Tag Archives: Integrity

Marvelous Grace! (Acts 15; Acts 16)

Scripture reading – Acts 15; Acts 16

I introduced you to James, the author of the Epistle of James, in a prior devotional. He was believed to be the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), and the head of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17). That same James appears in today’s Scripture reading in the role of the senior pastor\elder of the congregation in Jerusalem.

Acts 15

Today’s Scripture reading chronicled the growth pangs of the 1st century church. While the church began with Jewish converts, the growing number of Gentiles who believed presented a theological crisis. Because there were historic prejudices between the Jews and Gentiles, it was inevitable that conflicts would arise in the Antioch congregation that was comprised of both Jews and Greeks. The arrival of “men which came down from Judaea” (15:1a) created a conflict that threatened not only the unity of the church, but questioned the foundational doctrine of salvation by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The men of Judaea taught, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (15:1b).

Paul and Barnabas confronted the dissension that was created by those men, and it was determined they, along with other men, should “go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about [the] question” (15:2). The same debate soon raged in Jerusalem as believers “of the sect of the Pharisees” maintained that Gentile believers must not only be circumcised to be saved, but also be commanded “to keep the law of Moses” (15:5).

The Jerusalem Council (15:6-21)

The apostles and elders gathered as representatives of the congregation, and listened as the dispute over circumcision raged (15:6-7a). Peter finally arose, and declared what had already been agreed upon in an earlier council (15:7b). It had been determined the Gospel was not only for the Jews, but for all men (Acts 10:1-48). When Cornelius, a Roman centurion heard the Gospel and believed, God gave him the indwelling of the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:44-48). Peter observed how God had “put no difference” between the men of Jewish ancestry, and those who were Gentile. All sinners come to salvation by faith (15:9).  Peter declared, whether Jew or Gentile, “we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” (15:11).

Then, the people fell silent, as Paul and Barnabas shared how the Lord had validated their preaching and teaching by “miracles and wonders” that only the LORD could have produced (15:12). James, whom I believe was the senior pastor\elder of the Jerusalem congregation (Galatians 1:19), declared he was in agreement with Peter (i.e. Simeon, 15:14). He reminded the believers how the prophet Amos had foretold that Gentiles would be a part of God’s kingdom (Amos 9:11-12). James counseled the members of the church to accept the doctrine of salvation by grace though faith alone, and not overburden Gentile believers with instructions that were not required for salvation (15:19-21).

There was a consensus to accept James’ summary, and affirm the decision in writing. Furthermore, two men of the Jerusalem congregation were chosen to accompany the letter, and act as representatives of the church to believers in Antioch (15:20, 22-23). The letter also urged Gentile believers to, “abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood” (15:20), truths from the Old Testament they needed to know and practice.

The Effect of the Letter Addressed to Antioch Believers (15:31-41)

The letter affirming salvation by grace alone stirred up a spirit of rejoicing among believers (15:31). Silas, one of the two men sent from the Jerusalem congregation, remained in Antioch, and became a missionary peer of Paul (15:34). Paul and Barnabas “continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord,” and “many others also” became teachers and preachers (15:35).

Closing thoughts (15:36-41) – The concluding verses of Acts 15 remind us that, though Paul and Barnabas were giants of the faith in the early church, they were nevertheless human. With the dissension over the doctrine of salvation by grace resolved, Paul announced his desire to journey and visit believers in the cities and towns where he and Barnabas had “preached the word of the Lord” (15:36). Yet, Barnabas insisted on bringing John Mark (15:37), whom Paul opposed for he had deserted them in Pamphylia (15:38). The quarrel between the two men was so great, they separated themselves, “and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus” (15:39).

There has long been a debate regarding who was right concerning John Mark, Barnabas or Paul? I could make several arguments on this point, but because Paul was an apostle and Barnabas was not, I wonder if Barnabas failed to submit to authority? Another point in Paul’s favor is, when he and Silas departed, they were “recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God (15:40). The same affirmation was not said of Barnabas and John Mark. Nevertheless, at the end of his life and ministry, Paul wrote of John Mark: “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

In the providence and sovereignty of God, John Mark not only came to Paul’s aid, he would later author the Gospel of Mark! What marvelous grace!

* 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 Key to Overcoming Trials and Troubles (James 4; James 5)

Scripture reading – James 4; James 5

Continuing our study of trials, troubles, and temptations, we consider today’s Scripture reading, James 4 and 5. This devotional is taken from James 4.

James 4 opens with a provoking question: “From whence [where] come wars [battles; conflicts] and fightings[disputes; quarrels] among you?” (4:1) Sadly, that question was not addressed to the unsaved, but to those who professed to be believers and were members of the church. Twenty-one centuries later, churches find themselves asking the same question, as some are embroiled in conflicts and disagreements.

Why do conflicts arise in a body of believers, when they are commanded to love one another? (4:2-3)

We noticed in James 3, how the tongue is a primary candidate for inciting trouble in friendships, marriages, families, and churches (3:2a, 6, 8). An unbridled, undisciplined tongue will exasperate, infuriate, and bring envy and strife. Unfortunately, the “tongue” is no longer confined to whispers and gossip. The 21st century has given the tongue new means of expressing itself, sowing discord, and provoking conflict through texting, emails, blogs, and social media posts (4:1).

It comes as no surprise that the “wars and fightings” of the 21st century have their origin in the same source as the 1st century. James writes, “Come they [“wars and fightings”] not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (4:1b) The author cited unfulfilled, selfish desires as a root of frustration. James wrote, “2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain… ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (4:2-3).

Why are so many church members frustrated and unhappy? (4:4-6)

Although the culture of the 1st century was very different from our day with its technology, conveniences, and amusements; nevertheless, the issue was the same: spiritual infidelity (adultery) and worldliness, which produces unhappiness (4:4-6). James warned, embrace the world and its sinful lusts (1 John 2:15-17), and you will find yourself “the enemy of God” (4:4). Walk humbly, and the Lord promises grace, but be forewarned: He “resisteth the proud” (4:6; Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5).

Ten Commands to Overcome Temptation (4:7-10)

James presented us with the problem (man’s sinful pride), but he did not leave us hopeless. Understanding trials and temptations are ever present, James stated ten commands that encourage a righteous response to trials and troubles (James 4:7-10).

1) “Submit…to God, by accepting His sovereign authority in your life (4:7a).
2) “Resist the devil” by opposing him, “and he will flee” (4:7b).
3) Maintain an intimate fellowship with the LORD: “draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (4:8a).
4) “Cleanse your hands,” submitting to His conviction (4:8b).
5) Have spiritual integrity, “and purify your heart,” knowing a “double minded” man is unacceptable to God (4:8c).
6) “Be afflicted” and broken over your sin (4:9a).
7) “Mourn,” expressing a genuine sorrow for sin (4:9b).
8) “Weep” tears, and express outward sorrow (4:9c).
9) Set aside silliness, and “let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (4:9c).
10) “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (4:10).

Closing thoughts (4:11-17)

Believer, you are not exempt or insulated from trials; however, you have something the world does not—the Lord. He longs for you to submit to His will, obey His Word, and cling to Him. Remember, unhappiness and conflicts arise when we become proud and self-sufficient (4:11-12). Remember: Your life is “even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (4:14). Be wise, acknowledge the sovereignty of God, and say, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (4:15).

Proverbs 3:55Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding.

* 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.

Persevering in Trials, and Overcoming Temptations (James 1; James 2)

Scripture reading – James 1; James 2

Our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures continues with a brief departure from our readings in the Acts of the Apostles, and picks up in the book of James. Completing our prior study of Acts 14, we found Paul and Barnabas returning from their first missionary journey to towns and cities in Asia Minor (an area we know today as modern Turkey). Jews and Gentiles were professing faith in Christ, being baptized, and added to the church daily. That diversity, Jew and Gentile (many of them of Greek and Roman backgrounds), introduced differences that arose between the circumcised Jews and the uncircumcised Gentiles. (That will be a topic of study in Acts 15, when Paul and Barnabas journey to Jerusalem and account for their ministries to Gentiles.)

Why interrupt our study of the Book of Acts, and focus on the Epistle of James? That question is answered by identifying its author.

Introduction (1:1)

The “Epistle of James” is a letter that bears the name of its author. The writer introduced himself and his recipients in the opening verse: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes [the Tribes of Israel] which are scattered abroad [dispersed], greeting [rejoice; be glad]” (James 1:1).

With humility, James identified himself as “a servant,” a slave to “God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). There are several men identified as James in the New Testament; however, this James did not feel the need to introduce himself, perhaps because he needed no introduction. By the time this epistle was penned, the apostle James, brother of John and the son of Zebedee was martyred (Acts 12:2), and thereby eliminating him as the author. Most scholars identify the writer as James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), being born of Joseph and Mary. We know James and his siblings were not followers of Jesus until after His crucifixion, death and resurrection (John 7:5). Acts 1:14, however, identified Jesus’ “brethren” among those who assembled in “an upper room” after He ascended to heaven.

This same James was recognized as a leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). In a future devotional, Paul and Barnabas will give account to the believers in Jerusalem, and it will be this James who addressed the assembly (Acts 15:13) of apostles and elders. James was also mentioned by name with leaders of the church in Acts 21:18. The letter was addressed “to the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad” (some of the captivity who never returned to Israel, and others recently scattered by persecution, 1:1b). You will find the Epistle of James is practical, insightful, and convicting.

A Righteous Attitude Toward Trials and Temptations (1:2-4)

James opened his letter with a bold exhortation for believers: “My brethren, count [regard; judge] it all joy [a cause for rejoicing] when ye fall [stand in the midst of] into divers [various] temptations [trials]; Knowing this, that the trying [testing] of your faith [what you believe] worketh [performs; works out; produces] patience [steadfastness; endurance]. But let patience [steadfastness; endurance] have her perfect [maturing; complete] work, that ye may be perfect [mature] and entire [complete], wanting nothing [i.e. lacking not one thing]” (James 1:2–4).

Means to Overcome Trials and Temptations (1:5-12)

What should you do when you face hardships and persecution? Ask God for wisdom (1:5), trust Him (never give in to doubts and fears, 1:6), and rejoice (1:9). Whether you are brought low by poverty, or tempted to be exalted and dependent on riches, remember wealth is temporal (like grass that withers, or flowers that fade, 1:10-11). Do not forget, the person who loves the LORD will be blessed, when he endures trials (1:12).

Origin of Trials and Temptations (1:13-18)

Among the great truths we might take from trials and troubles, is foremost the promise God will never tempt you to sin (1:13). In fact, when you are tempted to sin, remember temptations arise from within the heart: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (1:14). Some might whine, “the devil tempted me;” however, the appeal to sin arises from lust seeded in the heart of sinners, and comes with a death sentence: “sin, when it is finished bringeth for death” (1:15).

The effect of lust and sin is death (Hebrews 9:27). Sin deals a death-blow to marriages, families, careers, hopes, and one’s health. Sin ends with physical, spiritual, and eternal death (Romans 6:23). Remember: God is the source of only good (1:16-18).

Closing thoughts (1:19-27) – How might believers prepare for trials and temptations? I find three major principles that answer that question in the closing verses of James 1.

1) Be Quick to Hear the Word of God, and Slow to Speak (1:19-21). In other words, obey God’s Word (1:19), restrain your anger (1:20), and renounce any sin that comes between you and God (1:21).

2) Be a Doer of the Word, not a Hearer Only (1:22-24). Hearing, but failing to obey God’s Word ends in self-deception (1:22). The Word of God is a perfect, flawless spiritual mirror of man’s soul, if he will remember what it reveals, and obey its truths.

3) Bridle Your Tongue (1:26). Some appear pious, and spiritually devout; however, if they do not bridle their tongues, they are self-deceived and their religion is vain and empty.

A devotional study of James 2 will need to wait for another year.; however, I conclude our study of James 1, by spotlighting the qualities of a sincere heart: Selfless and compassionate (caring for orphans and widows), and unstained by the sins of the world (1:27).

How’s your heart?

* 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.

Be Strong in the LORD and Bold in Your Witness! (Acts 7; Acts 8)

Scripture reading – Acts 7; Acts 8

Recorded in Acts 7 and 8 are two of the great pivotal points in the maturing of the early church: The death of Stephen, the first martyr of the church (Acts 7); and the conversion of Saul the great persecutor of the church (Acts 8).

We first met Stephen in Acts 6 when he was named among the seven men chosen to assist the apostles in the rapidly growing congregation. Though there is some debate, I believe the seven were the first Deacons, one of only two Biblical offices in the New Testament church, the other being the Pastor\Elder (1 Timothy 3).

The role of the seven was defined as serving tables (Acts 6:2), meaning the menial, but intimate care of the members of their assembly. Particularly noteworthy was the spiritual character that was demanded of those who would be Deacons. Those men were to be “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).

Of the seven chosen, Stephen, was specifically distinguished as a man, “full of faith and power, [who] did great wonders and miracles among the people” (6:8). His testimony and boldness in faith, spiritual wisdom, and power in the spirit made him a formidable witness among those in the synagogues (6:9-10).

As it was with Christ, so it was for Stephen; the enemies of the Gospel were determined to silence him. After arresting Stephen, evil men were employed to bring false accusations against him (6:11-13). Hurling lies against his character, those who sat in the council were amazed, for his countenance was “as it had been the face of an angel” (6:15).

Having heard the charges of his accusers, Stephen was asked by the high priest, “Are these things so?” (7:1).

Stephen’s defense reflected a breadth and depth of knowledge in the Old Testament Scriptures, that made his argument before the council powerful and convicting (7:2-53). He systematically set forth a historical case for Christ beginning with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon (7:2-50). Concluding his defense, Stephen fearlessly rebuked the council, exposed their hypocrisy, and charged them and their fathers with the deaths of the prophets (7:51-53).

Rather than answer Stephen’s indictment, the lawless members of the council broke their laws, and without an answer or passing judgment, stoned him to death (7:54-58).

The religious hypocrites were guilty. They were guilty of the blood of the prophets, and having already rejected Jesus Christ, they added to their condemnation the blood of Stephen. There was, however, one exception in that crowd of mockers: “the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul”(7:58). Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the church, would soon come face to face with the reality of a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

Closing thought – I trust Stephen’s knowledge of the Scriptures, and his courageous example will stir your heart to study the Old and New Testament Scriptures, and embolden your faith to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ.

* 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.

“His Hour Was Come” (John 13)

Scripture reading – John 13

Though the Gospel of John is not a Synoptic Gospel, it does present us with many eyewitness accounts of events that are recorded in the other Gospels. For instance, in John 13:1-2 we have the apostle’s brief account of Christ observing the Feast of Passover with His disciples (the same that we studied in Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; and Luke 22:13-20).

Like one who reflects fondly on a loved one’s last words, John looked back and wrote, “Jesus knew His hour was come” (13:1). Already, Judas had agreed with the chief priests, to betray our Lord for thirty pieces of silver (Luke 22:2-5). His act of treachery fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah: “So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12b).

Identifying himself as the one “leaning on Jesus’ bosom…whom Jesus loved” (13:23), John gave His readers insight into the drama when Jesus revealed one of the Twelve would betray him (though none suspected Judas, 13:21-30). John also gave an account of the conversation when Peter boasted, “Lord…I will lay down my life for thy sake” (13:37), and Jesus foretold, “The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice” (13:38; Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:31-34).

Love and Humility: Jesus Washed the Feet of His Disciples (13:4-12)

Of the four Gospels, only John recorded that Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. We read, “3Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself” (13:3-4). Although an awkward moment for men who often debated who would be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom (Luke 22:24), the disciples allowed Jesus to wash their feet. Only Peter objected to this act of servitude, and asked, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?” (13:6)

Background – Foot washing was a cultural practice in that day, as households lacked the modern convenience of plumbing and running water. Wealthy citizens of towns and villages would bathe in public baths, and then walk home on dusty streets. Arriving at the house, a servant would meet the master, wash his feet in a basin of water, and dry them with a towel. You see, washing feet was the work of the lowest servant in the household.

Jesus washing the feet of His disciples was an act of love and humility. Imagine, as He washed their feet, among them was Judas, the one who would betray Him. Surely, it was one thing to wash the feet of His disciples; however, it was another to wash the feet of an enemy (13:2, 11). What humility! What grace! What love!

Closing thoughts – In closing, consider with me three spirit traits or heart attitudes we find Christ modeling as He washed the feet of His disciples. The first, persevering love: We read, Jesus “having loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end [continually; to the uttermost]” (13:1).

A second trait was unpretentious humility: He washed “the disciples’ feet [and] wiped them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (13:5). Perhaps it was this act which moved Paul to exhort believers in Philippi when He wrote, “Let this mind [attitude] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus… 7 [Who] took upon him the form of a servant [slave], and was made in the likeness of men [became man]” (Philippians 2:5, 7b).

Finally, in a day when so many are self-serving, we find Christ modeling enduring commitment, for He commanded His disciples: “If I then, your Lord and Master [teacher], have washed your feet; ye also ought [duty, obligation] to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (13:14-15).

Believer, we are duty bound by Christ’s example and His love, to serve others. Do you know, the world will always make room for one more servant?

Will you be that servant?

* 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 Parable of the Laborers and a Gracious Master (Matthew 20)

Scripture reading – Matthew 20

The story of the farmer who hired day laborers to work in his vineyard is among my favorite of the parables (20:1-16).  Jesus told the parable as He was making His final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.  (19:1; 20:17).

Background of Matthew 20

The LORD, had traveled south along the eastern shore of the Jordan River, and encountered a man that Luke identified as a “rich young ruler” (Luke 18:18). Identified as a “ruler,” he was likely an influential leader in his local synagogue. The young ruler came and asked Jesus, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (19:16)

He boasted he had kept all the Commandments, but supposed there was a “good thing” he might do to have eternal life (19:20). Then, Jesus asked the man to give up the thing he loved most, his possessions: “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor…and come follow me” (19:21). Matthew observed, “when the young man heard [i.e. and understood] that saying, he went away sorrowful [grieving; sad]: for he had great possessions [estate; property]” (19:22).

As the rich man turned and walked away, Jesus declared to His disciples, “a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (19:23).   Peter, often the spokesman for the disciples, inquired of Jesus, “Behold we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (19:27)

The Twelve had left everything and endured three years of sacrifice to follow Jesus.  They had forfeited their homes, families, and friends.  They had endured hardships and suffered mocking, scorn, and persecution.  All this left Peter wondering, “LORD we have been with you from the beginning, what is our reward?”  That question was the backdrop for the Parable of the Laborers (20:1-16) that serves as an illustration of God’s grace and justice.

The Parable of the Laborers (20:1-16)

The owner of a vineyard realized his harvest was greater than his family and servants could harvest in a timely manner.  In the parable (20:1-16), the farmer went into the village on five occasions, in the same day, to hire men to work in his vineyard.  The first workers were hired at the 6:00am shift (20:1-2) and agreed to work in the vineyard for a “penny a day” (actually one “denarii”, the daily salary of a Roman soldier and a large sum for a day laborer).  Four additional hires would follow that day: 9:00am, 12 Noon, 3:00pm and the final hire at 5:00pm. All were hired without a stated salary, but with the promise the owner of the vineyard would give them “whatsoever is right” (20:4, 7).

With 6:00pm marking the end of the workday, the owner directed his foreman to pay the laborers beginning with those who were hired at 5:00pm, meaning the last hour (20:8).  To their amazement, the ones who worked only one hour were paid the same wage (a penny or denarii) as those who labored all day beginning at the 6:00am hour.

Demonstrating the jealousy and covetousness that abides in the heart of sinful man, those men who negotiated a penny wage at 6:00am “supposed that they should have received more” (20:10).  Envious and resentful, the workers began murmuring and complaining against the owner of the vineyard, and accused him of being unjust. They protested they should have received more (20:11-12).

A Lesson in Grace and Salvation (20:13-16)

The owner (a picture of Christ) of the vineyard rebuked those who labored all day (a picture of the Twelve), and reminded them they had negotiated and agreed to what they were paid (20:13-14). Furthermore, it was the owner’s business, and not the workers, to choose the wage other laborers were paid (20:15).

Closing thoughts – Whether a sinner comes to Christ as a child or, like the penitent thief on the cross in his last hour, every believer is assured of heaven and eternal life (20:16). Why? Because every sinner is saved by a gift of God’s grace, and none can earn or merit salvation and forgiveness of sin. Whether you have known and served the LORD since childhood, or you came to trust Christ as Savior in the latter years of life, all mankind are saved on the same basis: God’s mercy and saving Grace (His favor that no works can merit).

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Titus 3:5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

* 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.

Where is your treasure? (Luke 12)

Scripture reading – Luke 12

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12. Once again, we are considering a passage that has been treasured by believers for two millennia, and one that provokes conviction in the hearts of sinners. Christ cautioned His disciples regarding things men ought to fear (12:1-12). We are to fear hypocrisy (12:1-3), but not fear those who persecute or threaten our life (12:4). We are to fear the LORD, for He has the authority “to cast into hell” (12:5), and He knows all things; “even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (12:7).

Beginning with Luke 12:13, the LORD addressed a sin that has been the malady of humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve—the sin of covetousness. When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed she consider the fruit of the tree God had forbidden, the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Initially, Eve resisted the temptation; however, the more she considered the forbidden fruit, the more she pondered what the serpent (Satan) suggested were its benefits. She observed the fruit God forbade was “good for food,” was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Tragically, she coveted what God had forbidden, and “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:6-7).

The sin of covetousness goes by many names and is expressed in many evil ways. Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are but a few words that define a sin that has driven men to self-destruction, and eternal damnation. Consider a parable Jesus told that aptly defined the enslaving, damnable nature of covetousness. The appeal of a man at odds with his brother concerning an inheritance prompted the story of the rich fool. In the Jewish culture, the eldest brother had the right of inheritance, and the man who came to Jesus was most likely a young brother seeking a portion of his father’s estate (12:13-15).

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (12:16-21)

Jesus told the story of a rich man whose “passion for possessions” could not be satisfied. Even when he was blessed, and his barns were filled and overflowing, he was not satisfied. So, the rich man determined to build greater barns, and boasted within himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (12:19).

Sadly, the sum of the parable has been repeated and condemned by the LORD since the fall of man: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”(12:20)

What prompted this enduring illustration of covetousness?

It was the request of a man whose “passion for possessions” had taken precedence over the natural affection one brother should have for another. The man came to Jesus demanding, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (12:13).  The Law was clear regarding inheritance, yet this brother was discontented, and demanded his inheritance out of a heart of greed.

Jesus knew the heart of that man, and recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as a judge in a matter where the law had clearly spoken, Jesus warned: “Take heed [be quiet; i.e. listen], and beware of covetousness [i.e. greed; a desire or craving to have more]: for a man’s life consisteth [i.e. is defined by] not in the abundance [surplus; affluence] of the things which he possesseth” (12:15).

Closing lesson: A fool sets his affections on riches, and eventually finds himself a slave to them.

Luke 12:2121So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Where is your treasure?

* 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.

A Sin More Grievous Than the Sins of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10)

Scripture reading – Matthew 10

Though accompanied by His disciples, Jesus had ministered to great crowds as a solitary figure. With multitudes coming, Jesus needed fellow laborers who would assist in teaching and preaching the “Good News” (9:36-38). Moved with love and compassion, Jesus declared to His disciples: “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few” (9:37). With that declaration, He challenged them to Pray (9:38), Go (10:1-6), and Preach (10:7, 27). (note – This is the first of two devotionals for today.)

Matthew 10

Matthew 10 marks a fundamental shift in Christ’s public ministry. The Twelve whom He had called to be disciples(lit. students, pupils, learners), Jesus now commissioned to be apostles (lit. one sent out).  In Mark 3 we read Jesus “ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mark 3:13-15). Among the Twelve named (10:2-4) was one whom Matthew identified as “Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him” (10:4). The future of the Gospel ministry and the Church would rest upon the Twelve, less the traitor Judas Iscariot.

The disciples, now apostles, were commissioned to “Go” (10:5-7), and given two directives. 1) They were told where not to go, “Go not into the way [road; path; lifestyle] of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not” (10:5). 2) The second, they were told where (or rather to whom) to go: “Go rather to the lost [dying; bound for destruction] sheep of the house of Israel [Twelve Tribes; lineage of Jacob]” (10:6).

We find in Matthew 10:7-15, the message of the apostles: “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (10:7); the ministry of the apostles, for they were to “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils” (10:8a). In manner, the apostles were to be selfless, humble, and faithful: “freely ye have received, freely give. 9Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, 10Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat” (10:8b-10).

The apostles were to be discriminating of where they stayed, and to whom they ministered (10:11-14). Should a city or town reject their message, they were instructed to deem it “not worthy…[and] depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet” (10:13b-14).

Closing thought – Bear in mind the principle, “unto whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). The apostles were told the judgment of God would fall heavier upon those who heard the Gospel and rejected it, than when the wrath of God fell upon “the land of Sodom and Gomorrah” (10:15).

A sobering truth: The weight and degree of God’s judgment will be greater on those who have heard the Truth and rejected it, than it upon those who have little or no knowledge of God’s Word.

Hebrews 10:26a, 29a, 30a26For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins…29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God…30For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord.”

* 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 Character of a True Disciple (Matthew 11; Luke 11)

Scripture reading – Matthew 11; Luke 11

Our Scripture reading is Matthew 11 and Luke 11. Our devotional will be taken from Matthew 11.

Matthew 11

Coming to Matthew 11, Jesus commanded His disciples to depart “and teach and preach” in the cities and villages of Galilee (11:1). Jesus continued alone and great crowds followed Him. Many listened to Him teach, witnessed His miracles, and were preoccupied with wondering: Is Jesus the long-awaited Messiah? Would He deliver Israel from Roman occupation and restore the nation to her glory? Even John the Baptist, imprisoned by Herod, questioned and “sent two of his disciples, who asked, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? (11:2-3)

Blessed like no other region in all history, the cities and villages about Galilee were privileged to have Christ living in their midst. Though they heard Jesus teach, and witnessed miracles of healing no man could do apart from God’s power, yet, there were many who rejected Him. Like discontented children (11:16-17), they were never satisfied and were harsh in their criticisms of John the Baptist for not eating and drinking as they (11:18). Yet, those same critics would turn about and condemn Jesus, saying, He was “gluttonous…a winebibber…[and] a friend of publican and sinners” (11:19).

Jesus condemned the cities and villages of Galilee, for they had benefited from His presence and ministry, though many lacked faith (11:20-24). Comparing Chorazin and Bethsaida to Tyre and Sidon (two Phoenician cities of ancient days known for their wickedness), Jesus warned, “I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you” (11:22). Even Capernaum did not escape Jesus’ admonishment, for He likened that city to the wickedness of Sodom, warning, “it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee” (11:24).

“Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luke 12:48) was the spiritual principle Jesus illustrated when He compared Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum with ancient cities known for notorious wickedness. In the day of God’s judgment, Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom and Gomorrah will fare better than self-righteous Capernaum (11:21-24). Imagine how much worse God’s judgment might be upon our generation that has multiple copies of Scripture in our homes, and the freedom to gather and hear the Word of God preached and taught.

Closing thoughts (11:25-30) – The Pharisees and scribes oppressed the people with their harsh, onerous traditions and interpretations of the Law. Yet, the salvation Jesus offered was simple and good (11:25-27). Matthew 11 concluded with an invitation to those who bear the weight of sin: Come to Christ by faith and obtain that which works can never attain (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). His invitation was a simple, threefold command.

Matthew 11:28–3028Come [follow] unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden [physically and spiritually weary], and I will give you rest. 29Take [take up] my yoke upon you [be my disciple], and learn of me [submit; obey]; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

What a contrast to the harsh, demanding legalist of Jesus’ day, for He was “meek and lowly in heart,” and promised rest (11:29-30). Submissive followers of Christ do not find the Laws and Commandments of the LORD burdensome and legalistic!  Sincere believers will love, obey, and find “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2-3), and find rest for their souls in His eternal Truth.

* 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.

When Fears and Doubts Assail (Luke 7; Matthew 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 9; Luke 7

This is the second of two devotionals for today, and is focused on the Gospel of Luke, chapter 7.

Luke 7

Some of Jesus’ greatest miracles are recorded in Luke 7. He healed a dying servant in response to a Roman centurion’s faith (Luke 7:1-10; note also Matthew 8:5-13). He also raised the son of a poor widow from the dead (7:11-17).

John Questioned: Was Jesus the Messiah? (7:18-23)

We are made privy to an intriguing conversation when the followers of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, came to Jesus. On behalf of John, his disciples asked if Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (7:18-35).

Lest we be hard on John the Baptist, remember he had been imprisoned several months for confronting king Herod’s adultery with his brother’s wife (3:19-20). The hardships of prison, his isolation from the people, and knowing his life and ministry were nearing the end, John wanted assurance Jesus was the promised One, Israel’s Messiah.

Rather than give a rebuke to John, Jesus responded to the questions posed by John’s followers with reassurances. In ancient times, miraculous works were considered a proof text of one’s power from God. Scripture says, “in that same hour [Jesus] cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight”, in essence showing the people He was who He said He was (7:21). Having performed miracles no man could explain apart from God, Jesus commanded John’s followers, “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (7:22).

Who was John the Baptist? (7:24-34)

As John’s disciples departed, Jesus turned to the people and affirmed the ministry of His forerunner (7:24-28). He hailed John’s character saying, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).

Closing thoughts – We do not know the number of disciples who followed John the Baptist. Yet, in his most vulnerable hour we find there were “two of his disciples” (7:19) to whom he expressed his earnest longings and desires. John “sent them to Jesus saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?” (Luke 7:19b).

Application – If there was never a greater prophet than John “born of women,” and he struggled with doubts, surely, we should be prepared when the same affliction befalls us. Providential for John, there were two men in whom he could confide and express his doubts. What a comfort to see Jesus was patient when John’s disciples questioned Him, and His opinion of John the Baptist was not diminished. What a wonderful, caring, understanding, compassionate Lord we serve!

* 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.