida (8:13-22), a village located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, that was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1:44-45).

As they crossed the sea, Jesus charged His disciples, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (8:15). “Leaven,” like yeast, was used in dough to induce bread to rise when baked. The disciples, hearing Jesus speak of leaven, assumed He was speaking of bread, because they had neglected to bring bread on their journey (8:14, 16).

The irony of the moment was summed up when Jesus asked the disciples, “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? 18Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?” (8:17-18).

What was the irony? That the disciples would have been concerned with what they would eat at their next meal (8:19-20)! After twice witnessing Jesus take the lunch of a boy and feed 5,000 men, and seven loaves of bread and feed 4,000 men, and have leftovers on each occasion: Why would they be concerned about their next meal? “How is it that ye do not understand?” (8:21)

Matthew sums up the same narrative, concluding that the disciples then understood “how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:12).

What was the “leaven (i.e. doctrine) of the Pharisees, and of the leaven (i.e. doctrine) of Herod”? (8:15)

It was a religious hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) that was rooted in their legalism (Matthew 23:27-29), traditionalism, doctrine of works for salvation, and other errors and departures from the Truth. I close asking,

Is the 21st century Church any different? How much of what we believe, and the Church observes, is rooted in traditionalism and not in the Truth?

As Bible believers, our doctrine and practice is to be solely based upon the Truth of God’s Word, and not traditionalism or the philosophies and interpretations of men.

John 17:17 17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Divine Omnipotence Provides, Where Human Resourcefulness Fails (John 6)

Scripture reading – John 6

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the Gospel of John, chapter six, and what is often referred to as, the “Feeding of the Five Thousand” (John 6:1-15). We read in John 6:1, “After these things Jesus went over [lit. “other side”; farther side; across] the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.”

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke reveal the “things” that preceded Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee and seeking the solitude of the wilderness. Luke records it was after the disciples returned from preaching the Gospel in towns and villages (Luke 9:10-17). Matthew writes it was after the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and reported how John the Baptist had been beheaded by King Herod (Matthew 14:6-12). After receiving news of John’s death, Jesus departed by ship with His disciples and went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee that was identified as the “Sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1).

Knowing it was the custom of Jesus to go up to Jerusalem for the Passover (John 6:4), we should consider why Jesus did not go up to Jerusalem. John the Baptist having been martyred by Herod Antipas, and the Pharisees and Sanhedrin harboring a growing hostility toward Him, I believe Jesus was avoiding a premature confrontation with those who a year later would require He be crucified.

John 6

We read in John’s Gospel that there was a “great multitude” who followed Jesus, “because they saw [experienced; beheld] his miracles [supernatural signs that authenticated Jesus had divine power and authority] which he did on them that were diseased [weak; feeble; i.e. blind, lame, crippled]. 3  And Jesus went up [ascended] into [unto] a mountain [hill; ascending  from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee], and there he sat with his disciples” (6:2-3).

Ever manifesting compassion on the people, Jesus asked Philip, “Whence [what source or place] shall we buy bread, that these [the “great company”] may eat?” (6:5). Notice the question was not, “Philip, what are you going to do about feeding the people?” No, the question posed to Philip was, “Whence shall we buy bread?” (6:5).

What was the purpose of the question Jesus posed to Philip? John would write later, “this He [Jesus] said to prove [examine or test] him [Philip]: for He [Jesus] himself knew [looking ahead, knew with certainty] what He would do [was purposed to do]” (6:6).

Philip surmised, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little” (John 6:7). Assuming a “pennyworth” was probably a denarius and was a day laborer’s pay, Philip calculated the expense to feed so many would be nearly equal to eight month’s wages, and that only “a little” (6:7).

Another disciple, Andrew, identified as “Simon Peter’s brother” (6:8), came with news that there was a boy, “which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes;” however, he recognized the obvious stating, “but what are they among so many?’ (6:9)

With a prayer of thanksgiving (6:11), Jesus took up the small boy’s lunch and directed His disciples to distribute the fish and loaves of bread. By divine blessing and omnipotence, Jesus fed five thousand men (6:10), and in addition, “women and children” (Matthew 14:21). How many were fed that day would be conjecture on my part, but suffice it to say there were thousands more besides the five thousand men who represented that many households.

Not only was there enough to feed a great multitude, there was more than enough as the disciples took up leftovers that were enough to fill twelve lunch baskets (6:12-13), no doubt providing for the disciples next meal.

What can be learned from this miracle of feeding so many from so little?

For the multitude that had been fed and were aware that they had witnessed a great miracle, they confessed: “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (6:14). Riding the emotions of the hour, but also revealing how little has changed in man since that day, we read: “They would come and take him by force, to make him a king” (6:15). Knowing it was not yet time for Him to present Himself as the Messiah King, Jesus withdrew “into a mountain Himself alone” (6:15b).

That day, Philip, Andrew, and the other disciples learned a great lesson that we should all heed:

Where human potential fails, divine omnipotence fulfills.

Jesus would later remind His disciples, “for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm” (Mark 4-5)

Scripture reading – Mark 4-5

We continue our chronological reading of the Scriptures with today’s assignment, Mark 4-5. You will recognize the Parable of the Soils\Sower (Mark 4:1-20]) is the same as that which is recorded in Matthew 13 and Luke 8. Rather than review the Parable of the Soils, I invite you to turn your focus to an exciting event that occurred at the close of the same day when Jesus ended His teaching (Mark 4:21-41).

Mark 4:35-41 – A Storm and a Revelation

Exhausted from teaching (reminding us that, though He was Divine, He was also man with physical challenges of hunger, thirst, and fatigue), Jesus exhorted His disciples, “Let us pass over unto the other side” (4:35). Knowing the far shore was seven miles away, Jesus laid down in the “hinder part of the ship” (meaning the stern or the latter part of the boat), and went to sleep (4:38).

The Sea of Galilee, fourteen miles long and seven miles wide, lies 700 feet below sea level, and has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round.  Surrounded by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the area is part of the Jordan rift.  When cold winds from the snow-covered mountain peaks to the north, funnel through the hillsides, the cold air collides with the warm sub-tropical air often producing sudden, violent storms on the Sea of Galilee.

On this occasion, the disciples found themselves caught in a violent storm so intense, the waves of the sea filled the ship (4:37). Matthew writes concerning the same occasion in his Gospel: “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

Though at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman (James, John, Peter, and Andrew), even those veteran seamen were unable to salvage the desperate situation.   With cold winds whipping, and waves crashing, the exhausted disciples cried out to Jesus, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

Such a question was a faithless affront to their Master, who “arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (4:39-40).

Jesus knew the weakness of the disciples’ faith, and their failure to place their trust in Him (Luke 8:23-24). The sudden stillness of the winds and waves left the disciples wondering among themselves, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (4:41). They were struck by a sense of fear, awe, and respect. They had heard Him teach, but they had not understood His person. They had witnessed His miracles, but had not recognized His power.

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

I close with some practical observations we can take from today’s devotional. The first: Storms in life might take us by surprise; however, they come as part of God’s plan for growing our faith and dependence on Him. The Lord knew the disciples would face a storm when He commanded them to launch out into the sea. It was His plan to challenge their faith, that He might prove He was Sovereign and LORD of creation.

A second lesson: Our response to trials and troubles will evidence our faith or lack of faith in God and His plan for our lives.  The disciples did not fully know Who Jesus was, and He commanded the wind and the waves to cease, “they feared [and asked], What manner of man is this?” (Mark 4:41).

Finally, storms and troubles are opportunities to know God’s ways personally and intimately. They remind us that God’s will for our lives will sometimes guide us into challenging trials meant to assess our priorities, and reveal our limitations apart from Him. They test our faith and trust in Him.

Remember: The safest place in the world is in the will of God, even in the midst of a storm.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Lord, Teach Us to Pray” (Luke 11)

Scripture reading – Luke 11

Luke 11 is an incredibly rich passage, but unfortunately, too long for a devotional commentary intended to be brief! Rather than offer an exhaustive study of Luke 11, I will limit today’s objective to a lesson in prayer found in Luke 11:1-13 (a condensed account of the same prayer recorded by Matthew in his Gospel, Matthew 6:9-13).

Luke 11:1-4 – A Model of Prayer

Jesus had retreated to a “certain place” to pray, and when He was finished, His disciples came requesting, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (11:1). The disciples, particularly James and John, who had been disciples of John the Baptist, were familiar with John’s commitment to prayer, and noticed the same was true of Jesus.

Jesus answered the disciples’ request giving them a model for prayer (11:2-4), a lesson in a believer’s manner of prayer (11:5-10), and God’s measure in response to prayer (11:11-13).

The LORD’S model of prayer was defined by four parts.

Remembering God’s very name is hallowed (i.e. holy and sacred), we are to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (11:2b). We are to pray for God’s will to be done (and accomplished) on earth, even as it is in heaven (11:2c). What is God’s will in heaven and in earth?

Religious teachers of the late 19th and early 20th century supposed that their work was to labor for God to the end that their efforts would usher in His kingdom and an earthly utopia. I do not find in Scripture that God needs our assistance to usher in His kingdom; however, His will is surely that of redemption and salvation. Peter writes, “9The 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). The apostle Paul reminded Timothy that God would “have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

It is also God’s will that He be glorified through our sanctification. Israel was commanded, “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 20:7). New Testament believers are commanded the same: “15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

A second quality of prayer is for personal needs: “Give us day by day our daily bread” (11:3). Bread was an essential part of a family’s diet in the first century. Remembering every good thing comes from God the Father, prayers of thanksgiving before meals should be the practice of every household.

Thirdly, we are to acknowledge our sins, and ask God’s forgiveness. We are to pray, forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (11:4a). Not a day should pass without a believer acknowledging to God that He is holy, righteous, and just. We are sinners who need to remember that God is merciful, gracious, and forgiving, and He would have us be the same to others (11:4b).

The fourth quality of prayer is a petition for deliverance: “And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil” (11:4b). When times of testing and temptation beset us (and they will), we must trust the LORD is ready to deliver us when we ask (11:4c).

Perhaps there is someone who has hurt you deeply, and the thought of forgiving them, you protest, is something you cannot and will not do! I remind you, the LORD taught His followers that there are consequences to harboring a bitter spirit: “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).

Luke 11:5-10 – The Persistent Manner of a Praying Believer

How often should a believer pray about a specific need or request? We are to be persistent in prayer (11:5-8).

The LORD illustrated the principle of persistency, telling the story of a neighbor who had an unexpected guest that arrived at his home at midnight (11:5). Because hospitality was expected, it was a great offense, a societal humiliation, to have guests and fail to offer them nourishment. In the LORD’S parable, the neighbor refused to be dissuaded from seeking loaves of bread (11:5-7), until finally the head of the household yielded to his plea, rose from his bed and gave his neighbor what he required (11:8).

Application – God answers persistent, fervent prayer (11:9-10).

Luke 11:11-13 – God Hears and Answers Prayer

Another parable draws a contrast between a father who, though imperfect, loves his son and desires to give him what he requests. Of course, no loving father desires to give his son that which might injure him (11:11-12).

Lesson – If a father who is imperfect desires to give his son good things, how much more does God the Father who is altogether good, desire to answer the prayer of His children and give them what is best of all: The presence, power, and comfort of “the Holy Spirit” (11:13).

Believer, never tire of praying. God hears and answers the persistent, fervent prayers of a righteous man.

James 5:1616Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

When in Doubt, Believe the Word! (Matthew 11)

Scripture reading – Matthew 11

A great multitude was following Jesus as we come to Matthew 11. Jesus’ ministry had begun in the countryside of Galilee, and He was followed by great crowds who came to hear Him teach, perform miracles, and ponder if He was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. The people had been watching and waiting for a Messiah-King who would cast off the oppression of Rome; however, they would learn too late that Jesus had come to be their Savior, Messiah-Redeemer.

Matthew 11 – The Disciples of John the Baptist

Jesus had finished commanding and commissioning His disciples, and appears to have sent them out to minister while He began “to teach and to preach in their cities” (11:1). It was in that hour that John the Baptist, now in prison, sent two of his disciples who came to Jesus and asked, Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” (11:3)

Why the question, “Art thou He that should come?” (11:3) Why this wondering? Was John doubting that Jesus was the promised Messiah? When he had baptized Jesus, John had witnessed the anointing of the of the Holy Spirit (3:16) and heard the voice of God the Father affirming, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (3:17).

Perhaps it was the darkness of the dungeon and his uncertain future. Maybe the isolation from those to whom he ministered, and the sudden end of his public ministry that left John seeking assurance that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

John’s disciples had brought him word of a spiritual stirring in Israel, and the people saying, “That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people” (Luke 7:16b). The news of Jesus’ ministry had reached John through his disciples (Luke 7:18). He had faith that God would send His Messiah, and he wanted reassurance, “Art thou He that should come?” (11:3) Jesus answered John’s disciples with love and grace saying,

Matthew 11:4b–6 – “4 …Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

Two Proofs Validated Jesus’ Messiahship: His Works and His Words (11:4-5)

Jesus commanded John’s disciples to go to him and declare what they had witnessed, His works.

Languishing in a Roman dungeon, John sought reassurance that Jesus was the Messiah, and it came in the outward, visible, undeniable evidence of miracles: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up.” (11:5)

The miracles Jesus performed, and later His physical bodily resurrection from the dead, give us undeniable proof that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Christ declared to His disciples, “11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake” (John 14:11).

Are there times you need reassurance? Times when you find your faith weak? Remember, John the Baptist needed his faith strengthened, thou he was a man of whom Jesus said, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (11:11).

The second validating proof Jesus was the Promised One, the long-awaited Messiah, were His words(11:5b)

Jesus commanded John’s disciples to go and tell him what they had heard, His words: “The poor have the gospel preached to them” (11:5b). Unlike men who are given to rhetoric and take pride in their oral arguments and powers of persuasion, Jesus’ words were divinely inspired and delivered with authority.

Luke 4:32 – “They were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.

John 12:48–5048He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. 49For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

John 14:1010Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

We conclude with Peter’s assertion of his faith in Jesus Christ: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68b-69).

The works of Christ were essential signs that validated His person and ministry before His generation; however, it is the hearing and preaching of the WORD that was and is essential for men to be saved.

Romans 10:17 17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Calling All Sinners (Matthew 9; Luke 7)

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Scripture reading – Matthew 9; Luke 7

Christ’s authority as the Messiah King was demonstrated throughout Matthew 8.

He healed the leper (Matthew 8:3), and the paralytic servant of a Roman Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), and established His authority over physical illness. When He stilled a storm, and the winds and waves bowed to His will, Jesus demonstrated His authority over nature (Matthew 8:23-27). He had cast out demons with a command to “Go,” and the devils departed, proving Christ has authority over Satan and his evil minions (Matthew 8:16, 28-33).

Today’s devotional study reveals Christ has authority to forgive sin.

Matthew 9 – Consider what a difference faith came make!

In Matthew 9 we see once again that it was the faith of some friends, and their compassion for one who was “sick of the palsy [paralyzed], lying on a bed,” that moved Jesus to heal the man (9:2).

Jesus had returned to Capernaum, his home base of ministry in Galilee, and a man who was “sick of the palsy [paralyzed], lying on a bed” was brought to Jesus (9:2). We are not told how this man came to be paralyzed, but it is revealed why he was the victim of paralysis, his sin. Jesus observed the faith of his friends and said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (9:2).

Matthew records that there were scribes present, men who were experts in the Law of Moses. Hearing Jesus pardon the sins of the paralytic, the scribes whispered among themselves, “This man blasphemeth” (9:3).

Once again evidencing divine omniscience, we read, “4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4) What a powerful rebuke of proud, unbelieving experts in the Law!

Jesus, confronting their murmuring and evil thoughts, said, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4b) and then proposed, a question: Is it easier to say to a man his sins are forgiven, or command a paralytic to, “Arise, and walk?” (9:5)

To prove He had divine authority to forgive a man’s sins, Jesus commanded the paralytic to do what no other man could; “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (9:6). His sins forgiven and body made whole, the paralytic man rose from his bed and walked home (9:7). What an incredible moment, not only for the man who had been healed, but for those who “marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (9:8)!

The LORD proved He was a friend of sinners when he called Matthew, a despised publican (i.e. tax collector) to be His disciple (9:9-10). Revealing divine grace, Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me,” and that evening dined in his home with “many publicans (tax collectors) and sinners” (9:10). We read, “11And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (9:11)

Publicans were among the most despised men of Jewish ancestry in the first century. They were the ones who exacted taxes for Rome on their own, and were often guilty of skimming money off the top to enrich themselves. In the estimation of the Pharisees, Jesus eating with publicans was a brazen act of compromise. For Jesus; however, it was a demonstration of abundant grace.

Why eat with publicans and sinners? (9:11)

For the same reason the sick, not the strong and healthy, seek a physician (9:12). Men who are too proud to see their sin, are too blind to see their need of a Savior. Jesus did not come into the world to persuade self-righteous scribes and Pharisees to repent (after all, they are unwilling to confess their sin). His burden was for sinners, humbled under the weight of their sin, and ready and willing to repent (9:13).

I close with the words of the apostle Paul, who once boasted of his self-righteousness until he was confronted by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus:

1 Timothy 1:15 – “15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Are You Blessed? If so, You Will Be Persecuted! (Matthew 5-7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 5-7

Considered as Christ’s inaugural address to His followers, the “Sermon on the Mount” is an exposition of the heart of Christ the King, and a declaration of the character of those who would be citizens in His kingdom.

I do not believe it is an overstatement to declare, that, apart from the Law and Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount embodies some of the greatest truths ever known to man.

The Sermon on the Mount is not the means of salvation, but an exposition of the attitudes and character of believers who are spiritual citizens of the “Kingdom of heaven” (5:3). The sermon is Christ the King’s declaration of His will regarding the actions and attitudes of the citizens of heaven.

Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes

Sitting down on a hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee (5:1), Jesus taught the people a series of eight inspiring truths that we identify as the Beatitudes (5:3-12). In essence, the Beatitudes define the character of those who are sincere followers of the LORD Jesus Christ. Each Beatitude begins with the word, “Blessed,” which I suggest is a state of settled joy and contentment; a promise of joy and peace that surpasses one’s circumstances.

The Beatitudes are heavenly attitudes that are not only contradictory to society, they are in direct conflictwith the spirit of the world.

Christ taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (5:3); however, the world says, “believe in yourself.” We read, “Blessed are they that mourn” (5:4); however, the world says, “don’t let them see you weep.”

Christ encouraged His followers, “Blessed are the meek” (5:4); but society advises, “stand up for yourself!” “Thirst for Truth, hunger for righteousness” (5:6) was the example Christ gave His disciples, but the world cheers, “eat, drink, and be merry.”

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the merciful,” (5:7); however, society dares, “Do it to them, before they do it to you!” Christ urged, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (5:8), who seek only Him; but the worldly crowd warns, “You only go through life once.”

The world says, “Be a peacekeeper,” and be willing to compromise; however, Christ taught His followers, “Be a peacemaker,” (5:9) and seek to bring others to the Prince of Peace.

Finally, Jesus assured His followers who would find themselves as the object of derision and persecution:

Matthew 5:10–11 – “10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

The righteous face three forms of persecution (5:11).

To be reviled, is to be mocked and have disparaging things said about your character and motive.

The word “persecute” is indicative of personal attacks. Persecution may come as physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual confrontations. Persecution is often relentless and is intended to drive the believer from his home, family, friends, and work. Persecution can come as threats to the believer or his loved ones.

The third form of persecution is verbal: “and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (5:11). The arsenal of this form of persecution comes as lies, innuendoes, and sowing questions on one’s motive or sincerity. As difficult as it may seem (and it is), the attitude of the persecuted is declared in this:

Matthew 5:12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad [jumping and leaping for joy]: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

How can a believer rejoice when he is persecuted? He can rejoice in this confidence: Troubles and trial have their purpose in the providence of God.

James 1:2-4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into [encounter] divers temptations [various sorts of troubles and trials]; [3] Knowing this [understanding], that the trying [proving & testing] of your faith worketh patience [steadfastness]. [4] But let patience have her perfect [complete & thorough] work, that ye may be perfect and entire [without defects], wanting [lacking] nothing.”

As much as persecution may hurt (and it does), a believer must remember that persecution is the training ground for spiritual maturity and broader spiritual opportunities. Paul challenged his spiritual son in the faith: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Believers who are committed to living out the Beatitudes will experience persecution.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Invited to Hillsdale’s Wednesday Evening Dinner and Bible Studies

You are invited to Hillsdale’s Wednesday Evening Family Ministries beginning with Family Dinner (5-6pm; $4\ea), Teen Bible Study and Activity at 6pm, and AWANA Clubs at 6:15pm.

Adult Classes begin with a time of Prayer at 6:15pm.

Following prayer, Bible Study Classes begin around 6:35pm.

Pastor Smith is continuing his Character Study Series in the Book of Proverbs with tonight’s study focusing on Proverbs 7. Pastor’s class will be broadcast live on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org. Tonight’s Student handout is available here: A Cancer Called Adultery – Proverbs 7 student blank without verses

“Ancient Paths,” a study of Bible Covenants, is a ladies’ class taught by Mrs. Sheilah Smith in the Friendship Hall.

Travis and Tanya Henry are teaching a Family\Parenting\Marriage Class that is practical in its focus on Scriptural principles

For more information, call the church office at 813-884-8250, ext. 0.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith