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The Only Solution to Racial Prejudices (Acts 10; Acts 11)

Scripture reading – Acts 10; Acts 11

We are continuing our study of the Acts of the Apostles with today’s Scripture reading, Acts 10 and 11. What exciting times those were following the ascension of Christ (Acts 1), and the coming and baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The powerful, unapologetic preaching of the Gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, 3:12-22)) spawned a movement that saw thousands trust Christ as Savior, be baptized and added to the church (2:41).

Yet, that same message of hope enflamed a conviction among the enemies of Christ, who determined to silence the preaching with threats and persecution (Acts 4-5). While persecution brought sorrow and physical suffering, it was the martyrdom of Stephen that was the catalyst for believers at Jerusalem to be “scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria” (8:1). Saul, the great persecutor of believers, was the instrument God used to thrust believers out of Jerusalem, preaching Christ wherever they went (8:3-4). Of course, Saul’s salvation and transformation (Acts 9) became a powerful testimony of the Gospel to believers and the unsaved. Those with whom Saul once consulted in his persecution of believers, then “took counsel to kill him” (9:23).

Acts 10

A Centurion Named Cornelius (10:1-8)

Acts 10 opened a new era in God’s redemptive plan, as a “man in Caesarea called Cornelius” (10:1) received a vision from God (10:3). Who was Cornelius? He was a Roman soldier, a centurion, an officer over 100 soldiers (10:1). Though a Gentile by birth, Cornelius had come to believe and “feared God with all his house” (10:2). He was “a devout man” who cared for the poor, and “prayed to God always” (10:2).

To Cornelius, a man of faith, God gave a vision of an angel who affirmed the Lord had not only seen his good works, but heard his prayers (10:4). The angel commanded Cornelius to send men to Joppa (modern Tel-Aviv), where they were to go to the house of “Simon, a tanner,” and find Peter (10:5-6). He was assured Peter would tell him “what thou oughtest to do” (10:6). Obeying the angelic messenger, Cornelius sent two servants and a “devout soldier” to Joppa (10:8).

God Prepares Peter’s Heart (10:9-23)

Unbeknownst to Cornelius, God was preparing Peter’s heart with a vision that forever changed not only his heart, but also the preaching of the Gospel. We find Peter praying on the housetop about the noon hour (10:9), and as he became hungry, he witnessed heaven open and a “great sheet” being lowered on which there “were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” (10:12). Then, the Lord spoke and commanded him, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat” (10:13). But Peter answered, saying, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (10:14). The Lord spoke again, and then a third time, saying, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (10:15-16).

Providentially, as Peter wondered what the vision meant, the men sent by Cornelius arrived at the house where he was staying. Standing at the gate of the house, they “asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there” (10:18). Peter, not knowing men were at the gate, was commanded by the Spirit, “Behold, three men seek thee. 20Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them” (10:19-20).

Peter went down from the housetop as he was told, and found three men waiting as he had been told. Remember, though he knew he was commanded to go with the men, he did not know they were Gentiles until he saw one of the three was a soldier of Rome. They introduced themselves as men sent by Cornelius, a centurion whose testimony was great “among all the nation of the Jews” (10:21-22). No doubt taking a lesson from his vision of the unclean animals on the sheet, Peter invited the three men to lodge with him that night, promising “on the morrow” he would accompany them to Joppa (10:23).

Cornelius’ Preparation (10:23-33)

The next day, Peter and six other Jewish witnesses traveled to Caesarea, and came to Cornelius’ home where he waited with “kinsmen and near friends” he had called to hear Peter (10:23-24). Even “as Peter was coming in [into the house], Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him” (10:25). Peter, evidencing humility, said to him, “Stand up; I myself also am a man” (10:26). Peter, reflecting on his vision of the unclean beasts and the command, “kill and eat” (10:13, 28), understood the interpretation of the vision and said, “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (10:28).

Cornelius shared the vision he had received, and the command for him to send for Peter (10:30-33). In a wonderful testimony to the working of God’s Spirit, Cornelius humbly confessed, “we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God” (10:33).

The Breadth and Power of the Gospel Message (10:34-43)

Peter began to teach the Gentiles who had gathered in Cornelius’ house, and confessed, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (10:34-35). Declaring Jesus Christ “is Lord of all,” Peter realized the Gospel was not for Jews only, but was a message for all sinners, Jew and Gentile (10:36). He reminded his audience how Christ’s coming was first published among the Jews by the “baptism which John preached” (10:37), and the ministry of “Jesus of Nazareth” was manifested by good works (10:38).

Peter’s message reached its pinnacle when he declared he was a witness “of all things which [Christ] did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: 40Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly” (10:39-40). Confirming Christ’s bodily resurrection, Peter declared he “did eat and drink with [Jesus] after He rose from the dead” (10:41). Even the prophets were witnesses of those things, “that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (10:43; Isaiah 53:11; Jeremiah 31:34; Zechariah 13:1).

The Salvation and Baptism of Cornelius’ Household (10:44-48)

As Peter concluded his message, the Holy Ghost fell upon Cornelius and his household, for they had not only heard his words, but believed (10:44). The Jewish witnesses with Peter were astonished, as Gentiles began to manifest the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, speaking with tongues and glorifying God (10:46). Peter then, commanded Cornelius and his household “to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (10:48). The hunger for truth was so great, the young believers begged Peter to stay with them for several days (10:48b).

Closing thoughts – Take time to read Acts 11, and consider Peter’s glowing defense and declaration that salvation had come also to the Gentiles (11:1-18). Acts 11:22 gives us the record of the first missionary sent out by the church, and once again it is Barnabas who was chosen (Acts 4:36; 11:22-25).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Dilemma of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (Matthew 19; Mark 10)

Scripture reading – Matthew 19; Mark 10

Today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 19 and Mark 10, begin with a question that has troubled many down through the centuries, and continues to be misunderstood in our day: “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3; Mark 10:2)

The issue of divorce was a matter of debate in Jesus’ day, and the Pharisees approached Jesus, hoping to pull Him into the dispute (Matthew 19:1-12). They came, “tempting Him” (19:3), to discredit Christ in the eyes of the public, and diminish His following. In an effort to place Jesus at odds with the Law, and their own liberal interpretation of the Law concerning divorce, the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every [any] cause?” (19:3)

There were two schools of thought on the matter of Divorce in Jesus’ day.

One school, known as Hillel, held a liberal interpretation of divorce, and was adhered to by the Pharisees and the majority of 1st century Jews. Hillel, a judge in Israel, taught a man could divorce his wife for any reason. Yet, a woman was not permitted to divorce her husband. A second school, named Shammai after its founder, represented the conservative, unpopular view on divorce. Shammai argued divorce was unlawful, except in the case of adultery.

Divorce became a widespread practice among the Jewish people, and some Pharisees were guilty of multiple divorces (and often for the most absurd reasons). In contrast, those same Pharisees refused to allow a wife to divorce her husband for any cause!

Wisely, rather than take the side of the adherents of Hillel or Shammai, Jesus answered the Pharisees’ question on marriage and divorce, and directed them to the authority of the Scriptures (19:4-6).

Divorce is a Violation of Biblical Principles and Precepts

Divorce violates the Creator’s plan and design for man and woman. Citing the writings of Moses, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (19:4; Genesis 1:27; 2:24)

Divorce is a violation of God’s design for marriage which is “one flesh” (19:5). A man is commanded to leave his father and mother and “cleave to his wife” (19:5-6a). A man’s bond with his wife is to overshadow all human relationships. Though man and woman come together as two distinct lives, husband and wife are to be “one flesh,” physically, emotionally, and spiritually (19:6).

Divorce violates the sanctity of marriage. God decreed what He “hath joined together, let not man put asunder”(19:6b). It was God’s design, and His command, that what He had “joined (or yoked) together,” no man, court, or judge had the power or authority to “put asunder” (meaning to separate).

The Pharisees disregarded Jesus’ appeal to consider the Scriptures as their authority in the question of divorce. They asked: “Why did Moses then command [charge; order] to give a writing [certificate; bill; paper] of divorcement, and to put her away [dismiss; divorce]?” (19:7) Those hypocritical religious leaders were not interested in God’s standard, design, or plan for marriage. They were looking to justify their sin, and disallow the sanctity of marriage. They suggested Moses as a defense for their distorted interpretation of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Jesus answered their question, rebuking, and exposing their wickedness as a violation of God’s will and design for marriage (19:8). Leaving no room for ambiguity, Jesus spoke plainly: “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (19:9)

Closing thoughts – Divorce was never God’s plan, and the only grounds for divorce is “fornication,” meaning sexual conduct with anyone who is not one’s spouse (19:9a). Jesus’ conclusion came as a shock to His disciples, who suggested, “it is not good to marry” (19:10).

Remembering God’s purpose and design for marriage was companionship, our Creator observed Adam, and said, “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God, therefore, made one woman for one man, and Adam the first man was complete (Genesis 2:22). Adam and Eve were “one flesh,” and their union was designed to be inseparable (Genesis 2:24).

Lesson: Divorce is a rejection of God’s plan and design for mankind, and He is the witness of all covenant vows of marriage (Malachi 2:14b).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Prodigal Son, and the Question of Divorce (Luke 15; Luke 16)

Scripture reading – Luke 15; Luke 16

Today’s devotional reading continues our study of the Gospel of Luke. Chapters 15 and 16 contain some of the most beloved parables taught by our LORD. The Lost Sheep (15:4-10), The Prodigal Son (15:11-32), The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13), and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31) are illustrative of God’s longsuffering and love. Because the latter used a man’s proper name (Lazarus), some suggest it was in fact an actual story, and should not fall into the category of an allegory (parable).

Luke 15

The parable of The Prodigal Son (15:11-32) is among the most beloved of all the parables. Notice there are three main characters in the tale: the loving father, the prodigal who was the younger son, and the eldest son who was proud and unforgiving. Because the tale is so well-known, I will limit my observations to a few remarks.

The first two verses reveal the setting and circumstances that prompted the story: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (15:1-2).

As you read the drama between the father, and his sons, notice the parallel between the actors in the parable and those mentioned in Luke 15:1-2. The “publicans and sinners” were like the rebellious younger son, who “wasted his substance with riotous living…and began to be in want,” yet, were received by Christ (15:14). The Pharisees and scribes, like the elder brother who refused to accept his younger brother, resented and criticized Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners (15:2, 28-30). Of course, the father who received his younger son, forgave and restored him as a son, was a picture of Christ’s love for sinners (15:2b, 20-24).

Luke 16

This chapter opens with The Parable of the Unjust Steward (16:1-12), and concludes with the dramatic story of The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31). In the midst of the chapter are five verses that seem to interrupt the flow of the narratives, until we remember they embodied Christ’s response to his adversaries (16:14). The Pharisees, often used the occasion of Jesus teaching the people as an opportunity to criticize and confront Him. Having listened to the parable of “The Unjust Steward” (16:1-13), the Pharisees “who were covetous” (16:14) began to “deride” Jesus, openly mocking Him before the people.

Rather than retreat, Jesus answered the derision of the Pharisees and used the occasion to expose their hypocrisy.  He accused those religious leaders of aspiring for men’s venerations, and unmasked the hypocrisy He knew was in their hearts (16:15).

The Pharisees, who considered themselves experts in the law of God, listened as Jesus said, “16  The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: since that time the kingdom of God is preached [marked by the coming of Jesus Christ], and every man presseth [pushes by force; forcing his own way] into it. 17  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle [small stroke of a pen] of the law to fail” (16:16-17).

John the Baptist was the bridge from the prophets and prophecies of the Old Testament, to Christ, and His preaching the gospel of “the kingdom of God” (16:16-17). Then, Jesus addressed an issue of Old Testament law the Pharisees had distorted… marriage and adultery— “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (16:18).

The Pharisees had failed to uphold the sanctity of marriage being between one man and one woman as God designed (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:4-10; Ephesians 5:28-33). Those hypocrites had mislead the people, and misinterpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They gave liberty for men to divorce their wives for the silliest of reasons.

Closing thoughts – I close today’s devotional with a few parting thoughts.  The first, God’s will and His design of marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman. Furthermore, the Scriptures are abundantly clear–God hates divorce (“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away,” Malachi 2:16).  On a personal, and closing note: I believe the only grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery, and I cite three proof scriptures for my authority in the matter.

Matthew 5:31-32 – “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 – “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 – “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

So much more might be said on the subject of marriage and divorce, but I will address that topic at another time.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“The Soul That Sinneth, It Shall Die” (Ezekiel 18)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 17; Ezekiel 18

Ezekiel 18 – A Parable of “Sour Grapes”

The LORD left no doubt that the sins of the people had brought sorrows and judgments upon Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem. Yet, there was a question that arose in Babylon: Who was responsible for the calamities?

Speaking in a parable, some said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2) In other words, there were some who blamed Israel’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their fathers and forefathers. God rebuked that generation, and declared an enduring, universal truth: 4Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die”(18:4)

A Hypothetical Study of Three Generations (18:4-20)

One’s personal responsibility for sin and its consequences was the subject, and this passage answers some important questions regarding the justice and fairness of God’s judgment. 1) Are sons punished for the sins of their fathers, or fathers punished for the sins of their sons? 2) If a father chooses a godless lifestyle, is it inevitable a son will follow in his steps? Because “blame shifting” is epidemic in our day, Ezekiel 18 should interest both believer and unbeliever.

A Righteous Father (18:5-9)

God blesses a man who chooses righteousness, and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9). Such a man obeys the Commandments of the LORD. He will not commit adultery, nor oppress those who are weaker (18:6b-7a). The righteous restores the surety to a debtor, does not plunder and rob others by violence, and is charitable to those who are hungry and in need (18:7b). The righteous do not crush a debtor with exorbitant interest, and conducts himself in a lawful manner (18:8). Because he walks in accord with the statutes (ordinances and decrees) and judgments (laws) of the LORD, and deals honestly with others, he is declared just before God, and will live and prosper (18:9).

A Wicked Son (18:10-13)

What if an adult son of a righteous man refuses to follow his father’s godly example, and instead turns to a path of wickedness? Should the father be punished for the sins of a son that is a robber and murderer? (18:10) Should a father be punished because his son offers sacrifices to idols, commits adultery, abuses the poor, robs others, and is immoral (18:11-12)? When a son charges excessive interest, and oppresses debtors, should his father go unpunished? Though his father was righteous, such a son will bear the guilt of his own sins, and “shall not live…he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him” and not his father (18:13).

A Righteous Grandson (18:14-18)

Each generation bears responsibility for its sins, and God will not punish a father for the sins of his son (18:10-13). Should a son see the sins of his father, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17). A wicked father, as a wicked son, will not go unpunished for his sins (18:18-20).

Who you gonna’ blame for your troubles and sorrows? (18:20-24)

Ezekiel repeated the principle of personal, individual responsibility, writing, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (18:20). The LORD is longsuffering, and ready and willing to forgive the sinner who repents and turns from his sins (18:21-22). After all, God does not delight in seeing the wicked die in their sins (18:23).

What if a righteous man turns and follows a path of sin? (18:24a) His past righteousness will not deliver him from the consequences of his present sins (18:24b).

Closing thoughts (18:25-32) – Sinners cannot accuse the LORD of being unjust (18:25). The believer who sins will be punished (18:26), and the wicked who repents of his sins will be forgiven and live (18:27-28). Tragically, family members suffer the consequences of their loved one’s sinful choices. Yet, God is just and He will not judge and condemn the innocent for the sins of the guilty (18:29-30). God will judge every sinner “according to his ways” (18:30).

Our study concludes with a wonderful invitation: When a sinner repents, the LORD promises to give “a new heart and a new spirit” (18:31). While the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a), the LORD invites all who sin, saying, “turn yourselves, and live” (18:32).

Don’t wallow in a mire of self-pity, or blame others for your sinful choices!  Repent, and live!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Character of a Dying Culture (Lamentations 4) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

Our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” will conclude with today’s Scripture reading. My devotional study will be presented in two parts. This is the first, with the focus upon Lamentations 4.

Lamentations 4 – The Consequences of Judah’s Sins and God’s Judgment

Stretched before Jeremiah were the ruins of Jerusalem, with its streets strewn with rubble, and in the midst the bodies of the dead. Jeremiah had spent his life calling upon the people to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Yet, as he surveyed the scene before him, he saw everywhere the reminders of God’s wrath.

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

Jeremiah recorded in graphic detail the afflictions suffered by his people because of their sins. As you read this passage, understand we are studying a description of a rebellious, dying culture. It was the sin and wickedness of the people that brought Jerusalem to this sad state. Once a city that shone bright as gold, she was tarnished by sin, and her sons, once the pride of the nation, were no better than “earthen [clay] pitchers” (1:1-2).

Adding to the moral decline of the city was the wantonness of the women. The virtue of womanhood, and the nurturing nature of mothers is always the last vestige of civility in a culture. Yet, the women of Jerusalem had become worse than brute beasts. Whereas it is in the nature of beasts to “give suck to their young ones,” the daughters of Jerusalem were become cruel (4:3). Caring only for themselves, the women neglected their children, and left them athirst and starving (4:4).

The wealthy and powerful, once consumers of delicacies, were now found roaming the streets of the city, homeless and destitute (4:5).

Jerusalem’s Sins Demanded a Judgment that Exceeded Sodom (4:6-11)

The judgment of Jerusalem surpassed the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 19). What sin was committed in Zion, the city of David, that demanded a greater judgment than ancient Sodom which was known for its moral depravity?

Because Jerusalem was chosen by the LORD to be the home of His sanctuary, it was that privilege that incited the wrath of God. The people had broken covenant with the LORD, and defiled His Temple. For that wickedness, the wrath of God lingered. Sodom was mercifully destroyed “in a moment” (4:6), but the sufferings in Jerusalem appeared to have no end.

The “Nazarites” (believed to be the nobility of Jerusalem) had enjoyed a favored life of ease (4:7). Unlike the general population who labored under the sun, these were the privileged few whose skin was described as “whiter than milk,” but now were reduced to starvation, and their skin blackened by the sun (4:8). Jeremiah observed, those who died by the sword were “better than” those dying of hunger (4:9). The horror of want and depravity was surmised in this, for the women who once nurtured their children, were cannibalizing them (4:10).  All this was a testament to the wrath of God (4:11).

The Leaders Had Failed the People (4:12-22)

The prophets had warned the judgment of the LORD was imminent, but the kings of other nations and the people of Judah believed the great walled city was unassailable (4:12).

Who was to blame for the fall of Jerusalem? The answer may surprise you. Though the kings of Judah had committed great wickedness, it was “the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, That [had] shed the blood of the just in the midst of her” (4:12). Lying prophets and sinful priests of Jerusalem had failed the nation (4:13). Judah’s spiritual leaders despised the righteous, and persecuted them (4:14). Their guilt was so great, they were become like a spiritually leprous people (4:15). They had despised faithful priests, and rejected the elders (among them was Zechariah and Jeremiah, 4:16).

Rather than heed the warnings of judgment, the nation looked to men and allies to save them (4:17). When king Zedekiah and his family fled the city, the soldiers of Babylon hunted them down (4:18; 2 Chronicles 36:5-6; 2 Kings 25:1-7), and pursued them like eagles through the mountains and into the wilderness (4:19-20). Yet, the LORD did not forget those who persecuted His people, and the Edomites were warned they too would drink from the cup of God’s judgment (4:21). The sins of Edom would not be forgotten (4:22).

Closing thoughts – Have you considered the sins committed by Judah, and the sinful character of her people tragically resemble the world of our day?

My own nation, once the envy of the world, is like tarnished gold (4:1). The American dollar, once the currency of the world, is fallen into disgrace. Politicians continue to transform our military into a showcase of social depravity (4:2), rather than strength and honor. Motherhood is despised by brazen women demanding the liberty to quench the lives of the unborn. Our leaders have betrayed us, and preachers and churches have become hollow shells of sin and depravity. The righteous are despised, and the faithful calling for repentance are scorned.

Like Jeremiah of old, do we not find ourselves praying, “God save America”?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Who is Teaching Johnny?” (The Four Be’s of Parenting) – this Sunday at Hillsdale.

You are invited to join me as I continue a brief, “politically incorrect” family-life series titled, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” this Sunday, May 15, 10:30am.

The morning worship service will be broadcast live at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org (Tampa, FL) and www.DailyTestify.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

How Will You Be Remembered? (Jeremiah 35)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 35

The drama between the prophet Jeremiah (32:2; 33:1), and Zedekiah king of Judah, was interrupted in Jeremiah 35. I do not know why Jeremiah’s narrative interjected an incident from the reign of Jehoiakim (the third to the last of the kings of Judah); however, the occasion is certainly instructive for 21st century believers.

Jeremiah 35 – The House of the Rechabites

We are introduced to the “house of the Rechabites” (35:2), who were not Hebrew by lineage, but associated with the house of Israel initially through Moses. The Rechabites were descendants of the Kenites, original inhabitants of Canaan. Jethro (Exodus 18:12), Moses’ father-in-law was a Kenite (Judges 1:16; 1 Chronicles 2:55). The Rechabites were a nomadic people, and believers in Yahweh.

A Lesson in Fidelity (35:2-11)

The LORD commanded Jeremiah to summon the Rechabites to the Temple, and set before them “wine to drink” (35:2). The men of Rechab were directed to a chamber off the Temple, where a test of their devotion would be seen by others (35:3-4). Obeying the LORD, Jeremiah “set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and [the prophet] said unto them, Drink ye wine” (35:5). The Rechabites, however, refused to obey Jeremiah, and said, “We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever” (35:6).

Who was Jonadab? He lived some 200 years before Jeremiah, and was of the Kenite clan, and a son of Rechab. While he was not descended from the Tribes, he had been a mighty man in Israel and was numbered among those who cut off the lineage of Ahab, the wicked king of Israel (2 Kings 10:15-28). Desiring to see his people continue their nomadic way of life and not be enticed by the world and its pleasures, Jonadab instructed the Rechabites to “drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever: 7Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers” (35:6b-7).

Two hundred years later, the Rechabites continued to obey Jonadab’s instructions (35:8-10). However, because of Babylon’s invasion, and raiders from Babylon and Syria ravaging the country, the Rechabites were forced to abandon their tents and move into Jerusalem (35:11).

Judah and Jerusalem Rebuked (35:12-17)

The Rechabites faithfulness to the teachings of Jonadab served as a backdrop to Jeremiah rebuking the people’s unfaithfulness to the LORD (35:12-13). While the Rechabites continued to honor the teachings of Jonadab, a man who lived two centuries before (35:14), Judah and Jerusalem refused to obey the LORD (35:14b).

The LORD sent prophets and called on the people to forsake their sins and idols, and repent, but they refused to obey Him (35:13). The Rechabites, in contrast, obeyed Jonadab’s instructions, though he was a man. Judah and Jerusalem would not hear or obey the LORD (35:15).

Because the people refused to obey the LORD, and put away their idols and sinful ways, Jeremiah warned, God would bring upon them “all the evil [He had] pronounced against them” (35:17).

God Promised to Bless the Rechabites (35:18-19)

Remembering the LORD is Judge, and His judgment is just, Jeremiah declared the LORD would bless the Rechabites. They had obeyed the commands of a righteous man, and “kept all his precepts” (35:18). Therefore, the LORD determined He would bless their faithfulness. While many households of Judah and Jerusalem would perish, the LORD promised He would remember the household of Rechab, and Jonadab’s lineage would never be without a son (35:19). True to His promise, 150 years later, a descendant of Rechab is named among those who returned to Jerusalem with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 3:14).

Closing thoughts – How different our lives and families would be, if we would deny ourselves the sins and pleasures of the world! Will you choose to be a Jonadab in your generation, and seek to leave a godly lineage?

I fear the majority of believers are busy championing their liberties, and few are willing to consider their legacy and lasting testimony. In the words of an old gospel song,

“This world is not my home; I’m just passing through.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

What Love Is This?

Scripture reading – Hosea 2; Hosea 3

Hosea 1 introduced us to the prophet Hosea, and God’s command that he take a “wife of whoredoms” (1:2). That unequal marriage was purposed to serve as a vivid portrait of the spiritual adultery Israel had committed against the LORD. Like the harlot in this tragic tale, God’s people had broken covenant with Him, and worshipped and served idols.

Hosea 2

Hosea 2 opens with the plea of a heartbroken husband, for Gomer (Hosea’s wife and the mother of his three children) had left her marriage and abandoned her family (2:1). Hosea appealed to his younger children, Ammi(without the prefix “Lo,” rendering the youngest son’s name “my people,” 1:9; 2:1), and his daughter Ruhamah(again without the prefix “Lo,” thus meaning “loved,” 1:6; 2:1), “Plead with your mother…let her therefore put away her whoredoms” (2:2).

Drawing a parallel with Gomer’s adultery and Hosea’s sorrow as her husband, Israel had committed spiritual whoredom (2:3), and the LORD warned He would withhold His mercy and compassion they had taken for granted as a nation (2:4).

God’s Chastening (2:5b-13)

Like Israel, Hosea’s wife was guilty of ingratitude (2:5b-9). She took for granted her husband’s loving care, and foolishly turned to her lovers to meet her needs (2:5b).

Just as Gomer, Hosea’s wife, was unappreciative of her loving husband, so Israel took  for granted the LORD’S love for them. The nation “did not know that [the LORD] gave her corn, and wine, and oil, And multiplied her silver and gold, Which they prepared for Baal” (2:8). The LORD therefore, determined He would remove His blessing from the nation (2:9).

Although the people continued to celebrate the Lord’s feast days (2:11), their heart was far from God. They had forgotten the LORD, and He promised that their sins would inevitably bring them to an inglorious, humiliating end (2:12-13).

Redeeming Love (2:14-23; 3:1-5)

Compassion (2:14-23)

Hosea loved his wife, even as the LORD loved Israel. Reflecting God’s love for His wayward people, the prophet promised to restore Gomer as his wife. He promised to “allure her” and to meet her needs by giving “her her vineyards” (2:14-15).

Again, we read a parallel of Hosea’s love for Gomer in God’s promise to remove the idols where Israel had gone a whoring, and re-establish His covenant with them (2:18). In spite of the spiritual waywardness of the nation, God promised He would restore His people with “lovingkindness, and in mercy” (2:19).

Hosea 2:19-23 has not been fulfilled, but one day it will be fully realized when Jesus Christ reigns on David’s throne. Then the LORD will say “Ammi” of the children of Israel, “Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (2:23).

Command (3:1)

The prophet’s scandalous marriage to Gomer was the backdrop to a portrait of Israel’s unfaithfulness to the LORD. The nation had left the LORD, broke covenant with Him, and committed spiritual whoredom with the idols of the heathen nations. In that same way, Gomer played the harlot, broke her covenant of marriage, and rejected her husband’s love (3:1).

Cost (3:2-3)

In spite of her transgressions, and the shame Gomer had brought to her husband and household, God commanded Hosea to find his wife and restore her.  Hosea sought and found her…a broken, wasted woman, being sold in the slave market (3:2). There he purchased his wife for “fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley,” half the price of a household slave (3:2).

Yet, the prophet lovingly assured Gomer of his commitment, and invited her to abide with him. If she would set aside her adulterous ways, he would restore her as his wife (3:3).

Closing thoughts – Hosea’s love for Gomer was a portrait of God’s forgiving, unconditional love, and compassion for Israel (3:4-5). Hosea prophesied, though Israel had played a spiritual whore, the day would come when the LORD would restore His people (3:5).

I remind believers, the love the LORD expressed for wayward Israel is the same love He has for His church, and has commanded a husband to have for his wife. We read,

25Husbands, love your wives, even as [to the same degree] Christ also loved [sacrificially loved] the church, and gave himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:25)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“An Amazing Story of Grace, Forgiveness, and Enduring Love” (Hosea 1)

Scripture reading – Hosea 1

Hosea was the first of the minor prophets (minor in the sense that their books are not as lengthy as those of the major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). He was God’s prophet to Israel (the northern ten tribes), and was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah (whose ministry focused primarily on Judah).

Scholars believe his ministry would have spanned sixty or more years, for he was prophet during “the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel” (1:1). Hosea’s ministry concluded about the time Assyria conquered Israel and led the people away into captivity.

The Book of Hosea chronicles the ministry of one man who courageously, and faithfully warned God’s people that their wickedness and rebellion had provoked the wrath of God, and His judgment was imminent.

Hosea 1 – Romancing an Unfaithful Wife

The Command (1:1-2)

The book of Hosea opens with a startling command: “The Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (1:2).

Hosea was probably a young man when the LORD commanded him to take a wife. As a prophet, he would have had a testimony that was honoring to the LORD and worthy of His calling. Yet, the LORD commanded Hosea to take a wife who would bring shame and dishonor to his life and ministry. Some may debate if “Gomer” (1:3) was a harlot when he took her as his wife, and if not, then she would soon evidence the bent of the “children of whoredoms” (1:2).

The children of Israel had broken their covenant with the LORD, and played the spiritual harlot. Even so, Hosea was to marry a woman who would break the marriage covenant and bring heartache and disgrace to his ministry (1:2).

The Children (1:3-9)

Hosea “took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim” (1:3), and she conceived and gave birth to three children. Her firstborn was a son, whom the LORD commanded Hosea to name “Jezreel” (1:4) meaning “God sows” or “God scatters.” His name foretold the scattering of Israel as a people among the nations of the earth.

Gomer then gave birth to a daughter, whom God commanded be named, “Lo-ruhamah” (1:6), implying “Love withdrawn” or “Not Loved.” The LORD had determined He would no longer “have mercy upon the house of Israel” and would “take them away” (1:6-7). Lo-ruhamah’s name was a reminder the LORD’S love for Israel was unconditional; however, the people had broken their covenant with Him and disobeyed His law and commandments. The LORD would therefore withdraw His loving protection of them as a nation.

Hosea’s third born was a son whom he named, “Loammi” that interpreted meant, “not my people” (1:9). As a nation, Israel had committed spiritual adultery, and the LORD had determined He would divorce them as His people.

The Comfort (1:10-11)

Hosea 1 ends with the LORD promising, though Israel had forsaken Him, He would not altogether reject them. Affirming His love and covenant with the people, “the children of Israel would grow as a people, and their number would “be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered” (1:10). Though in the immediate, they would be displaced from their homes and land as a nation, Hosea prophesied there would come the day when the LORD would declare, “Ye are the sons of the living God” (1:10).

Hosea 1:11 has not been fulfilled to date, and the remnant of Jews in the modern nation of Israel are much like Gomer, for they are spiritual adulterers with the world. There is a day coming when “the children of Judah and the children of Israel [will] be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head” (1:11). Who will rule Israel? The LORD Jesus Christ when He comes as Judge and King.

Closing thoughtsHosea, whose name means “Deliverer or Savior,” was a model of the LORD, and his wife Gomer was a dramatic reminder that Israel had broken her covenant with the LORD, and had turned to serve and worship idols. Israel’s spiritual adultery demanded God’s judgment, but His love would not forget, or cast them aside forever (Zechariah 10:9).

What a wonderful, loving, and longsuffering God we serve! Great is His faithfulness!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith