Tag Archives: Pray

An Introduction to the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 1; 1 Timothy 2)

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Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 1; 1 Timothy 2

A personal note: Of all Paul’s epistles, his first letter to Timothy is my favorite. As a young man, I found the apostle’s counsel to his “son in the faith” (1:2) to be invaluable as I framed my own ministry philosophy. Now that I am an elder minister, I reflect on Paul’s manner and rapport with Timothy, and desire the same with those who serve with me. This is a bonus devotional, and serves as an introduction to our study of Paul’s 1st epistle to Timothy.

We first met Timothy when he was a young believer, and was privileged to be a part of Paul’s missions’ team. He was, according to Acts 16:1, “the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek.” The implication was Timothy’s home was a spiritually divided home; his father apparently a Gentile unbeliever, and his mother a woman of Jewish lineage and a follower of Christ.

In spite of what might have been the divisive nature of his household, Timothy’s mother and grandmother were women of faith and had a profound influence on him. Paul wrote, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned [sincere] faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (1:5).

Timothy’s passion for spiritual truth was inflamed from his childhood, and in his second letter to Timothy, Paul reminded the young pastor of his godly heritage. Paul wrote, “from a child [very young child] thou hast known [growing knowledge of] the holy scriptures [instructed in the Old Testament Scriptures], which are able to make thee wise [understanding] unto salvation through faith [assurance; belief] which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Of course, Timothy became a devoted companion on Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 16:3), a co-worker in the churches, and finally the pastor of the church in Ephesus (1:3a).

1 Timothy 1

Paul mentored many; however, his relationship with Timothy was especially rewarding to the old apostle. Considering himself that young preacher’s spiritual father, his affection for Timothy is evidenced throughout the letter in both affirmations and admonitions (1:2, 18; 4:6-16; 6:11-13, 20-21).

Paul had commissioned Timothy, and charged him to continue ministering in Ephesus after he departed by ship for Macedonia (1:3a). Paul’s letters seem to indicate a certain timidity on Timothy’s part, and in his absence, the apostle was mindful to encourage Timothy to be bold in his ministry (1:3b), and give no tolerance to false teachers and their heresies (1:4). I conclude this introduction, taking liberty to close with Paul’s charge to Timothy (1:5).

1 Timothy 1:5 – “Now the end of the commandment is charity [self-sacrificing love] out of a pure heart, and ofa good conscience, and of faith unfeigned [sincere faith; without hypocrisy].”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Greatest Man in God’s Sight is a Humble, Selfless Servant. (Philippians 2)

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Scripture reading – Philippians 2

Philippians 1 concluded with Paul urging Philippian believers to live worthy of the “gospel of Christ,” and strive for unity (1:27a). Setting aside petty differences, he exhorted them to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27b). “Striving together” was an athletic term that implied not only discipline, but teamwork. What was the goal or coming together as a team? “For the faith,” meaning the doctrine, “of the gospel” (1:27b).

Knowing believers in Philippi faced adversaries, Paul encouraged them to not be afraid of those who opposed them, but to follow his example, “not only to believe on [Christ], but also to suffer for His sake” (1:28-30). Paul was passionate the believers in Philippi would encourage each other, knowing the enemies they faced were those who had opposed him (Acts 16).

Philippians 2

Four Conditions for Spiritual Unity (2:1)

Philippians 2:1 presents us with four realities that motivate believers to pursue spiritual oneness. The first, “consolation in Christ” (2:1a). In other words, like Christ, we should comfort and encourage others with our words and actions. Secondly, the love of Christ motivates us to extend love to others (2:1b). Believers also share in the “fellowship of the Spirit,” for we are by one Spirit…baptized into one body” (2:1c; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Finally, out of “bowels and mercies,” we extend grace and forgiveness to one another (2:1d). After all, we are to be “kindtenderhearted… forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Four Essentials for Spiritual Unity (2:2)

Motivated by four conditions necessary for unity (each beginning with “if” in verse 1), Paul prayed four essentials would be true of the believers: “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (2:2).

To be “likeminded” does not mean believers agree on everything. Paul encouraged the congregation at Philippi, not to strive for uniformity (attained only by pressure from without), but for unity (which is a matter of the heart, and attainable by pressure from within). Like-mindedness is attained when we submit our will to a cause greater than ourselves (for the believer, that cause is to glorify the Lord, the salvation of souls, and the welfare of the congregation; but never at the sacrifice of truth and spiritual integrity).

Three other essentials follow the mandate to be likeminded (2:2b). Spiritual unity exists only when believers have “the same love” (loving the same things—the Lord, the Word, and one another), are “one accord” (acting in harmony), and “one mind” (having the same heart, purpose, and intent).

Sinful Attitudes that Hinder the Unity of Believers (2:3-4)

Mentioned in verses 3-4, are three negative attitudes that hinder harmony among believers, and two positive attitudes that contribute to unity. “Strife” (a selfish, quarrelsome spirit) and “vainglory” (pride) were the first two of three attitudes Paul identified as contributors to disharmony. The apostle wrote, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory” (2:3a). Sadly, too many churches are known more for their quarrels and conflicts (James 4:1; 2 Corinthians 12:20), than their love and harmony. Pride, of course, is the rotten root that impedes unity, and is arrogant, self-sufficient, and unteachable (Proverbs 16:18).

The third hindrance to unity was a selfish, self-seeking spirit. Paul urged believers, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (2:4). Too many churches and institutions are destroyed by people who focus on what they might gain, rather than on what is honoring to Christ, and best for others.

Closing thoughts (2:3-11) – I conclude our devotion inviting you to consider two attitudes that are essential for peace and unity with other believers. The first was humility. Paul encouraged, “in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (2:3b). The ancient Greeks considered humility to be a sign of weakness, and I am afraid the same is true of 21st century societies. Humility is the nature of a Spirit-filled believer. Humility is slow to pass judgment (Matthew 7:1), and charitable toward those at fault (Matthew 7:2-5). Humility is ready to forgive, and overlooks offenses (“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins,” Proverbs 10:12).

Finally, Paul commanded believers to follow a selfless spirit, writing: Look…every man also on the things of others” (2:4b). To put the good of others ahead of ourselves is the essence of a selfless spirit. We conclude our study by considering the greatest example of self-sacrificing love and humility: Jesus Christ (2:5-8).

Philippians 2:5–8 – “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

To be great in God’s judgment we must identify with Christ’s humiliation, humble ourselves, and be obedient.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Four Principles that Make for Peace and Unity (Ephesians 4; Ephesians 5)

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Scripture reading – Ephesians 4; Ephesians 5

Continuing our study of Paul’s epistle to the believers of the church in Ephesus, we come to chapters 4 and 5. In the first three chapters, the apostle reminded the believers of Ephesus, though they were of Gentile descent, by their faith in Christ they were redeemed. To what end or purpose had God saved them? To the end they might glorify God (1:4-7; 11-14).

Their salvation and hope of eternal life were not in their physical lineage (for they were, like all sinners, born into this world, “dead in trespasses and sins,” 2:1). The believers of Ephesus were saved by the same grace through which the Old Testament patriarchs came to God…Faith (Hebrews 11).

Paul declared, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). No sinner is saved by good works, church membership, baptism, or observing a rite or ordinance of the church. Sinners come to salvation and find forgiveness of sins the same way Abraham found favor in God’s sight…Faith. Paul wrote, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6). The apostle wrote the same to the Galatians: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6).

By God’s grace, Jew and Gentile are baptized into the same body, and therefore “of the house of God” (2:19), the visible body of Christ (2:19-22; 3:6).

Ephesians 4 – The Believer’s Life in the Church

For a second time, Paul reminded believers he was not a prisoner of Rome, but “the prisoner of the Lord” (4:1; 3:1). Out of that reality, his imprisonment was fulfilling God’s purpose, even as Paul called believers to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (4:1). A believer’s conversion, and profession of faith in Christ, of necessity changes his walk, and day-to-day priorities. A child of God by faith has a vocation, a holy, heavenly calling (2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 3:1).

The Basis of Unity (4:2-3)

It has been observed: Good relationships are not built upon an absence of problems and conflicts. How are the members of the church (the body of Christ), to find harmony and unity in the midst of our differences? Paul exhorted, if we are to enjoy the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3), we must choose “lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (4:2).

Conflicts are unavoidable; however, when believers respond in “lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering,” and bear our differences in a spirit of sacrificial love, the church will experience “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3).

Conflict only prevails in a vacuum of love, which is the foundation of all spiritual virtues.

The Means of Unity (4:4-24)

Sincere believers have a mutual affection, and spiritual kinship with one another. Paul identified seven traits of our oneness as believers: “4There is one body (the church), and one Spirit (God’s Spirit), even as ye are called in one hope (salvation) of your calling; 5One Lord (King; Sovereign), one faith (in Jesus Christ), one baptism (water baptism, and our identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection), 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (4:4-6).

Closing thoughts – While the world is known for its self-centeredness, and pursuit of sinful pleasures (4:14, 19, 22, 25-30), believers are commanded to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (4:23-24). Consider with me four principles that not only pave the way for peace and unity, but are fundamental to good communication (I credit the late Dr. Jay Adams with this simple outline).

Be Honest: “Speaking the truth in love… putting away lying, speak every man truth” (4:15, 25). Warning: Be prepared for rejection, for sinners hate to hear truth. Yet, when spoken in love, loving words may fall upon a tender heart.

Keep Current: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (4:26). There are circumstances when anger is justified; however, we should seek solutions to conflicts, and not allow for resentment or a vengeful sprit.

Attack Problems, Not People: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (4:29-30). Words have the power to hurt, and the power to heal. We should avoid words that are unwholesome, vicious, and vulgar. Our speech should encourage righteousness, and edify and strengthen others.

Act, Don’t React: This final principle identifies six negative, sinful reactions (4:31), followed by three loving actions (4:32). We read, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (4:31-32).

Spiritual TruthWhen your attitude is proud (4:2-3), and your words are unloving (4:22-32), trouble and heartache will plague your life.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Walk Worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1; Colossians 2)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotional.

Scripture reading – Colossians 1; Colossians 2

Our chronological Scripture reading brings us today to Paul’s letter to believers in Colosse, titled, “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians.” Though only four chapters in length, you will find it is a letter that expressed both the apostle’s love for the congregation, as well as his concern that they not be led astray by false teachings. The foremost theme of Colossians, in my opinion, is the preeminence and person of Jesus Christ.

Colossians is believed to have been written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome (4:18), placing the date of its writing around 60-63 AD. The city of Colosse was located about 120 miles east of ancient Ephesus, in what we know today as southwestern-central Turkey. In Paul’s day, Colosse was located on a major trade-route, and was a thriving city. Today’s Scripture reading is Colossians 1 and 2, and our devotional will be taken from chapter 1.

Colossians 1

The Salutation (1:1-3)

Let us remember that Paul was a prisoner in Rome at the time he penned this epistle. Yet, there is no hint of discouragement or anxiety when he saluted the church in his characteristic style: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother” (1:1). Paul was the author, but he acknowledged the company of Timothy, whom we know as his “son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2).

Colossians 2:1 seemed to indicate Paul had not visited the congregation in Colosse in person, for he wrote, “for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh” (2:1). Nevertheless, Paul’s affection for the Colossian believers flowed through his stylus, as he addressed them as “the saints and faithful brethren in Christ” (1:2). Declaring his longing for them to know God’s grace and peace (1:2b), Paul assured them of his gratitude, and his persistent prayers (1:3).

Reputation of the Colossian Believers (1:4-6)

Notice the great reputation the congregation in Colosse had with Paul and other believers. Paul wrote, “we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints” (1:4). Such a statement should give us pause to ponder, what might be said of us, and our congregations? When was the last time someone considered your life and testimony, and noted your faith in Christ, and love for other believers?

Meet Epaphras (1:7-8; 4:12-13)

How did Paul come to know so much about a church membership, many of whom had not seen his face? (2:1) The answer was recorded in verse 7-8, where we read, “7As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; 8Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit” (1:7-8).

Who was Epaphras? He was a man of great reputation from Colosse, whose stellar, godly character was described as “our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister” (1:7-8). The Colossian believers had sent Epaphras to minister to Paul as he was in prison (4:12-13, 18). The apostle assured the congregation how they had been continually in Epaphras’ prayers, and of his longing for their welfare in his absence (4:13).

Closing thoughts (1:9-11) – So much more might be taken from our Scripture reading, but I will limit my conclusion to Paul’s prayer and challenge to the Colossian believers that was recorded in Colossians 1:9-11. Paul wrote: “since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you” (1:9).

What had Paul heard? (1:9-11)

From Epaphras, he heard of the love and affection the Holy Spirit had stirred in the hearts of believers in Colosse. In turn, Paul’s heart was stirred to pray for them, desiring they would be filled and controlled by the Spirit, and walk according to the knowledge of God’s will (1:9). Paul longed for them to not only grow in their knowledge of God, but be obedient to the truth (1:10). He challenged and exhorted them:

Walk worthy of the Lord” — reflect His person and character in their daily walk (1:10a). Please the Lord –and not the flesh (1:10b). Grow and be “fruitful in every good work” (1:10c; John 15:8).  Lastly, Be strong, not in your strength, but “strengthened with all might, according to [the Lord’s] glorious power” (1:11a).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Tyranny of the Majority – “Democracy is on the Ballot” – (Romans 13-14)

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Scripture reading – Romans 13; Romans 14

Today’s Scripture reading touches upon many important subjects that are both doctrinal and practical. For instance, Romans 13 introduced the question of the believer and his relationship with civil government and human authority (13:1-7). Paul then addressed debt (“owe no man anything,” 13:8a), and emphasized the overriding command to “love one another” (the sum of the commandments, 13:8-10).

Romans 14 continued the practical application of the Scriptures to one’s daily life and walk, and focused on the believer’s liberty, deportment and influence on other believers (14:1-2, 7-9, 16-23). In the matter of a critical, judgmental spirit (14:3-4, 10-15), Paul warned, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (14:12).

The balance of today’s devotional may seem political, but it is taken from Romans 13:1-7 and addresses the believer’s citizenship and relationship with civil authority.

Democracy vs. Republic: Is there a difference?

If you live in the United States, you are aware we have an opportunity to exercise our civic duty in the next few days, and vote for those who represent us in government. “Democracy is on the ballot,” is the relentless theme of the Democratic party, and the implication is the candidates of the other party (Republican) are a threat to Democracy.

The government of the United States is a Republic, not a Democracy.

A republic is a form of government that represents “We the People.” The elected leaders rule by consent of the people, and function as representatives of the people for the common good. In a republic, there is no hierarchy or upper tier of leadership; the power of government rests with individual citizens, who delegate to leaders their authority.

The statement, “Democracy is on the ballot,” should be a grave concern to every American. Though the nature of a democracy is dependent upon the will of the people, it poses a frightening danger I will describe as “the tyranny of the majority.” An individual citizen has protected rights and a voice in a republican form of government. A democracy, on the other hand, has a tendency to evolve into the rule of the majority at the oppression and sacrifice of the individual.

When the virtuous character of a society deteriorates, so does its tolerance for the individual and individual rights. For instance, Adolf Hitler rose to power in the German Weimar Republic. In a void of leadership, Hitler and the Nazi party (representing Democratic Socialist policies) slowly gained a following of the majority of the German people. With the majority in power, a campaign of intimidation began to attack and silence political opponents. Concentration camps were opened and political opponents were arrested. Finally, when all opposition political parties were outlawed, a campaign to exterminate the Jewish people began, and the freedom of the press and speech were revoked.

As a Bible believer, whether you identify as a Democrat, Republican, or Independent…there is one thing that cannot be on the ballot—our submission to King Jesus. Paul’s letter to believers in Rome was addressed to citizens of that empire who knew all too well the tyranny of a dictator. No doubt the apostle, who was himself a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37), had been questioned concerning the relationship and obligation believers had to those in authority. Romans 13:1-6 addressed in very specific terms the moral obligation believers have to all human authorities.

In his first letter to the early church, Peter commanded believers to “Honour the king” (1 Peter 2:17c). While there was much about a king’s character that was not honorable, there was nevertheless a responsibility for believers to treat the ruler with dignity, regarding his office and authority. Yet, believers are not only to honor those in authority, but recognize human authority as delegated by God (13:1). While the governed are to submit to authority, government has a responsibility to protect and ensure the safety and security of the citizens (13:2-4).

Closing thoughts – Whether a republic, democracy, or monarchy, leaders are accountable to God, and are to rule understanding their role is that of a “minister (servant) of God” (13:4a). Believers are to revere leaders as the servants of God for good (13:4a), and the wicked should fear the judgment of the same (13:4b). The inherent sinfulness of man (Romans 3:10, 12, 23) requires a government that is ready “to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (13:4c).

Finally, believers have a moral obligation to be subject to the laws of man (Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17)—with one exception: When the laws of the land violate God’s law. When the apostles faced authorities who forbade them to preach the Gospel (Acts 5:17-29), they answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were commanded by Nebuchadnezzar to worship his idol or die, they respectfully answered, “be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). When king Darius commanded that no man was to pray to his God for thirty days, Daniel went home, “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:9-10). God, not government, is the believer’s highest authority.

When you cast your vote, consider: Which candidate aspires to be the “minister (servant) of God” for good?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Are You Guilty of Pursuing a Lawless Grace? (Romans 7)

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Scripture reading – Romans 7

The apostle Paul’s observations concerning the law continues in Romans 7. In my opinion, today’s Scripture reading is one of the most misunderstood chapters of the book (and is surely what I would describe as a “hot topic” chapter). For two decades I have heard banter about the law, and listened as preachers and believers hurl the charge, “legalist,” against believers who dare call upon the 21st century church to repent of its sin, turn to God, and pursue holiness.

“Grace, Grace” has become the message of the church, but is there a genuine understanding and appreciation of God’s grace, when there is a void of teaching regarding the Law and Commandments? “Free from the law,” is the theme of most churches, and that spirit has introduced a carnality that is veiled in a piety of pseudo-spirituality. Tragically, the grace that is being preached in the pulpit, and practiced in the pew, is a “lawless grace,” and knows nothing of God’s holiness.

Paul wrote to believers in Romans 6, “ye are not under the law, but under grace” (6:14). Sadly, many have taken that phrase, and abandoned teaching the law and commandments. As a result, we are confronting a generation that is lawless, trumpeting grace as a cover for all manner of sin and wickedness. Paul proposed, if we “are not under the law, but under grace…shall we sin?” (6:14-15). Paul’s answer was emphatic—“God forbid” (6:15). In other words, God’s grace is never a license to sin! With that truth settled, what role does the law have for believers?

Romans 7

Paul appeared to address believers of Jewish descent when he asked, “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? (7:1)

Using an analogy of marriage, Paul illustrated the role of the law and the believer, drawing a contrast with a wife married to a husband (7:2-4). We know the covenant of marriage binds a wife to her husband, “till death do us part.” Therefore, a wife is married to her husband by law, and only death may free her to marry another man (7:3b).

Using the wife’s covenant relationship with her husband as an illustration of the law, Paul wrote concerning believers, “ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (7:4). A sinner is bound, or in bondage to the law, and under obligation to pay the penalty required of the law (7:1), that being “the wages of sin is death” (6:23).

Yet, because Christ died for our sin, His death redeemed us from the curse of the law, and by His resurrection we are judged “dead to the law by the body of Christ” (7:4a), to the end “we should bring forth fruit unto God” (7:4b). We might suppose that fruit is borne out as we love, and serve God, bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which in essence can only come from walking in the perfect Law of Liberty (i.e., the Law).

A Spiritual Struggle (Romans 7:14-25)

Paul identified an internal spiritual warfare that he, and all believers face within themselves (7:14-25).  He was conscious of an inner struggle with the power of sin (7:14, 19), which he identified as “my flesh” (7:17) and an “evil…present with me” (7:19). Contemporary with the power of sin and the presence of evil, was the Spirit of God that moved Paul to “delight in the law of God” (7:22).

Identifying the spiritual conflict in his soul between an “evil” that had power, and a renewed heart that delights in the Law of God (7:22-23), Paul exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (7:24)

What was the resolution to Paul’s spiritual conflict? Jesus Christ!

Paul wrote, “25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (7:25). In other words, while Paul’s spirit and mind desired to “serve the Law of God,” he found his flesh was not yet free from “the law of sin” (7:25).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625.
You can email 
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Promise of Grace (2 Corinthians 12)

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Scripture reading – 2 Corinthians 12

Our devotional study of Paul’s epistles to the believers in Corinth is nearing its end. I have been encouraged by the transparent nature of both 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and reminded the church has always faced challenges from within and without the congregation.

Of necessity, Paul’s first letter to Corinth was strong as he addressed sins and schisms in their midst, with some taking offense and verbally attacking the apostle. Some questioned his calling and authority as an apostle, and inferred he was a coward in person, but bold in his letters (10:1). Lest some be discouraged, Paul reminded believers they were in a spiritual battle, and one that must be waged with spiritual weapons (10:4-5).

Answering those who challenged his apostleship, Paul denounced them as “false apostles, deceitful workers,” for they pretended to come as “ministers of righteousness” (11:13-15). Because some had been led astray by those who pretended to be apostles, Paul was forced to declare his heritage (11:22), and all he had suffered for Christ (11:23-33).

1 Corinthians 12

The nature and practice of false prophets in Paul’s day was as it is in our day. There were some who bolstered their religious credentials, and claimed to have received some unique vision or revelation from God. (Unfortunately, the internet has afforded false prophets an opportunity to have a perpetual presence in our lives and homes. Tragically, shallow preaching and teaching, and an ignorance of truth, have exacerbated the void of spiritual discernment.) Though reluctant to say anything of himself, the attacks on Paul’s character and calling had made it necessary for him to prove his apostleship (12:1-10).

Paul’s Heavenly Revelation (12:1-6)

Paul did not name himself, but writing with humility in the third person, he described a heavenly vision of the Lord: “2I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)” (12:2-3). Paul could not write with certainty that his vision was in body or in spirit, but he was snatched or “caught up to the third heaven” (12:2). The first heaven being the sky above our heads; the second heaven the planets and stars; the third heaven was the place of the throne of God (12:2).

Paul recalled hearing words too wonderful to convey in human language (12:4). Yet, though he might have cause to boast of God’s special revelation, he did not want that experience to be the defining moment of his ministry in the churches (12:5). With characteristic humility, he desired to be judged by what others had seen and heard as they observed his response to his sufferings and infirmities (12:5).

Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh (12:6-10)

Paul was blessed with a vision of “the third heaven” (12:2), but the Lord in His infinite wisdom permitted “a thorn in the flesh” (12:7). The “thorn” was not identified (perhaps because believers of the time knew what it was), but the apostle did identify its effect in his life: “lest I should be exalted above measure” (12:7). In other words, lest he be given to pride and glorying (12:6), the “thorn in the flesh” served to humble Paul. (There have been a myriad of speculations concerning what the thorn was, and I need not add my own to them; yet, I suggest the thorn might have been a “messenger” or demon of Satan that troubled him, 12:7).

Three times Paul asked the Lord to remove the thorn, but the answer to his prayer was God promising His grace: “9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (12:9a). The Lord would not remove the thorn, but promised His apostle grace (God’s favor and blessings) to endure it. Accepting the thorn was God’s plan, to the end Christ might be glorified in his life, Paul determined to be content, writing: “10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (12:10).

Closing thoughts – The key to Paul’s spiritual victory was faith, and an eternal perspective. He did not flee the thorn, or become embittered by it. He endured weakness, insults, distress, persecutions, and difficulties “for Christ’s sake” (12:10b). Knowing the Lord was accomplishing His purpose, in his weakness Paul found the promise of God’s strength (12:10c; Philippians 4:13).

I close today’s devotional, knowing there may be some going through a struggle with a “thorn,” trial or time of trouble. Remember–though you pray for deliverance, it may be God’s answer to your prayer is the grace to endure.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Don’t Threaten Me with Heaven! (2 Corinthians 5-6)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotional.

Scripture reading – 2 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 6

Our study of the Second Epistle to Corinth continues with a reminder, this earthly life is temporal, while the spirit of man springs eternal after the likeness of his Creator. The closing verses of 2 Corinthians 4 reminds us our physical bodies fail as they grow old, but believers have the hope and promise of eternal life (John 3:16). Though Paul had suffered persecutions and afflictions, he was not without hope. With confidence in the promises of the Lord, the apostle wrote, “we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (4:16).

In light of eternity, the troubles Paul suffered were, in his words, “our light affliction…but for a moment” (4:17). In fact, as he considered the rejections and persecutions he suffered, he believed the eternal reward far outweighed that which he experienced (4:17). He looked past the temporal (“the things which are seen”), and set his focus on “the things which are not seen” (4:18).

2 Corinthians 5 – An Eternal Home

After reminding his readers this life is temporal, he challenged the congregation with the hope of a heavenly, eternal home: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (5:1).

The “earthly house of this tabernacle” was an analogy to our physical bodies. The word tabernacle, is essentially a tent, a temporal dwelling. So, while our bodies are being dissolved (growing older and frail), Paul promised God will give His people a glorified body, “a building of God [a spiritual body], an house not made with hands” (5:1b). Unlike our “tabernacle” of flesh, God has promised us an “eternal in the heavens” (5:1c). No wonder Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Paul acknowledged, as long as we are clothed in a body of flesh, we will “groan, being burdened” with many cares and sorrows (5:2-4). Nevertheless, we should not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We must pass through the veil of this mortal life, until the day our “mortality might be swallowed up of life” (5:4b). Finding himself in the midst of trials and afflictions, Paul confessed he longed for the day when he would lay aside his frail body, and be clothed in his eternal, resurrected body.

Confident Faith (5:6-8)

The apostle found himself in a dilemma. On one hand, he longed for heaven and to be in the presence of the Lord; but on the other, he was “at home in the body…[and] absent from the Lord” (5:6). He took solace, writing, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (5:7). Though facing persecution, rejection, and threats, Paul assured believers: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (5:8).

The word “confident” means full of hope, and courage; in fact, it might be defined as a “courageous hope.” There are some who claim to believe there is no hope, and no life after death. The lives of those poor souls are defined by a fatalism, that believes in soul-annihilation. That is, there is no hope, nor life, beyond this mortal world. What a tragic concept! Paul, however, assured believers, “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord” (5:8). Believer, death is not the end, it’s the beginning!

Closing thoughts (5:9-17) – Paul challenged believers in Corinth to live and labor for the Lord with an eternal focus (5:9). He warned, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (5:10).

God’s judgment is certain, and His justice is sure. Knowing the promise of God’s judgment and the “terror of the Lord,” should motivate us to share the Gospel, and “persuade men” (5:11). We are “constrained,” and compelled by “the love of Christ” who “died for all…and rose again” (5:14-15). Not only does His death and resurrection promise eternal life, it gives us an assurance of a transformation that is promised and possible only in Christ:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (5:17).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Woman: She is the Glory of Man (1 Corinthians 11; 1 Corinthians 12)

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Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 11; 1 Corinthians 12

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues with today’s Scripture reading, 1 Corinthians 11 and 12. Our devotional will be taken from 1 Corinthians 11.

We noticed in 1 Corinthians 10 that Paul used God’s dealings with Israel as a spiritual lesson for the congregation in Corinth (10:1-13). The LORD had chosen Israel, and brought the nation out of Egypt as one body and one people (10:1-4). Yet, though all Israel benefited from God’s protection and provision, the people were not of one heart (10:5-6). There were idolaters, fornicators (sexually immoral), rebels, and murmurers (complainers) in the midst of the people (10:7-10). They broke covenant with the LORD, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and “were overthrown in the wilderness” (10:5). Paul challenged the believers in Corinth to learn from Israel’s failures, and not repeat their sins (10:11-13).

The balance of 1 Corinthians 10 addressed the doctrine of liberty (10:14-33). In the congregation were believers who pursued liberties (eating things “offered in sacrifice unto idols,” 8:4), even though it offended others (10:24). To them, Paul wrote, “do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offence…33Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (10:31-33).

1 Corinthians 11

The theme of love and a selfless life continued in chapter 11, when Paul exhorted, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (11:1). Paul challenged the Corinthian believers to follow his example, even as he followed and conformed his life to Christ’s example. In essence, the apostle exhorted believers to live not only selfless lives, but to do so in submission to God’s order and authority (11:1-10).

The Role and Place of the Husband and Wife (11:1-16)

Perhaps in answer to a question that was raised in a letter from Corinth (7:1), Paul addressed the role of the woman, her relationship with men, and role in the church (11:3). Like the majority of the ancient world, Corinthians might have looked upon women as second-class citizens, and on a parr with servants of the household. Perhaps the doctrine of liberty had given rise to confusion in the church, or even a defiance that threatened the peace and unity of the church in Corinth.

Paul wrote, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (11:3). Given the rebellious state of our world and the rise of feminism, I fear that verse may cause some to bristle with resentment. What was Paul teaching?

That our Creator, in His infinite wisdom, has determined a pattern of order in His creation. What is the pattern? God the Father is the head of Christ, His Son (11:3d), and “the head of every man is Christ” (11:3b). Because “Christ is the head of the church: and He is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23), every believer must accept Christ’s authority in his life (and follow His example). As a man submits to Christ and His authority, the woman is to accept her husband’s authority, for he is “the head of the woman (11:3b).

The issue was not one of superiority, but divine order. (11:4-6, 15)

A man’s submission to God was to be portrayed in him not covering his head when praying or teaching (“prophesying,” 11:4). Doing so would dishonor “his head” (his head and authority being Jesus Christ). As a contrast with that principle, even today, it befits a man to remove his hat or cap in the presence of another as a sign of respect. Thus, it was, and is important that men who pray and teach will have their heads uncovered, lest they offend the Lord.

The woman, by contrast, was commanded to keep her head covered (with a veil or shawl) when she prayed or taught (“prophesieth,” 11:5). Failure to cover her head was a sign of dishonoring God and her husband. For a woman to not cover her head was a disgrace equated with a woman shaving her head (11:6). In verse 15, Paul stated, “long hair…is a [woman’s] glory…for her hair is given her for a covering” (11:15). Yet, for a man to have long hair was said to be against God’s natural order, and “a shame unto him” (11:14).

Closing thoughts (11:7-9) – The current state of our world makes the principles recorded in 1 Corinthians 11 more necessary than ever. Feminism has given rise to a spirit that is a cancer to marriages, families, and society. Because the world has rejected God’s created order, we find ourselves living in a society unable to agree on something as obvious as the definition of male and female. God is Creator, and His plan and purposes are perfect: “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (11:8-9).

By defying God’s design, women have sacrificed their exalted role as “the glory of the man” (his honor, his ornament, his pride, 11:7), and destroyed marriages and families. The wife is her husband’s “help meet,” his completer (Genesis 2:18).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Abounding Love, and an Eternal Hope (2 Thessalonians 1; 2 Thessalonians 2)

Scripture reading – 2 Thessalonians 1; 2 Thessalonians 2

Our 2-year chronological Scripture reading brings us to 2 Thessalonians 1-2. Bible scholars are generally in agreement that “The Second Epistle of Paul The Apostle to the Thessalonians” was written around AD 50-52, and shortly after his 1st Epistle to the believers in Thessalonica.

2 Thessalonians 1

Following the style of ancient writers, Paul introduced himself as the author in the opening verse of chapter 1, rather than the conclusion of the letter as is our custom today. The apostle’s salutation was recorded in the first 5 verses of chapter 1, and with humility he introduced not only himself, but those who were his missionary peers, “Silvanus, and Timotheus” (i.e., Silas and Timothy, 1:1). Identifying “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” as the foundation of our faith (1:1b), Paul saluted the persecuted believers of Thessalonica, writing: “2Grace [God’s favor] unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2).

Recalling the excellent report Timothy had given regarding the testimony of the church of Thessalonica throughout Macedonia, Paul boasted, “3We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (1:3). Growing faith, abounding love, no wonder Paul took such joy in the believers of Thessalonica. Through “persecutions and tribulations,” they had been a testimony of enduring faith (1:4).

Though troubled and rejected by family and neighbors, Paul encouraged believers to remember there is coming a day when God will “recompense tribulation to them that trouble you” (1:6). In other words, though they were in the midst of trials and persecution, Paul reminded them God is just, and the day is coming when He will execute justice for His children (1:6). Paul prophesied, Jesus Christ is coming with the host of “His mighty angels, 8In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:7-8). Though believers suffer for a season, they are to remember our Savior is coming as Judge, and the wicked will be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2:9).

With that declaration, Paul assured the saints of his constant prayers, and desire for them to live their lives to the glory of God (1:11-12).

2 Thessalonians 2

In light of the promise of Christ’s coming, and the gathering of the saints unto Him, Paul encouraged the believers of Thessalonica to not fret or worry, or allow false teachers to deceive them (2:1-3).

The apostle warned there would come a time when many would “fall away,” and the Antichrist, “that man of sin be revealed” (2:3). Describing the Antichrist as “the son of perdition” (literally, the son of destruction, 2:3b), Paul described his: 1) Character (3:4); 2) His danger (2:5); 3) His appearance or revelation to the world (3:6-8); 4) His end (3:8); and finally, 5) His work (2:9).

Regarding those who will follow the Antichrist, Paul warned, they will perish (2:10a). They will reject Truth (2:10b). They will be deceived (2:11), and damned in their sin (2:12).

Closing thoughts (2:13-17) – In contrast to those who follow the Antichrist, Paul gave a blessed description of the character and future of the saints. Expressing the affection of a loving spiritual shepherd, Paul declared, “we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you” (2:13a).

Because we are followers of Christ, we are assured of our salvation (2:13), chosen by God (2:13), sharing in Christ’s glory (2:14), standing fast and clinging to God’s Word and traditions passed down by the saints of old (2:15), and resting and trusting in the resources of our salvation (the love of God and Christ, who has comforted, encouraged, and given us a lasting eternal hope, 2:16-17).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.