Tag Archives: Spiritual disciplines

To My Critics

I realized my earlier blogs stating my observations and concerns regarding Bob Jones University  would not be received well by some.  While I expressed my thoughts in a spirit of love and sorrow, I was aware I might be greeted with a vitriol that might turn personal and caustic.

Like the culture we live in, I have found many believers infected with a strident spirit that maligns and attacks. Indeed, it is that harsh vindictive spirit that chides many into silence.

I have no interest in debating ad nauseam my concerns, nor do I have time to address every critic.  My concerns are my concerns. If you do not share them, that is fine by me; however, do not attack me for daring to express them.

My blogs were not written with a spirit of malice, but as an expression of a shepherd who loves his sheep. After nearly 33 years of ministry at Hillsdale Baptist Church, I am content with being a pastor and have no interest in being a crusader for or against any institution.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

A Failure to Stay the Course

Bob Jones University Student Handbook Changes, Fall 2018

Institutional erosion often begins slowly, perceived by only the most discerning, and too often explained and dismissed as harmless and inconsequential change.  When the signs of decay are apparent, it is often too late to correct without a major, often expensive, and sometimes impossible attempt to salvage.

Like the disaster that follows a ship at sea when its captain fails to stay the course only by degrees, so too is a Christian institution’s end when it departs from the very distinctives that instilled discipline and character in its student body.

For more than 15 years I have observed a pattern of change at Bob Jones University that is all too familiar.  Like a ship slowly, imperceptibly drifting from its course, the University is adrift from the disciplines that shaped the character of generations of Christian students in its past.

While the University has failed to stay the course in its disciplines, its alumni have failed to hold its administration accountable for its direction.  Fundamental pastors, so quick to point out the flaws and failures in other ministries in the past, have been all but silent while the board and leadership at BJU steers the University away from its fundamental moorings.  Why the silence?  Why the accommodation of changes we know are not welcome in our own ministries, but are being thrust upon us and our children by an institution we loved and trusted?

The University recently announced changes to this year’s Student Handbook that include allowing women to wear pants to class and athletic shorts raised to 2 inches above the knee.  Other changes in the clothing standard are summed up as “too many changes to write”.

Admittedly, there were some things in BJU’s Student Handbook that did not make sense in my era (for example, guys wearing ties to classes in the morning, but not in the afternoon; men wearing suit jackets to dinner and ties to go off campus; women wearing hose year round).  All of those irritants are gone now, but so are many of the disciplines that instilled distinctive Christian virtues in the student body.

In a video Facebook post, Dr. Steve Petit addresses the dress code changes that  take effect in this Fall’s 2018 Student Handbook (see pp. 29-32) and gives his reasons for the changes.  Some changes in the handbook are practical and merely an adaptation of institutional policy taking advantage of new technology.  Other changes are, in my opinion, a continuing pattern of pragmatism evidencing a drift from core principles that were once the trademark of Bob Jones University.

It is not the individual rule changes that are bothersome as much as it is the continuing pattern of change that is eroding the core values that once shaped the character of the student body at BJU.  The distinctive disciplines that set BJU apart from the likes of Furman University, Liberty University, and Cedarville University are eroding as is the polished character that was BJU’s hallmark.

The board and administration of Bob Jones University are following its smaller predecessors to its own ruin.  Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, Tennessee Temple University, and Clearwater Christian College (to name a few), all drifted from their distinctive character as fundamental Bible Colleges and because of that drift their demise became inevitable.  I am afraid their end will be sadly the same for the University. 

For too long we have given liberty to the BJU board, administration, and faculty, believing they shared the same convictions and core values as our churches and families.  It is with sorrow I confess, while many of the University’s alumni have stayed the course, the board, administration, and faculty have not.

The erosion and decay of BJU has manifested itself openly.  The institutional drift has taken the University far from its distinctive moorings.  I fear Bob Jones University is too far gone and what was once the flagship of Bible fundamentalism is a shadow of her past.

With the heart of a shepherd and a 1977 alumni of Bob Jones University,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

  • An Addendum (09\07\18) – I became aware some of the critics of my original post have tried to paint me as an old “fuddy-duddy”, anti-pants pastor; however, my article on the dress-code change at BJU was not an anti-pants rant, but a question of where the institution will draw the line in holding to its disciplines and distinctives.  I believe BJU’s decision on the matter of women wearing pants to class and chapel removes yet another discipline for teaching young women godly modesty and appropriate decorum.  BJU was at one time all about training, discipline, and developing a sharp product.  I fear that philosophy continues to be sacrificed at my alma mater.
  • On a personal note, every organization of any worth will have established policies for appropriate decorum.  While Hillsdale Baptist Church requires men on our platform to wear suit jackets and women to wear modest dresses, we do not expect the same of our audience (although the overwhelming majority of our membership follows the lead of our platform dress).

Note from the author: The concerns expressed in this blog are the latest of a series I have published expressing my concerns with the drift of our Bible fundamental institutions and churches. For more background, please refer to: 1) From the Front Pew; 2) A Travesty of Abandonment; 3) A Travesty of Abandonment: Christian Schools that Have Left the Ancient Landmarks; 4) Warning: Cater to the Carnal and You Do So at Your Own Peril; 5) What Were They Thinking?; 6) Catering to Carnality; 7) Hijacked: You Can Lose Your Church; 8) Where is the Christian Westpoint of this Generation?

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Silent No More

This brief blog post serves as an introductory post to one that will follow titled, “A Failure to Stay the Course: Bob Jones University Student Handbook Changes, Fall 2018”.  I am a 1977 graduate of Bob Jones University and one who has been a loyal alumnus.  

I arrived at Bob Jones University as a 16-year-old freshman in the fall of 1973 and was overwhelmed with a culture shock like none I have experienced since.  This son of the South, born in Lancaster, South Carolina and aptly self-defined as a country-boy was unacquainted with the graces of culture and the refinements of art.  I was a rough, crude piece of coarse clay; a public-school graduate who loved and longed to serve the LORD and desired the training and polish of a Christian education.

My childhood home was loving and disciplined. I knew the rigors of rising early on a small farm, working hard, and appreciated the sacrifices of my loving parents. My desire to go to a Christian college was foreign to my family and the culture of my community; however, it was a seed planted in my heart by the visit of a missionary to Alaska.

A child of the hippy culture of the 1960’s and the anti-war, anti-establishment of the 1970’s, I was unaware of my immaturity as a believer, the deficiencies of my education, or my cultural backwardness.  I knew little of the scriptures and nothing of Christian Fundamentalism, Keeping the Faith, or Fighting the Good Fight.

The administration and faculty of Bob Jones University gave no accommodation to this southern boy’s worldly-wise ways and even less provision for my academic failings.  I found myself, in a proverbial sense, thrown into the deep-end of the pool where I found little empathy for my struggles. BJU had somehow insulated itself from college-campus riots and “panty-raids” that were dogging other college campuses. The school was not only unapologetically Christian, it was doggedly adherent to the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

There were many irritants in the BJU culture that were not only exasperating, but provoking.  There was a discipline that gave little grace and even less understanding for the excuses and failures of youth.  Outside the campus fence my generation was bold and rebellious; casting aside disciplines and morals that had shaped the “Greatest Generation”.  Inside the campus fence little had or would change for another twenty-years.

I thank God it was that culture of discipline, tough-love, and unapologetic convictions that were present to shape and prepare the pliable heart of this Christian teen.  I learned my superiors were not concerned with fairness, but rightness.  I also knew there were times they were wrong; however, the rules were the rules and institutionally the approach was “one size fits all”.

I have learned rules and regulations, often inconvenient and at times inexplicable, are necessary.  Patterns of personal and academic disciplines thrust upon us in our youth shape attitudes and strengthen character.  When we cast off or adapt rules and standards to accommodate youthful immaturity or to enhance cultural assimilation we do so at the peril of a generation that will never know the enrichment of exhortation or the powerful influence of loving correction.

I close with a brief dedicatory of names whose lives provoked me in my youth and whose influence follows me to this day: Dr. Bob Jones, Jr; Dr. Gilbert Stenholm; Dr. Richard Rupp; Dr. Gunter Salter; Dr. Walter Fremont; and Dr. Dwight Gustafson.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Note from the author: You will find the observations expressed in this blog mirrored in several posts I have published in recent years regarding the drift of our Bible fundamental institutions and churches.  For more background, please refer to: 1) From the Front Pew; 2) A Travesty of Abandonment; 3) A Travesty of Abandonment: Christian Schools that Have Left the Ancient Landmarks; 4) Warning: Cater to the Carnal and You Do So at Your Own Peril; 5) What Were They Thinking?; 6) Catering to Carnality; 7) Hijacked: You Can Lose Your Church; 8) Where is the Christian Westpoint of this Generation?

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Bible Reading Plan for 2018

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Readers and Hillsdale family members,

The opportunity for studying the scriptures in a systematic, daily discipline has never been easier than it is today.  While the internet is unfortunately a place of grave temptations, it also provides believers resources and opportunities to study the Bible, with commentaries and devotionals only a few mouse clicks away from any who have a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

Of course, the universal problem for us all is making time and exercising the self-discipline required to study the scriptures.  The apostle Paul challenged Timothy,  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

I announced in an earlier post that, while I plan to write and post devotionals periodically, I am discontinuing my practice of posting daily devotional commentary this New Year.  I do, however, want to encourage you to continue reading the scriptures daily and am suggesting you consider following the attached “One-Year Bible Reading Plan” published by iBelieve.com (this is not an endorsement of that organization since I am not familiar with them).  I will have copies of the plan available to the Hillsdale church family this Sunday; however, I am also attaching a copy of the same plan to this post.

God bless you dear friends as we stand at the threshold of a New Year and embrace King David’s conviction, 14  But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God. 15  My times are in thy hand…” (Psalm 31:14-15).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Journey’s End

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 27-28

Our scripture reading today is Acts 27-28 and chronicles the apostle Paul’s journey to Rome as a prisoner where he will inevitably give his life as a martyr for Christ.

Paul’s journey to Rome was by ship and he was in the company of other prisoners under the escort of “one named Julius, a centurion of [Caesar] Augusts’ band [regiment]” (27:1).  The ship would stop at several ports on its journey to Rome, including Sidon where Paul notes the centurion’s favor in allowing him to fellowship with other believers (27:3).

Departing from Sidon enroute to Myra, the centurion transferred Paul and the other prisoners to a “ship of Alexandria” [i.e. Egypt] that was sailing directly to Italy (27:4-6).  The sailing was slow (27:9) and knowing storms would soon make sailing dangerous, “Paul admonished” the captain of the ship and the centurion guard to seek safe harbor until the stormy season was past (27:9-11).

Dismissing Paul’s warning, the ship set sail and the vessel was soon caught up in a great storm so that, in Paul’s words, “all hope that we should be saved was then taken away” (27:12-20).

Acts 27:21-44, Paul turns from prisoner to encourager and tells the men, although the ship would be lost, God revealed to him no lives would perish (27:21-24).  Blown several hundred miles off course and hearing the roar of waves landing upon rocks on the shore, some shipmen prepared to abandon the ship and its passengers and were preparing to cast off in a small boat (27:30).  Heeding Paul’s warning that any who abandon ship would be lost, the soldiers cut away the ropes of the small boat (27:32).  Acts 27 closes with Paul and all 276 souls on the ship being saved alive (27:33-44).

The ship ran aground on the island “called Melita”, our modern-day Malta (Acts 28:1).  Warming themselves around a fire, God miraculously spared Paul’s life when a poisonous viper took hold of his hand (28:3). Those who witnessed the viper’s attack wondered if Paul was not being punished for his wickedness, but then marveled he did not perish (28:4-6).

We often wonder why God allows His people and choice servants to go through difficult trials…sickness, disappointments, accidents, sorrows, losses.  In the immediate we may not rightly see God’s purpose; however, we are surely no different from the apostle Paul.  What a great example of a suffering, faithful servant Paul gives us as we witness him arrested and tried, but turning the occasions to an opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Festus (Acts 25) and Agrippa (Acts 26).

As a prisoner on a ship setting sail for Rome, Paul turned the storm into an opportunity to share God’s revelation He had the LORD’s assurance their lives would be saved for he “must be brought before Caesar” (27:23-25).  Finally, bitten by a viper, God spared Paul’s life as a testimony that the power of God rested upon him (28:6).

Acts 28 concludes with Paul’s safe travel and arrival in Rome (28:11-31) where he had freedom to visit with fellow believers (28:11-16). 

In an incredible testimony of God’s providence and Paul’s passion for preaching the Gospel, Paul’s “house” imprisonment in Rome opened the door for him to not only share his own conversion and calling with Jewish leaders (28:17-22), but also declare to all who would listen that Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited suffering Messiah foretold by the prophet Isaiah (28:23-31).

Acts 28:30-31 – “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31  Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”

My friend, if you have followed our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year schedule, today marks the end of your journey for it is our 364th daily reading assignment of 2017.   It is easy to begin a spiritual discipline; however, there are few who know the joy of persevering to the end!  Congratulations on this blessed milestone in your spiritual walk with the LORD.  I bid you God’s blessings and wish you a Happy New Year!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Earnestly Contend for the Faith

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jude 1:1-25

The theme of the book of Jude, only 25 verses in length, is summed up in two words, exhortation and admonition:  Jude exhorts believers to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3) and admonishes the church to beware of apostasy.

A century ago, the pulpits of most Baptist and Protestant churches in America unapologetically preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There were differences in the mode of baptism and church government; however, the preaching of the cross was almost a universal theme in America’s churches.

By the 1920’s a spiritual apostasy crept into many denominational churches and began eroding fundamental Bible doctrines.  Bible colleges and Seminaries became hotbeds of liberalism and apostasy.  In a generation, mainline Protestant churches departed from the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Christ taught His disciples a sign of His Second Coming would be, “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Matthew 25:5, 11).

The apostle Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when they [professing believers in the church] will not endure [tolerate] sound doctrine; but after their own lusts [sinful desires] shall they heap [invite] to themselves teachers, having itching ears [desiring to hear something that tickles, scratches or pleases the ear]; 4 And they shall turn away their ears [stop listening] from the truth, and shall be turned [aside] unto fables [myths; false teaching]” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The book of Jude, written to the late 1st century church, warned believers apostates were already in their midst.  Sounding a warning reminiscent of a bugle playing “Charge” for the Calvary, Jude challenged believers to engage in spiritual warfare.

“Earnestly contend for the faith” is a call to spiritual battle (1:3). To wage war for the faith is to be intolerant of doctrinal error and compromise.   Some argue, “Times have changed and Christians should not be so dogmatic about their faith.”

Times have changed; however, the Truths and Doctrines of the Word of God are timeless!

Psalm 119:160 – “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.”

1 Peter 1:23 – “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”

1 Peter 1:25 – “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.  And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

To “earnestly contend for the faith” is to stand and agonize unapologetically for the TRUTH.

Paul challenged Corinthian believers, “Watch ye [Stay awake; be alert], stand fast [persevere; adhere] in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Paul exhorted Timothy, “Fight [agonize; be disciplined] the good fight of faith…” (1 Timothy 6:12).

The balance of Jude’s epistle describes the challenges confronting the churches at the end of the 1st century.  Jude described the character of apostates: Denying the truth (1:4-7), immoral (1:8b), rejecting spiritual authority (1:8c), and irreverent (1:8d-10).  The apostasy of the 1st century church is a mirror image of the decadence found in many 21st century churches.

Vigilance is the cause of the hour; however, rather than “contending for the faith”, I am afraid the majority of believers and churches are in full retreat.

The greatest threat to the Church is not persecution without, but false teachers within. 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Why Should You Trust the LORD?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 146-148

Our scripture reading today consist of three psalms, Psalms 146, 147 and 148.   I will limit my devotional commentary to Psalm 146.  The author of Psalm 146 is not known; however, his purpose in writing the psalm is obvious….it is a song of praise to the LORD.  The psalmist employs numerous names for God meant to describe His nature, personality, and character.

You will notice in the verses my amplification of the text in brackets.  Understanding a word in the Hebrew scriptures can be translated into English with more than one word, it is my desire to give you a broader understanding and insight into this beautiful psalm of praise for your own worship and edification.

Psalm 146:1-2 – 1  Praise [Hallelujah; Glory; Boast; Celebrate] ye the LORD [Yahweh; the sacred name of the LORD]. Praise the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], O my soul.
2  While I live [have life] will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises [sing psalms] unto my God [Elohim; mighty God] while I have any being.

The psalmist begins Psalm 146 directing his praise and worship to the only One worthy of praise…the LORD (146:1-2).

Psalm 146:3-43  Put not your trust [confidence] in princes, nor in the son [children] of man, in whom there is no help [salvation; deliverance].
4  His breath [man’s breath] goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day [time] his thoughts perish.

The psalmist exhorts and admonishes the people to not put their trust or confidence in man (146:3-4).  Whether a prince among men or a mere mortal man…all men live under the sentence of death (Romans 6:23); their breath disappears as a vapor, their bodies return to dust and their plans and designs perish with them.

Such is the spiritual lesson the rich man encountered in Luke 12.  Experiencing an overflow of the fruits of his labor at the time of harvest, the rich man determined to tear down his barns and hoard God’s blessings (Luke 12:17-18).   God judged the man a fool (Luke 12:19-20).  His affections were on earthly riches and he died a spiritual pauper… “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God” (Luke 12:21).

While the rich man’s affections for earthly treasure perish with him, the psalmist describes the man who looks to the LORD as “Happy” (146:5) .

Psalm 146:55  Happy [Blessed; prosperous] is he that hath the God [Almighty God] of Jacob for his help [aid], whose hope [expectation] is in the LORD his God:

Why trust the LORD (146:6-9)?  The psalmist suggests four qualities that lead us to trust the LORD.

1) The LORD is Creator of heaven, earth, the sea and “all that therein is”. (146:6a)

Psalm 146:6 6  Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth [preserves; guards] truth for ever [i.e. God is forever faithful; trustworthy]:

 2) The LORD is faithful and true. (146:6b)

Psalm 146:7-9 7  Which executeth [lit. to make or prepare] judgment [justice] for the oppressed: which giveth food [bread and meat] to the hungry. The LORD looseth [sets at liberty] the prisoners: 8  The LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth [lifts up; comforts] them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous [just]:
9  The LORD preserveth [keeps watch; regards; saves] the strangers [sojourners]; he relieveth [bear witness; admonish; protects] the fatherless and widow: but the way [journey; path] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] he turneth upside down [subverts; thwarts;overthrows].

3) The LORD is just and compassionate. (146:7-9)

Psalm 146:10 10  The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.

4) The LORD is King Eternal, the God of Zion of whose kingdom there is no end (146:10).

How foolish to trust man or place our confidence in earthly possessions!  The LORD is eternal, just, compassionate, faithful, true and our Creator!  Why trust any other?

Let all who know the LORD trust and praise Him!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith