Tag Archives: Sanctification

“The Gospel: God’s Grace Through Christ” (Galatians 1)

Scripture reading – Galatians 1

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to Paul’s Epistle to believers living in Galatia (modern Turkey). Ancient Galatia was due north of the isle of Cyprus, and was a thriving Roman province in the 1stcentury. The Greeks referred to the people of that region as “Gauls,” a name derived from the Latin word, “Gallia.” They were believed to have been Celtic, a Germanic tribe of western Europe. Major cities of the southern region of Galatia included Antioch of Pisidian, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.

Paul’s Defense of His Apostleship

Judging by the subject matter of the Epistle to the Galatians, we find false teachers had infiltrated the churches. Those heretics called into question Paul’s credibility and authority as an apostle, and were undermining the doctrine of grace that is central to the Gospel. Paul had two objectives in writing the epistle: The first, a defense of his apostleship. The second, a defense and declaration of the Gospel of Grace through Jesus Christ.

Paul commenced the letter introducing himself as its author, and boldly declaring his apostleship was “not of men, neither by man” (1:1b). In other words, he did not look to a council of men for his office. Paul proclaimed his apostleship was from God, and wrote: “Paul, an apostle…by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised [having raised] him [Jesus Christ] from the dead” (1:1c).

Four Qualifications of an Apostle (1:1-2)

The Scriptures reveal a man had to meet four qualifications to be an apostle. The first, he had to have seen the LORD after His resurrection (Acts 1:22; 9:3-5; 22:6-8; 1 Cor. 9:1). Secondly, he had to receive His calling from Christ Himself (Luke 6:13; Acts 9:6; 22:10; Galatians 1:1). The third qualification was that his teaching had to be divinely inspired (John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 9:15; 22:14; 1 Thess. 2:13). Finally, he must evidence the power to perform miracles as a sign of his apostleship (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43; 14:8-10; 16:18; 10:10-12; 1 Cor. 12:8-11).

Paul met the four requisites of a man divinely appointed as an apostle. Not only had he been commissioned “by Jesus Christ” (1:1b), he was called by “God the Father, who raised Him [Jesus Christ] from the dead” (1:1c). He had the witness of “all the brethren” (1:2), which were traveling with him. Though not named, it is certain the believers in Galatia were aware of those men who labored with Paul.

The Recipients of the Epistle (1:2b)

In the custom of formal letters of his day, Paul introduced himself as the author, and addressed the intended recipients of the letter: “unto the churches [assemblies or congregations] of Galatia” (1:2b). The letter served as a general message to the believers of “the churches of Galatia,” and would have been read publicly, and shared with each of the assemblies of believers.

The Historical Context (1:6-9)

Having formally greeted the Galatian believers, Paul moved to address the provocation of the letter, stating: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (1:6). Like a loving shepherd, Paul was concerned some believers had been so easily led astray. Not only had some lost confidence in his authority as an apostle, but there were some who even defected from the faith and followed “another gospel” (1:6b). Yet, it was not another gospel, but a contradiction of the gospel of grace Paul had preached (1:7a).

Who were those false teachers? They were known as Judaizers, men of Jewish descent who troubled the congregations, and perverted the “gospel of Christ” (1:7b). They were men who taught, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, 5). Paul was not opposed to believers following the Law and Commandments (Acts 15:20-21, 29); however, he was passionately opposed to teachers who contradicted the “gospel of grace.” Paul declared, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (1:9).

Paul’s Spiritual Authority and Biography (1:10-24)

We have followed Paul’s life through the Acts of the Apostles: From his zeal as the persecutor of the church (Acts 8:1-4; 9:1-2), to his dramatic encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus and his salvation (Acts 9:3-22). Galatians 1:11-17 fills in the blanks in Paul’s personal testimony, and gives us how he was taught, not by man, but by the Lord Jesus in the desert of Arabia for three years (1:17-18a). He writes he “went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. 19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother” (1:18-19).

Closing thoughts (1:20-24) – Rather than look to man for his authority, Paul looked to the LORD and the authority of His Word. The first chapter of our study concludes with Paul’s transition from the persecutor of the Church, to becoming its greatest preacher (1:21-24). Though he was known best among the believers in Asia Minor, his reputation as a preacher of the faith proceeded him to “the churches of Judaea” which he once persecuted.

Paul’s life and testimony should inspire believers of which, Paul writes, “glorified [magnified] God in me” (1:24).

* 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 Key to Overcoming Trials and Troubles (James 4; James 5)

Scripture reading – James 4; James 5

Continuing our study of trials, troubles, and temptations, we consider today’s Scripture reading, James 4 and 5. This devotional is taken from James 4.

James 4 opens with a provoking question: “From whence [where] come wars [battles; conflicts] and fightings[disputes; quarrels] among you?” (4:1) Sadly, that question was not addressed to the unsaved, but to those who professed to be believers and were members of the church. Twenty-one centuries later, churches find themselves asking the same question, as some are embroiled in conflicts and disagreements.

Why do conflicts arise in a body of believers, when they are commanded to love one another? (4:2-3)

We noticed in James 3, how the tongue is a primary candidate for inciting trouble in friendships, marriages, families, and churches (3:2a, 6, 8). An unbridled, undisciplined tongue will exasperate, infuriate, and bring envy and strife. Unfortunately, the “tongue” is no longer confined to whispers and gossip. The 21st century has given the tongue new means of expressing itself, sowing discord, and provoking conflict through texting, emails, blogs, and social media posts (4:1).

It comes as no surprise that the “wars and fightings” of the 21st century have their origin in the same source as the 1st century. James writes, “Come they [“wars and fightings”] not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (4:1b) The author cited unfulfilled, selfish desires as a root of frustration. James wrote, “2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain… ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (4:2-3).

Why are so many church members frustrated and unhappy? (4:4-6)

Although the culture of the 1st century was very different from our day with its technology, conveniences, and amusements; nevertheless, the issue was the same: spiritual infidelity (adultery) and worldliness, which produces unhappiness (4:4-6). James warned, embrace the world and its sinful lusts (1 John 2:15-17), and you will find yourself “the enemy of God” (4:4). Walk humbly, and the Lord promises grace, but be forewarned: He “resisteth the proud” (4:6; Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5).

Ten Commands to Overcome Temptation (4:7-10)

James presented us with the problem (man’s sinful pride), but he did not leave us hopeless. Understanding trials and temptations are ever present, James stated ten commands that encourage a righteous response to trials and troubles (James 4:7-10).

1) “Submit…to God, by accepting His sovereign authority in your life (4:7a).
2) “Resist the devil” by opposing him, “and he will flee” (4:7b).
3) Maintain an intimate fellowship with the LORD: “draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (4:8a).
4) “Cleanse your hands,” submitting to His conviction (4:8b).
5) Have spiritual integrity, “and purify your heart,” knowing a “double minded” man is unacceptable to God (4:8c).
6) “Be afflicted” and broken over your sin (4:9a).
7) “Mourn,” expressing a genuine sorrow for sin (4:9b).
8) “Weep” tears, and express outward sorrow (4:9c).
9) Set aside silliness, and “let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (4:9c).
10) “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (4:10).

Closing thoughts (4:11-17)

Believer, you are not exempt or insulated from trials; however, you have something the world does not—the Lord. He longs for you to submit to His will, obey His Word, and cling to Him. Remember, unhappiness and conflicts arise when we become proud and self-sufficient (4:11-12). Remember: Your life is “even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (4:14). Be wise, acknowledge the sovereignty of God, and say, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (4:15).

Proverbs 3:55Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding.

* 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 Prodigal Son, and the Question of Divorce (Luke 15; Luke 16)

Scripture reading – Luke 15; Luke 16

Today’s devotional reading continues our study of the Gospel of Luke. Chapters 15 and 16 contain some of the most beloved parables taught by our LORD. The Lost Sheep (15:4-10), The Prodigal Son (15:11-32), The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13), and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31) are illustrative of God’s longsuffering and love. Because the latter used a man’s proper name (Lazarus), some suggest it was in fact an actual story, and should not fall into the category of an allegory (parable).

Luke 15

The parable of The Prodigal Son (15:11-32) is among the most beloved of all the parables. Notice there are three main characters in the tale: the loving father, the prodigal who was the younger son, and the eldest son who was proud and unforgiving. Because the tale is so well-known, I will limit my observations to a few remarks.

The first two verses reveal the setting and circumstances that prompted the story: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (15:1-2).

As you read the drama between the father, and his sons, notice the parallel between the actors in the parable and those mentioned in Luke 15:1-2. The “publicans and sinners” were like the rebellious younger son, who “wasted his substance with riotous living…and began to be in want,” yet, were received by Christ (15:14). The Pharisees and scribes, like the elder brother who refused to accept his younger brother, resented and criticized Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners (15:2, 28-30). Of course, the father who received his younger son, forgave and restored him as a son, was a picture of Christ’s love for sinners (15:2b, 20-24).

Luke 16

This chapter opens with The Parable of the Unjust Steward (16:1-12), and concludes with the dramatic story of The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31). In the midst of the chapter are five verses that seem to interrupt the flow of the narratives, until we remember they embodied Christ’s response to his adversaries (16:14). The Pharisees, often used the occasion of Jesus teaching the people as an opportunity to criticize and confront Him. Having listened to the parable of “The Unjust Steward” (16:1-13), the Pharisees “who were covetous” (16:14) began to “deride” Jesus, openly mocking Him before the people.

Rather than retreat, Jesus answered the derision of the Pharisees and used the occasion to expose their hypocrisy.  He accused those religious leaders of aspiring for men’s venerations, and unmasked the hypocrisy He knew was in their hearts (16:15).

The Pharisees, who considered themselves experts in the law of God, listened as Jesus said, “16  The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: since that time the kingdom of God is preached [marked by the coming of Jesus Christ], and every man presseth [pushes by force; forcing his own way] into it. 17  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle [small stroke of a pen] of the law to fail” (16:16-17).

John the Baptist was the bridge from the prophets and prophecies of the Old Testament, to Christ, and His preaching the gospel of “the kingdom of God” (16:16-17). Then, Jesus addressed an issue of Old Testament law the Pharisees had distorted… marriage and adultery— “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (16:18).

The Pharisees had failed to uphold the sanctity of marriage being between one man and one woman as God designed (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:4-10; Ephesians 5:28-33). Those hypocrites had mislead the people, and misinterpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They gave liberty for men to divorce their wives for the silliest of reasons.

Closing thoughts – I close today’s devotional with a few parting thoughts.  The first, God’s will and His design of marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman. Furthermore, the Scriptures are abundantly clear–God hates divorce (“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away,” Malachi 2:16).  On a personal, and closing note: I believe the only grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery, and I cite three proof scriptures for my authority in the matter.

Matthew 5:31-32 – “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 – “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 – “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

So much more might be said on the subject of marriage and divorce, but I will address that topic at another time.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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 Way to Heaven, and The Character of a Disciple (Luke 13; Luke 14)

Scripture reading – Luke 13; Luke 14

Our timeline in the Gospels is rapidly approaching our LORD’s appointment with the Cross. You will notice the enemies of Jesus pressing upon Him, as He withstood the traditions of the Pharisees with the authority of God’s Law and Commandments. Our Scripture reading is Luke 13 and 14, and portions of today’s devotional will be taken from both chapters.

Luke 13 – Shut Out of Heaven

Jesus was making His final journey to Jerusalem, and along the way He taught the people in cities and villages (13:22). One came to Christ and asked, “Lord, are there few that be saved?” Jesus answered the question with an invitation reminiscent of the truths He taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:13-14).  Contrary to the false teachers of our day who suggest there are “many ways” to come to God, the LORD made it clear there is only one way (John 14:6).

Jesus taught, the way to heaven is not the “broad way” (Matthew 7:13-14), but the “strait gate,” that is narrow and without twists and turns (13:24). What or who is the “strait gate” to salvation and eternal life? It is Christ, and Him alone. Jesus said of Himself in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.”

Identifying Himself as “the master of the house” (13:25), Jesus warned the door to salvation is temporal, and when He shuts the door to a man’s heart, there will be no more opportunity to enter into His kingdom (13:25). Tragically, in eternity there will be many who waited too late to turn from their sin and trust Christ. There will be many who were religious in this life, but few who were righteous.

Speaking figuratively, in eternity there will be some that will stand without knocking on the door, and calling to the LORD, saying “open unto us,” but Jesus will say, “I know you not whence ye are” (13:25). Some will boast they fellowshipped with Him, and listened as He taught (13:26);  yet, Christ will answer, “I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity” (13:27). Unlike the patriarchs who believed and will be “in the kingdom of God,” those who waited too late will find their eternal destiny is hell, where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (13:28).

Closing thoughts – Those who listened and followed Jesus as He taught were numbered among the children of Abraham. Though they were the first to be chosen, the citizens of heaven will be from all over the world, as they “shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God” (13:28). So it will be that the “last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last” (13:30).

Luke 14 – A Lesson in Humility

Briefly, we find recorded in Luke 14, “The Parable of a Great Wedding Banquet” (14:7-14), that encouraged humility and cautioned those who were inclined to pride and selfish ambition. A second parable, “The Parable of a Great Supper” (14:15-24), was a portrait of a great banquet where God is the host and invites the righteous to supper. Tragically, those who were first invited (i.e., the proud, self-righteous religious leaders), refused the LORD’s invitation (14:18-21a).

A second invitation was then sent to those who were not first invited, “the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” (14:21). These would have been considered outcasts by the proud Pharisees, and unworthy of the invitation. When the servant announced to His master there was yet room at the his supper, he sent the servant out a third time, and commanded him to go outside the house of Israel to the Gentile nations: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (14:23).

Closing thoughtsLuke 14 concluded with a lesson concerning the cost and qualities of of being a disciple of Christ (14:25-33). The first quality of a disciple is one’s love for Christ is so great, all other loves and relationships pale in comparison (14:26). Also, the disciple’s life is defined by the Cross, a symbol of death and sacrifice (14:27). Finally, two illustrations encourage believers to sit down and count the cost of following Christ (14:28-32), and remind us a sincere disciple forsakes all (14:33).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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.

Where is your treasure? (Luke 12)

Scripture reading – Luke 12

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12. Once again, we are considering a passage that has been treasured by believers for two millennia, and one that provokes conviction in the hearts of sinners. Christ cautioned His disciples regarding things men ought to fear (12:1-12). We are to fear hypocrisy (12:1-3), but not fear those who persecute or threaten our life (12:4). We are to fear the LORD, for He has the authority “to cast into hell” (12:5), and He knows all things; “even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (12:7).

Beginning with Luke 12:13, the LORD addressed a sin that has been the malady of humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve—the sin of covetousness. When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed she consider the fruit of the tree God had forbidden, the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Initially, Eve resisted the temptation; however, the more she considered the forbidden fruit, the more she pondered what the serpent (Satan) suggested were its benefits. She observed the fruit God forbade was “good for food,” was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Tragically, she coveted what God had forbidden, and “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:6-7).

The sin of covetousness goes by many names and is expressed in many evil ways. Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are but a few words that define a sin that has driven men to self-destruction, and eternal damnation. Consider a parable Jesus told that aptly defined the enslaving, damnable nature of covetousness. The appeal of a man at odds with his brother concerning an inheritance prompted the story of the rich fool. In the Jewish culture, the eldest brother had the right of inheritance, and the man who came to Jesus was most likely a young brother seeking a portion of his father’s estate (12:13-15).

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (12:16-21)

Jesus told the story of a rich man whose “passion for possessions” could not be satisfied. Even when he was blessed, and his barns were filled and overflowing, he was not satisfied. So, the rich man determined to build greater barns, and boasted within himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (12:19).

Sadly, the sum of the parable has been repeated and condemned by the LORD since the fall of man: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”(12:20)

What prompted this enduring illustration of covetousness?

It was the request of a man whose “passion for possessions” had taken precedence over the natural affection one brother should have for another. The man came to Jesus demanding, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (12:13).  The Law was clear regarding inheritance, yet this brother was discontented, and demanded his inheritance out of a heart of greed.

Jesus knew the heart of that man, and recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as a judge in a matter where the law had clearly spoken, Jesus warned: “Take heed [be quiet; i.e. listen], and beware of covetousness [i.e. greed; a desire or craving to have more]: for a man’s life consisteth [i.e. is defined by] not in the abundance [surplus; affluence] of the things which he possesseth” (12:15).

Closing lesson: A fool sets his affections on riches, and eventually finds himself a slave to them.

Luke 12:2121So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Where is your treasure?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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.

Hope for the Hopeless (Mark 5)

Scripture reading – Mark 5

We continue our study of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and our focus today is Mark 5. Once again, we have the story of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee and arriving on the other side in an area identified as the Gadarenes (5:1). Matthew 8:28 recognized the same region as Gergesenes (Gadara was the name of a nearby city, while Gergesenes was the name of a lake on that side. There was also a city in that area named Gergesa). Another difference between Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels is the prior states there were “two possessed with devils” that met Jesus (Matthew 8:28), and the latter states the LORD encountered “a man with an unclean sprit” (5:2). The difference in the two accounts is not a contradiction, but only that Mark chose to record the event of one man, not two.

Let us consider, that harmony in content is one of the great testaments to the inspiration of the Gospels. While the Holy Spirit used different human authors, and employed each man’s unique perspective and language, nevertheless the accounts harmonize as a whole (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Together, the Synoptics give us a deeper dimension of the same events.

Today’s devotional will focus on Mark 5:1-20, and the terrible toll sin took upon one man’s life. Jesus and His disciples had crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat, and arrived on the eastern shore. There, they were met by a hopeless, tormented, demon possessed man described as having an “unclean spirit” (Mark 5:2).

The Condition of a Desperate Sinner (5:1-5)

Consider the physical appearance of the demon possessed man: The man was described as having “fetters” (ropes) and chains that hanged about his body, showing the desperate attempts family and friends had made to control him (5:3-4). His body was scarred with self-inflicted wounds for he had cut “himself with stones” (5:5).

He was a troubled man, socially isolated from his family, friends, and neighbors. He had made his abode among the caves and tombs of the hillsides in the area (5:5). Imagine the sorrow his condition had brought upon his loved ones, for he had been driven into the desert leaving behind his family to bear the sorrow and shame of his condition. His emotional condition was exhibited in his tormented screams that echoed off the hillsides “always” (5:5). “Night and day” the wild, tormented screams of his anguish were heard (5:5).

Salvation and Transformation (5:6-15)

He was “possessed with the devil, and had the legion” (a legion was a Roman name of a company of soliders that might number in the thousands, 5:9, 15).  We are not told how the man came to be possessed by demons; however, sin had overtaken every part of his affections and thoughts. The evil, unclean spirit had degraded and destroyed his life, family, and future (James 1:14-15).

In a fleeting moment of desperation, the man ran to Jesus and worshipped Him (5:6); however, the demons that ruled his soul wanted nothing to do with Jesus (5:7).  Jesus, evidencing His power and authority over evil spirits, cast the demons out of the man and permitted them to enter a herd of 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 secular psychologists and psychiatrists, the demon-possessed man’s life was immediately changed by his spiritual encounter and faith in Jesus. His life gave evidence of his conversion and the radical transformation was undeniable (5:8, 15). The change was so transformative his family, friends, and neighbors observed him “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (5:15). He was “sitting,” at peace, and no longer bound by sin or needing chains and ropes.  They found him “clothed,” no longer a violent man crying and cutting himself. He was “in his right mind,” repentant and rational (5:15), and longed to go with Jesus (5:18). God’s power not only overcame his rebellious, evil spirit, it transformed his thoughts, mind, and affections.

Closing thoughts – Tragically, and in spite of the undeniable transformation in the man’s life, the citizens of Gadara begged Jesus to “depart out of their coasts” (5:17). They would not embrace Him as LORD, nor would they welcome Him in their homes or country. Jesus, knowing the man of Gadara could go where He would not be welcome, commanded him to, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee” (5:19). The change in the demon-possessed man’s life was undeniable evidence of his salvation. Can that be said of you?

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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 Character of a True Disciple (Matthew 11; Luke 11)

Scripture reading – Matthew 11; Luke 11

Our Scripture reading is Matthew 11 and Luke 11. Our devotional will be taken from Matthew 11.

Matthew 11

Coming to Matthew 11, Jesus commanded His disciples to depart “and teach and preach” in the cities and villages of Galilee (11:1). Jesus continued alone and great crowds followed Him. Many listened to Him teach, witnessed His miracles, and were preoccupied with wondering: Is Jesus the long-awaited Messiah? Would He deliver Israel from Roman occupation and restore the nation to her glory? Even John the Baptist, imprisoned by Herod, questioned and “sent two of his disciples, who asked, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? (11:2-3)

Blessed like no other region in all history, the cities and villages about Galilee were privileged to have Christ living in their midst. Though they heard Jesus teach, and witnessed miracles of healing no man could do apart from God’s power, yet, there were many who rejected Him. Like discontented children (11:16-17), they were never satisfied and were harsh in their criticisms of John the Baptist for not eating and drinking as they (11:18). Yet, those same critics would turn about and condemn Jesus, saying, He was “gluttonous…a winebibber…[and] a friend of publican and sinners” (11:19).

Jesus condemned the cities and villages of Galilee, for they had benefited from His presence and ministry, though many lacked faith (11:20-24). Comparing Chorazin and Bethsaida to Tyre and Sidon (two Phoenician cities of ancient days known for their wickedness), Jesus warned, “I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you” (11:22). Even Capernaum did not escape Jesus’ admonishment, for He likened that city to the wickedness of Sodom, warning, “it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee” (11:24).

“Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luke 12:48) was the spiritual principle Jesus illustrated when He compared Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum with ancient cities known for notorious wickedness. In the day of God’s judgment, Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom and Gomorrah will fare better than self-righteous Capernaum (11:21-24). Imagine how much worse God’s judgment might be upon our generation that has multiple copies of Scripture in our homes, and the freedom to gather and hear the Word of God preached and taught.

Closing thoughts (11:25-30) – The Pharisees and scribes oppressed the people with their harsh, onerous traditions and interpretations of the Law. Yet, the salvation Jesus offered was simple and good (11:25-27). Matthew 11 concluded with an invitation to those who bear the weight of sin: Come to Christ by faith and obtain that which works can never attain (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). His invitation was a simple, threefold command.

Matthew 11:28–3028Come [follow] unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden [physically and spiritually weary], and I will give you rest. 29Take [take up] my yoke upon you [be my disciple], and learn of me [submit; obey]; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

What a contrast to the harsh, demanding legalist of Jesus’ day, for He was “meek and lowly in heart,” and promised rest (11:29-30). Submissive followers of Christ do not find the Laws and Commandments of the LORD burdensome and legalistic!  Sincere believers will love, obey, and find “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2-3), and find rest for their souls in His eternal Truth.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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.

Calling All Sinners (Matthew 9, Luke 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 9; Luke 7

We continue our study of the Gospels and the early ministry of Jesus. In Matthew 9, Jesus not only established His authority to forgive sins, but also demonstrated His compassion for the physical suffering and hurting of His day. Among the objects of His compassion was a paralyzed man “sick of the palsy” (9:2-7).

A Miracle of Forgiveness and Healing (9:1-8)

Like Mark (2:2-12) and Luke (5:17-26), Matthew recorded the account of Jesus forgiving a paralytic man his sins, and raising him from his bed (9:1-8). Matthew took notice how the scribes whispered among themselves, saying, “This man blasphemeth” (9:3). Jesus, exercising His divine omniscience, knew “their thoughts” and asked, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4)

What a bold rebuke of those proud, religious experts in the Law! Jesus proposed to them a question, and asked: “Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?” (9:5) To prove His divine authority to forgive sins, Jesus commanded the paralytic to do what no other man could: “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (9:6). Jesus not only stated the man’s sins were forgiven, He proved He had authority over sickness and disease to make the man’s body whole. The paralytic, obeying Jesus’ command, rose from his bed and walked home (9:7). What an incredible moment! All who witnessed the miracle “marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (9:8)!

A Friend of Sinners (9:9-13)

Matthew recorded the day Jesus invited him to be a disciple (the same was recorded in Mark 2:14 and Luke 4:27-28). That same evening, Matthew hosted supper in his home and invited his fellow publicans and sinners to dine with Jesus (9:10). “When the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (9:11)

Why eat with publicans and sinners? (9:11-13)

For the same reason the sick, not the strong and healthy, seek a physician (9:12). You see, men who are too proud to see their sin, are too blind to see their need of a Savior. Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and not to persuade self-righteous scribes and Pharisees to repent. The LORD had compassion for sinners who were humbled under the weight of their sin, and willing to repent (9:13).

Closing thoughts – In addition to the paralytic whom He healed (9:2-7), Jesus raised the daughter of a leader of the synagogue from the dead (9:18-19, 23-25), healed a woman that had “an issue of blood” (9:20-22), gave sight to two blind men (9:27-30), delivered a man from a demon (9:32-33), and healed “every sickness and every disease among the people” (9:35).

With multitudes following Him, Jesus was “moved with compassion” (9:36-38), for He saw they were weary, scattered, and like “sheep having no shepherd” (9:36). He saw the potential (for “the harvest…[was] plenteous”, 9:37a). He saw the need, for “the labouers are few” (9:37b). He called upon believers to “pray…that He [would]send forth labourers into his harvest” (9:38).

In the words of Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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 Sermon on the Mount – part 1 (Matthew 5; Matthew 6)

Scripture reading – Matthew 5; Matthew 6

Considered as Christ’s inaugural address to His followers, the “Sermon on the Mount” is an exposition of the heart of Christ the King (Matthew 5-7). It is a declaration of the character of those who would be citizens in His kingdom. Like God’s Laws and Commandments, I believe the Sermon on the Mount embodies some of the greatest truths known to man. Our Scripture reading is Matthew 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional is Matthew 5:3-12.

Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes

Sitting down on a hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee (5:1), Jesus taught the people a series of eight inspiring truths we identify as the Beatitudes (5:3-12). In essence, the Beatitudes are an exposition of the attitudes and character of believers (5:3-12). They are the sum of Christ’s declaration regarding the actions and attitudes of the citizens of heaven.

Each Beatitude began with the word “Blessed” (5:3-12). A brief definition of what it means to be blessed is: A state of settled joy and contentment that is not dependent upon one’s circumstances. 

Briefly, I invite you to consider the Beatitudes in two parts: The Person and The Promise.

Matthew 5:3 is the foundation of the eight Beatitudes, and reads: “3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3). The “Poor in Spirit” recognizes the extremity of his spiritual poverty apart from Christ. The promise is, “the kingdom of heaven” (5:3b). The second Beatitude is, “4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (5:4). The righteous mourn because they are sensitive to sin (i.e., “poor in spirit”), and are comforted because their sins are forgiven (5:4).

Thirdly, the blessed are “meek,” and are promised, “they shall inherit the earth” (5:5). The meek accept God’s dealings as good, with unquestioning submission. The blessed also “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (they have an appetite for righteousness), and are promised, “they shall be filled” (satisfied, wanting for nothing, 5:6).

The fifth Beatitude states, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (5:7). The merciful do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult. They are not vindictive, nor seek revenge. What is the promise to those who show mercy to others? They will be the recipient of mercy, undeserved and forgiving (5:7).

The “pure in heart” are promised, “they shall see God” (5:8). By definition, the “pure in heart” are sincere, free from hypocrisy and doublemindedness (James 1:8). They are single in heart and desire. The promise to the “pure in heart” is, they will “see God” (5:8b). (Fanny Crosby, the blind poet and gospel songwriter was asked what she looked forward to most about heaven. She answered, “I shall see Him [Christ] face to face, and tell the story – Saved by Grace.”)

The seventh Beatitude is the peacemaker: “9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (5:9). The world says, “Be a peacekeeper,” and be willing to compromise. Yet, Christ taught His followers, “Be a peacemaker,” (5:9) and you will be identified as a child of God (5:9b). What does a peacemaker do? He introduces others to the peace that can only be found in Christ.

Finally, the Blessed will suffer persecution, and are promised the kingdom of heaven (5:10). Jesus taught, “10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:10–11).

Closing thoughts Notice the righteous face three forms of persecution (5:11).  1) They are reviled (mocked, and have disparaging things said about their character and motives). 2) They are “persecuted,” (suffering personal confrontations that are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual in nature). 3) Lastly, persecutions are also verbal, for the wicked will “say all manner of evil against [the believers] falsely, for [Christ’s] sake” (5:11). Verbal persecutions come as lies, innuendoes, and sowing questions concerning one’s motive or sincerity.

As difficult as it may seem (and it is), the attitude of the persecuted is to be this: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad[jumping and leaping for joy]: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12). How can the “Blessed” rejoice when they are persecuted? They recognize troubles and trial have their purpose in the providence of God (James 1:2-4).

The “Blessed” know, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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.

Who Are You Following? (Matthew 8)

Scripture reading – Matthew 8

A word of explanation is in order as our chronological reading of the Scripture brings us to Matthew 8. You will notice we are momentarily passing over Matthew 5-7, but this is only a temporary adjustment. The Synoptic Gospels (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) describe events in the life of Christ from comparable viewpoints; however, they are not always chronological in their order. There are some who suggest that is the case with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

Matthew 4 concluded with Jesus ministering “throughout “Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (4:23). As His fame grew, Jesus was followed by “great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (4:25). The record of the LORD’s travels paused as He “went up in to a mountain” (5:1), where He taught His disciples and the crowd that followed Him (Matthew 5-7). Coming “down from the mountain” (5:1-16), we find Jesus returning to His travels throughout Galilee (8:1).

Matthew 8

Several healing miracles are recorded in Matthew 8, and attest to Jesus’s divine power and authority over nature.

Healing a Leper (8:1-4)

Coming down from the mount, Jesus met a leper, who came “and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (8:2). Leprosy was a dreaded, incurable skin disease of that time, and eventually ate away at the flesh and appendages of its victim. The leper in our story would have been miserable, and desperate (Isaiah 1:5-6), an outcast and alienated from family and society. He came to Jesus seeking compassion, and believing he could be healed. Jesus, reaching past social norms, touched the leper and said, “I will; be thou clean” (8:3). We read, “Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (8:3). Jesus then commanded the man, “See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them” (8:4; Leviticus 14:1-3).

Healing the Centurion’s Slave (8:5-13)

The leper having departed, Jesus came to Capernaum, and was met by a centurion (a Roman officer who commanded 100 soldiers, 8:5). Though a battle-hardened soldier, the centurion was a man who had compassion on a servant whom he described as “sick of the palsy, grievously tormented” (8:6). Once again, defying norms and the prejudice of the Jews, Jesus consented to the officer’s plea, and said, “I will come and heal him” (8:7).

With humility, “the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (8:8). Humility is rare (especially among the rich and powerful), and the centurion’s faith was extraordinary (8:8b-9). The LORD was astonished at the centurion’s faith, and commended His faith as superior to any He found among Jews (8:10b).

Turning to His disciples (8:11), Jesus foretold the Gospel would be received by many Gentiles (“from the east and west”), and foretold the Centurion was one of many who would become citizens of heaven (8:11). Tragically, many of the Jews (“children of the kingdom”) would reject Jesus and be sentenced to “outer darkness: [where]there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12).  The scene with the centurion concluded with Jesus assuring him his servant was healed (8:13).

Matthew 8:14-17 chronicles miracles of healing we have considered in Mark 1:29-31 and Luke 4:38-39.

First Claim Principle (8:19-22)

With great crowds pressing, Jesus “gave commandment to depart unto the other side” (to the east shore of the Sea of Galilee, 8:18). As they boarded their boats, two men came to Jesus and proposed they would go with Jesus. One said, “Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest” (8:19). He was a scribe, an expert in the Law of Moses, but when Jesus promised him a life of ministry that would be one of poverty (for the Son of man [Jesus] hath not where to lay his head”), he turned and walked away (8:20).

A second man, apparently accompanied the first, and he answered Jesus’ invitation to follow, saying, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father” (in essence saying, when his father died and he received his inheritance, he would follow Him, 8:21). Jesus refused the man, saying, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (8:22). Luke writes there was a third man who proposed to follow Jesus, but like the others, he was not ready to depart (Luke 9:61-62).

Peace in the Midst of a Storm (8:23-27)

Jesus and His disciples set sail across the Sea of Galilee, only to find themselves in the midst of a great storm, and their boats taking on water (8:24). With Jesus fast asleep, the disciples battled to save the ship until in desperation they cried, “Lord, save us: we perish” (8:25). Jesus then asked the disciples, Why are ye fearful. O ye of little faith?” (8:26) Rising to His feet, Jesus “rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm” (8:26). Stunned by the sudden quiet, the disciples said among themselves, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! (8:27).

Closing thoughts (8:28-34) – We have seen the LORD have power to heal lepers, restore a paralytic, and demonstrate authority over nature to calm a storm. Yet, He recognized the free will of men to choose to follow Him, or reject Him (8:19-22). Like many, there were three who expressed a desire to be followers of Christ, but they were unwilling to sacrifice selfish ambitions and plans (8:18-22).

Our study ends reminding us the LORD also has power and authority over demons (8:28-34). Jesus freed the souls of two wicked sinners from the devils that possessed them, and not even a herd of swine could abide the evil spirits that those men had tolerated (8:28-32). Tragically, when their neighbors heard how Jesus cast devils out of the men, they rejected Him, and “besought Him that He would “depart out of their coasts” (8:34).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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.