Tag Archives: In the News

Sutherland Springs, Texas and One Shepherd’s Heart

November 6, 2017

Already there are a multitude of pundits weighing in on the tragedy that unfolded Sunday morning, November 5, 2017 at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, a small quiet town southeast of San Antonio.

(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The name of the gunman (whom I choose to not name), his militant atheistic views, antichristian rhetoric, failed life and empty soul will be the subject of news reports, commentary and conspiracy theorists until another tragedy grabs the news cycle headlines.

While the media will make much of this spectacle of human suffering, sorrow and death; news anchors, psychotherapists, psychologists and politicians will probe for motives and ask with faux-astonishment, “Why? How could this happen? What went wrong in this man’s life that spawned an act of violence sweeping at least 26 innocent lives into eternity?”

King David pondered the same tragic reality when he penned Psalm 2, asking: Why do the heathen [the people and nations of the earth] rage, and the people imagine [ponder; declare] a vain thing [empty; worthless]?” (Psalm 2:1).

The raging of people and the nations of the world and their proclivity for bloodshed and war dominate the nightly news of our nation and world.   Politicians pass laws, courtrooms uphold them, and law enforcement agencies enforce them in a vain attempt to keep peace apart from and in opposition to the Prince of Peace.

Psalm 2:2 – “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD [God of Heaven], and against His anointed [Christ The Messiah]

Why?  Why this provocation of sin and rebellion against God (Psalm 2:2a)? Why this hatred for the LORD and His anointed (Psalm 2:2b)?

It is because men have rejected God, His Law and the order of His creation.  The nature of man is one of sin and rebellion and when a man rejects His Creator, casts aside the “bands” and “cords” of God’s Law (Psalm 2:3), he becomes a law unto himself.

The mass murderer of 26 souls in Sutherland Springs, Texas was a fervent, irreligious atheist; a fool living like all sinners who reject God, His Law and Commandments (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).   He died declaring in word and action, his rejection of the God of heaven and earth; however, that did not diminish God’s person or the reality of His eternal judgment.

What is God’s response to the foolishness of men and nations that reject Him? 

Psalm 2:4 – “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”

Liberal politicians, their media cohorts, and anti-America\anti-liberty antagonists will make hay of this tragedy, all the while, sin and human depravity continue its path of destruction through our homes, communities, schools, churches, and nation.  Peter warned the last days would be marked by a generation of “scoffers”, men who openly mock the God of Heaven (2 Peter 3:3); holding in derision those who look for the coming of the Lord (2 Peter 3:4).

I sorrow to see the state of our nation and world and my heart breaks for families and friends whose loved ones looked into the face of evil Sunday morning, but opened their eyes in eternity to see the LORD Whom they worshipped welcoming them home.

Psalm 2:12b – “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”

Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson and Admonition for Social Drinkers

Friday, October 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Habakkuk 1-3

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” challenge continues today focusing on a small prophetic book in the Old Testament, the Book of Habakkuk.  Habakkuk was a prophet whose brief ministry served as a final warning of the LORD’s judgment on Judah for the sins of the people.  A contemporary of Jeremiah, Habakkuk’s lamentation over Judah and the imminent invasion of the Chaldeans was an ominous conclusion of a succession of warnings faithfully delivered by the prophets.

Only three chapters long, Habakkuk’s prophecies were as much an appeal to the LORD for Judah as they were a lamentation over the devastation God’s people would soon face as the invading armies of Babylon (the Chaldeans) swept over land, destroying Jerusalem and the Temple.

Habakkuk 1 is a record of Judah’s sins (1:1-4) and a warning that God would use the wicked Chaldeans to punish the sins of His rebellious people (1:5-17).  Habakkuk questioned why the LORD would use Babylon, a heathen nation whose wickedness far exceeded the sins of Judah, to punish His chosen people (1:12-13).

Habakkuk 1:13 – “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked [Babylon] devoureth the man [i.e. Judah] that is more righteous than he?”

Having questioned the ways of the LORD, the prophet waited for an answer (2:1) and the LORD graciously responded (2:2-4).  The judgment of God was set against Judah; however, God had not forsaken His chosen people, therefore, “the just shall live by his faith” (2:4; note Romans 1:16-17).

Although God would use Babylon as a tool to exact justice on Judah for the wickedness of the people, He was not blind to the sins and wickedness of the Chaldeans (2:5-20).  There are several grievances the prophet raises against Babylon, among them their drunkenness (2:5, 15-16), greed and covetousness (2:6-9), violence (2:10-14, 17-18), and idolatry (2:19-20).

Habakkuk began with a cry of lamentation over the sorrows and sufferings that would soon engulf Judah (1:1-4), but ends with the prophet praying and acknowledging the LORD’s sovereignty (3:1-2) and majesty (3:3-16).  The prophet had moved from questioning the LORD to trusting His ways and rejoicing in His faithfulness (3:17-19).

Habakkuk 3:17-19 – “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18  Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19  The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”

I close this devotional drawing your attention to two verses too many 21st century Christians trivialize and dismiss as they assail any who dare question their “Liberty”.   Berating the sins and wickedness of Babylon, one in particular is mentioned twice…wine and drunkenness (Habakkuk 2:5, 15).  The Chaldeans are condemned not only for their drunkenness, but also for giving strong drink to mock and take advantage of their neighbor.

Habakkuk 2:5 – “Yea also, because he transgresseth by wine, he is a proud man, neither keepeth at home, who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people:”

Habakkuk 2:15 – “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!”

Lesson: Wine and strong drink chart the path to unrestrained pride, shameless adultery, uninhibited lust, and gross immorality.

Warning: What foolish parents and charlatan pastors exercise in moderation, their children will practice to excess…and heartache and ruin will invariably be the end!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 122-124

We continue our study of the Psalms titled under the heading, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134).  As mentioned in an earlier devotional, the word “degrees” has been a subject of debate with some suggesting it may refer to our modern concept of musical keys.  I believe the opening verse of Psalm 122 makes a good case that the “degrees” refer to one’s ascent to Jerusalem.  It is believed this psalm was written by David and sung by pilgrims going to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the holy feasts.  David writes,

Psalm 122:6-7 – “Pray for the peace [shalom; happiness; welfare; health] of Jerusalem: they shall prosper [be safe; tranquil; secure; at rest] that love [befriend; be loving] thee. 7  Peace [shalom; happiness; welfare; health] be within thy walls, and prosperity [abundance; quietness; security] within thy palaces [citadel; castle; fortified buildings].”

There is an irony that Jerusalem, a city whose very name means “peace” or “possession of peace”, has known so little peace over three millenniums of human history.   Even in our day, Jerusalem is a city of perpetual turmoil, the target of terrorist attacks and bombings.  Surely if David were alive today he would encourage us to pray, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6a).

The call to pray for Jerusalem’s peace comes with a promise: “…they shall prosper [be safe; tranquil; secure; at rest] that love [befriend; be loving] thee” (Psalm 122:6b).

Some will argue the call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the promise of rest and prosperity to those who love the Jewish people and their land and capital city is not applicable in our day.  I feel; however, the history of humanity is proof enough God blesses and prospers those nations that seek the peace of Jerusalem.  Those nations that oppress the Jewish people and hate their land and capital city have been laid waste in times of war.

Ancient Assyria, Chaldea, Greece, Rome, and the Ottoman Turks, all enemies of the Jews, are nothing more than a footnote in history.   20th century nations that oppressed the Jews are no exception; Germany, Italy and the former Soviet Union, all devastated by war and their great cities left in ruin.

In contrast, the United States has historically been the friend of Israel and unquestionably the most prosperous nation in the world.  In my opinion, much of the trouble and turmoil dividing the United States can be credited to God withdrawing His blessing from America because of President Obama’s eight-year courtship with Israel’s Middle East enemies and that administration’s isolation of Israel.

We know from the scriptures Jerusalem, Israel and the world will not experience lasting peace until the Prince of Peace returns and establishes His kingdom.  Isaiah prophesied, the Christ-child would be born whose names and titles indicate He would be God, “called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).   However, Isaiah 9:7, promising “his government and peace there shall be no end” has yet to be fulfilled.

Praying for the “peace of Jerusalem” is in fact, a prayer for the LORD Jesus Christ to come and establish His millennial kingdom.

The LORD promised, “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. 22:20); John responded with the words I pray every time Hillsdale observes the LORD’s Supper, “Even so, come, LORD Jesus” (Rev. 22:20b).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Mass Exodus Out of Florida Returning Home

I want to thank you for your prayers on behalf of Hillsdale Baptist Church, its members and staff who anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  As our lives are getting back to normal, with the exception of some roof leaks, our church and school buildings are in great shape.  We are praising the LORD our membership suffered little damage as Category 1 and Category 2 winds whipped through our region.  Other than the inconvenience of losing electricity, we are rejoicing in God’s protection.

On a personal note:  In my opinion, sensationalism has become the daily diet of our culture and the mass exodus from Florida before and during Hurricane Irma’s arrival driven in large part to a news media given to hype and ratings.

“Breaking News”, “This Just In”, “Epic” are clichés used ad nauseam by news networks desperately competing for viewership that translates into revenue from advertisers.

The coverage of Hurricane Irma was indeed “epic” and the storm was without a doubt powerful and destructive; however, the news media’s use of images (replayed over and over) along with the hyperbole of exaggeration, ramped up both fear and anxiety that went far beyond the actual threat of the storm.

Citizens of Florida were running from the east coast to the west coast, then back to the east coast in an attempt to flee Irma based on the forecasts of meteorological “experts” that hadn’t a clue where the storm was going to make landfall or the track she would take.  Hundreds of thousands of Floridians fled homes located far from coastal waters and the predicted “surge” only to be overtaken by Irma in their northward flight (apparently, she was not listening to weather prognosticators failing to accurately predict her track even an hour ahead of her eye).

Two days before Irma’s arrival, hoarders emptied grocery shelves of food stocks and water; Gas stations ran out of gas as a panicked population clogged highway arteries.

I am left wondering what happened to the common-sense adage saints use to follow, “Prepare for the worst and pray”.

I believe the inspiration of that saying is Proverbs 21:31.   Solomon advised his son, “The horse is prepared [ready] against the day of battle [war; warfare]: but safety [salvation; deliverance; victory] is of the LORD.”

Believers are to use wisdom and exercise prudence in preparing for trials, troubles and storms (i.e. prepare the horse for battle); however, people of faith, having done all to prepare, must put their faith in the LORD who is Omnipotent and Sovereign, after all, “safety is of the LORD”, is it not?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Please Pray: God sometimes calls a nation to repent through natural cataclysmic events.

September 8, 2017

Scripture Reading – Joel 1-3

I found today’s scripture reading especially graphic in light of the devastating blow suffered by Houston from Hurricane Harvey and the path of destruction Hurricane Irma is leaving as she makes her way across the Caribbean and towards South Florida today.  Adding to the calamity in our region of the world is the news of a major earthquake in southern Mexico this morning.

A novice reader of the Bible recognizes the prophet Joel is writing about a national disaster in terms that are symbolic, nevertheless powerful.  Joel is describing the “Day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14) and the impending judgment of God against Judah.

The Book of Joel describes three catastrophic invasions.  The enemy in Joel 1 is a natural enemy…a plague of locusts that destroys the crops leaving both men and beasts starving (1:7, 10-12, 16-20).

The enemy in Joel 2 is the impending invasion by the armies of Assyria (2:1-27) described in verse 20 as “the northern army” (or the army to the north).   Joel was to sound the alarm, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion” (2:1)… warn Judah an enemy was coming.  Describing the swath of destruction, Joel warns, “the day of the LORD cometh…A day of darkness and of gloominess…a fire devoureth before them…before their face the people shall be much pained” (2:1-6).

Why? Why was the LORD bringing this upon Judah?  That the people might turn…to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (2:12-13).  Reminding the nation the LORD is “gracious and merciful” (2:13), Joel called upon Judah to repent of her sins and turn to the LORD.

Joel prayed for a national revival:  “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children…17  Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (2:16-17).

Knowing the LORD is gracious and merciful, Joel promised if the people repented, God would restore the nation, bless the land and “restore to you the years that the locust have eaten…26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied” (2:18-26).

Joel 3 is a future event…the regathering of the Jews to Judah and Jerusalem (3:1) and the Gentile nations gathering against Israel (3:2) in what I believe is the final battle…Armageddon (Revelation 16:16).   Remembering the ill-treatment suffered by the Jews down through the centuries (3:3-8),  the LORD promises to make war against the Gentiles (3:9-17).   Two Gentile nations are specifically named for destruction… “Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah” (3:19).   Egypt representing that great nation south of Israel and Edom the Arab nations to the north and east of Israel.

I close today’s devotional commentary with a personal observation as one who lives in the path of a hurricane the mayor of Miami describes as “epic”.   In a few days, after the storms have passed and the toll on life and property is assessed, there will be a national debate bordering on hysteria about the cause of these massive storms.   Some of the discussion will be sensible and scientific; however, media bias and liberal politicians will beat their drums and bewail “Climate Change” and reproach humanity as the cause.

A mere handful might dare broach the Biblical and historical reality God often calls a people to repent of their sin through natural cataclysmic events.

I am not suggesting the devastation suffered by Houston, the Caribbean and the potential of suffering in Florida from Hurricane Irma is the judgment of God.   However, I will confess the United States has turned from God, His Laws and precepts.

America is guilty of gross sins…the negligence of justice; the celebration of gross immorality; and the deaths of 60 million infants.  Of such a people we read, “for blood it defileth [corrupts; pollutes] the land [earth; country]: and the land cannot be cleansed [purged; atoned; forgiven] of the blood that is shed therein” (Numbers 35:33).

Pray for Texas, Florida and our nation to turn back to the LORD.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Sovereign of Wind and Water

September 6, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 105-107

We have three psalms before us for our scripture reading, Psalm 105, Psalm 106 and Psalm 107.

Psalm 105 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving and rehearses the LORD’s providential care of Israel, His chosen people.  The contextual timeline of the psalm begins with Abraham, runs through Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and the nation’s wanderings in the wilderness for 40 years.

Psalm 105 is a testimony of God’s care of Israel in the wilderness by a cloud to cover their journey in the day and a fire to light their way at night (105:39).   When they were hungry the LORD gave them quail for meat and manna for bread.  When they were thirsty, water gushed out of the rock (105:40-42).   When the people murmured and tempted Him, the LORD was longsuffering and remembered His covenant promise to Abraham and brought his seed into the land He had promised where they might serve Him and “observe His statutes, and keep His laws” (105:45).

Like Psalm 105, Psalm 106 is a song of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD (106:1).  Psalm 106 reflects on God’s loving care and provision for Israel in spite of the unfaithfulness of the people.  The psalm becomes a penitential psalm (a psalm of confession and repentance) when the psalmist recalls the sins of his forefathers and identifies with them his own bent to sin (106:6).   The bulk of the psalm remembers the LORD’s providential care of Israel in the wilderness and His patience with His people in spite of their sin and rebellion (106:7-48).

Hebrew scribes divide the Book of Psalms into five books: Book 1 consists of Psalms 1-41; Book 2 consists of Psalms 42-72; Book 3 consists of Psalms 73-89; Book 4 consists of Psalms 90-106; and the fifth book is Psalms 107-150.  Psalm 107 is the first psalm in the fifth and last Book of the Psalms.

Psalm 107 begins with a call to give thanks to the LORD for redeeming Israel out of Babylon (107:2-7).   The psalmist remembers how the LORD preserved His people in exile and restored them to the land He had promised Abraham would be his inheritance.  The psalmist writes:

Psalm 107:8-9 – “Oh that men would praise [give thanks] the LORD for His goodness [grace; mercy; loving-kindness], and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9  For He satisfieth [fills] the longing [seeking; hungry] soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness [good and pleasant things].”

Why should Israel praise the LORD and give thanks?

Because the LORD is good, merciful and a God of grace! 

When His people turned from Him, the LORD humbled them in prison and when they cried out He heard their cry and delivered them (107:10-16).  When they sinned and became sick, He healed them (107:17-22).   When rocked with trouble and turmoil, like seamen at sea caught in the fury of a storm who call out to the LORD, Israel called upon the LORD and He heard their cry and quieted their troubles (107:23-32).

Psalm 107:33-43 is especially pertinent for the United States after witnessing the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey ravaging the coast of Texas and the worrisome approach of Hurricane Irma for Florida.

Remembering God is Sovereign of nature, the psalmist reminds us the LORD, “turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; 34 A fruitful land into barrenness…35 the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings” (107:33-35).

Friend, God is just, and He blesses the land for the sake of the righteous and brings judgment upon the land because the wicked dwell therein (107:36-41).

Wise are they who understand the way of the LORD and walk in His commandments for “they shall understand [regard; be instructed in] the lovingkindness [mercy; goodness; grace] of the LORD” (107:43).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Millennials and their “Temper Tantrums” Are Threatening to Destroy the United States!

I once again have the privilege of preaching and teaching God’s Word in Hillsdale’s 10:30 AM and 6:00 PM services this Sunday.   I am continuing my series in Genesis titled “Lessons on Faith from the Life of Abraham” in the evening service.

I am in the midst of a Sunday morning series titled “The Commandments of the LORD” and my focus this Sunday is on the 5th Command:

“Honour [glorify; boast] thy father and thy mother: that thy days [time; years] may be long [lengthened; prolonged; draw out; endure] upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12).

Never one to shy away from difficult and controversial subjects, I plan to make some relevant observations regarding this Millennial generations’ penchant for throwing what one dear saint observed is nothing more than “Temper Tantrums”.

For nearly 50 years, America has made idols of her children and we are beginning to reap the consequences.  Parents of my generation failed to teach their children to “Honor thy father and thy mother” and now they are creating chaos and threatening anarchy!

This is the generation that was kicking and screaming in WalMart’s toy aisle, except now they are screaming in the public square.

This is the generation that was not taught to respect authority, to be quiet and listen…now they are shouting down every voice they don’t want to hear and willing to shed blood and destroy the lives of any who get in their way.

I have a prophetic warning for this nation and our politicians: 

Continue to capitulate to the demands and temper tantrums of this generation and they will not stop with demanding the removal of monuments they dislike… They will eventually silence and eliminate the voices and people who stand in the way of their demands.

I invite you to join me at Hillsdale this Sunday as I exhort parents to teach their children and challenge children to “Honor thy father and thy mother”.

For those who follow this years’ scripture reading schedule and my daily devotional commentary, the following are readings scheduled for today and Sunday:

Saturday – Scripture Reading – Gospel of John 7-9

Sunday – Scripture Reading – 2 Timothy 1-2

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2-17 – Travis D. Smith