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Singing the Desert Blues (Job 30-31)

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(Additional languages available upon request by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.)

Scripture reading – Job 30-31

Our previous devotional found Job recalling the way life used to be (Job 29). He had enjoyed the blessings of God’s favor, as well as the esteem from family, friends, and fellow citizens. In former years, young men shied from his company, while elders stood in his presence (29:8). His counsel was valued (29:7-17), and he supposed he might forever be the benefactor of God’s grace (29:18-23). Of course, those were the “good old days,” before Job experienced catastrophic losses and afflictions.

Job 30

Disdained by Lesser Men (30:1-14)

Job’s circumstances were now changed, and instead of esteem, he was mocked by lesser men (30:1-14). They were young men, whose fathers he would not have entrusted with the care of sheep dogs. Those men openly disdained Job (30:1). They were slothful, and Job loathed them (30:2-4). They were “children of fools” (30:8), who sang ballads deriding his afflictions (30:9). They spat in his face (30:10), and Job’s sorrows (30:11) served as a “righteous reason” for them to treat him spitefully (30:12-13).

Wrecked by Physical Disease (30:16-18)

Grief took hold of Job (30:16), as the toll and pain of his afflictions pierced him to the bone (30:17a). His muscles ached (“my sinews take no rest”) beneath his skin, while open oozing sores exposed the extent of the infection above. Job felt as though his flesh had been exchanged – that he had swapped healthy flesh for loathsome (30:17b-18). He was well-nigh hopeless, and felt God opposed him. When he prayed, it seemed God refused to hear his cry for pity and compassion (30:19-20). He had come to a place he accused the LORD of cruelty (30:21), and felt abandoned (30:22-24).

Job complained, for the compassion he formerly extended to others was forgotten, and it seemed his good deeds were rewarded with evil (30:25-26). He moaned and groaned (30:27-30), and in the words of the late preacher J. Vernon McGee, sang “The Desert Blues” (30:31).

Job 31 – Job’s Finale and Defense

Job 31 recorded the conclusion of Job’s deposition of his righteousness, and his assertion of innocence. I invite you to consider eleven virtues stated by Job in his defense.

Personal chastity is the first virtue. Declaring he was not guilty of lusts, Job stated, “I made a covenant [vow; agreement] with mine eyes; Why then should I think [i.e., lust after] upon a maid?” (31:1)

The second virtue suggested was an assertion of innocence. Though his “friends” accused him of lies and deceit, Job demanded he be “weighed in an even balance.” He believed God would find him a man of integrity (31:5-6).

Job’s commitment to purity and uprightness was his third virtue. He declared his hands were clean of wrongdoing. In fact, he suggested, should a stain be found on his life and character, he would relinquish the fruits of his labor (31:7-8).

Marital fidelity was the fourth virtue claimed by Job. He professed he was innocent of adultery (31:9-12).

A fifth virtue was a claim to have been a faithful master, and a kind employer. Believing all men are created in the image and likeness of God, Job believed he was no better than his servants. He understood God was Creator of both the servant and his master (31:13-15).

Sixthly, Job declared he had been charitable to the poor, widows, and fatherless (31:16-20). His friends accused him of being an oppressor and abuser of the less fortunate. Job, however, wished his arm would fall from his body, had he taken advantage of the less fortunate (31:21-22).

Closing thoughts (31:23-40) – In quick order, consider five remaining virtues claimed by Job as evidence of his righteous character. While he lived in the midst of an idolatrous people, Job declared he was innocent of idolatry, for his faith and trust were in God alone (31:23-28).

He had been kind to his enemies, and never took satisfaction in their misfortunes (31:29-30). He was a man given to hospitality, and known for generosity to strangers (31:31-32). Unlike Adam, the first man who sinned and sought to hide his transgressions from God (31:33), Job declared he was innocent of hypocrisy, hiding no secret sins (31:33-37). Finally, Job stated he was honest in business (31:38-40). He had not leased another man’s field, and failed to pay him what was owed when harvest time came.

Job’s longest speech concluded (Job 31:40) with him being like most men: He boasted his virtues, but was blinded by pride, and unable or unwilling to see his flaws.

* Note – Our next devotion (Job 32) will introduce Elihu, a fourth “friend” of Job’s. His youthful zeal will heap upon Job sorrow upon sorrows.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* 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). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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The Tragic Consequences of Generational Sins (Job 20; Job 21)

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(Additional languages available upon request by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.)

Scripture reading – Job 20; Job 21

Our study of the trials and troubles of Job continues with today’s Scripture reading (Job 20-21). Admittedly, the text is dark, but the insights we gain from our study are illuminating. The chapters before us are lengthy, and at best, time and space permit only a brief commentary. As you read chapter 20, remember Zophar (the third of Job’s friends) is coming from an earthly, human vantage. His purpose was not to impart spiritual wisdom, but to assert that Job’s afflictions were the reward of the wicked.

Job 20

Job 20 is the record of the second and final response of Zophar the Naamathite (his first speech was recorded in Job 11). Zophar was offended by Job’s admonition in the closing verses of chapter 19. Job had maintained his innocence, and warned his “friends” would face God’s wrath for their harsh judgments (19:28-29). Zophar’s rebuke came swift and furious (20:1-3).

Job 20:4-29 – The Fate of the Wicked

Like his friends, Zophar inferred Job’s afflictions were to be expected by those who are wicked. His contentions revealed three erroneous opinions concerning the state and reward of the wicked.

First error: The wicked always come to destruction. (20:4-11)

Zophar suggested the rejoicing of the wicked is brief (20:4), the honors bestowed on them perishes with them, and they are soon forgotten (20:5-8). Neither of those statements are necessarily true. In fact, the wicked often live out their lives enjoying ill acquired wealth, and their funerals and tombs are often grand spectacles to behold.

Second error: The wicked do not prosper. (20:12-23)

Continuing his erroneous observations, Zophar suggested the prosperity of the wicked is brief (20:12), inevitably bites like a poisonous viper (20:13-16), and he dies in want.

The error in Zophar’s observations is evident when we remember the LORD’s parable of a rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). Beguiled with the pleasures of his riches, the rich man ordered his barns be torn down to build greater barns, and said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). Rather than die in want, the rich fool died as he lived, enjoying his wealth until he heard in eternity that he was the poorest of men: “20But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20–21).

Third error: Only the wicked suffer devastating sorrows, and catastrophic losses. (20:24-29)

Zophar maintained the wicked are struck down (20:24-25), and all he has is destroyed (20:26).  He declared the wicked feels everything is against him, until his riches are consumed by God’s wrath (20:27-28). (While it may be argued how the wicked often suffer loss; I suggest it is more often true they are rewarded by the system of this fallen world, and hailed for their ill-gotten gains, John 15:19a).

Of course, the implication of Zophar’s argument was that Job’s sorrows were a wicked man’s afflictions, and such is the lot or “heritage” God has “appointed” for the wicked (20:29).

Job 21 – Rather than Suffer, the Wicked Prosper

Job 21 recorded Job’s response to Zophar’s fallacies. He demanded his friends be silent that he might speak, and challenged them, sarcastically, after he had spoken, “mock on” (21:1-2). Job confessed his struggle was with God, and not with men (21:3-6).

Contrary to Zophar’s assertions, he observed the wicked and their children often live long lives, and enjoy prosperity (21:7-13). He contended the riches of the wicked cause their hearts to be calloused, and “they say unto God, Depart from us; For we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. 15What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” (21:14-15) The wicked fail to acknowledge they deserve nothing. Indeed,  all they have is a testimony of God’s grace and longsuffering, and the prosperity of the wicked moves them to reject God (21:16).

Closing thoughts (21:17-34) – Warning: Do not assume the wicked go unpunished.

The consequences of sin are inevitable, and the wicked are “as stubble before the wind, And as chaff that the storm carrieth away. 19God layeth up his [the wicked’s] iniquity for his children: He rewardeth him, and he shall know it” (21:18-19).

Generational Sins: Children are not punished for the sins of their parents; however, they often suffer the influence of their sins (Jeremiah 31:29-30; Deuteronomy 24:16). Three times the Law stated: “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18; Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9).

Warning: The consequences of your sins may be borne by your children.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* 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).

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A New World, and A New World Order (Genesis 9)

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Scripture reading – Genesis 9

Review – Genesis 8

After He fulfilled His Word of judgment, “God remembered Noah” (8:1), and commanded Him to “go forth of the ark” (8:16). Then, Noah “builded an altar unto the LORD…and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20).

Two things remained unchanged in the world after the flood. The first, God’s grace, for He accepted the sacrifices of Noah and his family (8:20), for they were “a sweet savour” to Him (8:21). A second object had not changed, and that was man’s sinful heart. Though He declared He would never again judge the earth as He had with the floodwaters, the LORD knew the heart of man, and judged it was sinful (8:21c). Yet, the LORD in His mercy, promised He would never again destroy “every thing living, as [He had] done” (8:21d). So, the earth continues to be blessed with its seasons, “seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (8:22).

A New World, A Renewed Covenant (Genesis 9:1-17)

The world was forever changed after God’s universal judgment, but in His grace, He “blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (9:1, 7). Man’s supremacy over nature was unchanged (Genesis 1:26, 28); however, animals began to fear man, and were terrified of him (9:2). Formerly, men were sustained by plant life (Genesis 1:29-30); however, after the flood they became omnivorous, consumers of the flesh of animals and the fruit of the earth (9:3-4).

Capital Punishment: Life for Life (9:5-6)

Genesis 9:5-6 repeated the value and sanctity of human life in the eyes of God, reminding us God created man in His image and likeness (9:6). Because human life is sacred, God established capital punishment to address all that shed the blood of man, whether man or beast (9:5). God’s justice required blood for blood (Psalm 9:12; Exodus 20:13; 21:12). Thus, a beast that killed a man, was to be put to death (9:5b; Exodus 21:28). Also, a murderer was to be put to death, for shedding the blood of another (9:6a). For that reason, government was instituted and empowered to enforce capital punishment (Romans 13:4).

God’s Universal Covenant (9:7-19)

The future of humanity was seeded by Noah’s three sons, and they were commanded to “be fruitful, and multiply” (9:7). Having accepted Noah’s sacrifices (8:22-23), the LORD established His covenant with him and his sons. What was the covenant? While it was to never again destroy the earth with floodwaters; it was much more.

The covenant promise was universal, and made to Noah, his sons, and his “seed after” him (all humanity, 9:9). I believe it was a renewal of God’s covenant with Adam and Eve; that her “seed” would crush the head (the seed) of the serpent (Satan, 3:15). It was a promise fulfilled through Noah’s lineage, and of whom Christ was born (Luke 3:36). The rainbow was more than a promise to never again destroy the earth by floodwaters (9:8-13). It was a sign God never forgets His covenant promises (9:14-17).

A Shameful, Tragic End (9:18-29)

The flood did not change man’s age-old problem—sin! Noah and his sons had witnessed God’s hatred of sin and judgment; nevertheless, they bore in their hearts the curse of sin, its effects, and tragic consequences. Though they believed God, and were saved by the Ark, they were still sinners! Noah was a just and upright man, and a man who walked with God (6:8-9); however, he and his sons were sinners.

Noah became “an husbandman” (farmer) after the flood, and planted a vineyard (9:20). Tragically, in his old age, Noah drank wine, “and was drunken” (9:21). Indiscreet in his intoxicated state, he was naked and “uncovered within his tent” (9:21). While the cause for Noah’s drunken state was not given, there are lessons we can take from this moment in history. (The first mention of wine in the Scriptures was associated with drunkenness, shame, and a curse that has continued to our day.)

Noah, the “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), became an object of scorn (9:21-23).

Whatever the excuse, Noah’s drunkenness was a spiritual and moral failure (9:21). Ham, who became the father of the Canaanites, “saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without” (9:22). The implication is he “saw” and mocked his father, unlike his brothers, Shem and Japheth, who took pangs “and covered the nakedness of their faither” (9:23). Ham took pleasure in his father’s shame, mocked and ridiculed him (9:22).

Noah’s Prophecy (9:24-29)

Noah, realizing Ham, “his younger son” (9:24), shamed him; pronounced a curse upon him and his lineage: Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren” (9:25). Why did Noah not curse Ham who scorned his father? Perhaps the best answer is that Ham was a true believer (for he had believed God and been saved by the Ark). Canaan, the grandson of Noah (10:6), would become the father of wicked nations who rejected God, worshipped idols, and were perpetual enemies of God’s people (10:15-19).

Closing thoughts (9:26-29) – Genesis 9 concluded with Noah prophesying the future of his sons, and their posterity (9:26-27), and closed with the revelation that is a certainty for all men: He died (9:28-29). Though not perfect, Noah should be remembered as a righteous man. He was a man of faith who believed, and obeyed God, saving not only his household, but the human race from physical and spiritual annihilation.

How about you? How will you be remembered?

* 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 © 2023 – 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
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Love, Marriage and Money (Hebrews 13; 2 Timothy 1)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 13; 2 Timothy 1

Our journey through the Epistle to the Hebrews concludes with today’s Scripture reading, Hebrews 13. The author has reminded the believers of the saving faith of their forefathers (naming many of the great patriarchs in Israel’s history; Hebrews 11). In chapter 12, he challenged the saints to keep the faith (12:1) and focus upon Christ, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (12:2). The believers were exhorted to accept God’s chastening, for like a loving earthly father, the Lord chastens His people that their lives might yield “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (12:11). With a reminder, “God is a consuming fire” (12:29), the writer of Hebrews closed chapter 12 by urging believers to revere the Lord and fear His displeasure.

Today’s devotional is taken from Hebrews 13:1-6.

Hebrews 13

In the closing verses of his letter, the author addressed several topics that are personal and practical in nature.

The Believer’s Relationship with the Congregation (13:1-3)

The first topic was the believer’s conduct within the congregation and was addressed in three exhortations: “Let brotherly love continue” (13:1); in other words, love is the bond that binds us as brothers and sisters in Christ. The second exhortation regarded the ministry of hospitality (13:2). Believers are not only to love one another; we are also to show hospitality and love for strangers. Imagine, there may come a time when, like Abraham in Genesis 19, you will serve “angels unawares” (13:2). Lastly, believers are to love those in prison (remember, seasons of persecution would see many confined to prisons, 13:3).

An Exhortation to Purity and Contentment (13:4-6)

“Marriage is Honourable” (13:4)

Roman society in the first century was not much different from our own. Believers who read this epistle were confronted by gross immorality. Sexual promiscuity and sodomy were ever present in the Roman world. Sadly, 21st century society has followed the same path of moral erosion, and attacked marriage as an institution. Liberal judges and politicians have impaled our homes with the whims of political correctness, and introduced a moral decadence that now threatens to destroy not only our families, but our nation.

The author admonished believers, 4Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (13:4). While society has changed, be forewarned, God has not changed. Our Creator founded and established marriage as a sacred institution between one woman and one man (Genesis 2:23-24), and none dare defile it by sexual immorality without risking the wrath and judgment of God (13:3).

Be Content (13:5-6)

Covetousness was another sin addressed by the writer (13:5). Understanding the word “conversation” implied one’s conduct or way of life, we read: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have” (13:5a). While the world of 1st century believers was different than our own, the problem of a covetous, money-loving nature was the same. In his letter to Timothy, Paul observed, “they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9). The apostle continued, “For the love of money is the root of all evil,” warning many had coveted, and were “pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Closing thoughts – Rather than trust in riches that take wings and fly away (Proverbs 23:5), we should place our faith in the Lord, who has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (13:5b). Only then might we face the world, and “boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (13:6).

If only believers would learn, happiness will never be found in money or possessions.

* 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 Character and Qualifications of Christ’s Ministers (Titus 1; Titus 2)

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Scripture reading – Titus 1; Titus 2

Continuing our chronological reading of the Scriptures, we come to The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus.Before us is one of four letters written by Paul to individual believers (the others being to Philemon, and the first and second letters to Timothy). The book of Titus was probably written following Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, and his visit to the churches on the island of Crete. Paul was freed from prison sometime after his epistle to the believers in Philippi. (The cause for Paul being set at liberty was not revealed, although some speculate his accusers failed to come to Rome and appear before Caesar to bring a witness against the apostle.)

Characteristic of his style, Paul introduced himself as the author in the first verse, and identified his calling and authority, writing: “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (1:1). As with Timothy, the apostle had a loving bond with Titus and addressed him as “mine own son after the common faith” (1:4). Titus was a Greek convert, and uncircumcised (Galatians 2:3). He was also a member of Paul’s inner-circle, whom the apostle identified as a “partner and fellow helper” (2 Corinthians 8:23). While the letter was addressed to Titus, it was likely read to the churches in Crete where he ministered (1:5).

Paul’s Charge to Titus (1:5)

Paul left no doubt that Titus was empowered to act upon his authority. The young preacher was charged with the responsibility of setting “in order the things that are wanting [needing attention], and ordain elders in every city,” as Paul had directed him (1:5). The office of the pastor is defined in two terms in chapter 1: The title “elder” (1:5)  defines the dignity of the pastoral office as “pastor and teacher,” as opposed to a novice (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:6). The title, “bishop” (1:7), defined the duties and authority of the pastoral office as an overseer. In my opinion, the titles are interchangeable for the office of pastor (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7).

The Pastor’s Character and Household (1:6)

Bearing the sacred responsibility of ordaining “elders [pastors] in every city” (1:5), Paul defined for Titus the spiritual qualifications of men who would serve the congregations.

The principal, and indispensable requirement of the pastor is he “must be blameless, as the steward of God” (1:6, 7a; 1 Timothy 3:2). “Blameless” does not mean he must achieve sinless perfection, but that his life is free of scandals (for instance, the qualifications that follow in verses 6-8 define the character of his personal life). In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he mandated the pastor “must have a good report” (1 Timothy 3:7). He must be “blameless,” because he is the steward of God,” meaning the overseer of God’s household (1:7; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

When choosing a pastor, a church must also consider his family life (1:6). He is to be morally chaste, “the husband of one wife” (1:6b). The minister cannot be divorced, nor have more than one wife. Should he have children, they are to be “faithful not accused of riot or unruly” (1:6c). A pastor cannot have children living at home in opposition to the Gospel. Though not perfect, the pastor’s children are not to be riotous (implying drunkenness or moral debauchery), or “unruly” (rebellious or insubordinate).

Five Disqualifications from the Pastorate (1:7)

In addition to being “blameless,” Paul listed five things that disqualify a man from the pastorate. He must not be self-willed, meaning dogmatic, arrogant, and self-seeking (1:7b). He must not be easily provoked to anger (1:7c). A pastor must not be “given to wine” (1:7d), nor a “striker” (contentious, 1:7e). Lastly, a minister of the Gospel is “not given to filthy lucre” (not a lover of money or possessions; 1:7e; 1 Timothy 3:3).

Six Positive Qualifications for the Pastoral Office (1:8)

Having listed five disqualifying traits, Paul followed with six qualifications required of those who serve the congregations. A minister is to be “a lover of hospitality” (1:8a; hospitable to saints and strangers; Galatians 6:10). A pastor is to be a “lover of good men” (1:8b; literally, a lover of all that is good; Philippians 4:8). He is to be “sober” (1:8c); sensible, exercising good judgment, and not given to silliness or ruled by urges (1 Timothy 3:2).

The shepherd of God’s people is to be “just” (1:8d), morally upright, and a man of integrity. He is an example to the church, and “holy” in conduct (1:8e; devout, pious, and dedicated to God, Romans 12:1-2). Finally, the man ordained to the pastorate must be “temperate” (1:8f), spiritually disciplined in his affections and desires (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Closing thoughts (1:9) – So much more could be written regarding the qualities that must be true of men called to pastor the churches, including their duty and devotion to God’s Word (1:9). I close with a word of warning:

Failure to hold ministers to God’s standard invite His judgment, and the eventual ruin of churches, Bible schools, and institutions. Tragically, one need not look far to see the evidences of that failure.

* 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.

Relational Dynamics: Children and Parents; Employees and Employers (Ephesians 6)

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Scripture reading – Ephesians 6; Philippians 1

Today’s Scripture reading concludes Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, and introduces his letter to the believers of Philippi. This is the first of two devotions, and is taken from Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 5 challenged believers to live and walk in a manner that was worthy of the Lord (5:1-5). Paul urged the saints to manifest a spirit of humility and submission, “in the fear of God” (5:21), and remember marriage between a husband and wife is a portrait of Christ’s love for His church (5:22-33). The apostle commanded: “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…[and] 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (5:22, 25).

Ephesians 6

Having addressed the institution and sanctity of marriage (5:22-33), Paul’s focus turned to the believer’s family and household. Ephesians 6 presented a portrait of the spiritual dynamics between children and their parents (6:1-4), and servants and their masters (6:5-9).

The Believer’s Family (6:1-4)

Though the majority of Galatian believers were of Greco-Roman ancestry, they were not exempt from the implications and applications of the Commandments of the Lord (Exodus 20). Knowing the 5th commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12), Paul wrote to the sons and daughters of Galatia:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise” (6:1-2). And what was the promise to those who obeyed and honored their parents? “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (6:3).

If you ponder why our society and 21st century world is troubled, you need look no further than the tragic consequences of violating the 5th commandment. It is not well with our families, communities, societies and nation. Disrespect and rebellion in the home has spilled over into our schools and communities, and is a cancer that is destroying our nation and world.

Of course, parents, particularly fathers, must bear the weight and responsibility for the failure of the family. Paul urged fathers, “provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). “Provoke not,” carried the inference of actions and attitudes that were unreasonable and incited resentment in the heart of a child. Provocations might arise from being overly protective, unreasonable in expectations, failing to affirm, or abuse (verbal or physical). Paul exhorted fathers to nurture and admonish their children (6:4b). Nurturing a child requires instruction and correction, while admonishing obliges warning, rebuking, and discipline (Proverbs 29:15, 17). How different our homes and churches would be if children honored and obeyed their parents, and fathers and mothers nurtured and admonished their children in the Lord!

The Household: Servants and their Masters (6:5-9)

The New Testament has a lot to say regarding the dynamics between the servant (slave) and his master. Servitude and oppression have been a perpetual human dynamic since the fall of man. Rather than address the question of the morality of slavery, Paul focused upon the responsibility of the servant to his master, and the relationship of the master to his servant. Because Roman culture allowed slaves to enjoy some liberties, including religion, the Galatian church would have had a membership of slaves and masters. Of course, the application to our culture is the dynamic of the employee and his employer.

The Attitude and Testimony of a Servant

Servants were commanded to be “obedient,” and to respect and serve their masters with a heart that was single in motive: “as unto Christ… as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (6:5-6). Whether a slave or a free man, a believer was to do his work, no matter how menial the task, knowing the Lord was the rewarder (6:7-8). Finally, the duty of masters, as it is with employers, was to neither threaten or abuse their servants. Instead, the master was to treat his servants fairly, according to the Law, knowing God is the rewarder, and an impartial judge (6:9).

Closing thoughts – So much more might be gleaned from this chapter, but I will leave that for a later time. For now, I encourage you to examine your relationships, and whether or not you are honoring to the Lord. Whether a child or parent, an employee or an employer, you should guard your heart and live your life above reproach.

Remember: What you sow you will reap, and God is a righteous judge.

* 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.

A World Gone Mad: The Tragedy of Moral Depravity (Romans 1)

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Scripture reading – Romans 1

This devotional is a follow-up to my earlier introduction to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, and one I believe the importance of chapter 1 warrants. Paul’s letter to believers in Rome expressed not only his love for them, but also his longing to fellowship with them for a season (1:10-11). Though his journey to Rome had been prevented (1:12-14), Paul assured the believers, “15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (1:15-16).

Paul was aware of the dark clouds of persecution already visible on the horizon, and would soon engulf the Roman empire. Tens of thousands of believers would be sent to martyrs’ deaths, and Paul felt an urgency to ground them in the faith.

The Sin of Man, and the Wrath of God (1:18-21)

We find in the balance of Romans 1, a depth and breadth of fundamental truths that humanity denies, but are universally shown. While men deny the evidences of the Creator and Divine design, nature itself gives testimony of the handiwork of God; therefore, Paul declared, “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (1:20). Creation serves as a testimony of perfect design, yet, man’s sin and rebellion has introduced a chaotic, self-destructive state, and provoked God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (1:18).

We have not seen the depth of depravity to which men will go when they deny God, and suppress righteousness and truth. Yet, we are witnessing in the 21st century a denial of the undeniable (an example, some of this generation have denied the biological evidences of two sexes—male and female). What is the lesson? Deny the Creator, and there is no end to man’s wicked imaginations (1:21).

An Attitude of Ingratitude (1:21-22)

The hardness and darkness of man’s heart is visible, and undeniable (1:21). Though the Creator is the source of life and well-being, man has rejected him and proposed an evolutionary process that has no scientific basis, and is as irrational, as it is foolish (imagine, an intricate design, but no designer…the thought is preposterous).

While the concept of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory would not be written for 1800 years, Paul diagnosed man’s spiritual crisis, writing of men, they “became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (1:21-22). The classrooms of schools, colleges and universities in the 21st century are instructed by men and women who imagine they are wise philosophers, and lovers of wisdom (1:21). Yet, having denied their Creator, they have become fools, incapable of understanding truth or making moral judgments (discerning between good and evil, 1:22).

The Depth of Depravity (1:23-27)

How foolish are men who deny the revelation of God in His creation? In Paul’s day they worshipped nature, “and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (1:23). What becomes of a world that rejects God?

There is no limit to the depths of moral depravity to which men will descend. In fact, men become slaves to sin, and “dishonour [shame] their own bodies between themselves” (1:24). Because they reject God’s truth, they worship and serve nature (1:25). Rejecting the Creator, and natural design, men and women turn to sodomy, as “women did change the natural use into that which is against nature [contrary to nature]: 27And likewise also the men, leaving [forsaking; abandoning] the natural use of the woman, burned [inflamed; raged] in their lust one toward another; men with men working [doing] that which is unseemly [shameful; indecent], and receiving in themselves that recompence [penalty] of their error which was meet [demanding the judgment of God]” (1:26-27).

Closing thoughts (1:28-32) – What a tragic portrait of man’s rebellion, and moral depravity! Man has cast aside the knowledge of His Creator, and God has abandoned him to destructive passions and lusts. Recorded in Romans 1:29-31 are twenty-three signs or indications a man, people who have abandoned God.

Romans 1:29All unrighteousness (all manner of sin); fornication (sexual immorality: adultery, prostitution, pornography); wickedness (malice; meanness); covetousness (greed; love of wealth and possessions); maliciousness (desire to hurt or harm another); envy (jealous; despising the success of others); murder (taking innocent life); debate (quarreling; contentious); deceit (lie; guile; entrapment); malignity (dishonorable; evil); and whisperers (slander; gossip).

Romans 1:30Backbiters (slanderers); haters of God; despiteful (scoffers); proud (haughty, arrogant); boasters(braggers); inventors of evil things (new means of sexual debauchers); and disobedient to parents (treating parents with disdain and disrespect);

Romans 1:31Without understanding (foolish, ignorant of God and His Law); covenantbreakers (breaking contracts, covenants, and agreements); without natural affection (lacking a natural love for family); implacable(refusing to forgive and be reconciled); and unmerciful (lack compassion; without mercy)

Sinful man is “without excuse” (1:20, 32). In spite of having the judgment of God written upon his conscience, man not only continues in his sin, but takes pleasure in watching others sin (1:32).

* 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.

Love Never Fails (1 Corinthians 13-14)

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 13; 1 Corinthians 14

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We launch today’s study of 1 Corinthians by examining 1 Corinthians 13 and 14. 1 Corinthians 13 is known to many as the “Love” chapter. 1 Corinthians 14 is especially instructive on the subject of Spiritual Gifts, with a majority of its focus on the Gift of Languages (tongues), and the Gift of Prophecy. This devotional will be taken from 1 Corinthians 13.

What is love?

The world has many ideas and definitions for love.  The Greek philosopher Plato, suggested, “Love is a serious mental disease.”  Robert Frost, the celebrated American poet wrote, “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”  Eli Joseph Cossman, inventor, entrepreneur, and author defined love as “a friendship set to music.”  American television producer and writer, Pauline Thomason, wrote, “Love is blind — marriage is the eye-opener.”

We find three forms of love in the Greek language: “Eros,” the word for sexual desire from which our English word “erotic” is derived. “Phileo,” defines the affection between friends, that might be described as a “give and take” love. Phileo is based upon a relationship that is mutually beneficial. The third word for love is “Agape.” Agape love, often referred to as “divine love,” is a sacrificial love, and is not based upon what one can get, but upon that which one can give to a relationship.

When we read of God’s love in the Scriptures, it is Agape, divine, self-sacrificing love. For instance, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Christ’s sacrificial death being the expression of God’s love for sinners; Romans 5:8). We read in John 3:16, “16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Agape love moves “a man [to] lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), and a husband to sacrificially love his wife, “even as Christ also loved [agapao] the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).

1 Corinthians 13

With the preceding explanation as our background, consider the word “Charity” in 1 Corinthians 13, which is our English translation for Agape, the Greek word for love.

The Essence of Agape Love: A life lived without love is empty. (13:1-3)

Words spoken without love are nothing more than empty noise (13:1). A man may speak with extraordinary eloquence and grace; he may capture the attention of a vast audience with his oratory skills; however, without love his words are like the clanging noise of cymbals. Knowledge and faith, in the absence of love is nothing (13:2). One might earn a great following by knowledge, discernment, and extraordinary faith, but if his motivation is anything other than love, it is worthless. Anyone can give goods in an act of self-sacrificing love; yet, to do so without love profits nothing (13:3).

We have considered the divine nature of Agape love, but what are the qualities or characteristics of Agape love? (13:4-8)

The Character of Agape Love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 present us a portrait of love that is foreign to the world, for charity is a divine, active love. (The words in brackets are the amplification of this author.)

1 Corinthians 13:4–8 – “4Charity suffereth long [patient], and is kind [willing to help]; charity envieth not [not jealous]; charity vaunteth not itself [not boastful], is not puffed up [proud; haughty]5Doth not behave itself unseemly [rude; disgraceful], seeketh not her own [self-seeking], is not easily provoked [or angered], thinketh no evil [does not keep accounts of another’s wrongdoing]6Rejoiceth not in iniquity [unhappy with injustices], but rejoiceth in the truth [rejoices in God’s Truth, or when truth prevails]7Beareth all things [suffers patiently], believeth all things [trusts; believes the best], hopeth all things [never stops hoping], endureth all things [never gives up]. 8Charity never faileth [never stops loving].”

Closing thoughts – The goal of every believer should be to develop life relationships based on the lasting qualities of Agape love. Such love is practical, and attainable, but it requires sacrifice, the kind of sacrifice that reaches into the will of man to make a deliberate choice to love, even if it comes at his own expense. Simply put, love is an act of one’s own will—it has no equal and no substitute.

Agape love is not something we earn, but it is something we give. Biblically speaking, love is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and is the foundation of the Law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40). Lastly, love is the greatest, most enduring (13:8a), and indispensable quality a believer can express (13:13).

With the love and heart of a shepherd…

* 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 Woman: She is the Glory of Man (1 Corinthians 11; 1 Corinthians 12)

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Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 11; 1 Corinthians 12

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues with today’s Scripture reading, 1 Corinthians 11 and 12. Our devotional will be taken from 1 Corinthians 11.

We noticed in 1 Corinthians 10 that Paul used God’s dealings with Israel as a spiritual lesson for the congregation in Corinth (10:1-13). The LORD had chosen Israel, and brought the nation out of Egypt as one body and one people (10:1-4). Yet, though all Israel benefited from God’s protection and provision, the people were not of one heart (10:5-6). There were idolaters, fornicators (sexually immoral), rebels, and murmurers (complainers) in the midst of the people (10:7-10). They broke covenant with the LORD, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and “were overthrown in the wilderness” (10:5). Paul challenged the believers in Corinth to learn from Israel’s failures, and not repeat their sins (10:11-13).

The balance of 1 Corinthians 10 addressed the doctrine of liberty (10:14-33). In the congregation were believers who pursued liberties (eating things “offered in sacrifice unto idols,” 8:4), even though it offended others (10:24). To them, Paul wrote, “do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offence…33Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (10:31-33).

1 Corinthians 11

The theme of love and a selfless life continued in chapter 11, when Paul exhorted, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (11:1). Paul challenged the Corinthian believers to follow his example, even as he followed and conformed his life to Christ’s example. In essence, the apostle exhorted believers to live not only selfless lives, but to do so in submission to God’s order and authority (11:1-10).

The Role and Place of the Husband and Wife (11:1-16)

Perhaps in answer to a question that was raised in a letter from Corinth (7:1), Paul addressed the role of the woman, her relationship with men, and role in the church (11:3). Like the majority of the ancient world, Corinthians might have looked upon women as second-class citizens, and on a parr with servants of the household. Perhaps the doctrine of liberty had given rise to confusion in the church, or even a defiance that threatened the peace and unity of the church in Corinth.

Paul wrote, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (11:3). Given the rebellious state of our world and the rise of feminism, I fear that verse may cause some to bristle with resentment. What was Paul teaching?

That our Creator, in His infinite wisdom, has determined a pattern of order in His creation. What is the pattern? God the Father is the head of Christ, His Son (11:3d), and “the head of every man is Christ” (11:3b). Because “Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23), every believer must accept Christ’s authority in his life (and follow His example). As a man submits to Christ and His authority, the woman is to accept her husband’s authority, for he is “the head of the woman (11:3b).

The issue was not one of superiority, but divine order. (11:4-6, 15)

A man’s submission to God was to be portrayed in him not covering his head when praying or teaching (“prophesying,” 11:4). Doing so would dishonor “his head” (his head and authority being Jesus Christ). As a contrast with that principle, even today, it befits a man to remove his hat or cap in the presence of another as a sign of respect. Thus, it was, and is important that men who pray and teach will have their heads uncovered, lest they offend the Lord.

The woman, by contrast, was commanded to keep her head covered (with a veil or shawl) when she prayed or taught (“prophesieth,” 11:5). Failure to cover her head was a sign of dishonoring God and her husband. For a woman to not cover her head was a disgrace equated with a woman shaving her head (11:6). In verse 15, Paul stated, “long hair…is a [woman’s] glory…for her hair is given her for a covering” (11:15). Yet, for a man to have long hair was said to be against God’s natural order, and “a shame unto him” (11:14).

Closing thoughts (11:7-9) – The current state of our world makes the principles recorded in 1 Corinthians 11 more necessary than ever. Feminism has given rise to a spirit that is a cancer to marriages, families, and society. Because the world has rejected God’s created order, we find ourselves living in a society unable to agree on something as obvious as the definition of male and female. God is Creator, and His plan and purposes are perfect: “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (11:8-9).

By defying God’s design, women have sacrificed their exalted role as “the glory of the man” (his honor, his ornament, his pride, 11:7), and destroyed marriages and families. The wife is her husband’s “help meet,” his completer (Genesis 2:18).

* 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.

Can A Believer Sue a Fellow-believer? (1 Corinthians 6; 1 Corinthians 7)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotional from Heart of A Shepherd.

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 6; 1 Corinthians 7

We continue our study of 1 Corinthians, and come to a passage that is extremely relevant to our day. The focus of the devotional is 1 Corinthians 6, and I begin with a brief overview of that chapter, before tackling the subject of today’s devotional: Is it right to sue a fellow believer in a secular court of law? (6:1-8)

1 Corinthians 6

The Believer’s Call to Purity (6:9-11)

The matter of one’s behavior or lifestyle is the subject Paul addressed in verses 9-11. Paul asked, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” (6:9). With that question, Paul then admonished: “Be not deceived” (6:9). Don’t believe a lie or be misled by the culture; “fornicators [sexually immoral], nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [homosexuals], nor abusers of themselves with mankind [sodomites]” will not inherit eternal life (6:9). Sexual sins are not only a violation of God’s law and commandments, they are a violation of our relationship with Christ.

Moving from the sins of sexual depravity, Paul warned, “Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (6:10). Paul reminded believers they were saved out of their sinful lifestyles, and “washed [forgiven]…sanctified [set apart to be holy]…[and] justified [declared righteous] in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (6:11)

The Believer’s Liberty in Christ (6:12-20)

While all sin is wrong and a violation of God’s Law, sexual sins were revealed to be especially egregious to God, and detrimental to the believer. Corinth was a wicked, immoral culture, and some professed to be followers of Christ, who continued in immoral conduct. Paul warned, “the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord” (6:13). The apostle taught, because a believer’s body is a “member of Christ” (6:15), we are not to defile our body with sexual sins (6:15-17).

Paul exhorted, “flee fornication” and warned: “Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (6:18). While all sins are wrong, sexual sins are destructive to body, soul, and spirit. Because a believer’s body is the “temple of the Holy Ghost” (6:19), we are to keep our bodies holy and sexually pure. We have been redeemed, and “bought with a price” (the precious blood of Christ, 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Therefore, we are under obligation to glorify God in our body, and spirit (6:20).

Paul proposed five questions to address how legal disputes between believers are to be resolved. (6:1-8)

The first question was an insinuation: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?” (6:1) In other words, when a believer comes before an “unjust” (unsaved) judge with a lawsuit of any kind, the unjust cannot rule justly, because he rules from an unjust or “Lawless” position.

The next question was a prophetic revelation: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (6:2a) When Christ comes and sits in judgment of the world, believers will not only witness His judgment, but will sit in judgment of the world (Revelation 3:21; Daniel 7:22). Paul continued, “if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge [i.e., among yourselves] the smallest matters?” (6:2b). Paul revealed how believers will sit in judgment of the fallen angels (6:3a; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Once again, the apostle asked, how is it you cannot pass judgment on matters in this life? (6:3b)

The implication was: Because believers will judge the world and the fallen angels in eternity, surely, we should find believers who are spiritually discerning, and humble enough to seek God’s guidance in judging matters between believers (6:4). Paul then declared, “I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?” (6:5)

Paul was jealous for the reputation of Christ and the Gospel, and condemned those who took disagreements before secular, unbelieving judges (6:6-7a). In doing so, believers not only hurt the testimony of Christ, but proved they lacked faith to trust God to intercede, and render justice in His way and time. In other words, it is better to suffer wrong, than be bitter and vindictive (6:7b-8).

Closing thought – While believers should not take another believer before a secular judge, we should expect the church will address a sinning believer. Should they not repent and make whole the hurt or damage they caused, the church has the responsibility to discipline, and declare the unrepentant believer “a heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:17). Tragically, the failure of the church and its leadership to intercede, often precipitates lawsuits between believers.

* 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.