Tag Archives: Separation

Women in the Church, and God’s Blueprint for Church Leadership (1 Timothy 2-3)

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

Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 3

1 Timothy 3 addresses two ministering offices of the church. The office of the bishop defines the function and qualifications of a pastor as overseer of a local congregation of believers (3:1-7). The second church office is that of the deacons (meaning servant; 3:8-13).). Notice the bishop\pastor and deacons’ offices were defined by personal, spiritual, and family qualifications (3:1-13). The focus of this devotion will be the office of the bishop\pastor; however, I will first set the context for our study by examining the role of women in the church.

The Women of the Congregation (2:9-15)

While there are many controversies challenging the 21st century church, I suggest the role of the sexes, and leadership is the most hotly debated. Beginning with the conviction believers accept the authority of the Scriptures in faith and practice, the teachings regarding the role of women becomes simple and straightforward.

After writing regarding the importance of prayer (2:8), Paul addressed the adorning and decorum of women in public worship. As he commanded men to “pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (2:8), the apostle commanded women to be adorned “in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (2:9-10).

Dress Matters: A Principle for Women’s Dress and Decorum (2:9-10)

Contrary to the “come as you are” invitation of many churches, Paul taught believers to dress in a manner that befits God’s holiness (2:9a). With reverence and restraint, women are to dress in a manner that would not distract from public worship (2:9b). Modeling godly character, a woman’s works (her outward deeds) are to be a reflection of her dedication to the Lord (2:10).

The Attitude and Demeanor of Women in the Church (2:11-12)

Then, Paul’s attention turned to the attitude and demeanor of women in public worship. The apostle wrote: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection” (2:11).

The church is graced with women who are wonderful examples of spiritual piety and Biblical knowledge. Nevertheless, in public worship women are to be learners, and not teachers. Indeed, the role of women in the church is one of subjection (Paul had written the same to believers in Corinth, stating: “It is a shame for women to speak in the church,” 1 Corinthians 14:35). Paul taught the same principle in his letter to Timothy, stating, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (2:12).

Two Spiritual Foundations for Paul’s Instructions Regarding the Role of Women (2:13-15)

The apostle Paul needed no justification for the limits he placed on the role of women in the church; nevertheless, he identified two principles for his instructions (2:13-14). The first, God’s creative order: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (2:13; 1 Corinthians 11:8-9). The second principle arose from the historical fact concerning the fall of the human race (2:14). Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord’s commands; however, it was the woman, not the man who was “deceived” and transgressed (2:14; Genesis 3:1-6a). Adam sinned of his own volition, and disobeyed God. Eve, however, usurped her husband’s authority, and was deceived by the serpent (2:14).

Having clearly, and unequivocally defined the role of women in the church (2:9-15), Paul then set in order the leadership offices of the church (1 Timothy 3). For today’s study, the focus with be the office of the bishop\pastor (3:1-7).

1 Timothy 3 – The Bishop\Pastor

The Person and Office of the Pastor (3:1)

Accepting the Scripture’s authority in both faith and practice, the Bible is clear: The office of bishop, meaning overseer, is to be occupied by a man. Of those who aspire to the calling of pastor, it is “a good work” (3:1). The word “desire” indicates a strong urgency to pastor and oversee the work of the ministry. Such a calling is a “good,” and honorable work. Yet, desiring the office and work of the bishop is not enough; for a man must also be qualified to hold such a high calling.

The Qualifications of the Pastor (3:2-7)

I might suggest various outlines for the qualifications of the pastor, but I will limit myself to four categories. The first is a personal qualification: “2A bishop then must be blameless (3:2a). That is not implying perfection (for I can ascertain no man would qualify). “Blameless” indicates the necessity of the pastor’s personal life passing scrutiny. The pastor’s moral character must be above reproach, and must not be chargeable with a moral offense (adultery, fornication, or any other reprehensible conduct disqualifies a man from the pastorate).

The second qualification of the pastor concerns his marriage and relationship with his wife (if married). He is to be “the husband of one wife” (3:2b), in thought and deed (or as many have observed, he must be “a one-woman kind of man”). Other than death, which ends the covenant of marriage in the sight of God and man, a pastor is to be devoted to one-woman. A moral failure or divorce disqualifies a man from the pastorate.

Thirdly, notice the pastor’s character is an essential qualification, and he is to be “vigilant (watchful), sober (disciplined), of good behaviour (honest; well-behaved), given to hospitality, apt (qualified) to teach; 3Not given to wine (not a drinker), no striker (violent or combative), not greedy of filthy lucre (lover of money); but patient (gracious), not a brawler (contentious), not covetous (lover of possessions) (3:2-3).

The fourth essential for the pastor is he is to demonstrate godly leadership in his home (3:4-5). He is to be “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (3:4). Notice the essential nature of a pastor’s household leadership is stressed as the background for the following proposition: “5For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (3:5)

To be spiritually qualified for overseeing the body of Christ, a pastor must not be a “novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (3:6). Regarding his public testimony, “he must have a good report of them which are without [secular society]; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (3:7).

Closing thoughts – With the Scriptures as my authority, I state unequivocally: Women are not to usurp men in teaching or preaching the Scriptures. Women have their place and role in teaching women (Titus 2:3-5); however, they should never exercise authority over men and aspire to teach or preach the Scriptures. To do so is a violates the clear teachings of Scripture.

A Personal Observation: Tragically, many spiritual leaders have accommodated the sins of their children and violated Paul’s instructions (3:5). From my vantage, it seems every failed ministry (Bible-preaching church, Bible college, and Christian institution) has one thing in common:

Spiritual leaders have compromised the spiritual precepts of their institutions, and invited God’s judgment upon those ministries.

* 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.

Philippians: An Epistle of Joy (Philippians 1)

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Scripture reading – Ephesians 6; Philippians 1

Our study of Paul’s “Prison Epistles” continues with the beloved Epistle to the Philippians. Authored by the apostle during his first imprisonment in Rome (AD 60-63), the letter was addressed to “all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (1:1). This is the second of two devotionals for today.

The City of Philippi

Philippi was located in eastern Macedonia, and was on a major trade route between Asia and Europe (serving as the gateway between the two continents). With a large population, Philippi was a center for Greek culture, and a thriving commercial center in Paul’s day. Apart from Paul’s epistle, there is little mention of Philippi in the New Testament.

It was in Philippi where we were introduced to the Jewess named Lydia, a woman described as a “seller of purple,” and who became a believer (Acts 16:14-15). Following an uprising provoked by some who protested their trade in idols was being harmed, Paul and Silas had been jailed in Philippi.

Yet, the Lord intervened for his ministers, and sent an earthquake that opened the doors of the prison. Fearing the prisoners had escaped and he would be executed, the jailer would have taken his own life, had Paul not urged him, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” (Acts 16:28). Entering the prison cell, the jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Paul bid him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). That night, the jailer, and his household believed and were baptized (Acts 16:32).

The Circumstances of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians

The apostle, now an elderly statesman of the Gospel, was under house arrest, and appeared to be set aside by God on the “ministry shelf.” Unable to travel, knowing his future was uncertain, Paul might have been tempted to despair of life. Nevertheless, though bound by Caesar, Paul was a prisoner of the Lord (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1), and his heart was infused with the joy of ministering to believers. Instead of an epistle that conveyed gloom and despair, Paul’s letter expressed love and joy! He was buoyed by the mutual love and affection he shared with the believers at Philippi, and his love for them filled the pages of this epistle (1:2-4, 7, 9).

Joy that Soars Above Circumstances (1:3-9)

What was Paul’s secret to joy? I believe it was his focus. He did not focus on himself, but on the Lord and encouraging others. Notice Paul’s care and expressions of love for others in chapter 1.

In verse 2, he lovingly saluted the believers, writing, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2). Then we see his loving assurances, when he penned, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy” (1:3-4). In verse 7, Paul wrote, “I have you in my heart” (1:7). Though in the midst of bondage, Paul wrote, “I pray, that your love may abound [abounding love] yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment” (1:9).

Paul Never Lost Faith (1:12-14)

A key to Paul’s joy was he had the right perspective on himself, his calling, and ministry. He had suffered the scorn and persecution of enemies, but viewed his trials and afflictions as validations of his ministry (2 Corinthians 11:6-7, 23-30). He accepted adversity as the platform for ministry, and wrote, “I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (1:12).

Paul comprehended God’s sovereignty, being aware the Lord uses adversities to accomplish His purpose in and through a believer’s life. Imprisonment and chains had taken Paul where he would have not gone, but they had given him a ministry to the Praetorian guards of Caesar’s palace! Paul wrote, “my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places” (1:13). The apostle rejoiced how his imprisonment had strengthened believers, who had become “much more bold to speak the word without fear” (1:14).

Closing thoughts (1:15-30) – I conclude this introduction to the Philippians, inviting you to consider Paul’s perspective on his calling and ministry (1:18-21). He counted his life a living sacrifice (1:21; 2:17), and rejoiced that his afflictions had strengthened the faith of the believers. Friend, we live in a “joyless world,” and find ourselves surrounded by loneliness, discontentment and unhappiness. Yet, if we look past our troubles and trust the Lord, we have cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving! After all, God is never less than sovereign!

* 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.

Relational Dynamics: Children and Parents; Employees and Employers (Ephesians 6)

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

Scripture reading – Ephesians 6; Philippians 1

Today’s Scripture reading concludes Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, and introduces his letter to the believers of Philippi. This is the first of two devotions, and is taken from Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 5 challenged believers to live and walk in a manner that was worthy of the Lord (5:1-5). Paul urged the saints to manifest a spirit of humility and submission, “in the fear of God” (5:21), and remember marriage between a husband and wife is a portrait of Christ’s love for His church (5:22-33). The apostle commanded: “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…[and] 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (5:22, 25).

Ephesians 6

Having addressed the institution and sanctity of marriage (5:22-33), Paul’s focus turned to the believer’s family and household. Ephesians 6 presented a portrait of the spiritual dynamics between children and their parents (6:1-4), and servants and their masters (6:5-9).

The Believer’s Family (6:1-4)

Though the majority of Galatian believers were of Greco-Roman ancestry, they were not exempt from the implications and applications of the Commandments of the Lord (Exodus 20). Knowing the 5th commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12), Paul wrote to the sons and daughters of Galatia:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise” (6:1-2). And what was the promise to those who obeyed and honored their parents? “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (6:3).

If you ponder why our society and 21st century world is troubled, you need look no further than the tragic consequences of violating the 5th commandment. It is not well with our families, communities, societies and nation. Disrespect and rebellion in the home has spilled over into our schools and communities, and is a cancer that is destroying our nation and world.

Of course, parents, particularly fathers, must bear the weight and responsibility for the failure of the family. Paul urged fathers, “provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). “Provoke not,” carried the inference of actions and attitudes that were unreasonable and incited resentment in the heart of a child. Provocations might arise from being overly protective, unreasonable in expectations, failing to affirm, or abuse (verbal or physical). Paul exhorted fathers to nurture and admonish their children (6:4b). Nurturing a child requires instruction and correction, while admonishing obliges warning, rebuking, and discipline (Proverbs 29:15, 17). How different our homes and churches would be if children honored and obeyed their parents, and fathers and mothers nurtured and admonished their children in the Lord!

The Household: Servants and their Masters (6:5-9)

The New Testament has a lot to say regarding the dynamics between the servant (slave) and his master. Servitude and oppression have been a perpetual human dynamic since the fall of man. Rather than address the question of the morality of slavery, Paul focused upon the responsibility of the servant to his master, and the relationship of the master to his servant. Because Roman culture allowed slaves to enjoy some liberties, including religion, the Galatian church would have had a membership of slaves and masters. Of course, the application to our culture is the dynamic of the employee and his employer.

The Attitude and Testimony of a Servant

Servants were commanded to be “obedient,” and to respect and serve their masters with a heart that was single in motive: “as unto Christ… as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (6:5-6). Whether a slave or a free man, a believer was to do his work, no matter how menial the task, knowing the Lord was the rewarder (6:7-8). Finally, the duty of masters, as it is with employers, was to neither threaten or abuse their servants. Instead, the master was to treat his servants fairly, according to the Law, knowing God is the rewarder, and an impartial judge (6:9).

Closing thoughts – So much more might be gleaned from this chapter, but I will leave that for a later time. For now, I encourage you to examine your relationships, and whether or not you are honoring to the Lord. Whether a child or parent, an employee or an employer, you should guard your heart and live your life above reproach.

Remember: What you sow you will reap, and God is a righteous judge.

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

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

A Warning Knell: Pseudo-Fundamentalists Are Systematically Destroying the Legacy of Biblical Fundamentalism

Heart of A Shepherd followers,

The following is an article I first published January 11, 2022. I generally limit posts to daily devotionals on my http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com website. There are, however, some things I come across in my readings that give me pause to not only think, but to share. In light of recent deliberations at my alma mater, I am republishing this timely article. 

Bob Jones University Fashion Show – December 2021

I am currently reading a book authored by a man I do not know and judging from his references, would probably not follow. Nevertheless, Owen Strachan’s recently published book, Christianity and Wokeness, has awakened in me a sensitivity to a frightening reality:

We are not only witnessing a systematic dismantling of our American culture and the broad spectrum of churches in the United States, but a decaying of what has been known for more than a century as historic Bible fundamentalism.

Owen Strachan makes the following observation in his book:

“Though fundamentalists and some conservative evangelicals earned a reputation as pugnacious, with the image of the ‘Fightin’ Fundamentalist’ enduring in our time, in actual historical fact, the fundamentalists didn’t fight nearly enough. They lost, and lost, and lost some more. They lost their churches, they lost their seminaries, they lost their missions agencies, they lost their parachurch organizations, and they kept on losing until there was very nearly nothing else left to lose.”1

If my Bible-fundamentalist peers will be honest, for the past two decades we have observed the consequences of compromise when leadership fails to maintain a separatist position in both personal and ecclesiastical fellowship.

Bob Jones University Fashion Design hosted by Fashion Design Seniors, December 2021

Failing to maintain a distinct doctrine of separation has led to a precipitous loss of fundamental churches, schools (Tennessee Temple University, Pillsbury Baptist College, Northland Baptist College, Clearwater Christian College), seminaries (Calvary Seminary), and missions’ agencies.

Unless board members of fundamental churches, schools, universities, mission board agencies, and parachurch organizations (camps) repent for their compromises and purge the leadership leading their institutions, the losses will continue until we have “nearly nothing else left to lose.”2

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

1 Owen Strachan, Christianity and Wokeness (Washington, D.C.: Salem Books, 2021), 55.
2 Ibid.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

A Shepherd’s Call to Holiness (2 Corinthians 7)

Scripture reading – 2 Corinthians 7

We continue our study of Paul’s second epistle to believers in Corinth with today’s Scripture reading, 2 Corinthians 7. The verses prior to this portion were a practical directive all believers should heed (6:14-17). Concerning consorting or partnering with unbelievers, Paul admonished, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (6:14)

The matter of a yoke hearkens to the tool which would have been borne by oxen in tandem working a farmer’s field. Scriptures forbid a farmer attempting to work a field with an ox and an ass (Deuteronomy 22:10; Leviticus 19:19). The natures and temperaments of those beasts are different, as are their gaits. An unequal tandem of beasts would cause chaffing to their necks, and prove detrimental to their work and well-being.

The same is true when believers make an unwise decision to yoke with unbelievers in an endeavor or enterprise. Sadly, some believers violate Paul’s admonition, and learn those who love righteousness cannot fellowship with the unrighteous (6:14). In the same way light and darkness do not coexist, the believer who disregards Paul’s warning of being unequally yoked, will find “unequal” marriages, families, and businesses experiencing the consequences of being spiritually “unequally yoked” (6:14). Then, calling upon believers to “come out from among [unbelievers], and be ye separate” (6:17), God promised, “I will receive you, 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (6:17b-18).

1 Corinthians 7

Keeping in mind God’s promise to accept believers as His spiritual “sons and daughters” (6:18), Paul declared the Lord’s expectations for believers to cleanse themselves from sin, and live holy lives “in the fear of God” (7:1).

Murmurings, complaining, and criticisms are the lot of all in leadership, and the church is certainly no exception. Apparently, there were some in the congregation who had taken offense from Paul’s strong words in his first letter. Pained by their response, Paul encouraged those estranged believers to be reconciled to him (7:2-6). In his defense, he declared, “we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man” (7:2). Paul continued, “I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you” (7:3).

What a wonderful expression of a spiritual shepherd’s love for his flock! Yes, he of necessity rebuked the Corinthians for tolerating gross wickedness in the congregation (1 Corinthians 5). Nevertheless, his strong words rose from the heart of a minister who loved them, and would give his life for them (7:3). Some must have accused Paul of being unloving in his first letter. To them, he affirmed, “Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation” (7:4).

Closing thoughts (7:5-6) – I fear the culture of the 21st century has little tolerance for preachers who dare confront the prevalent sins of our day. Tragically, there are many pastors unwilling to contend with the sins and failings of their congregation. Their failure has perpetuated a carnality that is destroying lives, marriages, families, and institutions.

If your church is blessed to have pastors and teachers like Paul, who are willing to confront sin—be thankful, for there are few willing to do so. Unloving, some might accuse; however, remember, the apostle Paul was not spared from the same accusation.

So much more might be written concerning chapter 7, but I will save those observations for 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 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.

Warning: A Believer’s Liberty is No License to Sin! (1 Corinthians 8; 1 Corinthians 9)

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Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 8; 1 Corinthians 9

Continuing our study of 1 Corinthians, we come to 1 Corinthians 8 and 9 and a subject that is championed by some, and vilified by others. “Christian Liberty” (as it is labeled and defined in the 21st century) has been a theme of sermon series, Bible studies, and celebrations for two decades. Under the mistaken notion of “FREEDOM” from the Law, church leaders have led their congregations and school bodies down a path that instead has led to a license to sin. Tragically, the emphasis on freedom has seen a rise in carnality that was predictable by any who know the Scriptures and rightly interpret the immutable Word of God.

What do the Scriptures teach on the matter of “Christian Liberty?” Today’s devotional is taken from 1 Corinthians 8, which is a central passage on the subject of Liberty.

“To Eat or Not to Eat?” (8:1-3)

Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:1 he had received a letter from believers in Corinth. In addition to their question on sexual morality, marriage, and divorce (1 Corinthians 7), it appeared they asked for Paul’s judgment on another topic: Eating meat (and other food items) that had been offered to idols (8:4). Before he tackled that subject, the apostle addressed a fundamental issue that provoked the question: Pride; in this case, pride prompted by one’s knowledge or understanding (8:1-3).

Isn’t interesting: The question of liberty arose within a church that wrestled with knowledge in the absence of love? (8:1) Regarding idols, Paul wrote, “we know that we all have knowledge” (8:1). Knowledge of what? The understanding that an idol is nothing! Believers understand there is One God, and He is God alone, and there is none other. Yet, that knowledge (that an idol is nothing), had given cause for some to be proud (“puffed up,” 8:1b). Then, Paul asserted, “charity edifieth” (8:1), meaning love in action builds up, and strengthens fellow-believers.

The problem with those believers who were championing their liberty is they were arrogant. While they boasted they had knowledge, they were missing the most fundamental doctrine—Charity (i.e., love; 8:2). Paul wrote later, without love, “I am nothing” (13:2). So, those who boasted in their liberty were guilty of being unloving to fellow-believers, and Paul judged those saying, “he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know (8:2). Loving God is evidence of our intimate knowledge of Him (8:3).

Regarding Eating Things Offered to Idols (8:4-8)

It is doubtful 21st century believers will face the question of eating meat offered to idols; however, it is important we grasp the spiritual principal Paul taught. There is evidence idol worshippers would sacrifice animals or other food items in temples, and heathen priests would sell the overflow of those sacrifices in a market attached to the temple. It is supposed such gave rise to the question: Do believers have liberty to purchase and eat meat or produce from a market, knowing it was offered to an idol.

Paul affirmed, believers have liberty to purchase and eat meat or any other food offered to an idol, for an “idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one” (8:4). Though a heathen worships his idol as a god (of which there were many, 8:5a), believers had knowledge “there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ (God who came in the person of Jesus), by whom are all things, and we by him” (8:6).

The question of eating anything offered to idols was a matter of liberty (whether to eat or not to eat); however, the issue was not a believer’s freedom, but the affect his liberty would have on other believers. Why? Because not every believer could eat anything offered to an idol with a clear conscience (8:8a). Rather than a question of liberty or freedom, it was an issue of one believer’s affect or influence on another. Eating or not eating meat offered to an idol was not an issue with God (8:8). Also, the Scriptures do not forbid eating meat offered to idols (Romans 14:14-15).

Brotherly love is concerned with how one’s liberty affects others. (8:9-13)

Rather than a defense of personal freedom, or an insistence on a believer’s right to exercise liberty, Paul’s tone was a warning: “Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock [an offense] to them that are weak” (8:9). In other words, to insist on your right to do something when you know it offends others, is unloving. There were believers who chose to eat meat offered to idols, even though they understood it was an offense to other believers (8:9). In doing so, they became “a stumblingblock” (8:9).

Paul appealed to those with understanding, but had been unloving in their demands for liberty, and asked, “through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” (8:11). What a tragedy! Though they understood there is only One God, and an idol is nothing; yet, they failed the love test and willfully imperiled the spiritual lives and walk of other believers.

Closing thoughts (8:12-13) – I fear some believers (fathers, mothers, pastors, teachers, deacons) may read this devotion, and are too proud to see the effect of their liberty on others. Are you guilty of flaunting liberty, even at the risk of offending fellow-believers? Paul warned, when a believer exercises liberty in areas that offend others, they not only sin “against the brethren,” they “sin against Christ” (8:12). In essence, a believer does not have liberty if his liberty offends. Modeling the spiritual mature believer, he was, Paul determined: “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (8:13).

Warning: What some insist is their liberty, has become a license to sin. They not only sin against others, but against Christ (8:12). Such have become the unloving champions of “Christian Liberty.”

* 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.

Danger: Celebrity Preachers are the Curse of the Church (1 Corinthians 3; 1 Corinthians 4)

Click here to read translations of this devotional.

Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 3; 1 Corinthians 4

Our study of Paul’s first epistle to Corinth continues with today’s Scripture reading, 1 Corinthians 3 and 4. Our devotional will be taken from 1 Corinthians 3.

We noticed in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 1, how Paul lovingly affirmed the congregation of believers in Corinth (1:1-10). Sadly, it was divisions and conflicts in the early church that prompted the letter, and became the primary focus of 1 Corinthians.

Remember, the first point of conflict Paul addressed was the factions that occurred as believers aligned themselves with dominant personalities of the early church. There were some who said, “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1:11-12). To that point, Paul asked, “13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1:13) Paul picks up that same issue in 1 Corinthians 3.

1 Corinthians 3 – The Carnal Church

The opening verses of 1 Corinthians 3 are a wonderful reminder the Scriptures are timeless, and a sad reminder the sinfulness of man is the same from generation to generation. It may surprise you, but the sin that plagued the 1stcentury church is the sin that is the bane of the 21st century church—man-centered, rather than Christ-centered.

Passionate and honest, Paul was led by the Spirit to boldly identify the root cause of division and strife in the congregation –carnality (3:1-3).

What is carnality? It is an affection for the world rooted in the sinful flesh of man, and is constrained by sinful lust and passions. In other words, it is natural, and contrary to the Spirit of God and the likeness of Christ. Look at today’s church and you will observe a membership that professes to be followers of Christ, yet in reality evidences little desire for spiritual truth. Why? Paul diagnosed the problem in these words: I “could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2I have fed you with milk [Spiritual ABC’s], and not with meat [the appetite of mature believers]: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3For ye are yet carnal” (3:1-3a).

The Manifestation of Carnality (3:3b-9)

How is carnality manifested in a congregation? Once again, Paul diagnosed the problem, writing, “there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions” (3:3). Before we rush on in our study, take a moment and reflect not only on your church, but on yourself, your family, and fellow-believers. Paul asked his readers, “Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (3:3b). Might that be said of you?

Notice also how carnality was not only evidenced in the presence of conflict, but was manifested in polarizing around personalities. Paul continued, “4For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (3:4)

A Spiritual Perspective for the Carnally-minded (3:5-9)

After addressing the root sin of believers (carnality), and the evidence of that sin in the congregation (turmoil that was provoked by following men, rather than Christ), Paul challenged the congregation to a spiritual perspective. The apostle asked, “5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (3:5).

The spiritual perspective of those who are pastors is to remember they are ministers, servants whom the LORD appointed to their task. Though they are loved by their congregation, they are nevertheless servants, and each is gifted and called by the Lord to their task (1:5). Paul asserted, he had planted (the seed of the Gospel), and Apollos had followed him in Corinth and watered, “but God gave the increase” (3:6). Paul and Apollos had their callings (the former was an apostle, the latter a minister), but it is God that blesses and is the cause for spiritual growth.

A godly pastor will deflect praise to the Lord, for he will know he is nothing apart from God’s blessings (3:7). Indeed, the ministry of the church and growth of believers should be to the glory of the Lord. Those who minister ought to labor understanding that “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (3:8). All who serve the Lord have their gifts, and place, and we would do well to remember “we are labourers together [fellow servants] with God: ye are God’s husbandry [garden; field], ye are God’s building” (3:9).

Closing thoughts – Let’s not make celebrities out of those who are nothing more than the servants of God. Pastors, evangelists, teachers, and missionaries have their place, and should be honored for their faithfulness. However, following a popular personality is detrimental to the spirit and unity of a congregation. To do so is carnal.

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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.

“O Lord, Remember Me” (Nehemiah 13; Psalm 126)

Scripture reading – Nehemiah 13; Psalm 126

Our study in Nehemiah concludes today. We have followed Nehemiah’s rise from serving as the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1-2), to the governorship of Judah. He could have chosen a life of ease and luxury in the king’s palace, but he could not rest when he heard the travail of the Jewish exiles in Jerusalem. With a heart for God’s people, he undertook building the walls of the city.

Like any great work, Nehemiah had critics and enemies. Yet, his faith in the LORD sustained him, and his courage was undiminished. With unwavering determination, he seemed to do the impossible, for the walls that had been in ruins for nearly 150 years were rebuilt in 52 days (6:15). Even his enemies realized what they had witnessed was more than the work of a man, “for they perceived…[the] work was wrought of [Israel’s] God” (6:16). With great pomp and circumstance, the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated (12:27-42), and the people brought tithes and offerings to the Temple to support the priests, Levites, and singers (12:43-47).

Nehemiah 13 – A Call for Sanctification and Separation

A Failure to Separate (13:1-3)

On the day the walls were dedicated, the book of the law of Moses was read aloud “in the audience of the people” (13:1). The reading of “the book of Moses” brought to the people’s attention a gross violation of God’s commandments. Remembering the trespass of the Ammonites and Moabites against Israel, the people realized those people were forbidden from coming “into the congregation of God for ever” (13:1). Hearing the grievances committed by those nations (Numbers 23-24), the people “separated from Israel all the mixed multitude” (13:3).

An Enemy in the Midst (13:4-9)

We were introduced to Nehemiah during the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia and Babylon (1:1). Coming to chapter 13, we find Nehemiah had departed from Jerusalem, and returned to the king’s court in the 32ndyear of his reign (13:6). In his absence a stunning event occurred when Eliashib, the high priest, made provision for Tobiah to dwell in one of the great chambers of the Temple (13:4). Tobiah, Nehemiah’s nemesis who had opposed him and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (2:20, 19, 4:3, 6:17-19), had come to live in a chamber of the Temple!

To provide a place for Tobiah, Eliashib converted one of the Temple chambers where the tithes and offerings were stored (13:5). When Nehemiah returned from his visit to the king, he was astonished to find not only had his enemy taken up residence in the city, but unbelievably, he was dwelling in one of the chambers of the Temple (13:7)! He was furious, for the high priest had failed to sanctify and treat as holy what was set apart for the LORD (13:8). With zeal, he cast Tobiah out of the chamber and purged it of “all [his] household stuff” (13:8). He then “commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought [he] again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense” (13:9).

Sin of Neglect (13:10-14)

Nehemiah soon realized the Levites and the singers were not ministering in the Temple (13:10). An investigation revealed the people had not given their tithes and offerings as they should, and their neglect had forced the Levites and the singers to return to their fields to provide for their families (13:10). Defiantly bold, Nehemiah gathered the leaders and confronted them, asking, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” (13:11) Personally, I admire his next statement: I “set them in their place” (13:11c).

Proving he was a gifted administrator, Nehemiah appointed “treasurers over the treasuries” as the people began bringing their tithes and offerings to the Temple (13:13). Expressing the heart of a faithful minister, he prayed, “14Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof” (13:14).

Broken Covenant (13:15-22)

The people had covenanted with the LORD to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy (Nehemiah 10:31; Exodus 20:8). Yet, upon his return to Jerusalem, Nehemiah found the they had failed to keep their vow to the LORD (13:15-22). The Jews had secularized the Sabbath, and treated it like any other day (13:16). Then, Nehemiah confronted the leaders and asked, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?”  (13:17). Notice how Nehemiah did not trifle with sin. Regardless of their excuses, he regarded their actions as an “evil thing” for they had profaned, and defiled the Sabbath.

Nehemiah then sent his own guards to shut the gates of the city, and thereby prohibit any trade on the Sabbath (13:19). In spite of the prohibition, some merchants came on the Sabbath, and finding the gates shut, camped outside the walls (13:20). Nehemiah confronted the merchants himself, and sent them away (13:21).

Closing thoughts (13:23-31)

Our study of Nehemiah’s life concludes with him realizing a grave sin was present among the Jews, for some “had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab” (13:23). Though their fathers were Hebrews, the children of those mixed marriages “could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people” (13:24). Their mothers were heathen, idolatrous women, and the children of those unequal marriages could not understand the language of the Hebrews, nor would they have been taught in the Scriptures.

Nehemiah’s response is telling for any who make light of being unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). He confronted the Hebrew men, and “contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves” (13:25).

What a sight that must have been! Nehemiah’s spirit was stirred, and his passion mirrored his concern. He reminded the people the great sorrow Solomon’s mixed marriages had brought on his household (13:26). Even the high priest’s son was carried away with ungodliness, and Nehemiah wrote, “I chased him from me” (13:28).

Having cleansed the priesthood of wickedness, Nehemiah appointed priests and Levites to their work, and prayed, “Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:31).

God wonderfully heard and answered Nehemiah’s prayer, for his work and words recorded in the book that bears his name, is forever inscribed by the LORD.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

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.

Spiritual Scandal: Unequally Yoked (Ezra 10)

Scripture reading – Ezra 10; Nehemiah 1

* We conclude our study of the Book of Ezra with today’s Scripture reading. This is the first of two devotionals. The second will be an introduction to the Book of Nehemiah.

Soon after he arrived in Jerusalem (Ezra 8), the leaders of the people came to Ezra with devastating news. Ezra was told, “The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations…2For they have taken of their [the heathen nations]daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed [the Jews] have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass” (9:1-2).

Overwhelmed with grief, Ezra understood the sins of the people had put the nation in danger of God’s judgment. Rending his robe, and plucking out his hair and beard, Ezra “sat down astonied” (9:3), as the people “trembled at the words of the God of Israel” gathered around him (9:4). “At the evening sacrifice” (9:5), Ezra began to pray to God and confessed the sins that had polluted the land (9:5-11).

Ezra then charged the people to obey the law of God (Deuteronomy 7:1-3), and separate from the heathen, and “give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever” (9:12).

Ezra 10 – A Spiritual Crisis: Unequally Yoked Marriages

Ezra’s prayer before the Temple, and his confession of the sins of the nation, so moved the people that they “wept very sore” (10:1). One of the men, “Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam” (whose family was guilty of marrying unbelieving wives, 10:26), answered Ezra and confessed, “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing” (10:2).

What hope could there be for a nation that had not only sinned against the LORD, but compromised their bloodline by intermarrying with the heathen nations? There was only one path forward, and it was to repent and turn from their sins to God. The great wickedness of Israel required a radical separation that would inevitably divide families, and sever relationships (10:3).

The Severity of the Solution Suggested the Seriousness of the Sin. (10:1-8)

Such wickedness could not be treated lightly, and Shechaniah proposed a covenant be established between the nation and God, saying, “put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law” (10:3).

Tragic, you say? Yes, but when believers follow a path of sin, they sacrifice more than their fellowship with the LORD, they also damage the perception the heathen have of God. Continuing to speak on behalf of the people, Shechaniah challenged Ezra and assured him, “this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it” (10:4).

Ezra then made a proclamation, and gave the nation three days to assemble in Jerusalem (10:7-8). Those who failed to come before the congregation were warned they would forfeit not only their lands and possessions, but also their worship and fellowship with the congregation (10:8).

Public Confrontation (10:9-10)

Two of the principal tribes, Judah and Benjamin, assembled in Jerusalem “within three days… and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain” (10:9). Speaking honestly and sparing no words, Ezra confronted the people, “and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel” (10:10).

Though heart-rending, there was only one solution, so Ezra commanded, “make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives” (10:11).

Public Confession and Personal Separation (10:12-15)

The congregation assented to Ezra’s challenge, and answered “with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do” (10:12). Yet, because of the rain, and the great number who had taken wives of the heathen, it was suggested that a committee of leaders be formed and tasked with the responsibility of seeking out those who had taken wives of the heathen (10:13-15).

Personal Separation (10:16-44)

On the date appointed, the names of the guilty were presented to Ezra, who sat down and began to “examine the matter” (10:16). Named among those culpable were “the sons of the priests,” even the sons of Jeshua, the high priest (10:18-22), who “put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass” (10:19). Ten Levites had taken heathen wives, along with one Temple singer, and three gatekeepers of the Temple (10:23-24). The list of the guilty also included 84 men of the congregation (10:25-43), all who “had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children” (10:44).

Closing thoughts – Believer, it is the will of God that His people not be yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Should you find yourself unequally yoked with an unbeliever, it is God’s will that you “come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17a).

It was God’s will for Israel to separate from their heathen wives; however, the same does not apply to a believer married to an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:12-14). God’s people should not partner with nor marry unbelievers; however, should a believer be married to an unbeliever, they are to treat the bond of marriage as sacred to the end their spouse might receive Christ as their Savior (1 Corinthians 7:12-14).

Marriage is more than a physical union, it is also a spiritual institution sanctified and established by God (Ephesians 5:25, 28-33; 1 Peter 3:7).

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 Failure of the Gatekeepers (Ezra 8; Ezra 9)

Scripture reading – Ezra 8; Ezra 9

Ezra received king Artaxerxes’ approval to lead a second delegation of Jews home to Jerusalem and Judah (Ezra 7:1-10). Incredibly, the king not only committed gold and silver vessels to be dedicated for the Temple, he also gave gold and silver from the royal treasury as compensation for sacrifices to be offered in Jerusalem (7:11-24). Ezra was also empowered to teach the people the law and commandments, and execute judgment (7:25-26).

Ezra 8 – The Journey Begins

With the king’s blessing, and letters affording him authority, Ezra “gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with [him]” to Jerusalem (7:28). Ezra appealed to 18 heads of Jewish households (8:1-14), and encouraged them and their families to voluntarily leave behind the comforts of Babylon and return to their ancestral lands.

Soon after beginning the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem (some 900 miles which took four months), Ezra halted and took an assessment of those with him (8:15). Sadly, he realized “none of the sons of Levi” were among the people (8:15b). Ezra then chose eleven men of the leaders, and sent them to seek Levites who would be willing to leave Babylon and go to Jerusalem as “ministers for the house of our God” (8:17). Eighteen Levites were recruited (8:18), and 220 Nethinims (servants who assisted the Levites with sacrifices at the Temple (8:20).

Before continuing his journey, Ezra called for a time of fasting and prayer, that the people might prepare and dedicate themselves to seek the LORD and his protection (8:21). Knowing the terror of enemies along the way, Ezra confessed he would be “ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help [them]against the enemy in the way” (8:22). While it was reasonable to request an armed escort for his delegation, Ezra remembered he had boasted the LORD’s blessing, and protection was upon His people (8:22b). So, the people prayed, and sought the LORD, and He heard the prayers of His people (8:23).

With a vast sum of gold and silver in their possession, Ezra chose “twelve of the chief of the priests” and entrusted them with the care and protection of all they had in their possession (8:24-30).

The LORD answered Ezra’s prayer, and his delegation arrived in Jerusalem (8:31-33). They rested three days, and on the fourth day gave a full account and inventory of “the silver and the gold, and the vessels…34By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time” (8:33-34). As a great sign of unity, all the people gathered to offer “burnt offerings unto the God of Israel” (8:35). Ezra then took his commissions from the king to Persian government officials (“lieutenants, and to the governors”), giving him authority with the people and over “the house of God” (8:36).

Ezra 9

A Spiritual Crisis (9:1-5)

When it comes to family, parents are the gatekeepers of their home and children’s hearts. Sadly, Ezra 9 records a tragic failure of spiritual leaders and parents who failed to guard their homes from the influences of the heathen nations that had settled in Israel. Ezra writes, “the princes [leaders of the people] came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands…2For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed [the Jews] have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass” (9:1-2).

Ezra’s response to the tragic compromise of God’s people was notable. He was overcome with grief and sorrow (9:3). In a public display of heartbrokenness, he tore away his robe and outer garment, plucked out his hair and beard, and sat down stunned by the sins of the people, especially knowing the leaders of the people were “chief” in the trespass (9:3).

One by one, “those who trembled at the words of the God of Israel” (9:4) assembled before Ezra, who continued to sit “astonied until the evening sacrifice” (9:4b). Having said nothing to this point, it was at the evening sacrifice (3:00 pm) that Ezra rose from where he had sat, and fell upon his knees before the congregation. There he “spread out [his] hands unto the Lord” (9:5), and prayed (9:6-15).

Ezra’s Prayer and Reflection on God’s Grace (9:6-11)

Identifying with the sins of the people, Ezra confessed, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens” (9:6). He rehearsed the past sins of the nation, and acknowledged God’s grace (9:7-8). Though the people had forsaken the LORD, He remembered, “our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage” (9:9).

In spite of God’s grace and mercy, he confessed, “O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments” (9:10).

A Call for Radical Separation (9:12-15)

Having identified the sin and wickedness of the people, Ezra proposed a purging of sin that was nothing short of radical amputation of the offense. Ezra commanded the people, “Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever” (9:12).

Ezra rehearsed the sins and judgments Israel and Judah had suffered in the past, and conceded only God’s grace and mercy would spare the people from complete annihilation (9:13-14). He acknowledged, God would be right and just if He destroyed Israel, for the people were guilty and had no standing before the LORD (9:15).

Closing thoughts – The spiritual leaders, and fathers had failed to be gatekeepers of their homes, and their children’s hearts. They had failed to insulate their families from the heathen and their ways (9:2). Tragically, their failure led not only to a familiarity with the sins of the heathen, but eventually a bond of friendship and marriage. Ezra’s response was a graphic display of sorrow, and fear of God’s judgment (9:3-6, 10, 14-15). The people had disobeyed God’s law, and invited His judgment.

Mom and dad, are you guarding the hearts of your children, and insulating them from the sins and wickedness of the world?

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.