Tag Archives: Spiritual disciplines

“A Prophetic Portrait of a Rebellious Nation” – part 2 – (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

As we begin our study of Isaiah, I invite you to picture in your mind a setting that is a heavenly courtroom, with God sitting on His throne, and with the nation of Judah the defendant.

The Case: The Ingratitude of Judah vs. The Love and Grace of God (1:1-2)

Two witnesses were commanded to hear the charge against Judah: the “heavens” and the “earth” (1:2). The LORD charged Judah, saying, “I have nourished and brought up children [people of Judah], and they have rebelled against me(1:2).

How had the LORD nourished and brought up His people? He had chosen Abraham and established His Covenant with his lineage (Genesis 12). He had entrusted Israel with His Law and Commandments (Exodus 20). He had sent prophets who taught the people, and chastened the nation when it strayed. Yet, we read, “They have rebelled against me” (1:2c), rejected His Law, and His offer of love and grace.

Three Charges Against Judah (1:1-9)

The First Charge – Rebellious Ingratitude (1:3-4)

While a dumb ox knows its owner, and a donkey appreciates its master’s stall, Israel was a people that “doth not consider” (1:3). Consider what? The sins of the people had blinded them, and they gave no thought to the LORD’s care, love, and provision. The prophet Jeremiah would observe: “For my people [are] foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish [foolish; silly] children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 4:22).

They had become a sinful, wicked people, and were burdened with “iniquity” (the weight of their sin and guilt, 1:4). They had “forsaken the LORD” (1:4), despised His Law and Commandments, and had “provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger” (1:4).

The Interrogation and Infection (1:5-6)

The LORD questioned Judah, asking, “Why should ye be stricken [beaten; punished] any more? ye will revolt [rebel] more and more [again and again]: the whole head [whole body] is sick [diseased], and the whole heart faint [sick; feeble].” The stench of Judah’s sins had reached heaven, and the people were infected by wickedness (1:6).

The Consequences of Judah’s Sins (1:7-9)

The sins of nation had resulted in the land being destroyed (“your country is desolate”), “cities burned with fire,” and their riches plundered by foreigners (“strangers” – 1:7). So dreadful was the judgment, if the LORD had not shown the people mercy, Judah “should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah [utterly destroyed with no soul spared]” (1:9).

The Second Charge – Religious Insincerity (1:11-20)

God charged the people as being pious hypocrites (1:11-12), and He declared He was weary with their sacrifices and offerings (1:11). They trampled upon the courts of the Temple, and had given no thought to His presence and holiness in the Temple (1:12). The LORD declared:

“Bring no more vain [false; deceitful; empty] oblations [non-blood offerings – flour, fruit, oil]; incense [perfume; sweet incense] is an abomination [abhorrence; loathsome] unto me…it is iniquity [wicked; vanity], even the solemn meeting [sacred assembly for worship]” (1:13-14).

Even their prayers had become an abomination: “When ye spread forth [lay open; stretch forth; display] your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers [supplications], I will not hear [hearken; listen]: your hands are full [overflowing] of blood. [shedding of blood]” (1:15).

In spite of Judah’s wickedness, the LORD extended a pardon if the people would repent of their sins (1:16-18). He called upon the nation, “Come now, and let us reason together…though your sins [faults; offences] be as scarlet [color of blood], they shall be as white [purified; without blemish] as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool [i.e. white]” (1:18).

Offering a conditional pardon, the LORD appealed to the people, “If ye be willing [consent] and obedient [hearken; obey], ye shall eat [consume] the good [beauty; blessings] of the land” (1:19); but warned, “if ye refuse [unwilling] and rebel[disobey; provoke], ye shall be devoured [eat up; consumed] with the sword [knife; dagger]: for the mouth [commandment; Word] of the LORD hath spoken it. [pronounced; declared]” (1:20).

The Third Charge – Three Reprehensible Injustices (1:21-23)

Understanding the leaders of a nation are a reflection of the character of the people, I conclude today’s study inviting you to consider three nauseous traits of those who govern a dying nation.

The leaders of Judah were vile, having rejected God’s Law, and were “companions of thieves,” enriching themselves by illicit gain (1:23). The leaders lacked integrity, and were guilty of loving gifts (bribery), and shameless self-promotion (“followeth after rewards” – 1:23; Exodus 23:8; Micah 3:11-12). Finally, the leaders had abused and exploited the weak (“the fatherless…the widow” – 1:23d; Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-21).

Closing thoughts – Take a moment and reflect on your nation, its leaders, and government. Are the failed character traits of Judah’s leaders the same as you see in your society–vile, lacking integrity, and abusing the weak?

Warning – The sinful traits of a nation’s leaders reflect its citizens, and demand God’s judgment (1:24-31).

Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

An Introduction to Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we come to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Before we dive into this wonderful book, I remind you the purpose of this shepherd’s heart is to present to my readers, not only a daily devotional challenge, but a deeper survey of both the Old and New Testaments.

I want you to see history as “His-Story,” and as a testament to God’s sovereignty and His providential dealings with all people. Before introducing you to the prophet Isaiah, take a moment and subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Isaiah: Prophet to Judah

Isaiah lived in Judah in the 8th century B.C. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), and three Gentile empires (the decline of Egypt, the waning years of Assyria, and the infancy of the nation of Babylon). He was, in my opinion, the foremost of the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah: A Fearless Prophet

Isaiah was courageous, and boldly confronted the sins of Judah. He called upon kings to repent of their sins, condemned priests for their corruption and hypocrisy, and warned the people of Judah they would suffer God’s judgment should they fail to repent of their sins. Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Judah, the desolation of the cities, and the Babylonian captivity.

Isaiah: Prophet of God

Isaiah’s preaching was powerful, his words soaring, and his prophecies vivid and specific. He is quoted over 400 times in the New Testament, and his prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s coming in exacting detail.

The Messiah’s Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah 7:14 –  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [lit. “God with us”]

The Messiah Person (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah 9:6 –  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The Messiah’s Rejection (Isaiah 53)
Isaiah 53:3 –  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The Messiah’s Suffering (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Isaiah 53:4-5 –  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The Messiah’s Vicarious Death – Substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:6-9)
Isaiah 53:6-9-7 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The Messiah’s Resurrection (Isaiah 53:10)
Isaiah 53:10 –  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Closing thoughts:

We will notice in Isaiah’s preaching, four distinct warnings of God’s judgment should the nation not repent of its sins and turn to God (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). Those judgments are presented in four moving pronouncements of “Woe.” 1) Judah had rejected God’s Law and had no moral absolutes (Isaiah 5:20). 2) The people had become proud and unteachable (Isaiah 5:21). 3) Judah was a narcissistic people, and they loathed the righteous (Isaiah 5:22-23).
4) The fourth and final “woe,” Isaiah was shaken by a heavenly vision of God sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), the prophet was so overwhelmed with a consciousness of his own sins, he confessed:

“Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). When God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered the call, and said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A study of Isaiah 1 will follow as a second devotional reading.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Danger of Censorship and An Invitation from the “Heart of A Shepherd”

With readership from around the world, I am humbled and truly challenged by the sacred trust of all who subscribe daily to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

The Danger of Censorship – The Scriptures Are Not “Politically Correct”

If you are a regular reader, you know I tackle difficult, “politically incorrect” topics when they occur in the Scriptures. As a result, www.HeartofAShepherd.com is always in danger of censorship from those who control social media and broadcasts like YouTube. (In August 2020, “Heart of A Shepherd Inc” was banned by Facebook, and cut off from nearly 900 followers.)

Please Subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.comThe only way to guarantee you will continue to have access to daily devotionals from “Heart of A Shepherd Inc” is that you subscribe, and have them sent directly to your email inbox.

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With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Email – HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
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Cursed Be the Man Who Usurps God’s Authority (2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we return to 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26, parallel passages of the same historical events. Though the names of kings might be confusing and their deeds soon forgotten, what is important is that we take from our study of the Scriptures an insight into the ways of the LORD, and His sovereign rule in the affairs of men and nations.

2 Kings 15 – Kings rise and fall, but the reign of the LORD endures forever.

His father having been assassinated in a conspiracy (2 Kings 14:19), Azariah (also known as Uzziah in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26) became king of Judah.  He was only sixteen years old when he ascended to Judah’s throne, and would reign as king fifty-two years (15:1-2).

2 Kings 15:5 states with no explanation that Azariah (i.e. Uzziah), was smitten with leprosy by the LORD and was forced to live in a “several” [separate] house from the palace (2 Kings 15:5a). The king’s son, Jotham, handled the administrative matters of the palace, “judging the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5b).

To understand the cause for the king’s leprosy (which in the Scriptures is a symbol of the dreadfulness of sin), we turn to 2 Chronicles 26.

2 Chronicles 26 – Stricken with Leprosy for Usurping the Priesthood

King Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah in 2 Kings 15) remarkable achievements are recorded in 2 Chronicles 26, which also gives us the cause for his successes: “He sought God in the days of Zechariah [the high priest], who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he [Uzziah] sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5).

Uzziah had been a successful warrior (26:6-8), for “God helped him…and his name spread abroad” (26:7-8). He had reinforced the fortification of Jerusalem, and to secure the land he “built towers in the desert, and digged wells” (essential in the dry, arid wilderness, 26:10). I especially admire the mention of Uzziah’s heart for the agrarian way of life, for we read, “he loved husbandry” (i.e., he loved to farm, (26:10).

Yet, this king with a farmer’s heart, was also a gifted administrator, who numbered and ordered his army, providing for his soldiers the necessary implements for war (26:11-15). Perhaps he was also a gifted engineer, and strategist, for he is said to have “made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal” (26:15a). What those “engines” of war were, is a matter of speculation, but Uzziah achieved the admiration of his friends and foes (26:15b).

Tragically, when he was at the pinnacle of success in his 52-year reign over Judah, we read, “But when he [Uzziah; i.e. Azariah] was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16).

Why did the LORD afflict King Uzziah (i.e., Azariah) with leprosy, a dreaded disease that would follow him to his grave?

Uzziah was afflicted with a malady more dreaded than leprosy– PRIDE (26:16). Forgetting his successes had come because of the LORD’s blessings, Uzziah’s “heart was lifted up to his destruction” (26:16), and he foolishly usurped the role of the priest and entered “the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (26:16; Numbers 16:40; 18:7).

Bloated with pride from his achievements, the king treaded upon ground God had reserved for the priesthood.

The chief priest Azariah and eighty priests with him, confronted Uzziah (26:17-18). Rather than humble himself and confess his sin, the king was enraged and the LORD immediately struck him with leprosy which evidenced on his forehead (26:19). The law regarding leprosy demanded a leper be put out from the living (Leviticus 13:45-46) to avoid the spread, and seeing the blight on the king’s face, the priests expelled Uzziah from the Temple, even as he sought to flee (26:20).

As a leper, Uzziah lived the rest of his life in a separate house from the palace. Because he was a leper, he was not buried in a royal tomb, but was instead buried in a field near the place where kings were buried.

Closing thoughts – What a tragedy! The legacy of the great king gave testimony of his skill as a warrior, builder, administrator, but sadly—tainted as a leper. Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah) life, in spite of his achievements, read simply, “He [was] a leper” (26:23).

I wonder what counsel Uzziah might offer, if given an opportunity to counsel a 21st century believer? Perhaps he would warn:

Sinful pride, and one’s failure to honor the Lord and keep His Commandments, will not only risk your legacy, but your life.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Now That I Have Your Attention: A Renewed Appeal From Outside the Bubble

* In 2017 I penned a series of articles on this website, and stated at that time my concerns for the failings of leaders who had taken the helm of what were once flagship ministries in Fundamentalism. Sadly, my concerns have proved somewhat prophetic, for the cancer of spiritual compromise has only intensified in the past 5 years. The following is that 2017 article, and I repeat it as a timely warning…if some within the bubble do not soon speak out, historic fundamentalism will be lost to this generation, and the LORD will turn to another people to bear His immutable Word. 

I have pondered the root cause for a lack of vitality in Bible fundamentalism that is contributing not only to the failings of our institutions, but more importantly, the weakening of our churches (understanding the weaknesses observed in fundamental institutions once hailed as citadels of the faith are symptomatic of compromises within our local churches).   As much as it pains me to state it, I have observed a near universal characteristic in the senior leadership of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and seminaries that is the catalyst to compromise:

God’s Men Have Failed to Stand on Immutable Principles.

Twenty-first century Bible fundamentalism is facing a moral crisis in leadership that has given rise to a tolerance of sin and pervasive carnality in our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.

Take a lesson from the life of King David.

I suggest the failures and shortcomings of historical flagship ministries in fundamentalism reveals a pattern of compromise among Christian leaders who, facing the duress of their children’s sinful choices, have become pragmatic and weak.  A tolerance of sin has emerged in our homes, pulpits and chapel platforms that is leading our youth, churches, and schools down a path of ruin.

Consider the consequences of David’s failed leadership after his moral failures left him enfeebled and unwilling to address the sins and moral failures of his adult children.

David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, was a scandalous sin that forever damaged his reign as king (2 Samuel 11).  His notorious sins gave cause for his enemies and members of his own household to disdain him.  Confronting David with the words, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7), the prophet Nathan warned, “the sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Samuel 12:10).  The sins David had committed in secret eventually bore the bitter fruit of public humiliation “before all Israel” (2 Samuel 12:11-12).  Weakened by his own failures, David’s leadership faltered and he failed to address the sins of his sons.

When Amnon, a son of David, raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-19), we read the morally compromised king’s response was merely, “he was very angry” (2 Samuel 13:21).  David’s failure to confront Amnon’s sin gave cause to Absalom to revenge his sister’s disgrace and plot the murder of his half-brother (2 Samuel 13:20-29).  Fearing the consequences for murdering his half-brother Amnon, Absalom fled Israel and lived as an exile in Geshur for three years (2 Samuel 13:34, 37).

In spite of Amnon’s death, we read, “king David longed to go forth unto Absalom” (2 Samuel 13:30).   Every loving parent understands David’s longing for his prodigal son; however, there were issues greater than paternal affections in question.

Would the king be a man of integrity?  Would he rule his kingdom judiciously, knowing his own son was a fugitive from justice and guilty of murder?

Such is the dilemma of spiritual leadership: When our sons and daughters turn from the LORD and the instructions of their youth, we may long for peace and their love and affection, but we should not compromise our principles and convictions.

Among the qualifications of a pastor is he is to “ruleth [preside over] well his own house, having his children in subjection [under control] with all gravity [dignity; respect]” (1 Timothy 3:4).

Why is it important for Christian leaders to evidence an ability to manage the children in their households? Paul’s answer: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5). Pastor’s with children “in their households” is the topic of 1 Timothy 3:4; however, the principle found in 1 Timothy 3:5 serves as a warning to churches and Christian institutions.

Be wary of spiritual leaders who fail to rule their households for they will invariably fail to “take care of the church.”  Adult sons and daughters are no longer children under the management or rule of their parents, and as much as we are pained to accept it, they bear their choices and associated consequences.   As it was for David, so it is for all who are spiritually minded parents.

Will we be men and women of integrity if our adult children walk contrary to the Word of the LORD and spiritual principles?

For those in spiritual leadership, the cost of compromise extends far beyond our family relationships and affects our churches, schools and institutions.   I need not enumerate the tragedy that followed David’s failure to be a man of integrity and conviction.  His weak response to his son’s sins incited Absalom to lead a rebellion against David (2 Samuel 14:23-24, 33; 15:1-6), fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy and humiliating his father in front of the nation (2 Samuel 15:7-16:23). Twenty thousand men perished in battle before David took back his throne; however, even then David’s heart was such toward his son he commanded his men to, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom” (2 Samuel 18:5).

Such is the way of spiritual leaders when they promote paternal affections over eternal principles.

My generation, my peers who are pastors, administrators, and professors in Bible fundamental colleges and seminaries have, under family duress, compromised immutable spiritual principles because our children and grandchildren have rejected the guiding principles of God’s Word.

Make no mistake, our compromises have become mortal wounds for our churches and institutions. If pastors, churches, and the boards of our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries do not soon repent, the demise of Bible fundamentalism is sure.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith
Edited and revised – Copyright © 2022 – Travis D Smith

History is “HIS-Story” (2 Kings 13; 2 Kings 14)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 13; 2 Kings 14

We are in the midst of the era of the kings in Israel and Judah. I encourage you to not allow yourself to become frustrated, attempting to retain the names of all the kings. What is important is to remember that history is “His-Story,” and a testament to the sovereignty and providence of the LORD.

2 Kings 13

The northern ten tribes known as Israel, continued in sin, following the “sins of Jeroboam” who had made two golden calves and “made Israel to sin” (13:2). The sins of the kings of Israel, and their evil influence on the people, was a continual provocation of God’s wrath (13:3). Fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy, Hazael king of Syria, and his son Benhadad, continually oppressed Israel (13:4). Yet, when the LORD delivered the people from their enemies, Israel would turn back to their sins and idolatry (13:5-6). Joash (also named Jehoash) succeeded his father Jehoahaz, and he followed in the sins of his father (13:8-13)

The Death of Elisha, God’s Prophet (13:14-21)

We find Elisha, God’s prophet in Israel and the successor of the prophet Elijah, terminally ill (13:14). Although he had often opposed the kings of Israel, king Joash, respected the prophet and came to his bedside and “wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (13:14).

Elisha’s homegoing was not as dramatic as Elijah’s (for he had been taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot), nevertheless, he was honored by the visit of the king and he offered Joash two symbolic and prophetic blessings (13:15-19). The first, Elisha asked Joash to shoot an arrow out the window to the east, and he prophesied the LORD would deliver Israel from Syria (13:16-17). The second symbol, Elisha commanded the king to strike the floor with arrows, which Joash obeyed and struck the floor three times (13:18). The dying prophet was suddenly indignant, for he said had Joash struck the floor more than three times he would have been assured that Syria would be destroyed (13:19).

A miracle followed Elisha’s death and burial, for the body of another man was cast into his grave, and touching the bones of the prophet, was raised from the dead (13:20-21).

2 Kings 13 concluded with a reminder, though Israel had disobeyed the LORD, and broke covenant with Him, God never forgot His “his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet” (13:23).

2 Kings 14

This chapter records a succession of kings and their sons who ruled over Judah and Israel. Amaziah, the son of Joash, became king of Judah (14:1-2), and “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did” (14:3). King David, though not a perfect man, was a man whom God said was “a man after mine own heart” (Acts 13:22). Amaziah served the LORD much of his life, but in his last years forsook the LORD, His law, and commandments.

Soon after becoming king, Amaziah sought a covenant of peace with Jehoash the king of Israel; however, that wicked king rose up against Judah, attacked Jerusalem, and broke down a section of the wall of the city. He also took away “all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and hostages, and returned to Samaria” (14:14).

A second king named Jeroboam, probably named after the founding king of the northern ten tribes, became king of Israel in 2 Kings 14:23, and he continued in the idolatry that had been established by his namesake (14:24).

Our Scripture reading concludes reminding us of the grave consequences Israel suffered as a nation for her sins. Consider verse 26: “For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel” (14:26). Yet the Lord had compassion for Israel and remembered them, for “…the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (14.27).

The pride and arrogance of Israel’s kings, and the idolatry and wickedness of the people, are drawing to a close. What is true of a man, is also true of a nation, for,  “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Yet, “it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22, 23).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Invited to Pastor Smith’s Study of Proverbs: An Exposition of “Uncommon Common Sense”

Pastor Smith continues his verse-by-verse study of the Proverbs of Solomon, this Wednesday, January 12, 6:30 pm. 

The focus of this week’s study is Proverbs 19:15-29 and will be broadcast live on http://www.DailyTestify.com, and http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.
Student notes are available by sending your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com. Requests must be received by 4:00pm today.

(Please note a weekly time of prayer begins at 6:15, but will not be broadcast.)

With the heart of a shepherd,
Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Where is the Christian “West Point” of this generation?

christian-ed

** The following article was first published February 2016, and republished October 2016. As a writer in 2016, I was still using “training wheels,” and there are no doubt grammatical errors I might avoid today. Yet, I believe this article states the cancer that is consuming our fundamental churches, colleges, and universities. The following is that six year old post.

* On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Hillsdale Baptist Church closed one of our greatest missions conferences.  With a dozen or more of our teens responding at the invitation to surrender to go and serve the LORD where He calls them and, with their parents and grandparents standing beside them, I am left this Thursday morning wrestling with the burden…Where do I send our youth to be trained for full-time Christian service that will be a complement to our heart and passion for serving the LORD and preaching the whole counsel of God?   Where are the Bible colleges that have dedicated themselves to “keeping the chapel platform hot” with the unapologetic preaching of God’s Word?

With those questions weighing on my heart, I republish an article I first published February 17, 2016.

billy-sundayA sense of desperation has taken hold in my spirit as I witness the failings of our nation, the erosion of morality and civility, and the spiritual void in our society that threatens the future of our nation, homes, churches and Christian institutions.   My heart trembles and my soul is dismayed by the silence of Christian leaders who are custodians of church pulpits and academic platforms that were once dedicated to the bold, unapologetic declaration of God’s Word!   I am afraid our biblically fundamental churches and schools bear the prophetic likeness of the church of the Laodiceans, “neither cold nor hot…rich, and increased with good…and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:14-17).

A pattern of spiritual lethargy has become the state of our fundamental churches and institutions [incidentally, my use of the word fundamental is not meant to convey an attitude, but a practical-doctrinal theology committed to the literal exposition of the fundamental doctrines and precepts of God’s Word].  colossians-3-23I believe a generation of well-meaning pastors and administrators is faltering in their spiritual leadership, influenced and persuaded by men who lack deep-rooted precepts and core convictions that once served as guiding principles for fundamental ministries.  I am of the opinion preachers and teachers have endeavored to appease youth and, either by design or neglect, soft-pedaled core spiritual virtues and personal disciplines that were at the heart of institutional distinctives.

Our churches and schools are evidencing the consequences of a philosophy of education that has, in its purported zeal for the Gospel and discipleship, invaded our institutions and eradicated fundamental precepts that are essential to personal holiness and sanctification.  In an attempt to appease, rather than admonish and exhort a carnal generation (2 Timothy 4:2), spiritual leaders have weakened institutional disciplines, disparaged spiritual standards, and eroded the distinctives of Christian education.

West PointThere was a time we could look to our Christian colleges and universities to inspire our youth and integrate into their education the leadership disciplines of West Point; the refined sophistication of a finishing school; the academic excellence of an Ivy League university; and the spiritual fervor and zeal of a “hellfire and brimstone” evangelist.  Although there are exceptions, I am afraid that is no longer the case.

Too many college professors and pastors have, in a misguided effort to be “relevant”, departed from the very disciplines that made Christian education superior and unique.  Instead of the discipline of West Point, many Christian college students evidence a bearing that is casual at best.  Rather than a “finishing school” product, Christian students lack both the polish and demeanor of their forebears.   Instead of the disciplines required for academic excellence, a laissez-faire attitude has taken hold in our schools and universities.  SpurgeonFinally, the emphasis to “keep the platform hot” and “preach the whole counsel of God” has been displaced by an inordinate emphasis on “the Gospel” to the exclusion of truths that are fundamental to preparing students to be soldiers of Christ in the world (Ephesians 6:10-18). [I realize that observation will invite personal attacks and criticisms; however, I believe I am in good company since Charles Spurgeon is credited with quoting and affirming: “there are times when the exclusive advocacy of certain important truths has the effect of error…So at the present time some of the most precious gospel truths are preached in the interest of some of the most pernicious errors. In other words, the unseasonable or disproportionate presentation of certain truths makes for error.”]

Having expressed my alarm concerning the direction of the spiritual leadership in our fundamental churches, schools and universities, I close with two questions and an observation.

Where are the preachers, teachers, and administrators in our churches and institutions who will step forward and assert the spiritual values, principles and distinctive biblical philosophy that once characterized historic, biblically fundamental Christianity?

What Christian colleges and universities will dare rise above cultural irrelevance and challenge our youth to portray in word and deed the distinctive saltiness and illumination of a separatist, Christ-centered philosophy of life and ministry (Matthew 5:13-16)?

sugar-coated preachingThe apostle Paul warned the day would come when there would be an intolerance of “sound doctrine” and men would turn to teachers who would tickle their ears and pander to their desires (1 Timothy 4:3-4).  I am afraid that hour has finally come to biblically fundamental churches, schools and colleges.  In the very hour a certain, unequivocal, unapologetic declaration of the Word of God is needed; many have dipped the banner of the cross and shied from Paul’s challenge to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:1-5
1  I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

* The following article was published nearly a year ago, and I believe a discerning reader will find it a timely exhortation. In the words of the founder of Bob Jones University: “Do right till the stars fall.”

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

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

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

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright © 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Pay Day Shall Surely Come Someday (2 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues in 2 Chronicles 24, and you will notice a parallel of events we considered in our prior devotional from 2 Kings 12. Of course, 2 Kings was authored prior to the Babylonian captivity, while 2 Chronicles is believed to have been written by Ezra after the children of Israel returned from exile.

The Reign of Joash (24:1-27)

2 Chronicles 24 gives additional details to the years that Joash reigned as king of Judah. Once again, we are reminded that the king “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2). There is also the record that Jehoiada the high priest had taken for Joash “two wives; and he begat sons and daughters” (24:3).

Repairing the Temple (24:6-14)

As we found in 2 Kings 12, Joash had commanded the Temple be repaired (24:4-6). Scripture gives us the cause for those repairs stating: “For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim” (24:7).  The identity of “the sons of Athaliah” is not given; however, they had stripped the Temple of the LORD, and furnished the heathen temple to Baal with its treasures.

The means of collecting monies to rebuild the Temple and pay its workers is recorded (24:8-12), and there was enough given by the people to not only “set the house of God” in order and finish it, but also to make new vessels of gold and silver for offering sacrifices (24:14).

The Death of Jehoiada, the High Priest (24:15-16)

Incredibly, Jehoiada the high priest lived to be 130 years old. What a wonderful, rich life this servant of the LORD had lived. His testimony in Israel was such that he was given a burial worthy of kings.

The Faith of the Saints is Never More Than One Generation from Extinction (24:17-22)

Soon after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah sought his permission to leave “the house [Temple] of the LordGod of their fathers” (24:17), and “the king hearkened unto them” (24:17). What follows is a great tragedy, and a warning to all who call upon the LORD. Jehoiada’s presence in Judah had been a powerful one, and his influence upon king Joash began when he was little more than an infant. The king had faithfully served the LORD under the shadow and guidance of the high priest, but his death revealed the weak spiritual state of the king and leaders of Judah.

With the king’s blessing, the leaders of Judah established groves for idol worship and prostitution (24:18), and provoked the LORD who poured out His wrath “upon Judah and Jerusalem for…their trespass” (24:18). Yet, the LORD sent prophets to call the nation to repent, “but they would not give ear” (24:19).

Then, “the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you” (24:20).

How did the leaders of Judah respond to the preaching of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada? “They conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord” (24:21). Even king Joash, who had enjoyed the love and mentoring of Zechariah’s father his whole life, “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his [Zechariah’s] father had done to him, but slew his son” (24:22). As he was dying, Zechariah rebuked the king, “The Lord look upon it, and require it [avenge his murder] (24:22).

Sin Begats Sin, Murder Begats Murder (24:23-27)

At the end of that same year, a Syrian army lay siege to Jerusalem, killing all the leaders among the people, and taking the spoils of Jerusalem to “the king of Damascus” (24:23). Judah’s lust for sin, and the depravity of the people had left the nation so weakened that a mere “small company of men” was all that was necessary for Syria to conquer “a very great host,” for the people “had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers” (24:24).

Closing thoughts – The glorious reign of Joash came to an inglorious end, for he suffered “great diseases,” until “his own servants conspired against him for [shedding] the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and slew him on his bed” (24:25). Unlike the honorable burial that had been given to Jehoiada the priest, Joash was not buried “in the sepulchers of the kings” (24:25).

Warning: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith