Tag Archives: Separation

The Trouble with Settling for Second Best (Genesis 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 19-21

Genesis 19 opens with two angels arriving at the gates of the city of Sodom.  Appearing in the physical form of men, the angels entered Sodom and were greeted by Lot whom they found sitting “in the gate” (the place where city leaders transacted business and made judgments in disputes).  Realizing the men were not citizens of Sodom, Lot urged them to find refuge for the night in his home (19:2-3).

As the darkness of night settled on the city, the wickedness and depravity of Sodom emerged when the Sodomites (i.e. homosexuals) of the city encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sexually assaulted (19:4-6).  Describing their lusts as wicked (19:7), Lot pled with the men of Sodom, offering to sacrifice his own daughters to their lusts (19:8-9) to protect his guests.

Striking the wicked men of Sodom with blindness, the angels saved Lot  from their violent attack (19:10-11). Displaying God’s grace, the angels urged Lot to flee the city with his family, warning him the LORD would destroy the city for its wickedness (19:12-13).  Sadly, Lot’s married sons and daughters refused his plea to flee the city (19:14).  Warned to not look back, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters fled the city (19:15-23).  Adding to his sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope Lot’s drifting from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.  Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.

With the ash and salt from God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah settling on the land, Abraham makes a fateful decision to journey from the land God had promised and traveled south to Gerar and the land ruled by the heathen king Abimelech (20:1-2).

Although ninety years old, Sarah is described as a beautiful, desirable woman and Abraham foolishly demanded she again conceal her identity and say she was his sister (20:2).  Once again putting at risk God’s covenant promise that Sarah would bear him a son, the LORD intervened and warned Abimelech in a dream (20:3) that should he would be a dead man should he violate Sarah (20:3-8).  Rising early, Abimelech confronted Abraham and sent him and his household out of his kingdom (20:9-13).

Continuing our study of the life of Abraham, we come to the conception and birth of Isaac, the long-awaited son fulfilling God’s covenant promise, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee” (Genesis 12:2).  Abraham had received and believed God’s promise of a son when he was seventy-five years old (Genesis 12:4); however, 25 years passed before he saw that promise fulfilled (21:5).

Hagar, the Egyptian mother of Ishmael, greeted the celebration of Isaac’s birth with jealousy and animosity, knowing her son would not be Abraham’s heir (21:9).  In spite of her having initiated the faithless act of Abraham having a son with her handmaid, Sarah demanded that Hagar and her son be dismissed from their home (21:10).

We have seen in our study of the life of Abraham how he often allowed circumstances and doubt to shadow his confidence in God’s promises. In spite of his faithlessness, God renewed his promise that Sarah would bear him a son in her old age, she being 90 and he nearly 100 years old (17:15-19).

Understanding the weight of his transgressions was also borne by his family, Abraham was comforted by God’s promise to bless Ishmael (21:12-13) though he and his mother must be driven from his home (21:14-21).

A tragic reminder as I close today’s devotion is God’s promise that the effects of a father’s sins will fall “upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate” Him (Exodus 20:5).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is Faithful, His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-15)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 12-15

Genesis 11 closed with Abraham (Abram) departing from “Ur of the Chaldees” (located in the vicinity of what would become Babylon) with his father Terah (Genesis 11:27-32). Journeying north from Ur, Abram stopped in Haran where he remained until his father’s death (11:32).

Genesis 12 is one of the great pivotal crossroads in history and God’s plan of redemption.

The LORD commanded Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (12:1).  The LORD set a covenant of seven promises He would fulfill in and through Abram’s lineage (Genesis 12:2-3) if he obeyed.

Although he was elderly (“seventy-five years old” – 12:4) and childless, Abram believed God’s promises and obeyed; departing from Haran, he traveled to Canaan.  Arriving at Bethel, he built an altar and there he worshipped the Lord (12:7-8).

Soon after Abram faced a crisis of faith when we read, “there was a famine in the land” (12:10). Abandoning the land and his faith in the LORD to provide and keep His promises, Abram journeyed to Egypt; a decision that put in jeopardy God’s covenant promise of a son (12:10-13).

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, was a beautiful woman.  Fearing for his own life, Abram requested she to tell others she was his sister (12:11-13).  Sarai’s beauty was soon noticed and Pharaoh took her into his harem putting into jeopardy God’s covenant promise of an heir she was to bear to Abram. The LORD mercifully intervened and sent a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealed to the ruler he had been deceived by Abram (12:17-20). Sarah was spared and Abram led his household out of Egypt and back to Canaan.

The vastness of their wealth and possessions soon provoked a conflict between Abram’s servants and those of his nephew Lot (13:1-7).  To avoid strife, Abram suggested they divide their households and possessions, graciously offering to Lot the first choice of the land (13:8-9).  Rather than defer to his elder, Lot revealed the covetousness of his heart and chose the best part of the land that included the cities in the plain; among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13).  Lot departed and God again renewed His covenant promises with Abraham (13:14-18).

Genesis 14 gives us a history of the nations that inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times; in the midst we read, “the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled…And they took Lot…and his goods” (14:10-12).  Abram had become rich and powerful; arming 318 servants (14:14) he led a mission that saved Lot, his household, and the citizens and material possessions of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:15-16).

Genesis 15 begins a narrative regarding Abram’s longing for a son and heir.  The LORD assured Abram he would have an heir, a son born to his wife Sarai (15:2-4) and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5). In spite of their age, Abram “believed the LORD; and He (the LORD) counted it to him [Abram] for righteousness” (15:6).

God also revealed to Abraham that his heirs would be “strangers”, foreigners, in another country for 400 years (15:13); however, when the 400 years were fulfilled, they would return to Canaan with great possessions (a prophecy fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude – Exodus 12-14).  Genesis 15 sets the boundaries of the land the LORD promised to give Abram and his heirs (15:18-21).

I close today’s devotional commentary with this promise:

God assured Abraham he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield”…his protector and defender (15:1). 

Friend, you may be at a time in your life that is a place of “spiritual famine.”  You are tempted to resign to fear or plan and plot your own course…Don’t abandon your faith.

Trust God to be your “Shield”, your protector and Savior.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“I Fear ‘Tomorrow’ Has Come”

On a personal note: I have been disappointed by many and bewildered by more than a few leaders over the course of my life and ministry.  The task of writing this brief summary of a recent chapel announcement from a man I held in high esteem is numbered among my saddest accounts.

Re: November 7, 2019, Chapel Hour

Bob Jones University

Greenville, SC

In the introduction of his November 7, 2019 chapel message, Dr. Bob Jones III, Chancellor of Bob Jones University (BJU) and former President of the University, publicly praised Dr. Billy Kim, known as the “Billy Graham of Asia”.

Dr. Kim served Evangelist Graham as his translator during his 1973 Crusade in South Korea.  Never one to shy away from ecumenical opportunities, Dr. Kim has served as President of Baptist World Alliance (2000-2005) and associated with broad evangelicalism throughout his life.

Dr. Bob Jones III’s public chapel comments (minutes 2:48-6:00) concerning Dr. Kim and his ministry serve as an endorsement of the man and is a dramatic departure from the University’s legacy as a separatist institution and its stance concerning Dr. Kim.

In its history, the chapel pulpit of Bob Jones University served as a platform for calling thousands of students and tens of thousands of graduates to practice personal holiness and ecclesiastical separation.

As a graduate, I remember well the admonitions concerning ecclesiastical compromise heralded by Drs. Bob Jones Jr. and his son, Bob Jones III.  The lecterns in the Preacher Boy’s Classes and Bible classes echoed the same universal warning…today’s compromise paves the way to tomorrow’s departure.

I fear “tomorrow” has come.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

A Graduate of Bob Jones University, 1977

A History Lesson for Bible Fundamental Churches, Colleges, and Their Leaders

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The following is a repost of a devotional I wrote for my church family, October 16, 2017. I am publishing it today as a challenge to my peers and friends to take time to review the history of 20th century Bible fundamentalist.  Read their writings and sermons.  Do not fall victim to progressives who pull a quote out of context to support a position the men they quote would have never taken.  

I am today a 63-year-old pastor who had the privilege of standing in the shadows of great fundamentalists who are now with the LORD.  Were they perfect men?  Of course not; however, the same is true of my generation and the rising millennial generation. The following is a copy of the devotional, posted two years ago.

Deuteronomy is a record of Moses’ final words and exhortations to the people he had shepherd for forty years.  We read:

Deuteronomy 1:3 – And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;”

It was important for Moses to rehearse with that generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for the nation (Deuteronomy 1:8).  Much like you might search your ancestral family tree to know your physical lineage, Moses recognized his days were numbered among the people and he wanted them to know not only their physical lineage, but more importantly, their spiritual lineage as God’s chosen people.

The Hebrews who were 19 years old and younger when Israel refused to cross into the Promise Land, were now in their late fifties and Moses feared their children and grandchildren would be tempted to turn back from the challenges of the new land.   Knowing many were either too young to remember or not yet born when the people rebelled against God, Moses rehearsed the failure of their forefathers to trust God and cross the Jordan River into the Promise Land (Deuteronomy 1-2).  Concerned they lacked an understanding of what faithlessness cost their parents and grandparents, Moses made certain the people appreciated the tragic consequences of disobedience and understood the challenges before them (Deuteronomy 2).

The late Dr. Richard Rupp who succeeded Dr. Gilbert Stenholm as the leader and mentor of the Preacher Boy’s Class of Bob Jones University in the late 1970’s and 1980’s.

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many Gospel preaching churches, Bible colleges, and fundamental Christian institutions in recent years.

I am old enough to remember well the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp and Dr. Bob Jones Jr. in “Preacher Boys” during my Bible college years at Bob Jones University.   Those men had fought spiritual ecumenical battles, sometimes open warfare, against the progressives of their day who compromised their ministries fellowshipping with men and institutions that denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Thirty, forty, even fifty years passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith; however, their passion had not abated, nor their determination to pass on to the men of my generation not only knowledge of the past, but a warning and exhortation.   I graduated Bob Jones University knowing compromise with those who trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness or reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith would eventually be a cancer destroying ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible fundamental churches, Bible colleges, and Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the fundamental spiritual heritage of those institutions.

The result of ignorance or leadership contemptuous of the past is the same; those institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Warning: When the leadership of a Bible fundamental church, Bible college, or ministry distances itself from its heritage, it will invariably sacrifice its identity and forget God’s providences.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Lunging Toward the Cliff of “No Return”

More than a year has passed since I first published my concerns regarding the direction the board and administration of Bob Jones University is taking my alma mater.  “Silent No More” and “A Failure to Stay the Course” tallied a pattern of compromise that has taken the University far from its historical moorings as a separatist institution.

BJU Seminary Seminar, November 11-12, 2019

Board members, administrators, and faculty who have any longevity with the University are well aware they have taken the institution down a path far from its historic legacy as an unapologetic bastion of Biblical fundamentalism.  For over a year I refrained from addressing the drift until I learned of yet another example too egregious to ignore.

The latest conference identified as the “Stewart Custer Lecture Series” (November 11-12, 2019) is illustrative of how far and how fast Bob Jones University is lunging toward the cliff of “no return”.

Who is Andy Naselli? 
Andy Naselli is an associate professor of New Testament and theology at John Piper’s Bethlehem College & Seminary and a pastor\elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN where Piper served as pastor for 33 years (Piper is the founder and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary).  

Staff Leadership Photo; Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN

While I hate to admit Naselli was trained in the vein of a fundamentalist (BA from Baptist College of Ministry  MA & Ph.D. from Bob Jones University), I can at least take some solace that he has followed the path of his most recent institution, with a Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

For perspective: John Piper is a non-cessationist and believes in the present-day employment of Charismatic gifts (tongues, healing, and prophecy).  While Piper believes the office of the Apostle has ceased, he does believe in some sense of the prophetic gift.  Understanding Andy Naselli serves as a pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church and is employed by institutions associated with John Piper, it is safe to say…Andy Naselli is not a Biblical separatist fundamentalist.

Make no mistake… Andy Naselli was privileged to serve as the highlighted guest speaker at BJU’s Seminary and the University and its administrative leadership has accepted the baggage that goes with Piper and his cronies—The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel, to name two. 

Under Dr. Steve Petit’s leadership, Bob Jones University continues to follow a path of ecclesiastical compromise, embracing the spirit of Neo-evangelicalism, and rejecting its historical legacy as a Bible fundamental, separatist institution.

Dr. Bob Jones, Jr.

At least we who were in classes and privileged to be challenged by separatists like Drs. Bob Jones Jr., Bob Jones III, Gilbert Stenholm and Richard Rupp can take consolation in this:   While the current administration has sadly tarnished the reputation of Dr. Stewart Custer, they have so far spared the Jones’ that humiliation.

Jude 1:3 – 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Church, Her Spiritual Leaders and Their Failures

On a personal note: By God’s grace I recently celebrated four decades of ministry and have been blessed to serve on the pastoral staff of Hillsdale Baptist Church for thirty-four years.  The following article is written from my perspective as a pastor and graduate of a Christian University that historically made no apology for its Bible fundamental, separatist stance.

For two decades I have pondered the waning of conservative, independent, Bible-preaching churches, schools, and colleges in our nation.  While I pray for a spiritual awakening in America, I see little hope when our own families and ministries are following the spiritual erosion of our culture. Indeed, should we who identify as Bible-believers continue our flirtation with sin, I fear Bible-preaching is at risk of being silenced within a generation.

Having experienced social media vilification in the past, I fear my perspective will offend some and is not shared lightly or with a desire to offend. Nevertheless, I am compelled to share my concerns, not as a provocation, but as an exposé of what I believe is the primary factor contributing to the failure of historic, conservative Bible-Christianity in America.

Across our nation, a millennial consortium of progressive preachers is assuming the pulpits of conservative, Bible-preaching churches, schools, and colleges.  Preaching a message of grace without a call to personal sanctification and holiness, they have spawned a pseudo-piety and tolerance of sin and carnality the generation before them decried.  

A brief history lesson on conservative, fundamental Bible Christianity

From the 1950’s to the closing years of the 20thcentury, Bible-fundamentalism inspired a Gospel awakening (not so much a spiritual revival) in America.  Veterans of World War II returned to America with an evangelistic zeal giving rise to conservative, fundamental Christian Colleges whose student bodies experienced phenomenal growth until the late 1990’s.

Tens of thousands of young men enrolled in Bible colleges and became pastors across America and missionaries around the world.  That generation inspired the School Bus Ministry movement in the 1960’s and began the Christian School movement in the 1970’s continuing through the 1990’s.  The birth of the Home School movement in the 1990’s revived the prospect of a generation of youth who might surrender their lives to the LORD and dedicate themselves to serve as pastors, teachers, and missionaries.

The 21st century; however, has proved disastrous for conservative, Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches and institutions.

Failing churches, Christian schools, Bible colleges and seminaries dot the American landscape.  Spiritual apathy has taken hold on our homes, churches, and schools.  Aging congregations, falling church attendance, and a precipitous decline in young men going into ministry now threaten the future of conservative Biblical Christianity.

While there are many explanations for the spiritual erosion we are witnessing in our Bible-believing churches and institutions, I will limit myself to a few.  The first, cultural wars within and without our homes. Some will argue the church has failed to adapt to cultural changes.  Others will argue, in an attempt to be relevant, the church lost its identity and has become irrelevant.  The disparity between what the Bible teaches and what our homes, churches, and institutions practice is another reason for the diminishing of our churches. We are hearers of the Word, but are we doers?  Christian educators fault the churches for pervasive spiritual apathy in the students, while pastors accuse those same institutions of accommodating carnality at the sacrifice of spiritual zeal.

Believing everything rises and falls on leadership, I conclude the responsibility for the spiritual failings of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and universities, and seminaries rests with the spiritual leaders of this, my generation. 

My peers have served as the spiritual leaders of our institutions for more than two decades.  Unlike any generation before, my generation has faced and grappled with an unprecedented intrusion of technology.  While the pastors of my youth sounded the alarm regarding the secular influences of radio, television, movies, and rock music; the ministers of my generation pastor congregations that, with a few clicks of a mouse, surf the internet and introduce to their families every imaginable influence… doctrinally, culturally, and socially.

Cable television, internet, social media, and cell phones are seducing the hearts of our children and empowering the parasitic nature of secularism and progressive theology.  While Christian parents prove either ambivalent or ill-prepared for the seduction of “worldliness”, their spiritual leaders are encountering a radical cultural shift and failing to address the intrusion of sin in their own homes and ministries.

Facing a spirit of rebellion in their homes, churches, and Christian schools, the spiritual leaders of my generation, in an attempt to parley peace with their own youth, have accommodated their sins. The consequence is an extra-biblical liberty that embraces the sins of the world, its pleasures, and inevitable consequences (1 John 2:15-17).

Warning: Spiritual leaders who accommodate the sins of their children will invariably compromise the core values of the ministries entrusted to their care.

To understand why Bible-believing churches, Christian schools, colleges, and seminaries are forsaking spiritual disciplines, one need only to look to the pulpits and the leaders who occupy them. My generation has failed to call the church to sanctification and holiness because we have succumbed to a paralysis induced by our own spiritual failings.

Almost without exception, the failure of churches and the compromise and eventual closure of Christian institutions in my sphere have one thing in common… leaders who sacrificed their spiritual integrity to accommodate the sins of their children.

Consider Paul’s admonition to Titus.  Having declared the virtues and spiritual qualifications of the leaders of the church (Titus 1:6-9), including “blameless”, the principal, indispensable qualification of the pastor that includes his role as the “husband of one wife” and “having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6), Paul warns:

“For there are many unruly [disobedient; rebellious] and vain talkers [empty, useless talk] and deceivers [impostors; seducers]…whose mouths must be stopped [silenced; bridled], who subvert [overturn; destroy] whole houses [families], teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake [dishonest gain]…Wherefore rebuke [reprove; convict] them sharply [cut off; severely].” (Titus 1:10, 11, 13)

Principle – Leaders deficient in the spiritual qualifications of their office will invariably lack the spiritual power and authority “to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” [opposed to Truth and sound doctrine](Titus 1:9)

I close this introductory article on spiritual leaders and their failings, urging you to take away three lessons from the failed example of my generation:  

1) Technology will seduce the hearts of your children and empower the parasitic nature of secularism and progressive theology; 2) Accommodate the sins of your children and you will invariably sacrifice your core values;   3) Compromise your convictions and you will lack the spiritual power and authority to exhort and rebuke those who oppose sound Biblical truths.

1 John 2:15-17– 15  Love not the world, neither the things that arein the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him
16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 
17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

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Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

A Sacred Trust: Standing Between the Dead and the Living (Numbers 16)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 15-16, Psalm 49, and Luke 5. Our devotional is from Numbers 16 .

The drama in Numbers 16 serves as a warning to any who sow discord and usurp the spiritual leadership of a congregation.

We are not told the reason for the rebellion, but given the assertions made against Moses and Aaron, we can venture pride leading to discontentment was the root issue.  Three men are named as leaders of the rebellion with the ringleader one named Korah, a Levite, but not a priest (Numbers 16:1). Incredibly, these three men were able to engage two hundred and fifty others, “princes…men of renown”, to join their band (16:2).

While the criticism of the rebels appeared sincere in motive and spiritual in nature, (“Ye take too much upon you”), their object was not for “they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron” (16:3).  Notice how the rebel’s veiled criticism of Moses and Aaron grew to open derision (16:3).  The object of the rebels was not to relieve Moses and Aaron; instead, they aspired to the dignity and duties of the priesthood (Numbers 16:10).

When Moses heard the criticism of the rebels and saw the crowd gathered against him, “he fell upon his face” (16:4); a visible sign of humility.  Rather than a hasty diatribe against his critics, Moses deferred to seek the LORD saying, “Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy” (16:5).

On the next day, Moses called an assembly of the rebels and warned, “ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi” (16:7).  Two of the rebels refused to come before Moses (16:12) and sent an accusation that he had failed the nation in not leading them into “a land that floweth with milk and honey” (16:14).  The charge against Moses was a lie and stoked his anger (16:15) for it was the people, not Moses, who rebelled and turned away from the land the LORD had promised as an inheritance.

The LORD’s judgment against the rebels fell swiftly when “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed [the rebels] and their houses…[who] went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the congregation” (16:31-33).  As the congregation fled from the LORD’s judgment, “there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense” (16:35). Unfortunately, the LORD’s judgment against the rebels did not quench their influence and on the next day another 14,700 were slain (16:41-50).

There are many lessons and cautions we might derive from Numbers 16.  One is, while this passage is instructive, it does not suggest the LORD must always swiftly judge the critics of His ministers.

I have known too many pastors who aspire to pedestals and presume to be above accountability.  The same might be said of some in the church who are all too eager to level veiled criticisms at spiritual leaders and not give them the respect due their office.

Pastors are far from perfect and some engaged in ministry lack the Biblical qualifications of the pastor\shepherd (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9); however, those ministers who are qualified and faithful should be honored for their sacrifices and endeavors.  After all, as purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ they stand “between the dead and the living” (16:48).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith