Tag Archives: Political

The Blessings of Faithfulness and the Curse of Sin and Disobedience (Deuteronomy 28-29)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28-29

Deuteronomy 28 – The Blessing of Faithfulness

Having declared God’s Covenant with Israel as His chosen people (Deuteronomy 5-28), Moses concludes with a challenge for the people to affirm the covenant they entered into at Mt. Horeb 40 years earlier (Exodus 24), and acknowledge their obligation to the LORD to obey His Laws and Commandments (Deuteronomy 29-30).

Moses promised Israel, the nation would be blessed above all nations of the earth on the condition they would hear, obey, and follow His commandments (Deuteronomy 28:1-15).  We find fifteen verses enumerating the multitude of God’s blessings should they obey His Laws and Commandments (28:1-14).

Of course, because the covenant was a binding agreement between the LORD and Israel, Moses warned the nation would bear the curse of God’s judgment should they turn away from the LORD, break His covenant, and live like the heathen people in whose land they were entering (28:15-68).

The promise of God’s blessings on Israel is stunning! Every area of the nation’s life would be blessed… “in the city…in the field” (28:3).  Universal fruitfulness was promised…the womb of women, cattle, sheep and the fields would reap a harvest of God’s blessings (28:4-6).  Israel’s enemies would fall before her, and their storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:7-14).

In the same way God promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobeyed Him. The curses that would befall Israel are listed in a series of judgments that are alarming to read (28:15-68). Should the people disobey the LORD, they were assured “all curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (28:15).

The cities, fields, storehouses, wombs of wives, livestock, and fields would all be cursed (28:16-18). Pestilence, physical disease, and drought would follow (28:20-24). The promise of God’s judgment for disobeying His Laws and Commandments continues another forty-eight verses! Humiliation before Israel’s enemies (28:25-29), poverty (28:30-31), slavery (28:32, 47-48), and disease (28:35) are all listed.

The siege of Israel’s cities and conditions of her poverty and hunger would become so severe the people would turn to cannibalism (28:49-57). All the diseases that befell Egypt would befall Israel (28:58-61).  The people would know no rest and would be terrified day and night (28:62-68).

Deuteronomy 29

The basis of Israel’s obligation to honor the Covenant with the LORD was not only the sacrifices they had offered to seal the Covenant at Mt. Horeb (Exodus 24), but also the LORD’s loving care of the nation over the course of their forty years wandering in the wilderness (29:2-9).

The nation, its leaders (“captains…elders…officers”), and “all the men of Israel” (29:10), representing every man, woman, boy and girl…even “thy stranger that is in thy camp” (those in the midst of the tribes, but not of the Twelve Tribes), were to affirm the covenant with the LORD (29:11-15).

Moses warned the people (29:16-29), should they turn to idols and follow in the sins of the heathen nations, and fail to obey the LORD’S Laws and Commandments, the nation will be punished with plagues and sickness (29:22), and the ground would be cursed (29:23).

“Choices Have Consequences,” and no nation, people, or family can expect to disobey the LORD’s Law and Commandments and be blessed! 

I close with good news. Although a promise received by king Solomon for Israel, I invite you to covet the same for our nation:

2 Chronicles 7:1414 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hype, Hysteria, and Hope (in the midst of uncertainty)

March 16, 2020

Dear Heart of A Shepherd readers,

I have been away from Tampa for only one week, however, the world and our nation have dramatically changed in that short span of time.

While I am not generally a conspiracy theorist, I believe there is a dark purpose behind what is happening in our nation. I think there are unseen, dark figures driving the present crisis and I wonder if this is a “dry run” for something diabolical and more malicious. Knowing the spiritual character of this generation is far different than the faith of our nation a century ago, I fear the potential of violent societal conflict.

The hype around the Coronavirus is a potential catalyst for an overreach of government that is, in my opinion, the perfect stage for a socialist agenda. The draconian measures that are being suggested and taken by federal and state governments (closing schools, churches, restaurants, and businesses; threatening curfews and outlawing gatherings of more than 50) threatens to ruin the economy and plunge our nation and world into an economic depression. Unless sanity prevails, businesses, ministries, and families will soon be forced into bankruptcy. (I do not write that sentence lightly).

No one could have foreseen the events of the past two weeks, nor can we predict the future ripple effect across our lives, families, and ministries. I have many concerns that I am sure are shared across our nation.

What impact will current events have on employers and employment?  What is the economic impact on businesses and families who survive paycheck to paycheck?  With hoarding on a scale never witnessed in my lifetime, how secure are our food supplies and staple goods?

In the immediate, I offer you counsel and encouragement:

Pray – Someone has said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

Mark 11:22-24 – “22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Plan – The distance between a panic attack and confidence is a plan.

Definition of “Plan” – “Since God knows exactly what would happen in every situation, He plans for the best thing to happen. God takes counsel, puts all things under advisement, and chooses the best way.” – Practical Word Studies in The New Testament.

Purpose – Put your trust in the LORD and hope in Him.

Isaiah 26:3-4 – “3  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 4  Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“In the Beginning” (Genesis 1-3)

Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Chronological Bible Reading PlanThank you for joining me on what I pray will be an incredible journey of faith and spiritual enlightenment in 2020!  I invite you to embrace the challenge of reading through the Bible, following a chronological reading plan that will take you from the Beginning (Genesis 1:1) to Eternity (Revelation 22:21).

The Scriptures are often profound in their stately simplicity, while challenging us spiritually and intellectually to ponder the Creator’s revelation of Himself, His holy character, moral attributes, and redemptive plan for the highest being of His Creation…Man.

Caution: While we will explore timeless spiritual truths that are decidedly apolitical and immutable; be forewarned that this pastor\author will not shy from addressing both the sins of our churches and the societal lunacy of “political correctness” that has embroiled our world.

Scripture Reading for January 1, 2020 – Genesis 1-3

To understand the chaos and conflict in our 21st century world one must go back…back to the beginning.  Accepting the universe was created by God demands faith; however, no more faith than believing this world came about as a result of some cataclysmic event and evolved from some primordial swamp over eons and eons.  Rejecting the Scriptures account of Creation leaves man believing the order and delicate balance of life and undeniable evidences of organization somehow arose out of disorder…a scientific impossibility.

The Bible simply states, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  While a consciousness of the Creator is written on the heart of every man and woman, the beauty and expanse of the heavens give undeniable evidence of His existence.  The psalmist writes,

Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens [sky; realm above the earth where the birds soar] declare [tell; shew forth; proclaim] the glory [splendor; majesty] of God [El – Almighty God; ]; and the firmament [expanse of the sky] sheweth [makes known] his handywork [i.e. the product of His hands].”

In his letter to believers in Rome, the apostle Paul states,

Romans 1:20 – “For the invisible things [which cannot be perceived with the physical senses] of Him [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen [manifest perceived], being understood by the things that are made [Creation is a display of God’s power and majesty; the grandeur of the heavens give testimony of His power and person], even His eternal power and Godhead [deity; divine nature]; so that they are without excuse.”

God has written on the heart and conscience of mankind a moral law; a universal sense of right and wrong (Romans 2:14-15). In the words of Paul, men show or evidence “the work of the law written in their heart, their conscience also bearing witness” (Romans 2:15).

Genesis 1 states with simplicity the facts and wonders of God’s creation. Genesis 2 offers insight into man’s uniqueness in creation (Genesis 2:7).  While Adam and Eve’s physical bodies were shaped and formed by God; their souls and spirits were brought to life by the breath of God giving man a consciousness of self and his Creator (Genesis 2:7, 21-22).

Adam was created to serve God as the steward (Genesis 1:28) and servant (laborer) of His creation (Genesis 2:15).  God commanded Adam to “dress” and “keep” the Garden [“dress” = to till the ground; garden; “keep” = to guard; to keep it beautiful and in order].

“Why did God put a tree in the midst of the Garden and then forbid Adam and Eve to eat its fruit?”  (Genesis 2:16-17)

Adam and Eve were not robots.  God created them with “free wills” and gave them an ability to choose to obey or disobey Him.  Adam had both liberty and limitation. He had liberty to eat “…Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: “ (2:16).  He had one limitation“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (2:17).

Think of it this way: The forbidden fruit was not a test of God’s love for Adam, but a test of Adam’s love and devotion for God.

Tragically, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God (Genesis 3).  Mercifully, the Lord extended salvation to them, sacrificing an innocent animal whose skin He used to hide the shame and nakedness of their sin (Genesis 3:21).

Revealing His plan of redemption, grace, and forgiveness, God promised the “enmity”, the hostility, between Lucifer (i.e. the serpent) and mankind would be settled when the devil bruised the “heel” of a man described as the woman’s “seed” and that same man would crush the head of the serpent.

Who was that man? Who was the “seed” of the woman? Jesus Christ!

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 – “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Exhortation to Pray for Our President (Psalm 20)

Today’s Bible Reading is Exodus 1-2, Psalm 20, and Matthew 20. Today’s devotional is from Psalm 20.

Psalm 20 is a nation’s intercessory prayer for her king the day before he leads the sons of Israel into battle.  The psalm is instructive and serves as a reminder of our responsibility to pray and intercede with God on behalf of our leaders.

I am afraid the majority of 21st century Christians look at the drama in Washington, DC as little more than political theater.  Some Christians suggest we be impartial in political matters and give little thought or time to them.  Of course, the matter of praying for those in authority is unquestionably commanded by God (1 Timothy 2:1-3).  Let us consider Israel’s prayer for her king (Psalm 20).

Psalm 20:1-2 – “The LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] hear thee in the day [time] of trouble [adversity]; the name [fame; renown] of the God [Elohim; the Mighty God] of Jacob defend [strengthen] thee; 2  Send thee help [aid] from the sanctuary [holy place], and strengthen [support;; sustain] thee out of Zion [site of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount];

Israel was confident the king had come before the LORD, sought His wisdom and offered sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God.  The people prayed God would not only hear the prayers of the king, but would go before him into battle (20:1-2).

Confident the battle was the LORD’s, the people prayed He would accept the king’s sacrifices, hear, and answer his prayers (20:3-4).

Psalm 20:3-4 – “Remember [think of] all thy offerings [sacrifices], and accept thy burnt sacrifice [offering]; Selah [lit. pause; or pause to think]. 4  Grant [Deliver] thee according to thine own heart [mind], and fulfil [accomplish] all thy counsel [advice; purpose].”

Before the battle was fought, the people promised the LORD He would be the object of their praise believing He would answer their prayers and give the king victory (20:5).

Psalm 20:5 – “We will rejoice [sing; shout] in thy salvation [deliverance], and in the name [fame; renown; reputation] of our God [Elohim; the Mighty God] we will set up our banners [flags; standard]: the LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] fulfil  [accomplish] all thy petitions [request; desires].”

On a personal note, troubles and spiritual battles are an ever-present reality for us in this sin cursed world.  Some adversaries threaten us with physical harm, others attack our character, question our motives and assail our testimony.  We also face spiritual trials that tempt us to turn aside from God’s purpose, question His goodness, and threaten our joy.

Consider three spiritual lessons from Psalm 20.

The first, the LORD hears and answers prayer.  Israel prayed for God to bless the king in battle and be his shield and fortress (20:1-2).  Christian friend, we should pray the same for our President.  As Israel prayed for her king, we should pray for President Trump.

The second, we need to pray and assure leaders of our prayers (20:3-4).  More than an assurance of goodwill, Israel assured the king their prayer was for the LORD to grant him wisdom and bless his strategy for battle.  Agree or disagree with his politics,  believers should be brokenhearted to hear President Trump’s enemies assail him, his family, and supporters with a vitriol exceeding any we have witnessed in modern times.  Such malicious attacks should move us to pray for our President and nation.

The third lesson expresses the faith of the nation in God’s grace and blessings.  Before the battle was waged, the people were planning the victory celebration; confident God heard and would answer their prayers.

A farmer told the story how he heard a voice when he was walking through the woods near Washington’s army encampment at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. Drawing near, the farmer found General George Washington on his knees, his cheeks wet with tears, praying to God.

Returning home, the farmer assured his wife America would win her independence.

When the farmer’s wife asked how he could be so sure.  He answered, “Because I heard Washington’s prayer.”

1 Timothy 2:1-2 – 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

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

At the Risk of Being Misunderstood

John McCain’s death has drawn tributes from all quarters of the world…political and religious; however, I fear we too easily overlook the one lasting lesson we might take from his life … “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Lest I be accused of callousness, I extend to John McCain’s family sincere condolences, being reminded the grief and sorrow of death is a universal certainty. Indeed, death is no respecter of persons and we all, great and small, live under the shadow of death, “For all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

I am not privy of John McCain’s spiritual relationship with God at his death.  Commended by many for his service to our country, the only commendation that has lasting, eternal value is whether or not God received him on the basis of his faith in the redemption found in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

Of all the acclamations expressed to a man for a life-time of service, the most important is not one he deserves, but one promised as an expression of God’s grace: “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

United States Naval Academy graduate, naval aviator, tortured prisoner of war, and life-time politician…all earn the acclaim of an adoring public, but I wonder if God received John McCain as a believer saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  After all, “there is no respect of persons” before God’s judgment (Colossians 3:24-25).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

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