Tag Archives: Ministry

If You Had One Wish…What Would You Choose?

September 19, 2017

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 1-5

We come today to a new history book in our daily reading in the Old Testament.  2 Chronicles, like 1 Chronicles, are parallel books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings.   While 1 Kings and 2 Kings are written from the viewpoint of man; 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, covering the same age as the Book of Kings, are written from God’s perspective.

1 Chronicles concluded with King David’s benediction on his life and exhortation for Israel to give allegiance to Solomon as king and support him in the greatest undertaking of his life and reign as king…building a Temple for the LORD in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 29:1-25).   With understated fanfare, David, Israel’s greatest king, “died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead” (1 Chronicles 29:28).

2 Chronicles opens with Solomon sitting on his father’s throne and the power and blessing of God resting upon him (2 Chronicles 1:1).   Solomon began his reign where all men should begin their day…he worshipped the LORD (1:2-6).   God appeared to Solomon “and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee” (1:7).

What an incredible proposition!  Solomon, ask what you will and I shall give thee!  I wonder, what would you request should you have opportunity to ask for something, for anything, and it would be granted?    Would you ask for riches?  Possessions?  Power?  Popularity?  Fame?   The answer to that question reveals a lot about your character!

Solomon’s humble request no doubt puts us all to shame!  His request was not for those things which is the pursuit of carnal, worldly-minded men.   Solomon’s desire revealed a heart of deep humility.

2 Chronicles 1:10 –  “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?”

God commended Solomon for his request and promised to reward him with not only wisdom and knowledge, but also “riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (1:12).   The closing verses of 2 Chronicles 1 reveal the vastness of Solomon’s wealth as the LORD blessed him as He had promised.

2 Chronicles 2–4 gives us the record of Solomon directing the building of the Temple as his father David had instructed him.  The design, the carvings of wood and the gold that overlaid the walls and doors made the Temple Solomon built one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

With the Temple complete (5:1), Solomon directed the golden vessels assembled by his father David and the ark, representing the earthly presence of God among His people, be brought to the Temple (5:2-9).   With the ark in the “holy place”, the people celebrated with singing, trumpets and cymbals praising the Lord, saying, “For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever” (5:13).

Having reflected on the glorious beginning of Solomon’s reign and his humility before the LORD; it saddens me to recall the spiritual and moral failures that would overshadow his accomplishments, wisdom and knowledge.  Of Solomon, we read:

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

That same truth has played out in the lives of some I have known.  Too many saints go to their graves, remembered, not for their accomplishments, but for the tragedy of their moral failures.

Friend, don’t allow that to be true of you; discipline your heart, thoughts, eyes and affections.   Follow Job’s example:

Job 31:1 – “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Financial Needs and Hurricane Irma (FL) and Hurricane Harvey (TX)

Dear Followers of Heart of a Shepherd and Hillsdale families,

As you are aware, Hillsdale Baptist Church was focusing on helping churches in Houston, Texas impacted by the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey two weeks ago.   On Sunday, September 10, our own Florida experienced the impact of Hurricane Irma as she passed over the Caribbean, Cuba, the Florida Keys and Southern Florida.

We had intended to send two or more crews to Texas and our first team was in Houston last week assisting two churches and their memberships when the approach of Hurricane Irma forced them to return to Tampa Bay to prepare their homes and families.

Having witnessed the destruction in our own State, I have asked Hillsdale Baptist Church to focus our people and resources closer to home in Florida.  We are able to drive to the Keys in a few hours to serve and be a blessing to our neighbors, knowing many in the Midwest are available to go to Houston and help them in recovery.

If you know our ministry, you are aware we function with integrity and make sure we are financial stewards of your sacrificial financial gifts.  To date Hillsdale has received $13,990.51 for Hurricane Relief, the great majority of that received from our own membership.  In addition, some who follow this Blog have designated gifts for which we are thankful.  Less the expenses used by Hillsdale’s first relief team to go to Texas, the balance of your financial gifts are being directed to Operation Renewed Hope (ORH) for that organization to use as it gives assistance in Texas and FL.

I am writing this blog post on Friday afternoon not only to be accountable to you who have given, but also alert you to the fact there are four truckloads of goods (food, water, blankets, etc) waiting in Jacksonville, FL for shipment to a church in the Keys.  That church will act as a staging ground for other churches in the Keys to pick up goods and distribute them to their neighbors.  The estimated cost for shipping is $2,000\truckload or a total of $8,000.

Hillsdale will continue to raise funds for Hurricane Relief and refocus our membership and resources in FL in the weeks ahead.

There is also a need for men to hang drywall, lay tile and carpet in two Houston, Texas churches.

If you want to direct your funds to and through Hillsdale for our Hurricane relief efforts, go to our website, www.HillsdaleBaptist.org, click on the Donations button, create your profile with pertinent information, and beside “Other Designated Funds” type in Hurricane Relief to donate directly from your banking or savings account.  Of course, your gifts are tax-deductible and your will receive a statement at year’s end.

More updates will follow as we receive news from Texas or the Florida Keys.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

“Performing Faith: The Life of Corrie ten Boom” – Sunday, October 8

Dear Hillsdale and Heart of a Shepherd Followers,

The troubles and trials suffered by our nation in recent weeks in the wake of Hurricane Harvey (Texas) and Hurricane Irma (FL and GA) and the violent protests of anarchists on college campuses and in major cities threatening our Freedom of Speech, moved me to invite Dr. Melissa Cancel and her students to revive for one Sunday morning performance the play, “Performing Faith: The Life of Corrie ten Boom”.

Because the play is so powerful and moving, I have taken the unusual step of scheduling it for 10:30 AM, Sunday, October 8, 2017 in Hillsdale’s auditorium.

The testimony of Corrie ten Boom’s faith in a Nazi concentration camp is nothing short of inspiring and convicting.  Her’s was a testimony of faith, perseverance, humility, and confidence in God’s mercy and grace.

Dr. Melissa Cancel is the director of the Chamber theater production and stars in the production as Corrie ten Boom.  Performing with her are four of Hillsdale’s teens who are students in Dr. Cancel’s Speech and Drama studio.

There is no cost for admission and I encourage you to invite family and friends to see this moving drama of life and faith set in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for women, located in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

 

Spiritual Bullies and Silent Saints

September 2, 2017

Scripture Reading – John 10-12

Today’s Bible reading sets the final stage for Christ’s appointment with the Cross.   I am always struck by the wickedness of the religious leaders in Christ’s day.   While there were some who were sincere in their practice and a few who believed Jesus was the Christ (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea), the majority of the leaders of Judaism were wicked men who would argue ad infinitum matters of the Law, but in secret plot the murder and death of Jesus.

John 10:31 – “…the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.”

John 10:39 – “Therefore they sought again to take Him …”

John 11:8 – “His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?”
John 11:47-53 – “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles…53 they took counsel together for to put him to death…”

After the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, the Jewish leaders not only sought to kill Jesus, but also Lazarus.

John 12:10-11 – “But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11  Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.”

While many believed Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, there were many others that “believed not on him” (John 12:37).

I close today, not pondering why religious leaders would reject and plot to murder Jesus, but why there were some among them who believed and failed to openly confess their faith in Him.  The apostle John writes:

John 12:42-43 – Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:  43  For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

Some believed Jesus was the Christ; however, they remained silent when their peers plotted to murder Him fearing their confession of faith would be detrimental to their place and positions of power and influence in the synagogue and community.

I find that same dynamic in the 21st century church.  There are “spiritual bullies” in the pulpits and pews who confess a piety of faith in Christ, but deny Him with their lives loving sin and the pleasures of the world (1 John 2:15-17).

Question the conflict between their profession and the command we are to be “obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts… 15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” and they attack, slander and libel their critic (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Sadly, like the religious leaders who believed Jesus was the Christ and remained silent, there are many saints who, fearing criticism, loss of favor or position, sit silent in churches, Bible colleges and parachurch institutions as sin and carnality take hold.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Joy Thief!

August 29, 2017

Scripture Reading – 1 Chronicles 15-19

I discussed in an earlier commentary the well-meaning desire of David to move the Ark of God to Jerusalem.   The employment of an ox drawn cart for that purpose; however, was a violation of God’s command and ended in tragedy when Uzza touched the Ark to steady it (Numbers 13:9-10).  David’s first response to God striking down Uzza is insightful– “David was displeased [angry; grieved], because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzza” (13:11).  David’s anger was soon followed by a righteous response, “David was afraid [reverential fear; in awe] of God that day” (13:12).

Our scripture reading begins with David’s second attempt to move the Ark of God to Jerusalem; however, this time he was wiser and made sure the Ark would be transported as God directed (1 Chronicles 15).

1 Chronicles 15:2 – Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the LORD chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him for ever.

Knowing the Ark represented the presence of the LORD in Israel, David commanded the elders of the tribe of Levi to “sanctify yourselves…that ye may bring up the Ark of the LORD God of Israel” (15:12).   Skilled singers and musicians led the celebration as the Ark was carried to Jerusalem (15:16-24).

With the Ark of God in the place David had prepared, the shepherd king and poet delivered to “Asaph and his brethren” a psalm of praise and thanksgiving (1 Chronicles 16:7-36).  When the celebration ended, David entrusted the daily ministry of worship and sacrifices to “Asaph and his brethren” (16:37-42).  With his heart filled with joy, “David returned to bless his house” (16:43).

1 Chronicles 17 introduces us to the prophet Nathan who will have a major role in David’s life and reign in the years ahead.   No doubt in a reflective mood in the comfort of his palace, David’s thoughts turned to building a temple for Israel to come to Jerusalem and worship the LORD (1 Chronicles 17:1-9).  Nathan gave his blessing to David’s desire (17:2); however, that same night the LORD revealed to the prophet that the king would not be permitted to build a temple; however, his son and successor would build a temple (17:3-12).

We find two covenant promises expressed to David in 1 Chronicles 17.  The first, that God would bless David, subduing his enemies and establishing his lineage on Israel’s throne forever (17:7-11).   The second promise, that David’s son and successor would not only build a house of worship to the LORD, but his throne “shall be established for evermore” (17:14); a promise fulfilled in the Messiah Jesus Christ.  The balance of 1 Chronicles 17 is a record of David’s praise and thanksgiving for God’s covenant promises (17:16-27).

1 Chronicles 18 memorializes David’s battles and the spoils of victory.

Acting as a statesman on behalf of Israel, David sent ambassadors from Israel to the Ammonites to express his sympathy to Hanun who succeeded to the throne of Ammon after his father’s death (19:1-2).   Younger counselors (“princes of the children of Ammon”) convinced the new king David’s ambassadors had come as spies (19:3).   In an act of provacation, Hanun shamed David’s servants shaving their beards and cutting off their robes to humiliate them, David and Israel (19:4).

Realizing their ill-treatment of David’s delegation was an offense, Hanun hired Syrian mercenaries to wage war with Ammon against Israel (19:6-7).  David sent Joab, his veteran general, to battle against the Ammonites and the Syrian mercenaries fled from Israel’s army (19:8-14).   When the Ammonites realized the Syrians had abandoned the battle they also fled from Israel’s army (19:15-17).   Receiving news from the battlefront, David personally led the armies against Syria (19:18-19).

In closing, permit me to draw your attention to 1 Chronicles 15 and an incident recorded at the close of the day of rejoicing when the Ark of the God arrived in Jerusalem.  While David and all Israel celebrated the arrival of the Ark, there was one contrary spirit…David’s wife (1 Chronicles 15:19; 2 Samuel 6:15-16, 20-23).  We read:

1 Chronicles 15:29 – “And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing [leaping for joy] and playing [rejoicing]: and she despised [had contempt; distain] him in her heart [mind and thoughts].”

David returned to the palace rejoicing, desiring to bless his home; however, he was greeted by a bitter wife who mocked and reproved him (2 Samuel 6:20).  The catalyst for Michal’s resentment in the hour of David’s joy is not stated; however, she may have resented David criticizing her father’s neglect of the Ark (1 Chronicles 13:3).

Friend, after 38 years of ministry I have learned some in the midst of the saints will not share my times of joy, rejoicing or vision irrespective of the evidences of God’s providences, blessings and leading.  Some will harbor a root of bitterness and poison others with their venom (Hebrews 12:15).  Some are proud and hold on to offenses, refusing to allow love to cover the sins of others (1 Peter 4:8).

Be forewarned friend, carnal saints and sinners are joy thieves who, at the height of your joy, will strike a blow to your soul!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“The LORD Bless You and Keep You”

Monday, August 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 5-8

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” plan brings us today to Numbers 5-8.  As noted in an earlier commentary, the early chapters of Numbers are for the purpose of organizing hundreds of thousands of men and women who for 400 years knew only the burdens of slavery.   God tasked Moses with the responsibility of bringing discipline to the Twelve Tribes of Israel and organizing them into a body that will become a nation.

Numbers 1:2-54 recorded a census of able-bodied males, 20 years and older, who were able to go to war (Numbers 1:2-54).   Numbers 2 provided an organizational map of Israel’s encampment with the Tabernacle representing the presence of God being the central focus of the tribes.   Numbers 3 records a census of the Levites, the priestly tribe and their responsibility for the Tabernacle is found in Numbers 4.

While the Commandments of the LORD are recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, the specifics for addressing disease and sin in the midst of the people is given in Numbers 5.  God desired that His people be a clean and holy people and the people were to be intolerant of sin in their midst.  Contagious diseases like leprosy were not trifled with and sin was confessed and restitution made where another had been injured (5:1-10).

Because marriage is a holy covenant between a man and woman instituted by God, the nation was intolerant of adultery and an adulterous man and woman would be put to death (5:11-31).

The law of the Nazarites is instituted in Numbers 6.  A man or woman taking the vow of a Nazarite was voluntarily setting themselves apart from lawful liberties and dedicating themselves to the LORD (6:1-8).  Because a Nazarite dedicated themselves to the LORD, they denied themselves the pleasures of “wine and strong drink…vinegar…[and] grapes” (6:3).   As an outward sign of his devotion to God, a Nazarite male did not cut his hair (6:5) and were forbidden to touch dead bodies (6:6-8).

Numbers 7 records the dedication of the Tabernacle, the altar, instruments and vessels employed in offering sacrifices and the sacrifices brought by the tribal leaders of Israel (Numbers 7:1-89).

Numbers 8:1-4 takes us into the inter-sanctum of the Tabernacle and the area that was veiled from all but the high priest and known as the “holy of holies”.  Within this sacred place there was a golden altar, a table, and a golden lampstand with seven candles.

While Aaron and his sons served God as priests, the tribe of Levi was consecrated to assist the priests and serve the people when they came to worship and offer sacrifices (Numbers 8:5-26).  The leaders of the tribes put their hands on the Levites identifying them as the substitute who would serve the LORD on their behalf (8:9-11).   Rather than the eldest son of each tribal family being set apart to serve as priest for the family, God chose the Levites to serve on their behalf (8:14-18).

I close this devotional acknowledging much of what you read might leave you at a loss for a personal application.  Consider the following lessons:

1) The LORD wants those who minister before His people to be a holy, consecrated people.  Although none are perfect or sinless, the church should hold its ministers, pastors and teachers to the highest standard knowing God would not require less.

2) Whether a Nazarite or a Levite, the privilege of serving the LORD required consecration and sacrifice.  I remind you God requires the same of us all when Paul writes:

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

I close today’s commentary with a prayer for God to bless you, a prayer know as the Aaronic Blessing:

Numbers 6:24-26 – “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25  The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26  The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Who Are You Following?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – John 3-4

In the midst of our scripture reading for today are some of the most beloved verses in the Bible.

The answer to the inquiry of Nicodemus, a ruler and elder of the Pharisees, who came seeking Jesus and was told, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  Undeterred by the truths he did not understand, he asked, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9); to which Jesus spoke the words that have brought multitudes to saving faith and eternal life:

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 John 4 gives us the story of the Samaritan woman who, to avoid the mocking of those who knew her life was a scandal of sin and immorality, came to the public well in the heat of the day where she met Jesus (John 4:1-42).

For today’s brief devotional, I invite you to consider a portrait of humility embodied in the example of Christ’s forerunner, John the Baptist (John 3:22-36).  While the name and ministry of Jesus was increasing in Israel, it was inevitable that His ministry and that of John the Baptist would intersect.  Humanly speaking, one would anticipate a rivalry to rise between these two titans of faith and miracles.

Hearing Jesus had come into Judaea and was baptizing, John’s disciples came to him and said, “He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him” (John 3:26).

John’s response is one every preacher, teacher and their followers should mirror when the temptation to compete arises between churches and ministries.  We read, “John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:27).

John went on to express a truth ministers and teachers should follow; he was not “the Christ” and was not seeking his own followers (John 3:28-29).  John’s task was not to build a spiritual entourage; his task was to prepare the way and point men to Jesus Christ!   John continued, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:39).

One of the great failings of Christianity in the late 20th and now 21st century is too many Christians identify with “big name” preachers, teachers, and institutions rather than find their identity in Jesus Christ alone.   Book publishers, radio stations, Christian magazines and now the internet has perpetuated the bent and contentious nature of being followers of men!

The apostle Paul addressed the same sinful propensity in 1 Corinthians 3 when he writes, “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 5  Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6  I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:4-6).  Sadly, some Christians are so enamored with their favorite preacher or evangelist; they abandon all discernment and follow them into their errors and sin!

Friend, I hope you are not numbered among those who stoop to be followers of men and institutions rather than followers of Jesus Christ!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith