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Where is the Christian “West Point” of this generation?

christian-ed

** The following article was first published February 2016, and republished October 2016. As a writer in 2016, I was still using “training wheels,” and there are no doubt grammatical errors I might avoid today. Yet, I believe this article states the cancer that is consuming our fundamental churches, colleges, and universities. The following is that six year old post.

* On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Hillsdale Baptist Church closed one of our greatest missions conferences.  With a dozen or more of our teens responding at the invitation to surrender to go and serve the LORD where He calls them and, with their parents and grandparents standing beside them, I am left this Thursday morning wrestling with the burden…Where do I send our youth to be trained for full-time Christian service that will be a complement to our heart and passion for serving the LORD and preaching the whole counsel of God?   Where are the Bible colleges that have dedicated themselves to “keeping the chapel platform hot” with the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word?

With those questions weighing on my heart, I republish an article I first published February 17, 2016.

billy-sundayA sense of desperation has taken hold in my spirit as I witness the failings of our nation, the erosion of morality and civility, and the spiritual void in our society that threatens the future of our nation, homes, churches and Christian institutions.   My heart trembles and my soul is dismayed by the silence of Christian leaders who are custodians of church pulpits and academic platforms that were once dedicated to the bold, unapologetic declaration of God’s Word!   I am afraid our biblically fundamental churches and schools bear the prophetic likeness of the church of the Laodiceans, “neither cold nor hot…rich, and increased with good…and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

A pattern of spiritual lethargy has become the state of our fundamental churches and institutions [incidentally, my use of the word fundamental is not meant to convey an attitude, but a practical-doctrinal theology committed to the literal exposition of the fundamental doctrines and precepts of God’s Word].  colossians-3-23I believe a generation of well-meaning pastors and administrators is faltering in their spiritual leadership, influenced and persuaded by men who lack deep-rooted precepts and core convictions that once served as guiding principles for fundamental ministries.  I am of the opinion preachers and teachers have endeavored to appease youth and, either by design or neglect, soft-pedaled core spiritual virtues and personal disciplines that were at the heart of institutional distinctives.

Our churches and schools are evidencing the consequences of a philosophy of education that has, in its purported zeal for the Gospel and discipleship, invaded our institutions and eradicated fundamental precepts that are essential to personal holiness and sanctification.  In an attempt to appease, rather than admonish and exhort a carnal generation (2 Timothy 4:2), spiritual leaders have weakened institutional disciplines, disparaged spiritual standards, and eroded the distinctives of Christian education.

West PointThere was a time we could look to our Christian colleges and universities to inspire our youth and integrate into their education the leadership disciplines of West Point; the refined sophistication of a finishing school; the academic excellence of an Ivy League university; and the spiritual fervor and zeal of a “hellfire and brimstone” evangelist.  Although there are exceptions, I am afraid that is no longer the case.

Too many college professors and pastors have, in a misguided effort to be “relevant”, departed from the very disciplines that made Christian education superior and unique.  Instead of the discipline of West Point, many Christian college students evidence a bearing that is casual at best.  Rather than a “finishing school” product, Christian students lack both the polish and demeanor of their forebears.   Instead of the disciplines required for academic excellence, a laissez-faire attitude has taken hold in our schools and universities.  SpurgeonFinally, the emphasis to “keep the platform hot” and “preach the whole counsel of God” has been displaced by an inordinate emphasis on “the Gospel” to the exclusion of truths that are fundamental to preparing students to be soldiers of Christ in the world (Ephesians 6:10-18). [I realize that observation will invite personal attacks and criticisms; however, I believe I am in good company since Charles Spurgeon is credited with quoting and affirming: “there are times when the exclusive advocacy of certain important truths has the effect of error…So at the present time some of the most precious gospel truths are preached in the interest of some of the most pernicious errors. In other words, the unseasonable or disproportionate presentation of certain truths makes for error.”]

Having expressed my alarm concerning the direction of the spiritual leadership in our fundamental churches, schools and universities, I close with two questions and an observation.

Where are the preachers, teachers, and administrators in our churches and institutions who will step forward and assert the spiritual values, principles and distinctive biblical philosophy that once characterized historic, biblically fundamental Christianity?

What Christian colleges and universities will dare rise above cultural irrelevance and challenge our youth to portray in word and deed the distinctive saltiness and illumination of a separatist, Christ-centered philosophy of life and ministry (Matthew 5:13-16)?

sugar-coated preachingThe apostle Paul warned the day would come when there would be an intolerance of “sound doctrine” and men would turn to teachers who would tickle their ears and pander to their desires (1 Timothy 4:3-4).  I am afraid that hour has finally come to biblically fundamental churches, schools and colleges.  In the very hour a certain, unequivocal, unapologetic declaration of the Word of God is needed; many have dipped the banner of the cross and shied from Paul’s challenge to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5
1  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.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

Far-reaching Consequences of a Father’s Compromise (2 Chronicles 18)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 18

While the focus of 1 Kings 22 was primarily upon King Ahab and the northern ten Tribes known as Israel, 2 Chronicles 18 was authored after the Babylonian captivity, and gives a greater focus to King Jehoshaphat and the kingdom of Judah (consisting of the two tribes in the south known as Judah and Benjamin).  The focus of this devotional commentary is 2 Chronicles 18.

As a nation, Judah enjoyed God’s blessings during the reign of Jehoshaphat, and the king “had riches and honour in abundance” (18:1). Unfortunately, Jehoshaphat had “joined affinity with Ahab,” king of Israel, and his son Jehoram had taken one of Ahab’s daughters as his wife (2 Chronicles 21:6). Three years passed (1 Kings 22:2), and Jehoshaphat traveled to visit Ahab in Samaria, the capital city of Israel. After a great banquet, Ahab proposed for Judah to support Israel in an attack on Ramoth-gilead, a Levite city of refuge that was occupied at that time by Syria (18:2).

Jehoshaphat was willing to go to war with Ahab and Israel, for they were family by marriage (18:3). Yet, Jehoshaphat, a spiritually-minded king, requested they seek “the word of the LORD” for his will (18:4). “The king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?” (18:5). Ahab’s prophets, eager to please the king, answered his inquiry and said, “Go up; for God will deliver it into the king’s hand” (18:5).

Because the character of true prophets of the LORD is to speak independently without fear of consequences, Jehoshaphat, was concerned Ahab’s prophets spoke with one voice. Therefore, the king of Judah asked Ahab, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of him?” (18:6). Ahab admitted there was another prophet, but confessed concerning the prophet Micaiah, “I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil” (18:7).

Micaiah, whom we met in a previous devotional (1 Kings 22), came to the kings of Israel and Judah, and delivered a message the king desired, but the prophet had not attributed his words to the LORD (18:12). When Ahab realized the prophet was not speaking prophetically, he instructed Micaiah saying, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the Lord?” (18:15).

The LORD’s prophet then spoke of his vision of a heavenly council gathered around the throne of God. In the vision, Israel was scattered, “as sheep that have no shepherd” (18:16). Because the king of Israel was identified as a shepherd of the people, the prophecy left no doubt that it was a foretelling of Ahab’s death.

Micaiah went on to describe how God had requested that a messenger would go to Ahab, and entice that king to go to battle at Ramoth-gilead where he would be slain (18:19). In the vision, a spirit went out from the LORD, and put “a lying spirit in the mouth of all [Ahab’s] prophets” (18:21).

The prophet then declared, “behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee [Ahab]” (18:22). Exposed as a lying prophet, “Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah[a false prophet of Ajab] came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek” (18:23).

Ahab, hearing his death foretold, was angry and demanded the prophet be imprisoned with nothing more than bread and water, until he returned from battle (18:25-26). Emboldened and confident in his prophecy, Micaiah warned the king, “If thou certainly return in peace, then hath not the Lord spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, all ye people” (18:27).

In spite of the prophet’s warning, Jehoshaphat went to war with the king of Israel and went into battle against the king of Syria (18:28). Lest he be discovered to be the king of Israel, Ahab disguised himself that he might not be recognized, and targeted by the Syrian soldiers (18:29). Yet, in the providence of God, an arrow from a nameless soldier struck Ahab, mortally wounding him (18:33).

Elijah’s prophecy was fulfilled, for as the sun was setting that day, Ahab, the king of Israel, died (18:34), “and one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the Lord which he spake” (1 Kings 21:19; 22:37-38).

Closing thoughts – Though the consequences of Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Israel were not immediately evident, his compromise with Ahab through the marriage of his son to Ahab’s daughter introduced a great wickedness in Judah, and nearly terminated David’s royal lineage (2 Chronicles 21:6; 22:3; 22:10-12).

An observation – When spiritual leaders accommodate the sins of their children, they sacrifice not only their testimonies, but also the ministries and institutions they lead.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” (Proverbs 31, 1 Kings 12)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 31, 1 Kings 12

The “virtuous woman” is the subject of Proverbs 31, perhaps the most beloved of all the Proverbs because it addresses the most central figure in life apart from our Creator—one’s mother. Like chapter 30, the authorship of Proverbs 31 has been debated down through the centuries; however, I feel there is much about this chapter that commends itself to having been authored by King Solomon. [Author’s note – A separate devotional for 1 Kings 12 is available at www.HeartofAShepherd.com]

Proverbs 31:1 – “The words [discourse; law] of king Lemuel, the prophecy [burden; tribute] that his mother taught him [instructed; discipline; chasten].”

There is no record of a king named Lemuel in ancient Israel or Judah, and many scholars believe Lemuel might have been a nickname Bathsheba gave to her son Solomon. Having lost her firstborn son in infancy, the one conceived in an act of adultery with David; one can understand why Bathsheba would dedicate Solomon to God, and in her heart, name him Lemuel (the literal meaning of Lemuel is “unto God” –lit. dedicated to God). For the sake of our devotional studies in Proverbs, I propose we view this chapter as Solomon’s memorial to his mother.

Verse 2 of Proverbs 31 records the Queen mother’s appeal to her son in a three-fold question:

Proverbs 31:2 – “What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows [dedication to God; binding covenant between mother and God]?”

Allow me to probe the meaning of the three questions proposed by the king’s mother.

1) “What my son?” (31:2a) – i.e. – What more can I say to you my son and king?

2) “What, the son of my womb?” (31:2a) – She reminds the king that she knew him in her womb; before he drew his first breath. She gave him life, and loves him as no one else could love him.

3) “What, the son of my vows?” (31:2a) – Like Hannah dedicated her son Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), Bathsheba dedicated her son while he was in her womb. She remembers the first stirring of life and how she prayed for him. She had dedicated him to serve the Lord!

We are not told what moved Bathsheba to make an impassioned plea to her son. Perhaps her motherly instincts sensed the moral dangers Solomon would face. She knew all too well the temptations that beset a man of power, possessions, and popularity. The plea of the Queen mother resonated in her son’s heart, and he memorialized her virtuous qualities as an example for all women.

Someone has said: “The greatest moral power in the world is that exercised by a mother over her child.”

John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the United States said concerning his mother, “All that I am, or ever have been, in this world, I owe, under God, to my mother.”

Closing thoughts – Read the entirety of Proverbs 31 today. It is my prayer the king’s praise of his mother will move husbands, sons and daughters to thank the LORD for loving mothers, and encourage them with words of affirmation and thanksgiving. Finally, in a day that is desperate for a moral compass, I pray there will be mothers who have been inspired from the king’s praise of his mother, to aspire to the qualities of a virtuous woman.

To the two mothers in my life, thank you for your loving sacrifices, and examples of Christ-like, unconditional love. (Proverbs 31:28-31)

[Author’s note – A separate devotional for 1 Kings 12 is available at www.HeartofAShepherd.com]

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Remember Thy Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10

We conclude our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes with a look into the final chapter,  Ecclesiastes 12, and consider a sobering challenge from Solomon. Remember the king commenced this short book by introducing himself as “the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1), and brings it to an end by embracing the same title, “the preacher” (12:9, 10). Today’s Scripture reading also includes 1 Kings 10.

An Admonition (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2)

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

Patterns of life are set in one’s youth, when hearts are generally soft and pliable, and before sins and adversities have given rise to spiritual callousness. Solomon urged his son, “Remember,” think of, meditate on your Creator when you are young. While you have your whole life before you, consider the ONE that made you in His likeness and image, and formed you when you were in your mother’s womb (Genesis 1:27; 2:7-8). Remember your Creator, before you face “evil days,” and adversities plague your life (12:1), that you have no more desire to live.

Ecclesiastes 12:3-7 paints a depressing picture of the future, and old age with its physical ailments and frailties.

Solomon described the coming of a season when the days of a man would be darkened (12:2). Men who were once strong, would shake and “tremble” (12:3a), and become stooped with old age. The picture Solomon painted was of an old man whose teeth (“grinders”) had failed, and whose eyesight was dimmed (“windows be darkened”).

Continuing his depressing description of old age, Solomon described the loneliness of the elderly. Their lives become like a village whose doors are shut (none are coming or going), and streets are silent (12:4a). The “grinding is low” (perhaps the grinding or milling of grain), and if not for the “voice [or crowing] of the bird,” there would be no reason to awaken, for work has ceased (12:4b). Where there was once the exuberance of daughters, there is silence instead (12:4c).

Fear takes hold of an old man apart from the LORD (12:5a). His “desire [appetite]” fails (12:5c), and mourners gather in expectation of his death, for he “goeth to his long [future] home” (12:5d). Bible scholars suggest Ecclesiastes 12:6 describes the physical decline of the elderly, the failure of their circulatory system, and the imminence of death. Solomon wrote, the “wheel is broken at the cistern” (and is no more), the lifeless body returns to “dust,” and the “spirit [of the man] shall return unto God who gave it” (12:7; Genesis 3:17-19).

The physical body of man goes to the grave until the resurrection of the dead, but the spirit of man is eternal. The spirit of lost sinners will be judged, and condemned to everlasting punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:11-15). The spirit of the saved shall dwell in the presence of the LORD forever (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 3:20-21). It is true, that apart from God, life is a vapor, and “all is vanity” (James 4:14; 12:8).

Did Solomon Repent in His Last Days? (12:8-12)

Though he strayed far from the LORD in his later years (1 Kings 11), it seems Solomon returned to his longing for the LORD, being mindful He would give account of his life. Solomon once again took up the mantle of the “preacher,” and “taught [instructed] the people knowledge…and set in order [set straight] many proverbs” (12:9). With urgency, the king studied, and “sought to find out acceptable words…even words of truth” (12:10). He comprehended “the words of the wise are as goads,” for they prick, and convict (12:11).

What were the “goads” that were as “nails fastened by the masters” (12:11)? They were the “words of truth” (12:10), being God’s Laws and Commandments (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and were “given from One Shepherd,” Who was the LORD Himself (12:11; Hebrews 13:20; John 10:3-4).

An Epilogue: “Fear God, and Keep His Commandments” (12:13-14)

Solomon concluded his ponderings, by summoning the attention of all who would hear:

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

Closing thoughts – When youth are not guided by spiritual principles, they squander their lives on sinful indulgences that inevitably leave them with sorrow laden souls. To my youthful readers, I exhort: Enjoy your youth, remember your Creator, but know “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”(Hebrews 9:27).

To parents and grandparents: I urge you to remember, fear, and revere your Creator. Conform your life to the likeness of Christ, and reflect in your attitudes and actions His Laws and Commandments.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sovereign God, and A Lesson in Parenting (Proverbs 21-22)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 21; Proverbs 22

Proverbs 21

The Lord is Sovereign of His Creation (Proverbs 21:1-3)

We are once again reminded that God is Sovereign! He is the Ruler of His creation, and has all power and authority. He is involved in the affairs of man, and is working all things together according to His purpose, and for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28-29). He does not approve of the sinful actions and decisions of men; however, He is sovereign and is able to direct choices contrary to His will, to the end of accomplishing His eternal purpose (notice Joseph’s affirmation of that truth in Genesis 50:20).

Proverbs 21:1-3 is an exposition of the Sovereignty of God, and the authority of man.

Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart [mind; thoughts; will] is in the hand [under the authority and dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [channels; canals; streams] of water: he turneth [bends; turns aside] it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor].”

All human authority is subservient to the authority of God. Men are not robots; however, they cannot act independent of God. God can, and does guide men’s choices to accomplish His plan and purpose. The LORD is sovereign, and like a farmer directs water through irrigation channels to his crops, He directs and channels the heart of a king where He wills (21:1b).  [Example of Pharoah in Exodus 10:1-2.]

Proverbs 21:2 – “Every way [road; journey; course of life] of a man is right in his own eyes [opinion]: but the LORD pondereth [weighs; measures] the hearts [mind; understanding].”

Proverbs 21:2 reminds us that God knows the heart, motives, and purpose in man. It is the bent of the human heart to perceive ourselves better than we are; however, God weighs and knows what lies within the hearts of men.

Finally, we are reminded that God’s focus is on the heart of man, and not his outward form or ritual (21:3).

Proverbs 21:3 – “To do [accomplish] justice and judgment [righteousness; conform to an ethical or moral standard] is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice [offerings].

Outward ritual, without inward devotion is hypocrisy. Though hypocrites offer sacrifices of money, service and outward conformity (1 Samuel 16:7), it is the heart of the righteous to obey the Lord.

Closing thoughts – God’s hand rests upon every human authority in your life. Look past the personalities, flaws, and failures of those in authority, and be confident: God is able to turn the hearts of men to accomplish His best for your life. Trust the Lord, and pray for those in authority! (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Proverbs 22

Parenting: A Lesson for the Fainthearted (Proverbs 22:6)

Proverbs 22:66Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Thousands of books and articles have been written on child rearing. Psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, counselors, pastors, neighbors, friends, and family, all have their opinions on how you should train and discipline your child. Yet, it has been my observation that most everyone is an expert on child training, until they have children of their own!

Proverbs 22:6 is one of the best known, and most quoted verses in Proverbs.  It has been the inspiration of godly parents, and a club of discouragement for parents wrestling with the will and path of a rebel. Allow me to amplify Solomon’s proverb with my own clarification in brackets.

Proverbs 22:6  “Train up [initiate; inaugurate; dedicate; consecrate] a child in the way [road; path; journey] he should go: and when he is old [aged; “hair on the chin”], he will not depart [turn aside; withdraw] from it.”

Many parents languish in the throes of discouragement when a child rebels, and turns from his parents. They might have embraced Proverbs 22:6, and believed it afforded them an absolute guarantee of a “happily ever-after ending.” Yet, when a son rejects his parents’ counsel, and goes his own way, godly parents often wrestle with guilt until they are driven to despair (too often heaped upon them by the judgments of others). Even the rebel might throw the responsibility of his wicked choices onto his parents, and other authorities in his life.

The problem: A proverb is a proverbial expression, a wise saying and a general truth. It is not a guarantee. In other words, Proverbs 22:6 is not a “parenting guarantee,” because it is subject to a child’s individual free will. Every child will choose to embrace, or reject parental instructions and commands. “Train up” carried in its original meaning, the practice of a mother chewing food for a suckling child, and then placing the chewed food on her child’s palate. Why? She was encouraging her child to develop a taste for solid food as he or she matures.

It is the prayer of godly parents that their children will have a taste, and desire for righteousness. Nevertheless, I remind you that Adam and Eve had a perfect Creator/Father, and He placed them in a perfect environment (the Garden of Eden). Yet, the first man and woman rebelled and chose to sin (Genesis 3:6-7).

Closing thought – The wicked influences of this sinful world, and its philosophies, are fighting for the heart of every child. There are no perfect parents; and every child has a will of their own. Nonetheless, I urge you to do all you can to set a godly example, teach your children the truths of God’s Word, expose them to godly influences, and insulate them from the ways and wiles of sin. Then, pray earnestly!

You may email the author at: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Alcohol: “To Drink, or Not to Drink?” Is that the Question? (Proverbs 20)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 20

You will find that Proverbs 20 is a chapter rich in spiritual truths that seem to challenge nearly every aspect of life. From the admonition concerning wine and “strong drink” in verse 1, to the affirmation of biblical chastening described as “the blueness of a wound” in verse 30, spiritual principles abound. A daily devotional gives little opportunity to address the whole chapter, and so I have determined to tackle one that is being overlooked, if not rejected by some believers. Consider the first verse:

Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Should you be willing to embrace this proverb as simply as it is stated, its truth and application are both simple and undeniable. Consider a restatement of that proverb with this author’s amplification of word meanings:

Proverbs 20:1 “Wine [fermented wine] is a mocker [scorner; holds in derision], strong drink [intoxicating drink] is raging [roar; troubled; clamorous]: and whosoever is deceived [stray; mislead] thereby is not wise [almost always condemned].”

There are many in the 21st century Church who argue for tolerance in the matter of alcohol, and have embraced the imbibing of “strong drink” as a matter of liberty. Such an argument is a grave departure from the historical stance of Bible believers. Sadly, the silence of the pulpit in the matter has only perpetuated the acceptance of wine and alcohol. So, we ask the question, “To drink, or not to drink?” What do the Scriptures teach?

Paul challenged pastors to be sober [lit. temperate], “not given to wine” (1 Timothy 3:3). In the Epistle of Titus, Paul called on pastors (i.e., “bishops”) to be “blameless…not given to wine” (Titus 1:7). He also cautioned older women to be “not given to much wine” (Titus 2:3).

Modern societies enjoy the blessing of fresh, pure water; however, that was not the case in ancient times. There was a risk of unsanitary, unpurified water in Solomon’s day, and that of the apostles. To kill germs and bacteria in drinking water, wine would be mixed with the water making it safe to drink (the mix was 8 parts water, and 1 part wine).

Lacking modern refrigeration we enjoy, juices would ferment in the heat, making it necessary to water down the wine to slow down the fermenting process and sterilize the water. Today’s strong wine and alcohol go through a distilling process that was unknown in Bible times, with the purpose of elevating alcohol content. Unlike the wine in the Bible that was watered down, today’s strong drink is imbibed for its intoxicating properties.

What spiritual applications might we take from Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Concerning pastors: Because the Scriptures admonish pastors to be “not given to wine,” and understanding the wine of Bible times was not nearly as intoxicating as it is today, we can state unapologetically: A man who indulges in wine or alcohol is unfit for the pastorate. Old Testament priests were not to “drink wine nor strong drink” (Leviticus 10:9), and certainly God’s standard would be no less for his preachers.

Concerning believers: Solomon admonished his son to not drink wine or strong drink (20:1), nor keep company with drunkards. Solomon wrote, “20Be not among winebibbers; Among riotous eaters of flesh: 21For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: And drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Proverbs 23:20–21). The virtuous wife and mother of Proverbs 31 (believed to have been Bathsheba), warned her son who was heir to the throne: “4It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; Nor for princes strong drink: 5Lest they drink, and forget the law, And pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4–5).

Paul admonished believers to not risk causing another believer to stumble and fall, therefore, “It is good neither to eat flesh [i.e., meat offered to idols], nor to drink wine” (Romans 14:21).

Some might quote 1 Timothy 5:23 as grounds for taking liberty with wine and alcohol. We read, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Timothy had some stomach ailments, and proving the young preacher was not in the habit of drinking wine, Paul urged him to take some wine for medicinal purposes (in the absence of medicines at our disposal today).

Closing thoughts – There are many verses, principles, and illustrations that support an absolute intolerance of wine and alcohol in the life of a believer (Hosea 4:11; Daniel 1:8, 10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In addition, our society abounds with examples of damages caused by alcohol use: Physical (cancer of the esophagus, mouth, pharynx, and larynx), gross immorality caused by the effect of lowering inhibitions, and spiritual failures.

1 Corinthians 6:9–109Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

You matter, and there is hope to escape the ravages of alcohol! You can reach this author at HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

What’s for Dinner? Let’s Hope it is Not Crow! (Proverbs 18; Proverbs 19)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 18; Proverbs 19

Our chronological journey through the Word of God continues with today’s Scripture reading, Proverbs 18 and Proverbs 19. Once again, I limit my focus to one or two proverbs in each chapter.

Proverbs 18

“Be Careful, You Don’t Want to Eat Crow!” (Proverbs 18:20-21)

The tongue, that little member in your mouth, is an instrument few men or women can harness and control (James 3:3-5). James observed, “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity” (James 3:6). David described the tongue “like a sharp razor” (Psalm 52:2-4), “a serpent” (Psalm 140:3) and “a sharp sword” (Psalm 57:4). Such is the power and influence of the tongue; its utterances have the power of life and death, blessing and cursing!

Perhaps reflecting on his father’s wisdom, Solomon states in his own proverb the fact that the tongue has the power to bless and destroy.

Proverbs 18:20  “A man’s belly [body; bosom; stomach] shall be satisfied [filled; nourished] with the fruit [reward; earnings] of his mouth [speech]; and with the increase [gain; produce] of his lips shall he be filled [satisfied; nourished].”

When words are used righteously, they affirm, express love, edify, and comfort. Those same words, and acts of kindness, have the mutual benefit of resonating in the heart of the one who expresses them (18:20). What a delight, to know comforting, reassuring words will inevitably nourish and satisfy the soul of the one who expresses them.

Proverbs 18:21  “Death and life are in the power [hand; authority] of the tongue [speech; verbal communication]: and they that love [like; having a strong emotional attachment] it [tongue] shall eat [devour; consume] the fruit [reward; price] thereof.”

It is sport for the wicked to slander and malign a good man’s character.; however, be forewarned: The wicked eventually eat the “fruit,” and bear the consequences of their own words (18:21).

Closing thoughts – Someone has said, “A bit of love is the only bit that will put a bridle on the tongue.” Another has observed, “Some people speak from experience. Others, from experience, don’t speak.”

Wise men would choose the latter (it’s better not to speak at all)!

Matthew 12:36-37 – “But I say unto you, That every idle [useless; unfruitful] 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.”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Proverbs 19

“A Call for Restraint in a Day of Road Rage” (Proverbs 19:11)

Proverbs 19:11  “The discretion [prudence; wisdom; discernment] of a man deferreth [i.e., patience; prolong; outlive] his anger [wrath]; and it is his [the patient man’s] glory [honor; beauty; pride] to pass over [overlook; pass on] a transgression [another man’s sin, trespass, rebellion].”

Proverbs 19:11 certainly runs contrary to the conventional wisdom of our day that is characterized by road rage, unprovoked attacks, and the ruthless demand for revenge and “a pound of flesh.” Solomon challenged his son to exercise discretion when provoked, and to show restraint when challenged with an angry reaction.

A wise man follows the policy, “Act, Don’t React,” and that is especially true when it comes to reining in one’s emotions, and bridling the tongue! Rather than appeasing anger, words often inflame an already volatile, combative situation (Proverbs 17:2021:23James 3:5-6).

Wisdom and goodwill do not respond in kind, or manner when provoked. It is the honor and glory of good men to overlook the sinful ways of another (19:11b).

Continuing the lesson on deflecting an angry man’s propensity, we close with a consideration of how wise men approach and court the favor of a leader.

Proverbs 19:12  “The king’s wrath [rage; indignation] is as the roaring [growl] of a lion; but his [the king’s] favour [delight; goodwill; pleasure] is as dew upon the grass.”

Like the roaring of a lion, the wrath of a king will provoke fear and anxiety; however, his pleasure refreshes and encourages the soul like the morning dew on the grass (19:12). Knowing the power of executing a judgment or the pleasure of extending a blessing, rests in the hands of a leader, the wise approach them with humility, and discretion.

Romans 13:7 – Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Sovereignty of God, Fiery Troubles and Trials (Proverbs 16; Proverbs 17)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 16; Proverbs 17

Our Scripture reading is Proverbs 16 and Proverbs 17. Today’s devotional will consider two great truths that can be life changing, if you embrace them!

Proverbs 16

God is Sovereign (Proverbs 16:1)

The Sovereignty of God is one of the great doctrines of the Scriptures, and has been a spiritual anchor for believers who have found themselves in the midst of trials and troubles. The Word of God reveals that He is Creator, and is therefore the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, all nations and people. Solomon, because his son would be king, and men’s lives and the future of the nation would rest in his hands, stressed the importance of both planning, and trusting God. Solomon wrote:

Proverbs 16:1 – “The preparations [plans; blueprints; i.e., plan for battle] of the heart [mind; thoughts; emotions] in man [belong to; are the responsibility of man], and the answer [reply] of the tongue, is from the LORD.”

What is the essence of Proverbs 16:1?

It is that man bears the responsibility of planning and preparing for each day, as well as for the future; but  the final answer to man’s preparations is from the Lord, the Sovereign of all. Whether a king plans for battle, or a humble farmer plants his crops; success is dependent upon the LORD’s blessings. Wise men plan, but the wisest of men acknowledge, and accept the sovereignty of God. In the words of Solomon, “the answer” (whether the outcome is favorable or unfavorable) is from the Lord.

Closing thought – Those who lack faith, and are unwilling to accept that God is sovereign, will be overtaken by racing thoughts, and fears that will erode strength.

Remember: A wise man plans, and will then “trust in the LORD with all [his] heart” (Proverbs 3:5a).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Proverbs 17

Are You Feeling the Heat of Fiery Trials? Look Past the Flames! (17:3)

Fire is one of nature’s most valuable, yet destructive elements. The fire of a BBQ grill can stir a hungry appetite with the aroma of flame-broiled meats. Fire in a boiler can power a mighty steam engine, and turn massive electric turbines. Fire unleashed, however, can make a trail of destruction devastating everything in its path, rendering pain and sorrow.

Capitalizing on the theme of fire, Solomon compared the flames of a furnace that smelted and purified silver and gold, to the fiery trials God employs to test the hearts of His spiritual sons and daughters.

Proverbs 17:3 – “The fining pot [refining] is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD [Jehovah; Self-existent] trieth [proves; examines] the hearts.”

The process of purifying precious metals required intense heat. A smelter would take a refining pot of raw silver or gold, and sit the pot in the midst of an intense fire. He would then melt the raw material, causing the dross to boil to the top, where a skimmer would remove the impurities, leaving pure silver or gold.

Comparing times of trial and trouble to a refining pot and furnace (17:3b), Solomon taught his son to anticipate the LORD would prove, test and purify the hearts of His people by fiery trials. Trials and troubles not only test the heart, but purify the motives, and humble the spirit of a man. Nearly a thousand years later, James exhorted believers:

James 1:2-3 – “My brethren, count [consider] it all joy when ye fall into [encounter] divers temptations [trials; adversity]3 Knowing this, that the trying [testing; proving] of your faith worketh patience [strength; perseverance].”

The singe of fiery trials can hurt and humiliate, if not received with a humble, broken spirit. Trials can also benefit us, by burning away the crutches of self-will, and independence. The betrayal of a friend, or the rejection of a loved one can benefit us when we trust the way of the LORD is perfect, good and altogether right (2 Samuel 22:31Psalm 18:30; Romans 8:29-29).

Job, the Old Testament patriarch, confessed, “But he [the LORD] knoweth the way that I take: when he [the LORD] hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Closing thoughts – Are you feeling the heat of fiery trials and troubles?

I know it hurts, and you want to flee the flames of pain and disappointment. It is tempting to focus on the circumstances, and personalities who have hurt and disappointed you. My exhortation and counsel is:

Look past the flames! Trust God will take you through the pain, to the other side!

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [trouble; trial] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [to pass through the trial], that ye may be able to bear it.”

Will you turn your hurts and sorrows over to the LORD, and trust Him?

I welcome hearing how this wonderful truth has moved your heart to let go of your pain, fears and anxieties, consciously placing your trust in the LORD. You may email me at: HeartOfAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Matters of the Heart” (Proverbs 15)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 15

We continue our study in Proverbs, with the focus being Proverbs 15:18-21. While today’s devotional addresses a variety of different topics, they all ultimately fall under a subject I have titled, “Matters of the Heart.”

The Angry Man vs. The Patient Man (15:18)

Proverbs 15:18 “A wrathful [angry, raging] man stirreth up [meddles; causes contention] strife [quarrels; arguments]: but he that is slow [patient; longsuffering] to anger [wrath; flaring nostrils; huffing and puffing] appeaseth strife [quiets disputes and quarrels].”

It is the fate of some families to have a loved one whose demeanor is described in Proverbs 15:18 as “a wrathful man.” Such a one is characteristically self-centered, provokes contention, and has an angry spirit. Trouble follows him, and his presence at gatherings is often anticipated with dread and anxiety.

The contrast to the “wrathful man,” is the man who is “slow to anger” (15:18b). Unlike his quick-tempered, unloving cousin, this man loves and seeks peace. His patient demeanor tends to de-escalate a potentially volatile moment. His response is one of love, extending grace, and is therefore “not easily provoked” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

The Way of the Lazy vs. The Way of the Righteous (15:19)

Proverbs 15:19 – “The way [road; journey] of the slothful [lazy; sluggard] man is as an hedge of thorns [full of obstructions and difficulties]: but the way [path, road, journey] of the righteous [upright; just] is made plain [smooth].”

Contrasting a lazy, “slothful man” with the “the righteous” seems an odd comparison, until we understand it is not the men, but the way that is the subject.

The “way” (path, journey) of the “slothful” is difficult, for his laziness has allowed his way to become figuratively overgrown with thorns. According to him, he is too tired, too sleepy, mistreated, misunderstood, undervalued, and so goes the list of excuses for the “slothful man.” Such laziness inevitably leads to a life filled with failures, and frustrations.

The way of the “righteous” is described as “made plain” or smooth (15:19b). It is plain and smooth, not because man has prepared it thus, but because it is the LORD’s path. The path of the righteous is smooth, because he has been diligent and maintained his walk and way with the Lord.

Two Manner of Sons (15:20)

Proverbs 15:20 “A wise son [intelligent; wise hearted son] maketh a glad father [proud; rejoicing]: but a foolish man despiseth [disdains; shows contempt for] his mother.”

Proverbs 15:20 affords an opportunity to reflect on an earlier proverb in this chapter, that read: “A fool [mocker; rebel] despiseth [abhors; has contempt for] his father’s instruction [discipline; chastisement; warnings]: but he that regardeth [keeps; attends to] reproof [rebuke] is prudent [crafty; shrewd] (15:5).

The spiritual state of a child’s heart is not determined by intellect, talent, or outward beauty, but in how a child responds to his parent’s instruction and correction. A fool has contempt for correction, while a wise son responds with humility.  It is prudent for parents to honestly consider their child’s response to instruction and correction, not only within the home, but also with authorities outside the home.

A wise son is a father’s pride and joy; however, a fool treats his mother with contempt and disdain (15:20).

A Tale of Two Courses (15:21)

Proverbs 15:21 “Folly [silliness] is joy [mirth] to him that is destitute [without; lacking; void] of wisdom [lit. a heart without feelings]: but a man of understanding [wisdom; insight] walketh uprightly [go straight; righteous; just].”

Silly, insensitive fools have become the celebrities of our culture, and it follows that their sinful ways are modeled by the youth of this generation. “Destitute of wisdom” (15:21a), absurdity rules, immoral character governs, and sociopaths desensitized to the feelings of others have become the icons of our day. Let God’s people set their hearts to reject the folly of our day, and walk the straight path according to His Laws, precepts and commandments.

Closing thoughts – We have observed in our devotional a contrast of ways. The way of the wicked is angry, thorny, foolish, and folly. The way of the upright is God’s way, and is smooth, wise, and straight.

Matthew 7:13–1413Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

What path have you taken?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson in Child Psychology and Corporal Discipline (Proverbs 13; Proverbs 14)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 13; Proverbs 14

We began a two-year chronological study of the Scriptures last January 1, 2021, and today’s devotional is the 319threading of the year! I would count it a pleasure to hear from any who have followed me in this daily spiritual discipline. You are invited to email me at HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com. Today’s Scripture reading is Proverbs 13 and 14, and our devotional commentary will focus on Proverbs 13:24. [Words and phrases in brackets are those of the author.]

Proverbs 13

Proverbs 13:24 –“He that spareth[refuse; restrain] his rod [branch; staff; rod of discipline] hateth [detest; hate as a foe] his son [child]: but he that loveth[have affection; shows love] him chasteneth [instructs; reproves; disciplines] him betimes [diligent, early discipline].”

Does the Bible teach corporal punishment? Yes, and Proverbs 13:24 is a lesson in loving, biblical discipline. In fact, it teaches it is unloving to fail in chastening a child for wrongdoing. Remember, a shepherd would employ his staff in guiding his sheep, and a rod to protect his flock from danger (Psalm 23:4). Parents are to guide their children, and employ physical punishment as the last resort in their methods of instruction.

Nevertheless, I fear some parents might react negatively to this proverb; however, it is teaching a practice in discipline that is a reflection of God’s loving discipline of His people. Consider the following proof texts on the subject of loving discipline.

Deuteronomy 8:5 – “Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.”

Job 5:17 – “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:”

Proverbs 3:11-12 – “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12  For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”

Hebrews 12:5-8 – “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:  For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”

Loving discipline and instruction are not only advised, but the Scriptures mandate corporal instruction as a tool for education and character development. 

Proverbs 22:15 – “Foolishness [silliness; arrogance; stupidity] is bound [knit together; leagued together; conspired] in the heart [mind; desire; understanding] of a child; but the rod of correction [instruction; chastisement; warning] shall drive it far [remove; distant] from him.”

Proverbs 23:13-14 – “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest [strike; punish; smite] him with the rod [staff; stick; family sceptre], he shall not die. 14  Thou shalt beat [strike; punish; smite] him with the rod, and shalt deliver [rescue; pluck; save; preserve] his soul from hell.”

Consider today’s proverb in relation to the matter of parental training, and corporal discipline.

Proverbs 13:24  “He that spareth [refuse; restrain] his rod [branch; staff; rod of discipline] hateth [detest; hate as a foe] his son [child]: but he that loveth [have affection; shows love] him chasteneth [instructs; reproves; disciplines] him betimes [diligent, early discipline].”

Closing thoughts – Knowing the dangers of sin, and the penchant of an undisciplined soul for destruction, a loving parent will faithfully discipline his child. In fact, a parent that is unwilling to inflict temporary pain and sorrow for sin and wrongdoing, in effect abandons that child’s soul to a lifetime of pain and sorrow.

Without boundaries and parental instruction, a child will grow up to become an undisciplined adult. Such a child will be a heartache to parents, and will inevitably bring them “to shame” (Proverbs 29:15).

A closing admonition, especially for fathers: Biblical discipline is loving, and instructive, but never abusive. Paul warned:

“Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture [disciplines] and admonition [warnings] of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith