Tag Archives: Pray

Psychology Attempts to Reform What Salvation Promises to Transform (Mark 5)

A devotional bonus from Mark 5.

The Christian radio broadcast, Unshackled”, is the longest continually running radio program in history.   Produced by the Pacific Garden Mission of Chicago for over 69 years, “Unshackled” has conveyed the real life stories of thousands of sinner’s whose lives were transformed by trusting Jesus Christ as Savior!

The great validating testimony of the Christian faith above all the world’s religions is not reformation but transformation!   For more than a century doctors have practiced “psychology” attempting to address the ailments of man’s mind and soul. Medications, rehab centers, and mental institutions have all failed to “fix” troubled souls.  Today’s “bonus devotional thought” from Mark 5:1-20 tells the story of the terrible ravages sin takes on a man’s life.

Crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples arrived on the eastern shore known as Gadara where they were met by a man with an “unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).  We are not told when the man gave his soul over to demons; however, sin had taken every corner of his thoughts and affections, degrading and destroying his life.

Notice three visible details about the man.  The first, his pitiful physical appearance:  His body scarred by self-inflicted wounds; ropes hanging around his ankles and chains about his neck and wrists, all evidencing the desperate attempts of loved ones to control him (5:3-4).  The second characteristic of this troubled man is his social isolation: cut off from family, friends, and neighbors, he made his abode among the caves and tombs (5:5).  The third detail is his emotional condition exhibited by his tormented screams echoing off the hillsides “always, night and day” (5:5).

Seeing Jesus, in a fleeting moment of desperation, the man ran out of the hills and came to Him and worshipped Him (5:6).  Jesus, evidencing His authority over demons cast them out of the man and they entered swine that could not abide the indwelling of such wickedness (5:10-13).

Rather than the protracted steps and methods of “reformation” that is the methodology of psychologists and psychiatrists, the demon-possessed man’s life immediately gave evidence of his conversion and transformation (5:8, 15).   The change was so transformative that his family, friends, and neighbors observed he was “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (5:15).  Sitting”… he was at peace, no longer needing to be bound with chains and ropes; clothed”… no longer a wild man crying and cutting himself;  in his right mind… repentant and rational.

How great was this transformation?  In Mark 5:7 he wanted nothing to do with Jesus; however, in Mark 5:18 his love and gratitude for Jesus moved him to want nothing more than to be with Jesus.

Everything about the maniac of Gadara changed: His attitudes— he was “in his right mind” (5:15); His actions— he was “sitting” with Jesus (5:15); His appearance— he was “clothed” (5:15); His affections— “prayed Him that he might be with Him [Jesus]” (5:15).

God’s power not only overcame his rebellious spirit, it transformed his thoughts, mind, and affections.  The power of the Gospel of Christ promises not only reformation; it promises total transformation!

2 Corinthians 5:17 – 17 Therefore if any man bein Christ, he isa new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm” (Mark 4)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 37-38, Psalm 32, and Mark 4. Our devotional is from Mark 4.

Jesus had taught parables throughout the day with crowds so large He was forced to launch out from the lakeshore where he sat in a boat while He taught.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other shore, and lying down in the boat He slept.

The Sea of Galilee (14 miles long and 7 miles wide) is notorious for violent storms.  Its surface 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).  Surrounded by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift.  Cold winds from snow-covered mountain peaks to the north often push down through the hillsides that act as a funnel sending cold air colliding with the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.

We read of this occasion in the Gospel of Matthew: “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

At least four of the disciples were fisherman; however, even those veteran sailors were unable to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.   With cold winds whipping at the sailors and waves crashing into the ship, the exhausted disciples finally cried out, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

Friend, like the stormy sea in today’s Bible reading, trials will arise in your life and put your faith and trust in God’s will to the test. 

Before the disciples launched their ship out into the sea, Jesus knew an approaching storm would soon test their faith and whether or not they would put their trust in Him.  By the way, notice Jesus did not lead them where He was not going and when the storm came He was with them!

A second observation: The disciples’ response to the storm revealed they did not know fully Who Jesus was!  After Jesus commanded the wind and the waves to cease, we read: “they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41).

The storm was an opportunity for the disciples to see Jesus as more than a mere mortal.  Struck with fear, awe, and respect they ask, “What manner of man is this?”

Someone reading today’s devotion is in the midst of a storm of personal trials.  Fear of the future has laid hold on your spirit and loneliness oppresses your soul.  Take heart; the LORD is with you in the midst of the storm of uncertainty… “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).

Psalm 89:8-9– “8O Lord God of hosts….9Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.”

Take a few minutes and listen to a wonderful song titled, What Manner of This?, written and performed by my evangelist friend Ben Everson.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Before you post your next crisis on Facebook, will you take time to pray? (Psalm 31)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 35-36, Psalm 31, and Mark 3. Our devotional reading is from Psalm 31.

Where do you turn when circumstances seem hopeless (Psalm 31:1, 6, 14, 19)?  Where do you flee for comfort? How do you respond when enemies attack your character and friends betray you (31:8, 13, 15, 18, 20)?

I fear many believers turn to peers for counsel, rather than to the LORD and His Word.  Some vent their anxieties on social media platforms and a host of sympathies, sad faces, and praying hands follow.  Some turn to secular counselors who lack spiritual discernment and their counsel promotes the temptation to blame shift and magnify one’s “right” to be angry and bitter.

While we might find temporal relief with friends who commiserate with our struggles, often because they are themselves caught up in the same, we nevertheless miss a faith lesson opportunity to lean on the LORD and find Him a sure support.

Take a lesson from David and his example. The king writes,

Psalm 31:1 – “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust [confidence]; let me never be ashamed [confounded; confused]: deliver me in thy righteousness [justice; virtue].”

David did not reason that he merited the LORD coming to his defense; instead, he appealed to the LORD on the basis of the LORD’s “righteousness”—knowing He is holy, just, gracious and merciful. David continues,

Psalm 31:2 – “Bow down [incline; turn] thine ear to me; deliver [rescue; save] me speedily [with haste]: be thou my strong [fortress] rock [refuge], for an house of defence [fortress; castle] to save [deliver; rescue] me.”

David was confident the LORD hears and answers prayer. I sympathize with the king’s request for the LORD to not only hear his prayer, but also hasten to save him!  The LORD, however, answers prayer in His time and His answer to prayer is never too late!

Psalm 31:14-15a – “But I trusted [hoped] in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God [Elohim; Mighty God]. 15 My times [i.e. seasons and appointed times] are in thy hand [directed; i.e. in the power of]…”

All “my times” are directed by the hand of God who is sovereign, faithful and ever-present.  The good times and the bad times; times of joy and times of sorrow.  Times of strength and health and the times of sickness and death. “My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15).

Do you believe God is at the helm and you can trust Him to direct all things according to His benevolent will? (Romans 8:28-29)

Before you post your next crisis on Facebook and garner a rush of sympathies, would it not glorify God more for you to simply pray, “I trust in thee, O LORD…My times are in thy hand”.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

An Antidote for Enslaving Fear (Psalm 27)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 23-24, Psalm 27, and Matthew 27. Our daily devotional is from Psalm 27.

Some things warrant a good healthy dose of fear.  For instance, it is good to fear and revere authority empowered to guard us against and even punish foolish, unlawful choices.  We should also fear the deadly potential of a lightning strike, the fast approach of a train at a railroad crossing, and the penalty for failing to study for an exam.

Some fears are enslaving and harmful to the soul.  The fear of failure can paralyze and hinder prudent decisions.   Fear rejection and you will retreat from friendship and relationships.  Fear criticism and you might be tempted to quit!  In the words of king Solomon, “The fear of man bringeth a snare…”(Proverbs 29:25).

Can we overcome negative, enslaving fears?  Absolutely! Let’s take some spiritual lessons from king David’s life experiences (Psalm 27:1-3).

 Psalm 27:1– “The LORD is my light and my salvation [Deliverer]; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength [fortress; refuge] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid [fear; tremble]?”

Notice three assertions concerning David’s courage and faith in contrast with fear in verse 1.  The first, “The Lord is my Light:  David’s confidence was not in human thought or philosophy; his courage arose from his conviction that the LORD Who is Jehovah, Eternal God, was the source of light to his soul (John 1:4-5, 9; 1 John 1:5).

David’s second assertion is, “The LORD…is my Salvation”; not only his guiding light, but also the One Who is able to save his soul from the curse of sin. Having declared the LORD is his light and salvation, David asks, Whom shall I fear?” 

Is anyone too big for God?  Is anyone stronger than the LORD?  Is any circumstance greater than the LORD?

David’s third assertion is, The LORD is the Strength of my life; his Rock, Fortress and Refuge! Why be afraid of mortal man if the Lord is your Protector?

Having stated the LORD is the object of his faith; David pondered God’s providences and protection in the past (27:2).

Psalm 27:2 – “When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes [hostile], came upon me to eat up [devour; consume] my flesh [body], they stumbled and fell.”

Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past, David confidently declared he would not be overcome with fear!

Psalm 27:3 – “Though an host [great company] should encamp [lay siege] against me, my heart [mind] shall not fear [tremble]: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident [trust; secure].”

Take heart believer!  The LORD is your Light, Salvation, and Refuge; cast aside your fears and affirm with David:

I will not allow fear to overcome me or the threat of the unknown rob me of my joy; have faith and confidence in God!  

In the apostle Paul’s words, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31)

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Work hard and trust God! (Exodus15-16)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 15-16, Psalm 25, and Matthew 25. Our devotional is from Exodus 15-16.

Pharaoh determined to pursue the children of Israel and enslave them again in spite of the ten plagues Egypt had suffered (14:1-9).  Encamped at the edge of the Red Sea, Pharaoh’s army became visible in the distance, and the people began to murmur against Moses (14:10-12).  Moses stilled the hearts of the people and the LORD parted the Red Sea allowing Israel to cross over on dry ground. When Pharaoh’s army pursued the people into the midst of the Sea, the LORD brought the waters upon them drowning the Egyptians (14:23-31).

Exodus 15 records Israel’s celebration for their salvation and deliverance from Pharaoh (15:1-21).  Incredibly, in spite of the LORD miraculously delivering Israel from Egypt, three days past and the people began to murmur and complain there was no water (15:22-24).  Moses cried out to the LORD (15:25) and the LORD made bitter waters pure to quench the thirst of the people (15:25-27).

Exodus 16 finds the people murmuring again, accusing Moses of leading them into the wilderness where they risked starvation (16:1-3).  In answer to Moses’ plea, the LORD assured him He would provide bread in the morning sufficient for the day, with the exception of the sixth day when they would be provided bread for two days so the people would not need to gather food on the Sabbath (16:4-5).  The LORD also promised to send the people meat to eat in the evening (16:8, 12).

What lessons did Israel learn from God providing for their needs? The first lesson, the LORD is faithful and His promises never fail (16:13-15).  A second, the LORD provided only what was sufficient for the day. When the people gathered more than their daily bread and meat, it spoiled in their tents (16:19-30).

Consider a brief lesson we can take from God’s dealings with Israel:  When we, like Israel, fall prey to being poor stewards of God’s provisions and hoard His blessings, we risk what we have spoiling and rotting as the breads and meats Israel hoarded in her tents.

Let us not become rich fools who hoard what we have in hope of eating, drinking and being merry (Luke 12:19-21)!  After all, we are commanded, “if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

Work hard and trust God!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

One Rotten Apple Spoils the Whole Bunch (Exodus 13-14)

The Bible reading for today is Exodus 13-14, Psalm 24, and Matthew 24. Our devotional is from Exodus 13-14.

The slaying of the firstborn of Egypt was the tenth and final plague and moved Pharaoh to thrust the children of Israel out of Egypt where they had lived for 430 years (Exodus 12:40-41). The observance of the Passover having been established (12:1-28, 43-51), the LORD directed Moses to instruct the people to sanctify the firstborn male of their households, both children and beasts, and dedicate them to the LORD as a memorial to Him for saving the firstborn of Israel from death (13:1-2, 11-16).

As a sign of the haste with which Pharaoh sent Israel out of Egypt, the people were to observe a new feast, the seven-day celebration known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 13:3-10).  Unleavened bread, bread without yeast, would serve as a memorial to succeeding generations reminding them of the haste with which Pharaoh sent Israel out of Egypt.

As a point of application, leaven or yeast, is a symbol of sin and false teaching in the New Testament.  Like yeast permeates dough, so does sin and false teaching in the church.  As “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9), so does sin eventually become a cancer in the soul and church (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Christian friend, what about your sin?  “Little sins” invariably grow and when excused rather than repented of, they will corrupt and eventually destroy.  The Jews were to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread by purging or removing leaven from their homes (1 Corinthians 5:7).  That is the only way you can be free of the corrupting influence of sin in your soul…confess it and turn from it.

1 John 1:9-10 – 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us oursins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Call to Our God, He is The LORD of Creation! (Exodus 7-8)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 7-8, Psalm 21, and Matthew 21. Our Bible devotional is from Exodus 7-8.

Exodus 6:28-7:13 records the second confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh.  Of Pharaoh we read, “But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and stubborn and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said” (Exodus 7:13).  The stage is set for ten judgments identified as ten plagues that will gradually bring Pharaoh to yield his will to the will of the LORD God of Israel (7:14-12:36).

Realizing today’s scripture reading is limited to Exodus 7-8, I will list briefly four of the ten plagues that troubled Egyptian households, but from which the Hebrews living in Goshen were spared (8:22-23).

1) The Nile and waters turn to blood and fish die. (7:19-25)

2) Frogs die and the stench of their dead carcasses fill Egyptian households. (8:1-15)

3) Lice, most likely gnats or other biting insects, afflict the Egyptians. (8:16-19)

4) Flies distress the people (8:20-24). Today’s Egypt has biting “dog flies” (probably similar to “deer flies” that inhabit southeastern United States).

Here’s a question to ponder: Why did the Lord bring plagues upon Egypt?  Why did God not simply defeat Egypt and deliver His people out of slavery?  I believe the answer to those questions is twofold.

The first, God’s desire was to break Pharaoh’s will so he would allow the Hebrews to depart out of Egypt.  The second, the plaques demonstrated to the Hebrews that their God was Lord of creation Whom they could trust.  It is that knowledge, the personal, demonstrative knowledge of the LORD that will strengthen and carry them through the Red Sea and the Wilderness to the Promise Land.

Pharaoh offered to compromise with Moses and permit the people to sacrifice to the LORD in Egypt (Exodus 8:25).  Moses wisely refused to yield God’s will to please the king, stating the sacrifices would offend the Egyptians (8:26-27).

Pharaoh offered a second compromise, begged Moses to pray for the LORD to remove the flies out of the land, and he would allow the Israelites to depart and offer sacrifices (8:28-31).  Moses prayed and God removed the flies; however, “Pharaoh hardened his heart” and would not “let the people go” (8:32).

The LORD’s answer to Moses’ prayer reminds us He hears and answers the prayers of His people.  Pharaoh’s response is typical of many who, cry to the LORD in times of trouble, but when the distress passes they turn from Him and return to their sinful ways putting their souls in peril.

2 Chronicles 15:2a– “…The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith