Tag Archives: Morality

The Secret to a Prosperous Life (Genesis 39-40)

Today’s Bible Reading and Devotional is Genesis 39-40.

The life of Joseph is a reminder, regardless our circumstance, the LORD is with us! 

Joseph was a child when he was left without the love and nurturing care of his mother who died giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son and Joseph’s only full brother (Genesis 35:16-19).  The favorite son of his father (Genesis 37:3), Joseph’s childhood was scarred by the rejection of his brothers (37:4) who plotted his murder (37:19-24), eventually selling him as a slave to nomadic Midianites traveling to Egypt (37:25-28).

Rather than despair and bitterness, Joseph’s faith in the LORD was unshaken and in Egypt he rose from slave to steward of his master’s household (37:36).  Refusing the advances of his master’s wife who falsely accused him (39:1-18), Joseph was sentenced to prison (39:19-23).

In spite of a series of heartbreaking events, we never find Joseph bearing a bitter spirit.  Indeed, as a testimony of his humility, we read, “the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man” (39:2).  In Genesis 39:21, “the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” What a difference a God-centered, faith-dependent attitude makes!

Time nor space permits an exhaustive study of the dreams of the butler and baker or Joseph’s interpretation of their dreams (40:5-23); however, Joseph’s request for Pharaoh’s butler to remember him appeared to end in disappointment.  Restored to Pharaoh’s service, we read, “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (Genesis 40:23).  Two years would pass before the butler remembered Joseph (Genesis 41)!

Far from home and family, Joseph’s love and passion for the LORD was not diminished.  In spite of trials and injustices, he was faithful, the LORD was with him, and “he was a prosperous man” (Genesis 39:2).

What a testimony Joseph is to all and I trust, especially to Christian teens and young adults.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Believer, Wonder Why the Wicked Are in Authority? Look in the Mirror! (Psalm 12)

Psalm 12:8 – The wicked [immoral; criminal] walk on every side [every place], when the vilest [worthless]men are exalted [raised up; high].”

The historical context of Psalm 12 is uncertain; however, it was a desperate time for the nation of Israel. This author is of the opinion the psalm was written when Saul was king and David was witnessing the decline and decay of the nation.

Of course, we need only put this psalm in an immediate context to ponder the same dilemma for our nation and world.  How do vile men and women of immoral passions come to occupy positions of power and influence in the world?  Why are the wicked of our day so embolden in their sin?  How long will the LORD abide the sins of the wicked?

The answer to those questions is found in the first verse of Psalm 12 where David prays,

Psalm 12:1– “Help [deliver; save; avenge], LORD; for the godly man [saint] ceaseth  [come to an end]; for the faithful [true; people of faith; believers]fail [disperse; disappear]from among the children of men.”

Why were the ungodly emboldened in their sin and promoted?  (Psalm 12:8)

Because godly men were either silent or had themselves ceased from following the LORD and walking in righteousness (12:1). The righteous had failed and their retreat and absence in public discourse permitted the promotion of the ungodly (12:1b, 8).

Notice the character of the ungodly in verses 2 and 4.

Psalm 12:2 – “They [the ungodly] speak [say; declare] vanity [deceit; evil]every one with his neighbor [friend; companion]: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.

Psalm 12:4 –  4  Who[the wicked] have said [declared; tell], With our tongue will we prevail [act insolently]; our lips are our own: who islord [master; sovereign; owner]over us?

The ungodly have no shame. They lie, flatter, beguile, and boast great things (12:2).  Unchecked in their ways, they dare make their boast against the God of Heaven (12:4).

Why do the ungodly go unpunished?  How dare the wicked boast against the LORD of Heaven?

David took comfort knowing the LORD would avenge Himself and take vengeance against those who railed against Him. (12:3)

Psalm 12:3 3  The LORD shall cut off all flattering [smooth] lips [language; speech], and the tongue that speaketh [declares; tells] proud [great; magnify] things:

We know the LORD is patient, longsuffering, and merciful (Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:15; 2 Peter 3:9); however, be reminded He is just and will have vengeance against the wicked.  The LORD will pour out His wrath on those who speak proud things, “puffeth”, and scoff (12:5)!

Psalm 12:5 – For the oppression [spoil; destruction] of the poor [afflicted], for the sighing [groaning; cries] of the needy [beggar; destitute], now will I arise [stand up], saith the LORD; I will set [array; appoint] him in safety [salvation; safety; liberty; prosper] from him that puffeth [scoffs; kindles as a fire] at him.

Unlike the wicked whose lips are full of lies and deceit, the LORD’s words are pure like refined silver that has passed through the furnace seven times (12:6).

Psalm 12:6 6  The words [speech; commands]of the LORD are pure [clean; fair]words: as silver tried [refined]in a furnace of earth, purified [purged; refined] seven times. 

The Word of the LORD is sure, faithful and true from generation to generation (12:7).

Psalm 12:7 7  Thou shalt keep [preserve; guard; protect]them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve [guard; protect]them from this generation [age]for ever.

Why do the “wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted”?  (Psalm 12:8)

Sadly, we need only look in the mirror and the church!  When the godly cease and the righteous fail the wicked are “on every side”. (Psalm 12:1)

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Lot: The Tragic Consequences of One’s Father’s Sinful Choices

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 19-20, Psalm 10, and Matthew 10. Our devotional is taken from Genesis 19-20.

We read in Genesis 18 that the LORD and two angels appeared to Abraham and Sarah as men.  That elderly couple soon realized the three visitors were not mere mortals, for the LORD revealed He knew Sarah’s private thoughts and how she scoffed and laughed within herself when she heard the promise she would bear a son in her old age (Genesis 18:11-15).

We are made privy to the LORD’s love for Abraham and His desire to not keep from the man the great judgment that would soon befall the cities of the plain, specifically Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-17, 20-21).

Abraham pled for Sodom, proposing if ten righteous souls be found there the city might be spared God’s judgment (Genesis 18:23-33).  The LORD heeded Abraham’s petition and promise to spare the city from destruction should ten righteous souls be dwelling among its citizens (Genesis 18:32).

After “the LORD went His way” (Genesis 18:33), the angels made their journey into the valley, arriving at Sodom that even (Genesis 19).   Entering the city, the angels found Lot sitting “in the gate” (Genesis 19:1) where city leaders transacted business and settled disputes.  Lot recognized the visitors were not like the wicked of Sodom and urged them to find refuge in his home for the night (19:2-3).

As darkness fell on the city, the wicked men of Sodom encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sodomized (19:4-6).  Unable to prevail against them (19:7), Lot foolishly offered his daughters to satisfy their depraved lusts (19:8-9).  Refusing Lot’s offer, the citizens of Sodom pressed upon the man threatening to break down the door of his home.  Lot was saved when the angels drew him into the house and striking the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).

Exhibiting grace, the angels urged Lot to gather his family and flee the city before God destroyed it (19:12-13).  A desperate Lot went out of the house into the night hoping to persuade his sons, daughters, and sons-in-laws to flee the city; however, they dismissed the man as “one that mocked” (19:14).

As the sun began to pierce the eastern horizon, the angels forced Lot, his wife and daughters out of the city, warning them to no look back upon its destruction (19:15-23).  Adding sorrow upon sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope the deaths of loved ones and the judgment that befell the cities might transform Lot and his daughters; however, such was not the case. Lot’s daughters enticed their father with strong drink and committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.

The tragic consequences of Lot’s sinful choices has shadowed God’s people as the lineages of Lot’s sons, the Moabites and Ammonites, became adversaries and a perpetual trouble for Israel to this day.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Is Love Really All You Need?

In July 1967 the iconic English rock band known as the Beatles released a single titled “All You Need is Love”.  The “hippy” movement embraced the song and it became the defining song of a summer that became known as the “Summer of Love”.  Abandoning the moral values of their parents and voicing an open rebellion to authority and government, a whole generation of youth embarked on a journey defined by the use of psychedelic drugs, “free love” and sex.

It is that generation, the late “baby boomers” now in their 60’s and early 70’s, that has shaped American society by their cavalier disdain of moral values, religion, and law.  They have invaded every stratum of government, education, commerce, and media.  From governing in the Oval Office of the Presidency of the United States to inculcating minds of 5-year-old kindergarteners, the influence of the “All You Need is Love” generation is pervasive.  Is it any wonder they have spawned a generation of selfish, narcissistic youth embracing a socialistic ideology that threatens our society and nation with anarchy?

The “All You Need is Love” generation has so skewed the definition of “LOVE” it has become an excuse for all manner of sin, wickedness and depravity.  Liberals in the media, government, and education would have you believe, regardless of what you do and who it hurts, all that matters is LOVE.  The measure of right and wrong is no longer immutable truth and undeniable facts, but whether or not one’s intentions were loving.

Love becomes an excuse for all manner of sin. Teens, college students, and adults defend fornication and open adultery with the excuse, “I am in love.”  Society accepts homosexuality reasoning, “they love each other.”  The LGTBQ crowd demands society accept their sin because that is the loving thing to do.  Women are counseled to abort unwanted infants because that is a loving choice.

Some quote Romans 13:8, “…love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law”; however, they fail to read Romans 13:9-10 which identifies the restraints and standards on God’s definition of LOVE.

Romans 13:9-10 – “9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there beany other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

My generation, the “baby boomers”, believed “love is all you need” and are finding too late the heartache and emptiness of a philosophy of life devoid of absolute truth and genuine LOVE.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 by Travis D. Smith

Prayer for Students and Families of Broward County, FL

The news of the senseless slaughter of innocent young lives in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, Wednesday afternoon, February 14, 2018 dominates the news this morning.  As of this morning, the death toll remains at 17 and the names of the dead, students and teachers, has not been released.

Like you, I am aware the tragedy of the loss of life reaches far beyond the dead…siblings, parents, grandparents, friends, classmates, teachers, administrators, neighbors, and yes, our state and nation…are all affected and scarred by the violence, suffering and death.

Liberal pundits will stand in their bully-pulpits and blame firearms for the loss of life.  The media and anti-liberty zealots opposed to the 2nd Amendment, will attack the NRA and conservatives, and advocate the need to limit, if not eliminate private ownership of guns and rifles.

Few will look deeper and honestly examine why this happened.  Why 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student expelled last school year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, would plan and unleash a hail of gunfire on students of his former high school?

We are learning Cruz’s life is scarred as much as the wounds he inflicted on innocent lives Wednesday.  USA Today reports, “teachers and former classmates say [Cruz] had an angry disposition that led to him being expelled and flagged as a danger on school grounds.”

Former classmates describe Cruz as a troubled soul and many say they are not surprised he unleashed his fury in an act of violence. According to Fox News, an unnamed student told a news station, “kids joked around that the student [Cruz] would be the one to ‘shoot up the school.’”

Cruz is a troubled soul and tragedy seems to have been the haunt of his life.  Fox News reports Cruz and a younger brother were adopted and both his father and mother, Roger and Lynda Cruz, are dead.  Roger apparently died of a heart attack several years ago and Cruz’s mother, Lynda, died of pneumonia November 1, 2017.  Unhappy with family members who took him in, sometime after Thanksgiving 2017, Cruz moved into a mobile home with a high school friend who is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cruz’s anger, rage and violence are pandemic in a generation educated in classrooms and nurtured in a society with an irreligious view of human life.  The doctrine that human life is sacred and every life is to be cherished is lost on a generation that mocks God, denies the Creator, and is entertained with acts of violence in video games and television programs from early childhood.

I am not surprised a 19-year-old murdered 17 classmates; I am surprised it does not happen more often.  Look into the eyes of today’s youth and you will find many who appear soulless…unloved and unloving; desensitized by bitterness, rejecting authority, angry with God, and waiting to be triggered into an act of rage that will not only destroy their lives and future, but leave countless others broken and dismayed.

Remembering Cain, the first son of Adam, murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8), we understand the problem is not guns and rifles; the problem is sin.  The invitation to this generation is the same as it was to Cain when God wrestled with his sinful soul and asked, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?…” (Genesis 4:6-7).

God warned Cain, “…if thou doest not well, sin lieth [crouches] at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire [sin drives our desires], and thou shalt rule over him [man will either master sin or sin will become his master](Genesis 4:7).

King Solomon taught his son the same truth, “[A sinner’s] own iniquities shall take [trap] the wicked himself, and he shall be holden [entrapped] with the cords [ropes] of his sins.”

Nikolas Cruz, and I am afraid many like him, is the personification of hopelessness.  Sinners have but two paths to choose in life…Remorse or Repentance.  Cruz followed the path of remorse and dejection and left in his wake 17 lost lives.

Repentance, on the other hand, assumes responsibility, admits guilt (Psalm 51:4), confesses sins, and seeks forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

Let us pray for the lives touched by the loss of 17 lives, but remember there are many Nikolas Cruz’s in our midst who feel unloved, act unloving, need to know the love of God, and our lives serve as the conduit of compassion for their lost souls.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Song of Solomon 5-6

We continue our study in Song of Solomon reading chapters 5-6 for our devotional study. As a reminder, I have taken the approach this is a literal, romantic story of a bride’s love for a shepherd, a shepherd whom she realizes on her wedding day is King Solomon!  The king and his wedding entourage came for his bride in Song of Solomon 3 and in chapter 4 he took her for his wife.

Song of Solomon 5:1 concludes the glorious wedding day feast as the king bids his guests good night and retires into his palace with his beautiful Shulamite bride.

Song of Songs 5:1 – I [the king] am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends [members of the wedding party]; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.

The love story of the bride and her groom continues with Song of Solomon 5:2.  King Solomon rejoices in his young bride; however, as it is with all marriages, the honeymoon has ended and life takes on the ebb and flow of routine.

The king comes to his new bride’s bedchamber after a long day.  Anticipating the love and greeting of his wife, he knocks at the door of her chamber, but she has retired for the night and at first does not want to be disturbed (5:2b-3).  She hears him trying to open the door and her heart yearns for him (5:4); however, when she opens the door she finds he has departed (5:5-6).

Longing for the company of her husband, she goes out into the night to find him.  In the absence of the king, the guards and watchmen, do not recognize her and answer her inquiry roughly (5:7).   Longing for her husband, she confides to her attendants, “I am sick of love” (5:8b) and ponders in her thoughts the allure of his physical beauty (5:10-16).

The bride’s lonely night and search has passed in Song of Solomon 6 and she rejoices to find her husband, the king, in his royal gardens (6:1-3).  

 Seeing his wife approach, the king romances her with declarations of his love and praises her for her beauty (6:4-7).  He assures her, though there are many wives, concubines, and virgins in his harem (6:8), there are none to compare with her (6:8-9).

What a beautiful picture of love and romance in a marriage!

I close today’s devotional commentary with a few observations.  

The first, marriage is more than a covenant; it is a blending of two lives into one.  The life experiences and backgrounds of Solomon and his bride could hardly be starker.  He is a young king and has known the life of the palace from his infancy; she is a commoner, a poor commoner who knows nothing of a queen’s life.  He is a vibrant, confident king; she is quiet and insecure in her new role as the queen.

A second observation is the king’s loving patience extended to his young bride.  He came to her bedchamber, but she had retired.  He could have forced his way into her room; however, he retreated.  When she came to him the next morning, the king greeted her lovingly, reassuring her with loving words and praising her for her beauty and virtues.

On a personal note: When I was a young pastor, an older and wiser pastor told me, “Look into the faces of wives sitting in a church congregation and you will know if the marriages and families in that church are healthy and happy.”  I have found that is true.

Pressures of family and work can steal a couple’s joy and quench their romance; as a result, many married couples lose their passion.  The young bride in our love story urged her attendants, tell the king, “I am sick of love” (5:8b); literally, I am “love sick”…longing for her husband’s love.

Honeymoons end, but a happy marriage will preserve romance and courtship.

Take a lesson from today’s scripture:  A happy marriage demands the dedication of two souls and a lifetime of patience and romance.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Is Your Child a Pedigree or a Mutt?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 10-13

Our scripture reading in the book of Nehemiah comes to a close today focusing on chapters 10-13.

Nehemiah 10 gives us the names of eighty-four men, spiritual leaders, politicians, husbands and fathers, who made a solemn oath and put their names to a covenant they made with the LORD (10:1-29).  Having sealed their covenant with the LORD, they “separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God” (10:28).

Israel’s dedication to the LORD was absolute, affecting every area of their lives…their families (10:28-30), businesses (10:31; 13:15-21), and finances (13:32-39). 

Having built the Temple and completed the walls of the city, the next need was for some to commit themselves to rebuilding and repopulating the city of Jerusalem; after all, you cannot have a great city without a great population.  Jerusalem was a “holy city” (11:1), a city dedicated to the LORD and the citizens of that city were to live stricter lives than their fellow Jews who lived outside the city.  With much of the city still in ruins, Jerusalem was more a place of poverty than it was a place of privilege.

Three segments of Israel’s populace were required to repopulate the city:  1) The “rulers of the people” (11:1); 2) A tenth of Israel’s population that was drafted by casting lots (11:1); 3) And others who volunteered and “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem” (11:2).

Nehemiah 11-12 presents us with a great list of men, some named and others known only by their deeds; men whose names Nehemiah inscribed in his book lest they be forgotten. Four hundred and sixty-eight described as “valiant men” (11:6).  Eight hundred and twenty-two men who ““…did the work of the house” of God using their talents and gifts for the LORD’s work (11:12).  There were men who “…had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God.” (11:16); some serving as counselors, teachers, and others the general ministries of the Temple. Others described simply as “porters” (11:19); describing the menial nature of their ministries as doorkeepers and janitors,  but all important and noted by the LORD!

Friend, don’t make light of the menial tasks some bear in their service for the LORD and His church.  “Valiant men” and “porters” had their role and ministry in the Temple and were necessary to fulfill God’s purpose that Jerusalem be restored to her glory as the “holy city” (11:1).

Nehemiah 12 gives a chronicle of priests and Levites (12:1-26) and the worship service when the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated (12:27-47).

Nehemiah 13 closes with a reminder the work of ministry and serving the LORD and His people is never finished.  Nehemiah’s task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was complete; however, he had no time to glory in his success!  Evidencing the character of a great servant of the LORD, Nehemiah began another phase of ministry…addressing and confronting the spiritual compromise already taking hold in Israel.

Consider four spiritual leadership qualities found in Nehemiah’s character in Nehemiah 13. 

The first leadership quality is courage; Nehemiah was a courageous leader (13:4-9).   As governor of Israel, Nehemiah traveled to Babylon to report to the king of Persia the state of affairs in Jerusalem; however, when he returned he found an “evil” allowed by the high priest Eliashib.

Nehemiah 13:7 – And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him [Tobiah] a chamber in the courts of the house of God.

Imagine finding Tobiah, an Ammonite and enemy who had opposed Nehemiah rebuilding the wall (Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:3) living in the Temple!  Nehemiah did not wait for a committee to make a decision or seek a diplomatic solution…He courageously confronted Tobiah, throwing him and his possessions into the street (13:8), and ordered the Temple rooms cleansed (13:9).

A second leadership quality is discernment (13:10-14).  Nehemiah writes,

 Neh. 13:10 – And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.

A good leader gets the facts and ask questions when he perceives a problem.  Nehemiah rebuked the leaders and the people (13:10-14) when he comprehended their failure to give tithes and offerings forced those employed in the Temple to labor in their fields to the neglect of their public ministries.

A third leadership quality is Nehemiah maintained spiritual priorities (13:15-22). Finding the Jews had secularized the Sabbath, treating it like any other day of the week (13:16), Nehemiah confronted the leaders and said, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?”

Nehemiah did not trifle with the matter of sin. He labeled their actions an “evil thing”, a profaning and defilement of the Sabbath, the LORD’s Day.

Finally, Nehemiah was a man of conviction and boldly confronted compromise (13:23-28).  The compromise of God’s people was so grave they had allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with the heathen in the land.  Nehemiah observed,

Nehemiah 13:24 – And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ [Hebrew] language, but according to the language of each people.

Some of the Jews lost their children to the ways of the heathen; speaking a mixed language of “Ashdod” (the Philistine language) and Hebrew, Jewish youth had assimilated not only the sinful ways and customs of the ungodly, they had also adopted their language.  Being the candid spiritual leader he was, Nehemiah took their sinful compromise as a personal affront to himself and to God.  Nehemiah writes,

Nehemiah 13:25 – And I contended [treat with contempt] with them, and cursed [reviled] them, and smote [physically struck] certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.

I fear there are few Nehemiah’s in Bible fundamental churches, Christian schools and Bible colleges.  We are in short supply of courageous men who are discerning, focused on spiritual priorities at the expense of personal sacrifice, and conviction who refuse to compromise with the ungodly.  Pulpits that once thundered with sermons calling a generation of youth to personal holiness and sanctification, now whimper with a message of accommodation that sacrifices and minimizes personal spiritual disciplines.

Nehemiah contended with the people for allowing the ungodly to influence and marry their sons and daughters (Nehemiah 13:25).

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but after 38 years of ministry, it has been my observation dog breeders of champion pedigrees give more attention to the selection of the dam (i.e. female) and sire (i.e. male) for breeding their dogs than many Christian parents give to the character of friends who eventually date and marry their sons and daughters.

What a tragedy!  No wonder the divorce rate in the church is as high as the world!  Nehemiah challenged the people, “we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons” (Nehemiah 10:30).  The tragedy is, many families failed to heed Nehemiah’s admonition and lost their children (13:25).  I am afraid the same is true of our homes, churches, and schools.

2 Corinthians 6:14 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith