Tag Archives: Pray

PRAYER: God’s Prescription for Troubles

Wednesday, December 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 143-145

King David is the author of the three psalms assigned for today’s scripture reading, Psalms 143, 144, and 145.  Psalm 143 is a penitential, sorrowful psalm; Psalm 144 and Psalm 145 are psalms of worship and praise.  Although not the last of the psalms, Psalm 145 is the last of the psalms attributed to King David.

For the sake of brevity, my focus for this devotional commentary is Psalm 143.

We have seen a pattern and practice of prayer throughout David’s life.  When assailed by enemies, he prayed (Psalm 13:2; 61:3).  When trials came and troubles threatened to overwhelm him, he prayed (Psalm 120:1).  When faced with the scourge of his own sinfulness, David called upon the Lord, confident God would hear and answer his penitent prayer (Psalm 51).

Psalm 143 continues David’s habit of prayer.  Psalm 143:1-6, he prays for God’s grace in judgment (143:2) and, remembering the LORD’s works in the past (143:5), he asks Him to quench the thirst in his soul for the LORD’s presence (143:6).

Notice the personal, intimate petition of David’s prayer.  The king prayed to the LORD, “Hear me (143:7)…Deliver me (143:9)…Teach me…Lead me (143:10)…Quicken me (143:11)”.

I am not sure what “trouble” David was in when he prayed, “bring my soul out of trouble” (143:11); however, he knew the only place he could go to have his soul delivered from sorrows was to the LORD (143:11b).

Perhaps you are where David was spiritually and emotionally when he prayed, “Quicken me” (143:11).  Too many believers fail to follow David’s example when they are troubled.  The word “Quicken” was an entreaty for the LORD to encourage, revive and restore his joy.

Friend, don’t allow your troubles to mount up and you become so overwhelm you resort to counselors, doctors, psychologists, prescription drugs, vices, and amusements… turn to the LORD, claim His promises, and pray, “Hear me (143:7)…Deliver me (143:9)…Teach me…Lead me (143:10)…Quicken me (143:11)”; after all, the LORD is jealous for His servants (143:12).

I close with promises that were David’s meditations in his final psalm (Psalm 145:18-21).

Psalm 145:18-20 –18  The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
19  He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
20  The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.”

What a great God we serve!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences

Monday, December 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 26-28

Our scripture reading is Deuteronomy 26-28 and continues Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure.  As noted in previous devotional commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is charging Israel with laws and spiritual principles that are to guide the people as they become a nation in their own land (Deuteronomy 26:1).

Moses reminds Israel when they come into the land God has promised, they are to give tithes of the fruit (or profit) of their labor.  Remembering the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (Dt. 26:1-11), the firstfruits offering was taken to the place of worship, given as a sacrifice and supported the priestly tribe of Levi and their households.

In the third year, a special tithe was given coinciding with tither’s confession he had honored the LORD’s commandments and obeyed them.  The tithe given in the third year was used locally to meet immediate needs in one’s own community and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16 and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounds to the nation the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments.  With the promise God had chosen Israel “to be His peculiar people…and to make thee high above all nations…” (Dt. 26:16-19), Moses admonished the people to “be an holy people unto the LORD thy God” (Dt. 26:19b).

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were to erect a memorial pillar of stones on the west side of the Jordan River serving as a reminder of LORD’s promises and commandments (Dt. 27:1-2).  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place and the laws and commandments were to be inscribed on the stones as a lasting testimony (27:2-10).

Reminding the people “Choices have Consequences”, the elders of the twelve tribes were charged to teach the people obedience to the Law brought the LORD’s blessing and disobedience His curse and judgments (27:14-26).

Moses pronounced a series of twelve curses should the people disobey the LORD and reject His Law and Commandments (Dt. 27:15-26).  The following sins invited God’s judgment:

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments is cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents is cursed (27:16), a violation of the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit is cursed, a violation of the sixth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled is cursed (27:18).

5) The fifth curse is upon one who is unjust in how they treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses address sexual purity, a violation of the  seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother is cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality is cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings and parents is cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother is cursed (27:23).

The fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), is the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (Dt. 27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor is cursed (Dt. 27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another is cursed (Dt. 27:25).

The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed God’s Law and Commandments (Dt .27:26).

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them…”

Deuteronomy 28 enumerates God’s blessings for the people and nation who obey His Laws and Commandments (Dt. 28:1-14).  The promise of God’s blessings on Israel if the people obeyed His Law and Commandments is stunning!  The nation had so much to aspire to, if only they obeyed the LORD.

If Israel “observe and to do all His commandments”, God promised He would “set thee on high above all nations of the earth” (28:1).  The blessings of the LORD are described as so great Israel would be overtaken by them (28:2)!  Every area of the nation’s life would be blessed… “in the city…in the field” (28:3).  Universal fruitfulness was promised to Israel…the womb of women, cattle, sheep and the fruit of the fields would reap a harvest of God’s blessings (28:4-6).

Israel’s enemies would fall before them and their storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:7-14).  All this was promised to Israel, if the people obeyed the LORD’s Law and Commandments.

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicts the curses that would come upon Israel should the nation turn from the LORD and disobey His Law and Commandments (28:15-68).  In the same way God promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobey Him.

If the nation continued in the LORD’s Law and Commandments, the LORD promised His blessings would overtake them (28:2); however, should they disobey the LORD they were assured “all curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (28:15).  The city, fields, storehouses, wombs of wives and livestock…all cursed (28:16-18).  The coming and going of the people…cursed (28:19)… “until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly” (28:20).  The promise of God’s judgment for disobeying His Laws and Commandments continues another forty-eight verses!

Sadly, Israel would turn from the LORD and all the curses noted in today’s scripture reading befell the nation!

Friend, it is not popular and few preachers have the courage to state it so, but “Choices Have Consequences” and no nation, people, or family should expect to disobey the LORD’s Law and Commandments and be blessed!

The message of the scriptures is one of redemption through the blood of Christ!  The Gospel is a message of God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness…and there is nothing required of a sinner to be saved than believing Christ, the sinless Son of God died for their sins, was buried and raised from the dead victorious over sin and the grave. The apostle Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus,

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace [God’s unmerited favor] 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.”

However, “Choices Have Consequences” and ignoring that truth does not change it. 

 The pulpits of fundamental churches, schools and Bible colleges are filled with a generation of preachers failing to remind the saints while salvation is “by grace”, God’s blessings are conditional.  “Good works” is evidence of the genuineness and sincerity of our salvation.  Paul writes,

Ephesians 2:10 – “For we [believers] are his workmanship [product; result of God’s grace], created [made and renewed] in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them [i.e. our life in Christ is to be a testimony of good works].

I close with a reminder of the manner of people believers are to be:

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.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

For Servants of God, Quitting is Not An Option!

 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 1-4

Our “Read-Thru the Bible In a Year” schedule brings us today to the Book of Nehemiah, chapters 1-4.  Permit me an opportunity to give you some background on this book.

While the Book of Ezra recorded the decree of Cyrus king of Persia setting the Jews at liberty to return to their land and rebuild the Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar 70 years earlier (Ezra 1); the Book of Nehemiah gives Nehemiah’s record of how the walls of Jerusalem were restored. Thus, the prophet and priest Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries; the elder Ezra being the first to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the Temple.

Who was Nehemiah?  He was “the king’s cupbearer” (Nehemiah 1:11).  Dwelling in the king’s palace, Nehemiah’s life was one of privilege.  He was more than his title implies; the role of the cupbearer was that of a king’s closest aide; his confidant and counselor.  The king entrusted his very life to his cupbearer who protected the king from assassination by first tasting the king’s food and sipping his wine.

In spite of the comforts and privileges he enjoyed as a cupbearer, Nehemiah’s heart was burdened for the remnant of Jews who returned to Jerusalem.  Visited by “men of Judah” (1:2), Nehemiah inquired concerning the welfare of his brethren and the state of things in Jerusalem.  The men of Judah reported the walls of the city laid in ruins and how the people suffered (1:3).  Hearing how his people suffered, Nehemiah wept, prayed, and sought opportunity to intervene (1:4-11).

Unable to mask his sorrow, Artaxerxes the king observed Nehemiah’s countenance and questioned the cause for his cupbearer’s sadness (2:1-2a).  Remembering the authority of ancient oriental kings was absolute and they held in their lands the power of life and death, Nehemiah confessed, “I was very sore afraid” (2:2b).

One great spiritual qualities found in Nehemiah’s life is he was a man of prayer. When he heard how the Jews suffered in Jerusalem, he wept and prayed (1:4-11).  When the king enquired why he was sad, Nehemiah prayed to God for wisdom (2:4) and requested the king send him to Jerusalem with letters granting him authority to acquire materials and permission to rebuild the walls of the city (2:5-8).

Nehemiah’s vision to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was immediately met by opposition when he arrived in Jerusalem (2:10, 19-20).  On the third day after his arrival in the city, Nehemiah surveyed the state of the city at night and found the walls and gates of the city in ruin (2:11-15).  Exercising discretion, Nehemiah refrained from disclosing his business to the elders of the city (2:12,16).

Why such secrecy regarding the great vision he had for Jerusalem?  There are many reasons I might offer, but surely the foremost is he needed time to contemplate the task before him, seek the LORD’s direction, and set forward a plan of attack and the organization required for so great an undertaking.

Having assessed the task to rebuild the walls of the city, Nehemiah challenged the elders among the Jews that it was time to rebuild the walls and secure its inhabitants (2:17-18).  He encouraged the people with the courage of his own faith in God saying, “The God of heaven, He will prosper us” (2:20).

Nehemiah 3 gives the organization of the laborers and their assigned tasks on the walls and gates. Noblemen, priests, and households of common men labored side by side on the walls and gates of the city. As the work to restore the walls began, enemies of God’s people were provoked to anger and began mocking the workers and ridiculing their labor on the walls (4:1-6).

Seeing the walls and gates being restored, the enemies of the Jews “conspired all of them together” (4:4-8).  When the people were tempted to be discouraged (4:7-11), Nehemiah writes, “we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night” (4:9).

I observe two responses to opposition in this passage you and I are wise to emulate in our walk with the LORD.

The first response, Nehemiah encouraged the people to pray (4:4-5, 9).  The second, Nehemiah urged the people to arm themselves against their enemies and continue to work.

Neh. 4:17-18 – “They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.  18 For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.”

Friend, serving Christ is not predicated upon convenience, but upon conviction.  If you are going to serve the LORD, be prepared for opposition from without and within.  Ridicule, mocking, scorn are all tools the enemy uses to discourage us, cause us to doubt, and eventually quit.

For Nehemiah, quitting was not an option!  When he faced opposition, he prayed.  When he faced tasks that exhausted him and the people, he prayed…and continue to work!  Nehemiah gives us this testimony:

Nehemiah 4:23 – “So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Scripture Reading and An Update from the Author of Heart of a Shepherd

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 134-136

After a weeklong absence from posting my daily devotional commentaries, it is my joy to return to this spiritual discipline, praying it is a blessing to you who have been faithful followers of this “Heart of a Shepherd” over the years.  Today’s scripture reading is Psalms 134-136.

On a personal note, I am on the mend from two surgeries this month of November 2017; the first, to address kidney stones that lodged in my uterine tube necessitating me postponing my second surgery until the stones were removed.

My second surgery, and one that has been much more painful, was to repair a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder.  I lived with pain in my right shoulder for several years, assuming it was arthritis, I pushed through the pain and never slowed down until July 2017 when I found myself struggling to sleep at night due to shoulder pain.

While one of my great joys in recent years has been directing Hillsdale’s adult choir (some 40+ voices strong); I was unaware what I presumed was arthritis was in fact a bone spur sawing away a tendon in my right shoulder that is my rotator cuff.  My surgeon informed me on Monday I nearly waited too long and the tendon forming my rotator cuff retracted entirely before my surgery last Wednesday, November 15.

At this stage I have a positive report!  The surgeon sutured my tendon into my bone, restoring the blood supply, removed the bone spur and offering me hope of a full restoration.  On a less positive note, I do have degeneration and have to avoid physical use for at least three weeks; otherwise, I risk having to go back in for surgery, something the surgeon assured me, “we do not want to do”.

I have several precautions, warnings, and face several “do not’s” over the next weeks.  My right arm is strapped to my side and will continue so for several weeks.  While I can move my arm from my elbow, thus allowing me to type, I cannot extend my arm forward making typing painful.

I cannot shake hands and am to avoid anyone touching or brushing by my shoulder, less I re-injure the rotator cuff.  I cannot pick up anything heavier than a cup or fork, without risking further injury. Finally, my wife is a wonderful nurse and I dare not take any risk of injury that might inhibit my recovery for her sake and sacrifices.

Lord willing, I plan slip into Hillsdale’s morning service this Sunday, but also taking the precaution of not putting my shoulder at risk.  Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement as I mend.

I will return to my practice of posting daily commentaries this Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 23, 2017.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God is With You in The Midst of Trials

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezra 1-5

The setting of the Book of Ezra, a contemporary of Haggai, is the end of the 70-year Babylonian captivity.  Remembering, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1), the opening verses of Ezra serve as notice the God of Israel is the Sovereign God of heaven and earth (Ezra 1:1-2).

Having conquered Babylon, the Persian king Cyrus, declared the God of heaven moved his heart to build His Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-2).  Fulfilling the LORD’S promise to restore Israel as a nation, Cyrus granted the Jews liberty to return to their land (Ezra 1:3).

The hardships that laid before the remnant that returned to Judah would be formidable.  The city of Jerusalem was in ruins, its walls reduced to rubble, and the Temple destroyed.  After seventy years in captivity, many of God’s people had embraced the Babylonian culture and only a small minority were willing to accept the challenge of returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 2).

Under Ezra’s leadership, the people rebuilt the altar (3:1-6), laid the Temple foundation (3:7-9), and paused to celebrate and praise the LORD as a free people (3:10-11).

Consider three qualities God’s people share when they set aside personal agendas in favor of the will and purpose of the LORD (Ezra 3).

The first shared quality is a mutual purpose; “they gathered…as one man to Jerusalem (3:1).  The second, they shared a spirit of mutual sacrifice as they “gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters”, meat from their livestock, wine from their vineyards, and oil refined from their olive groves (3:7).  The third is a satisfaction of mutual joy; when the foundation was laid, “all the people shouted with a great shout” (3:11).

Unfortunately, in the midst of those celebrating the newly laid Temple foundation, were some who did not share the joy of those rebuilding the Temple (3:12-13).  A discordant sound arose from the “ancient men”, the elderly who were living in the past instead of celebrating in the moment (3:12-13).

Ezra 3:12-13 – “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:  13  So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.”

The “ancient men” remembered Solomon’s Temple, the one destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and comparing the glory of that Temple to the foundation of the new one, became critical and scoffed at the work being done.  Through Zechariah, the LORD confronted the ancients asking, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9-10).  The prophet Haggai echoed Zechariah’s question asking, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

Friend, the second Temple would not match the physical splendor and beauty of Solomon’s Temple; however, it would be greater than the first for the LORD Jesus Christ, would grace it with His physical presence as the incarnate Son of God.  Of the new Temple, Haggai prophesied:

Haggai 2:9 – The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.

I close on a personal note drawing upon my experiences as the Senior Pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church these past 22 years.

Today’s scripture reading brings back memories of a series I preached in the Book of Ezra in the spring of 2004.  At the time, Hillsdale Baptist Church was in the midst of a relocation and building program that commenced with the purchase of land at our current location in 1999, followed by the design and preparation of architectural blueprints, and the sale of our old facilities February 2003.  From groundbreaking to completion, the timeline for our new facility was to be ten months.

Hillsdale’s pastoral leaders and deacons prepared the church for what was supposed to be a temporary inconvenience of renting a public school auditorium for Sunday worship services while our new home was under construction.  Unforeseen by any of our leadership was an adversarial spirit evidenced by the contractor soon after groundbreaking.

A lack of performance forced the church to terminate the contractor and subcontractors, and embroiled the church in a prolonged legal battle with the surety bond company that, using various legal maneuvers, attempted to exhaust the will of the church and its leaders.  A ten month construction project ended up taking thirty months to complete, followed by legal battles that continued another five years costing Hillsdale hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Late July 2005, Hillsdale Baptist Church experienced the joy of holding our first services in our new home; a joy tempered by a sorrow for some who did not persevere with us to the dedication of our new home.  In the fall of 2010, the surety company and contractors were forced to settle with the church.

The toll on the church was great; however, those who persevered have been richly blessed and God glorified.  Being reminded God is Sovereign, Hillsdale’s adversaries paid a far greater price.  The contractor died in a tragic accident the very day the financial settlement for the church was under deliberation; the construction firm and the majority of subcontractors were either forced into bankruptcy or dissolved.

I close with a verse that carried me through much adversity.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [test or trials] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tested or tried] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [provide you the strength and means to pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 122-124

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Failure to Thrive

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 119

Today’s scripture reading is Psalm 119.  With the exception of Psalm 23, Psalm 119 may be the favorite psalm of saints down through the centuries.  Its celebration of the Word and Law of God might seem out of step with many 21st century believers’ emphasis on grace [which is in danger of becoming “lawless grace” that knows little of the holiness of God]; however, its truths are eternal and its lessons regarding what manner of people the saints ought to be timeless.

I preached a series of messages on Psalm 119 in January 2016 and authored a brief series of devotions on the chapter during that time.  Today’s devotional commentary was first posted on this blog, January 25, 2016.

Psalm 119:129 – “Thy testimonies [witness; admonitions; ordinances] are wonderful [marvelous]: therefore doth my soul [life; person] keep [preserve; guard] them.”

“Failure to thrive” is an ominous term I have heard doctors use for both the very young and elderly patients.  The terminology is not a disease, but a description of a patient who is failing; failing to gain weight, failing to grow and failing to mature.  It is a state of being undernourished despite heroic actions taken to encourage physical weight gain and well-being.

The term, “failure to thrive”, is a fitting diagnosis for many church members.  They come to church faithfully and sit in pews year after year with no visible signs of spiritual life, health or growth.  

American Christians are hardly undernourished when it comes to physical weight; however, there are too many who are spiritually undernourished…failing to grow and mature.

The writer of Hebrews observed the same malady in the 1st century church when he wrote:

Hebrews 5:12-14 – “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers [Instructors], ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God [Old Testament sayings]; and are become [having degenerated] such as have need of milk [unable to chew solid food], and not of strong meat [solid food; advance doctrines].
13  For every one that useth [drink] milk is unskilful [ignorant; inexperienced] in the word [doctrine; preaching] of righteousness: for he is a babe [spiritually immature].
14  But strong meat [solid food] belongeth to them that are of full age [mature], even those who by reason of use [exercised in the Word and Law of God] have their senses [discernment] exercised [train; workout; disciplined exercise] to discern both good and evil [moral and immoral].”

anorexic ChristiansFailure to thrive” is the malady of the 21st century church.   Although we live in a day of mass communication and modern technology has put within our reach opportunities of studying and hearing God’s Word taught 24\7; the reality is there is a gross ignorance of the scriptures.  Like the 1st century, there are Christians who should be faithful students and teachers of the Bible, but are content with being spoon-fed the puree of elementary truths in churches more focused on entertaining the masses than the faithful exposition of God’s Word.

A spiritually anorexic Christian is the portrait of 21st century Christianity in America!  No wonder sin and lawless liberty abounds within our churches; we have fostered a generation of carnal Christians who demand pandering because they are spiritual babies desensitized to sin by their ignorance of the Truth!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith