Tag Archives: Pray

Mass Exodus Out of Florida Returning Home

I want to thank you for your prayers on behalf of Hillsdale Baptist Church, its members and staff who anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  As our lives are getting back to normal, with the exception of some roof leaks, our church and school buildings are in great shape.  We are praising the LORD our membership suffered little damage as Category 1 and Category 2 winds whipped through our region.  Other than the inconvenience of losing electricity, we are rejoicing in God’s protection.

On a personal note:  In my opinion, sensationalism has become the daily diet of our culture and the mass exodus from Florida before and during Hurricane Irma’s arrival driven in large part to a news media given to hype and ratings.

“Breaking News”, “This Just In”, “Epic” are clichés used ad nauseam by news networks desperately competing for viewership that translates into revenue from advertisers.

The coverage of Hurricane Irma was indeed “epic” and the storm was without a doubt powerful and destructive; however, the news media’s use of images (replayed over and over) along with the hyperbole of exaggeration, ramped up both fear and anxiety that went far beyond the actual threat of the storm.

Citizens of Florida were running from the east coast to the west coast, then back to the east coast in an attempt to flee Irma based on the forecasts of meteorological “experts” that hadn’t a clue where the storm was going to make landfall or the track she would take.  Hundreds of thousands of Floridians fled homes located far from coastal waters and the predicted “surge” only to be overtaken by Irma in their northward flight (apparently, she was not listening to weather prognosticators failing to accurately predict her track even an hour ahead of her eye).

Two days before Irma’s arrival, hoarders emptied grocery shelves of food stocks and water; Gas stations ran out of gas as a panicked population clogged highway arteries.

I am left wondering what happened to the common-sense adage saints use to follow, “Prepare for the worst and pray”.

I believe the inspiration of that saying is Proverbs 21:31.   Solomon advised his son, “The horse is prepared [ready] against the day of battle [war; warfare]: but safety [salvation; deliverance; victory] is of the LORD.”

Believers are to use wisdom and exercise prudence in preparing for trials, troubles and storms (i.e. prepare the horse for battle); however, people of faith, having done all to prepare, must put their faith in the LORD who is Omnipotent and Sovereign, after all, “safety is of the LORD”, is it not?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm”

September 10, 2017

A Sunday Devotional Thought from Mark 4:35-5:1

Canceling worship services this Sunday, September 10, 2017 is something I did not want to do; however, facing the uncertainty of Hurricane Irma’s direction and arrival in Tampa Bay, Hillsdale’s pastoral leadership felt it wise to not place upon our church family an expectation to leave your places of safety.

I am writing this devotional knowing I will miss the opportunity to worship, sing, and study God’s Word with you this Sunday, but purposing to remind you the LORD gives peace to those who put their faith in Him, even in the midst of storms.  Storms, trials and troubles are, after all, our lot because we live in a sin cursed world.

The focus of this Sunday devotional is Mark 4:35-5:1.   Jesus had been teaching parables throughout the day and when the crowd became too large and pressed upon Him, He sat in a fishing boat and taught them near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other side, some seven miles away.  Lying down in the boat, Jesus slept.

Although named a Sea, the body of water known as the Sea of Galilee is a large lake, only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide.  This body of water; however, is notorious for violent storms that without warning turn the lake into a raging sea.

Lying 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round, much like our own Tampa Bay.   Encircled by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift.  To the north is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Hermon whose melting snows feed the tributaries that form the Jordan River, running southward into the Sea of Galilee and finally into the Dead Sea.  Cold winds from mountain peaks in the north drift down through hillsides funneling cold air into the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.  It is a storm such as this we find the disciples and Jesus.

Luke writes, “as they sailed He [Jesus] fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy” (Luke 8:23).  Matthew writes of the same incident, “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

The magnitude of the storm is evident when we remember at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman on the Sea of Galilee; however, not even veteran fishermen were able to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.  Cold winds whipped up the waves threatening to overwhelm the ship while exhausted disciples fought to keep the vessel afloat.  Finally, when all seemed lost, we read, “they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Master, master, we perish…” (Luke 8:23-24).

Physically and emotionally exhausted, the disciples realized they could not save themselves and cried out to Jesus: “Master [lit. – Teacher], carest though not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)

Embodied in that question is sadly, a revelation of their lack of faith and understanding of the LORD.   In their distress, they questioned the LORD’s compassion, “Carest thou not” (Mark 4:38).  Years later, Peter would write, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

It was not a lack of compassion, but a lack of faith that was the problem.  The disciples viewed the storm as a challenge and threat to their physical well-being.  The LORD was not surprised by the storm, nor overwhelmed; He had a far greater purpose for the storm…a lesson in faith.

Mark 4:39-40 – “And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40  And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith and their failure to trust Him.   When He rebuked the storm and the winds immediately ceased and the water was stilled, “they feared exceedingly [terrfied], and said [lit. kept saying] one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)

They had heard Him teach, but did not know Him.  Witnessed His miracles, but failed to understand His divine power and nature.  What manner of man is this?

The disciples should have known the man sleeping in the hindermost part of the boat and whose command, “Peace Be Still” the winds and waves obeyed was no mere man…He was Jesus, the Son of God, Creator.

King David wrote of the LORD, “Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people” (Psalm 65:7).

Another psalmist wrote, “O Lord God of host….Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8-9).

Many reading this Sunday devotional are in the midst of a very real storm.

My church family in Tampa Bay is awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  Many in Houston are nigh overwhelmed by the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.  Some are in storms deeply personal in nature…a crisis of health, problems at home, in marriage or a financial crisis.   Many are ill-prepared for storms because their faith is anchored on a shallow, unbibilical theology duping them to believe “Something good is going to happen!”

Friend, God does not promise to spare us from trouble or trials; however, He promises to be with us!  Before ascending to heaven Jesus promised His disciples, “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b).

What spiritual benefits can we derive from storms?

Storms remind us we are weak and incapable of saving ourselves.  Storms are opportunities to know God personally and intimately.  Storms invite us to turn our focus from oursevles to the LORD.   The disciples experienced what David as shepherd wrote, “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

I assure you, the safest place in the world is in the will of God and yes, He sometimes leads you into the midst of storms!

I close inviting you to listen to Evangelist Ben Everson singing, What Manner of Man Is his?”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

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

Lonely? The LORD is Waiting

August 30, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 102-104

Our scripture reading today is three psalms, Psalm 102, Psalm 103 and Psalm 104.

Psalm 102 is a psalm of confession and repentance.  Although the author is not known, sincere believers will readily identify with his cry of repentance and the blessed promise the LORD hears our confession, forgives sin and restores His child to fellowship (Psalm 102:1-4).

In a series of vignettes (portraits), the psalmist paints for us the sorrows and afflictions he felt when he looked honestly at the spiritual, physical and emotional toll sin had taken on his life.   His days were like a puff of smoke, empty and void (102:3).   Like grass withering in the midday sun, his heart was dried up (102:4).   His flesh was gaunt and wasted, like a dead man walking (102:5).   “Like a pelican of the wilderness… an owl of the desert… a sparrow alone upon the house top”, he felt alone in his misery (102:6-7).   Summing up his miserable state, the psalmist declared his life was “like a shadow that declineth…[and] withered like grass” (102:11).

Notice the psalmist’s despair turned to hope when his focus moved from his sin to the LORD (Psalm 102:12-28). 

Psalm 102:12 – “But thou, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God]], shalt endure [dwell; abide; sit enthroned] for ever [eternity]; and thy remembrance [memorial] unto all generations [evermore].

The psalmist’s emphasis on “Zion” (the mount upon which Jerusalem is built) most likely places this psalm toward the end of the Babylonian captivity when the LORD promised Israel would be restored to her land as a nation (102:13-21).

With eyes of faith, the psalmist takes comfort knowing the LORD reigned in heaven and had not forgotten His people (102:17-20).   Longing to see Israel restored before his death, the psalmist prayed that his life would not be cut short (102:23-24).

Psalm 102 concludes with the focus upon the character of the LORD.  The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 102:25-28 and identifies Jesus Christ as the subject (Hebrews 1:10-12) revealing the Lord is Creator (102:25), Enduring (102:26), Immutable (102:27a), Eternal (102:27b) and Faithful (102:28).

I have no way of knowing the challenges we may face today; however, be confident of this…we are secure in the LORD (Psalm 102:28).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Ignorance Is Not Bliss!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Hosea 1-7

Today’s scripture reading is the first seven chapters of the Book of Hosea, written by Hosea, the first of the “minor prophets”.  There is general agreement among scholars that Hosea’s public ministry spanned 58 years beginning in 748 B.C. and continuing to 690 B.C., concluding just prior to Assyria conquering Israel and leading the people away into captivity.

As God’s prophet, Hosea was tasked with the responsibility of preaching to the northern ten tribes known as Israel.  Having rejected God’s commandments, the rebellious nation had turned to worshipping and sacrificing to idols.  The Book of Hosea records the ministry of one faithful man who courageously warned his nation of God’s imminent judgment should they continue in their wickedness and rebellion.

Hosea 1 opens with a disconcerting command; comparing the spiritual condition of Israel to whoredom, the LORD illustrated His unfailing love for Israel and commanded Hosea to take a prostitute named Gomer as his wife (Hosea 1:2).  Gomer would bear three children of Hosea; a son named Jezreel (meaning “God scatters” – 1:4), a daughter named Loruhamah (meaning “love withdrawn” – 1:6), and another son named Loammi (meaning “not my people” – 1:9).  The names of Hosea’s children conveyed the spiritual condition of the nation and their estranged relationship with the LORD.

Hosea 3 uses the prophet’s scandalous marriage to Gomer, a prostitute, as a parallel portrait of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  In spite of Hosea’s tender love for his wife, she left him and returned to prostitution (Hosea 3:1), in the same manner Israel left the LORD and committed spiritual whoredom with the gods of her pagan neighbors.

Illustrating the LORD’s longsuffering and compassion for Israel in spite of her spiritual harlotry, the LORD commanded Hosea to take Gomer back as his wife (Hosea 3:2 states he purchased her out of prostitution for “fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley” (3:2).  Taking back his adulterous wife and promising to restore their marriage covenant (3:3), Hosea demonstrated God’s unconditional love and compassion for wayward Israel.

Hosea 4 paints a picture of a nation that is in the midst of a precipitous moral decline.  Preaching the “word of the LORD”, Hosea declared “there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. 2  By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood” (4:1-2).

Hosea confronted priests who had failed the people as spiritual leaders warning, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6).

God turned the nation’s “glory into shame” and warned, “I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings” (4:9);  “they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD” (4:10).

What a tragic time!  In the hour the nation was desperate for a clarion call to repent and turn back to God, the spiritual leaders were themselves engrossed in wickedness (4:6-11).  They had failed the people and doomed the nation!

Hosea warned Israel the opportunity to repent and turn back to the LORD was fleeting and the nation would soon fall victim to an enemy described as a “thief” (7:1).  “Strangers have devoured his strength…yet he knoweth not” (Hosea 7:9) describes the decline of the nation.  As the clouds of judgment approached, rather than return to the LORD, the nation appealed to Egypt to save her from Assyria (7:11-16).

On a practical and personal note, the annual readership of this devotional blog is read by citizens of some 170 nations, many of who are following the spiritual and moral decline of America in the news and from their own vantage point.  President Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” resonated with the populist of America when he was elected November 2016; however, I know of no politician who has addressed the core issue of this nation’s decline…SIN!

The spiritual harlotry of Israel and the failure of her spiritual leaders to confess and confront the sins of the nation should serve as a warning to America’s spiritual leaders.  Sadly, a generation of preachers fill the pulpits of America’s churches and Christian schools who are failing to, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).   Fulfilling the apostle Paul’s dire warning, the 21st century church has become a people who “will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The founding fathers of these United States were well aware the greatest danger to America’s future as a nation would be her own internal struggles.  Sounding more like a prophet than a politician, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, warned:  “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“I will…I will…I will!”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 99-101

Three psalms or hymns of praise, is the scripture reading for today.  Like all the psalms, these were songs sung by Levite singers and musicians in the Temple and cherished by Jews and Christians down through the centuries.

Some psalms commemorate special events in Israel’s history.  Many of the psalms are deeply personal for their authors and reflect times of sorrow and joy, conviction and repentance, distress and thanksgiving.  The majority of the psalms are, as the name of the book implies, written for the purpose of praising the LORD by focusing on His holy character and attributes.

Psalm 99 reminds the people, “The LORD [Jehovah] reigneth” (99:1), He is King and Sovereign of the earth.  “The LORD…is high above all the people” (99:2) and His “name” [is] “great and terrible…for it is holy” (99:3).   Psalm 99 concludes with an exhortation to “Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His holy hill [the setting of the Temple and sacrifices]; for the LORD our God is holy” (99:9).

Psalm 100 is perhaps one of the most beloved of the psalms and has inspired many great anthems, hymns and choruses of praise.  For the sake of this brief devotional, I will take the liberty of adding my amplification of the text.  As you read the following, join me and the throng of God’s people who are entering the outer courts of the Temple.  Listen as the singers and musicians call the people to worship the LORD.

Psalm 100:1-5 – 1 Make a joyful noise [shout; sound an alarm; ] unto the LORD [Jehovah; Yahweh; Eternal God], all ye lands [earth; country; world].
2  Serve [work; labor; become servants] the LORD with gladness [joy; rejoicing; pleasure; delight]: come [enter; pass; come in] before his presence [face] with singing [joyful voice; triumph; shout for joy].
3  Know [perceive; understand] ye that the LORD he is God [mighty God]: it is he that hath made us [wrought; prepare; squeeze or mold], and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4  Enter [come] into his gates with thanksgiving [praise; offerings; i.e hymns of thanksgiving], and into his courts [towns; villages] with praise: be thankful [give thanks] unto him, and bless [praise] his name [i.e. Person – character; attributes].
5  For the LORD is good [better; best; pleasant; pleasing]; his mercy [lovingkindness; favor; steadfast love and grace] is everlasting [perpetual; always; eternal]; and his truth [faithfulness; ] endureth to all generations [ages].

While the focus of Psalm 100 is on the LORD’s attributes (He is mighty, good, merciful and faithful), Psalm 101 is filled with assertive statements of David’s vows and devotion to the LORD.  The spiritual principles found in this chapter are as timely and applicable to our day as they were when David penned them 3,000 years ago.

Giving no room for ambiguity, David states his vows to the LORD in a series of emphatic, life guiding principles and convictions, many beginning with the words, “I will…”

Psalm 101:1-8 – 1 I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing.
2  I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
3  I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
4  A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.
5  Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.
6  Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.
7  He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.
8  I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD.

I close by inviting you to meditate on David’s vows and realize each of them should be true of you and me. 

Vs. 1 – I will proclaim the LORD is merciful and just.

Vs. 2 – I will conduct myself in a godly manner and what I am in public I will be in the privacy of my home and before my family.

Vs. 3 – I will guard my eyes and thoughts from wickedness and will not look upon or allow the way of the wicked to shape my heart and thoughts.

Vs. 4 – I will not allow the wicked to be numbered among my friends nor employ any who are dishonest.

Vs. 5 – I will not fellowship with those who gossip or slander their neighbors nor tolerate the proud.

Vs. 6 – I will seek the fellowship and company of those who walk in righteousness.

Vs. 7 – I will not tolerate liars and deceivers.

Vs. 8 – I will not tolerate the wicked or give them a safe place in my life, family or home.

Friend, are those statements true of you?  They should be and can be if you are willing, like David, to assert them in your soul and engrave them upon your heart.   Write them down in your own words and place them in prominent places in your daily life.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Three Psalms of Worship and Prayer

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 78-80

Our scripture reading consists of three chapters today, Psalms 78, 79 and 80.  The human author is a priest and musician named Asaph and God’s people would have sung his psalms in worshipping the LORD.

Psalm 78 is a study in Israel’s history as Asaph reminds the people of God’s faithfulness to Israel throughout her history and His longsuffering toward the people when they were a faithless, complaining and disobedient people during their sojourn in the wilderness (78:12-53).

Fathers and mothers were charged with the responsibility of not only remembering, but also teaching their children who would teach their children not only the nation’s history, but God’s providential care of His people (78:3-8).

Psalm 79 is a prophetic psalm that would not occur until Nebuchadnezzar and the armies of Babylon conquered Judah and destroyed the city and Temple (79:1).  The devastation was great and the bodies of the dead would be left in the streets (79:2-3).  The psalmist, jealous for the name of the God of Israel, worried the people had “become a reproach” to their heathen neighbors (79:4).    The psalmist prayed for the LORD to deliver His people (79:5-12), promising to offer the LORD perpetual praise.

Like Psalm 79, Psalm 80 is a prophetic psalm most likely set in the time of the Babylonian invasion.  The opening verse is a petition to the LORD identified as the “Shepherd of Israel” and “thou that dwellest between the cherubims” (referring to the Ark of the Covenant as the earthly symbol of God’s heavenly throne).

The psalmist cries out to the LORD on behalf of the nation to come to the aid of His people and restore the nation (80:2-7).  Three times we read the petition, “Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved” (80:3, 7, 19).

Beginning with Psalm 80:8, the psalmist pictures Israel as a “vine out of Egypt” and remembers how God had blessed the nation and “cast out the heathen” and gave His people the land of Canaan.

Israel prospered as long as the hearts of the people were turned to the LORD (80:10-11); however, the psalmist pondered how long God’s providential protection would be departed and the heathen nations allowed to rob her prosperity (80:12).

Psalm 80 concludes with the psalmist petitioning the LORD to “Turn us again” and “cause Thy face to shine” (80:19).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith