Tag Archives: hillsdale

God is My Shield! (Genesis 15-16)

* Today’s Bible Reading is Genesis 15-16, Psalm 8, and Matthew 6.

God had assured Abram he would have an heir (Genesis 12:1-3), a son born to him and his wife Sarah (15:2-4) and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5).   Though he oft faltered in his faith, we read, “[Abram] believed the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (15:6).

God revealed Abram’s heirs would be “strangers”, foreigners, in another country for 400 years (15:13) and would return to Canaan with great possessions (fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude, Exodus 12-14).  Genesis 15 closes with God marking the boundaries of the land He would give Abraham and his lineage (15:18-21).

Genesis 16 introduces a crisis of faith for Abram when we read, “Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children”(16:1).  Eight-five years old (16:16) and his wife seventy-five, Abram’s faith waned. Sarai’s never-ending complaints (the word “voice” in Genesis 16:2 indicates they were constant), like the bleating of sheep) and her barrenness moved the man to make a faithless decision. Abram turned his back on God’s promises and yielded to Sarah’s proposal he have a son by her Egyptian servant Hagar (16:1-3).

Instead of joy, the news Hagar was with child by Abram, brought division and sorrow into the home (16:4-10). Rather than validate Saria’s failure to bear a son was Abram’s fault, Hagar conceived a son by Abram and looked upon Sarai’s barrenness with disdain. Sarai reproved Abram (Genesis 16:5) and then drove Hagar from the home (Genesis 16:6-7).

Ishmael, son of Abram born to Hagar, would become father to a great people (Genesis 16:8-11).  His character is described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”];his hand will be against every man [i.e. a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren”(Genesis 16:12).  The fulfillment of that prophecy is evident in today’s world as we see the perpetual turmoil afflicted on Israel and the world by Ishmael’s lineage.

I close today’s devotion with an observation:  God assured Abram he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield”, his protector and defender (15:1).  Abram not only had God’s promises, but His assurance He was with him!

My friend, God is no less to us.

Psalm 56:3– “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

God is Faithful, His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-14)

* Today’s Bible Reading assignment is Genesis 13-14.  Today’s devotional addresses events in Genesis 12-14.  Though longer than most, this devotional will give a representation of Abram’s faith and failures and God’s grace and faithfulness.

Genesis 12 is one of the great pivotal crossroads in the Scriptures’ narrative of God’s plan of redemption.  Genesis 11 closed with Abram (Abraham) departing from “Ur of the Chaldees” with his father Terah (Genesis 11:32).  [The site of Ancient Ur was in today’s Iraq, some 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf, in the vicinity of what became ancient Babylon].

God came to Abram in Genesis 12 and commanded him to separate from his country, his relatives, and his extended family (12:1).  If Abram obeyed, God promised to covenant with him and bless him (Genesis 12:2-3).  God promised Abram he would bless him with a son, make him great, his name famous, and he would be a blessing to all people through his lineage (a promise ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ).  Abram obeyed God and traveled to Canaan, the land God promised He would give him as an inheritance.  When he arrived at Bethel, Abram built an altar and worshipped the Lord (12:7-8).

Realize God had purposed to fulfill His promises to Abram, including giving he and his wife Sarai a son in their old age; however, Abram’s faith in the LORD was soon tested when we read, “there was a famine in the land” (12:10).  Rather than trust the LORD, Abram abandoned his faith in God’s promises, left Canaan and journeyed to Egypt, putting in jeopardy God’s covenant promises (12:10-13).

Sarai, Abram’s wife, was beautiful and, fearing for his life, he asked her to tell others she was his sister and not his wife (12:11-13).  Pharaoh noticed Sarai’s beauty and took her into his harem to become one of his wives, putting at risk God’s covenant promise of a son and heir to Abram.  In spite of Abram’s faithlessness, God spared Sarai, sending a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealing to the king that Abram had deceived him (12:17-20).

Genesis 13 reminds us Abram was a mere mortal, though a man of faith and an object of God’s grace, he faced the consequences of his failure to leave all of his father’s household (12:1).  Contrary to God’s command, Abram had journeyed from Ur with Lot, his brother’s son.  Both men were wealthy, owning great flocks and servants to tend them, there arose a strife between the servants of Abram and his nephew Lot (13:1-7).  To avoid conflict, Abram suggested they divide their households, servants, and flocks, graciously offering his nephew the first choice of the land (13:8-9).

Failing to defer to his elder, Lot betrayed his covetousness and chose the best of the land for himself; land that included the cities in the plain, among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13).  Lot departed and God again renewed His covenant promises with Abram (13:14-18).

Genesis 14 gives us a history of the nations that inhabited ancient Israel in Abram’s day (around 4,000 BC).  A conflict arose among those nations and we read, “the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled…And they took Lot…and his goods” (14:10-12).  Suggesting how rich and powerful Abram had become, we read he led three hundred and eighteen armed servants of his household (14:14) in a successful attack on the kings who had taken the citizens and material possessions of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:15-24).

Abram returns victorious and a king identified as “Melchizedek king of Salem” [Salem perhaps the ancient name of Jerusalem] greets him (14:18).  Melchizedek, described as “the priest of the most high God” (14:18), pronounced a benediction upon Abram and rewarded him with a tithe, a tenth of the spoils (14:19-20).

The king of Sodom, likewise, offered Abram the riches he had recovered in battle (14:21); however, Abram refused the wealth of Sodom.  Jealous of the name and testimony of “the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22), Abram confessed he would take none of Sodom’s riches less the king of Sodom boast he had “made Abram rich” (14:22-24).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

One Hundred Eighty Six (186) Nations and Counting…

“From the Heart of a Shepherd” began 6 years ago as this pastor’s desire to encourage his church family to read and study God’s Word.  In spite of my nominal presence in 2018, 186 nations are represented in http://www.HeartofAShepherd readership.

After a one-year respite in 2018, I have renewed my commitment to write daily devotions for my Hillsdale church family and others I count as friends.

That God would take a self-described Country Parson and give him the privilege of an international opportunity to touch lives is humbling.  Thank you for joining me on this journey through God’s Word.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy of Sin and Its Consequences (Genesis 3-4)

We read in the Genesis account that God provided a “garden eastward in Eden” for Adam; an orchard not only beautiful to behold, but its trees provided fruit “good for food” (Genesis 2:8-9).  In the midst of the garden God planted two trees described as the “tree of life” and the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9).

God charged Adam to act as the steward (Genesis 1:28) and servant (laborer) of His creation (Genesis 2:15); and commanded him, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

“Why did God put a tree in the midst of Eden and forbid Adam to eat its fruit?”

Adam and Eve were not robots and the forbidden fruit was a test of man’s love for God. Tragically, Adam and Eve disobeyed the LORD, ate of the forbidden fruit, “and the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:1-8).  In an act of grace, the LORD covered their nakedness with animal skins (Genesis 3:9-21).

The curse and tragic nature of sin was soon evident in the conflict between Cain, Eve’s firstborn son, and his brother Abel (Genesis 4).  Obedient to God’s model of atonement for sin, Abel brought a sacrificial offering to the LORD (Genesis 4:4); however, God refused Cain’s bloodless sacrifice (Genesis 4:3, 5).  Rejected, Cain burned in anger toward the LORD and his “countenance” betrayed his rebellion (Genesis 4:5).  Ever merciful, the LORD questioned Cain,

Genesis 4:6-76  And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall behis desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Rather than repent and do right, Cain’s wrath escalated and he slew his brother (Genesis 4:8).  Consider the dialogue between the LORD and Cain after he killed his brother.

Genesis 4:9– “And the LORD [Jehovah] said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: AmI my brother’s keeper [watchman; guard; keeper]?”

Presented with an opportunity to confess his sin, Cain turned insolent and defied the LORD asking, Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).

Why did Cain refuse to humble himself and repent of his sin?  The answer: “[Cain’s] own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12). Cain murdered Abel for he hated his brother’s righteousness.  When the LORD confronted Cain, he shirked responsibility for his sin and refused to repent (Genesis 4:9-12).  Characteristic of  hardened sinners, Cain’s focus was not on the evil he had done, but on the punishment, the consequences of his sin (Genesis 4:13-16).

“To grieve over sin is one thing; to repent is another.”– Anonymous

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Life of a Blessed Man! (Psalm 1)

Happy New Year, friends and followers of www.HeartofaShepherd.com!

I invite you to join me this New Year as I begin a new daily Bible Reading Schedulethat will take us through God’s Word in one year.  You will find the Bible Reading Schedule at the previous link and by going to www.HillsdaleBaptist.orgPlease notice the daily readings include three categories: Old Testament, Poetry, and New Testament. 

I plan to post regular devotionals on a portion of each day’s reading assignment.  Rather than a comprehensive commentary, my goal is a practical application of a portion of the daily reading.  For example, the Bible reading for January 1, 2019 is Genesis 1-2, Psalm 1, and Matthew 1.  The focus of today’s devotional is Psalm 1.

Psalm 1 is the first recorded Beatitude in the Bible and offers a contrast of two manner of men; the “blessed” who walk in the way of God’s Law and the “ungodly” who oppose God.  King David writes,

Psalm 1:1-3 – “Blessed [happy and content] is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2  But his [the blessed man] delight isin the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3  And he [the blessed man whose delight and meditations on the Word of God are night and day]shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

David begins Psalm 1 advising us where happiness is not found. Happiness is not found “in the counsel of the ungodly…in the way of sinners, [or]…in the seat of the scornful”(1:1).

1) A blessed man does not seek thecounsel of the ungodlywhose philosophy is “eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19).

2) The blessed man does not abide in the“way of sinners” whose spiritual GPS is set on a destination of wickedness and “shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

3) The blessed man does notlift up his voice in chorus with“the scornful”, for they disdain God and His Law  (Psalm 14:1).

What is the source of the blessed man’s happiness and contentment? His joy and “delight isin the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

Two observations regarding the blessed man’s life: 1) His “delight”, passion, and desire is the Word of God.  2) His discipline is to “meditate”upon the principles and precepts of God’s Law.  “Day and night” he saturates his heart and thoughts with the eternal, immutable truths of God’s Word.

Here’s a thought for the day:

“A Bible that’s falling apart probably belongs to someone who isn’t.” —Christian Johnson. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.; Today’s Best Illustrations.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Know That a Prophet Hath Been Among You (Ezekiel 33:33)

After enjoying a vacation in the Smoky Mountains, I look forward to being back in Hillsdale’s pulpit this Sunday.  We will return to our verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of John, taking up our study with the closing verses of John 9 and introducing one of the most beautiful and beloved passages of the Gospels… the Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

Knowing the shepherd is a metaphor for a spiritual leader and the sheep is a metaphor for God’s people throughout the scriptures, I invested several hours focusing on the role of the shepherd and his relationship with the sheep.  In the Parable of the Good Shepherd we identify not only the character of the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ), we also see the evil characteristics of Israel’s spiritual leaders portrayed as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8) and as the “hireling” who flees “and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:13).

Israel was cursed with spiritual shepherd’s like those described in John 10.  When the nation needed shepherds to boldly declare the Word of the Lord and condemn the sins of the nation, she instead promoted men to be her pastors who not only failed to lead the nation spiritually, but also exploited her vulnerable state.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the “pastors” (spiritual shepherds) of Israel, “1Woe be unto the pastors [lit. shepherds] that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD…I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1-2).

Ezekiel prophesied “against the shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:1-2), condemning the spiritual leaders for putting their self-interests before the needs of the people (34:2).  Israel’s pastors had taken the best of everything for themselves (34:3), neglected the weak and injured (34:4a), failed to seek the lost, pursued sinful pleasures, and failed to call God’s people to be a holy people (34:4).  Israel had become an immoral, lawless nation and God determined to turn the nation and their shepherds over to be afflicted (Ezekiel 34:10).  God, however, did not leave His people hopeless and promised them He would one day deliver them (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

The task of a faithful prophet is not a popular one and God warned Ezekiel he would become the object of scorn (Ezekiel 33).  God challenged the prophet, “I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:7).  Ezekiel was admonished, should he fail to warn the wicked in his sin and the wicked man “die in his iniquity”, the blood of the wicked would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8).

Ezekiel 33 closes with a malady that in my observation is present in fundamental churches and colleges of our day…a generation that is “talking against” the prophet, expressing a faux-piety of hearing “the word that cometh forth from the LORD” (33:30), and “with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31).  God warns Ezekiel, “they hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).

From a perspective of outward results, Ezekiel was a failure for Israel did not repent of her sins and her pastors continued in their wickedness.  Ezekiel was promised, when God’s judgment falls upon Israel, all would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:33).

The words of a faithful, prophetic (forth-telling), uncompromising preacher are not welcome in most pulpits and one need not look far in our churches, colleges, and seminaries to understand there are many who “hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).  I pray God might find me faithful and some “shall know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

The Scope of Hillsdale’s Relief Team is Bigger Than We Imagined…

While we are praising the Lord the first team from Hillsdale is beginning a second day assisting Lighthouse Baptist Church, Panama City and their neighbors, the reality is the scope and demand is far greater than we imagined.

In addition to assisting many, especially widows and the elderly with removing trees from rooftops and driveways, our first team has begun to provide for 30-50 workers and neighbors at mealtimes. We planned financially to feed our work teams; however, the reality is, without electricity, food has spoiled and people are looking to Hillsdale for meals in the area.

We anticipate other groups, as well as the National Guard, will arrive toward the weekend; however, until they do our Hillsdale team encampment is the site for many to come for meals as they work to help themselves and their neighbors.

Our second team leaves Wednesday morning and we will send up coolers full of sliced meats, bread, and all the fixings for sandwiches. In addition, we are providing breakfast and require eggs, etc…

Pastor Peterman is working diligently, but he will welcome assistance as he is making purchases and packing (CALL THE OFFICE – 813-884-8250).  We are receiving a donation of Dry Ice, but we need large coolers today for tomorrow’s journey to Panama City.

We welcome donations either online at http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org (look for the Donations button in the upper right corner, follow instructions, and at “Other” type in Disaster Relief).  Of course you are welcome to either mail or drop off your donation at our office at 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33624.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith