Tag Archives: Spiritual disciplines

You Are Never Alone! (Numbers 9-10)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 9-10, Psalm 46, and Luke 2. Our devotional is from Numbers 9-10.

The first chapters in Numbers are a record of Moses leading the tribes of Israel out of Egypt, instructing and organizing them into a nation dedicated to the God of heaven.

Numbers 1-4 chronicles a census of the tribes of Israel. Numbers 5-6 state the specifics for addressing disease and sin among the people.  Because worship and sacrifices were central to Israel’s life as a nation, the Tabernacle of the LORD was located in the heart of the encampment (Numbers 7).

Numbers 9 establishes the Passover as an observance of the nation, serving as a perpetual memorial to the LORD for delivering Israel out of Egypt (Numbers 9:1-14).  

Assuring His people, He would never abandon them, the tribes of Israel were comforted by a reminder of the Lord’s presence in their midst; a cloud overshadowed the Tabernacle in the day and a fire was present at night (9:15-16).  Making it clear the LORD alone dictates the “starts and stops” of His people, the people followed the movements of the cloud and fire in their journey (9:17-23).

Friend, I would be remiss if I failed to remind you that, though the LORD no longer leads His people with a cloud or fire, He does lead, direct and guide His people by His Word and the wooing of His Spirit.

Paul challenged New Testament believers that we should derive spiritual lessons from our study of His dealings with Israel.  Paul writes, “Now all these things happened unto them [Israel in the wilderness] for ensamples [a pattern]: and they are written for our admonition [warning]…”

Understanding the LORD was Israel’s guide during her journey through the trials and temptations of the wilderness, we find comfort in this promise:

1 Corinthians 10:13“There hath no temptation [trial; test] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. many others have faced the same]: but God is faithful [trustworthy; true], who will not suffer [permit; allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [i.e. pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

What a blessed promise!  While the cloud by day and fire by night served Israel as a reminder of God’s presence, He has given us His Word and promise that He will tenderly care, protect, strengthen and be with us.

Whatever test or trial you may face, be assured, God is faithful and you are never alone!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

You Can’t Take It With You! (Leviticus 25)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 25-26, Psalm 42, and Mark 14. Our devotional is from Leviticus 25.

Leviticus 25 instructs the children of Israel in matters concerning the land the LORD promised would be a perpetual inheritance for Abraham’s lineage (Genesis 12:1; 13:14-15; 17:8).  Two occasions are discussed in this chapter, the seventh year Sabbath and the fiftieth year of “Jubilee” (25:2 -4, 8-13).

The “Sabbath year” occurred every seven years and was, as its name implies, a year of ceasing from labor for the farmers and their lands.  The people were instructed to labor in their fields for six years, but on the seventh year they were not to sow seed, prune their vineyards, or harvest any fruits or vegetables that “groweth of its own accord” (25:3-7).

Seven “Sabbath years” were to pass (numbering forty-nine years) and the fiftieth year would be to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13).  The year of Jubilee was an additional Sabbath, meaning the lands and vineyards were idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11) [although some scholars argue the “Jubilee” was actually the 49th year].   The year of Jubilee was also a year of celebration and restoration. Families who, due to poverty, sold their plots of land had them restored to their original owners (25:23-28).

The year of Jubilee was also a year of liberty for those who, because of poverty, had become indentured servants (25:39-43).  The children of Israel were not to enslave their brethren, but treat them as hired servants; however, all indentured servants were set at liberty and restored to their families in the year of Jubilee.

The Sabbath years and years of Jubilee are foreign concepts to us in our 21st century economy; however, there are some principles in Leviticus 25 we should not pass by lightly.

The Sabbath year (25:2) was more than a year of rest from labor in the fields; it was also an acknowledgement that blessings and prosperity come from the LORD.  The Sabbath year served as an opportunity for the people to reflect on the goodness and provision of the LORD (25:20-22).

Reminding us we are temporal owners of the things we possess, the LORD instructed the people, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Leviticus 25:23).  While we do not follow the pattern of Sabbath years or the year of Jubilee, the principle found in Leviticus 25:23 is nonetheless true!

Whether you live in a mansion or a shanty, count your millions or your pennies; you are at best a temporal owner of your possessions.   Estate sales and auctions are perpetual reminders…You cannot take it with you!  After all, you will go to your grave and others will eventually claim your possessions.  As someone has observed, you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer to the cemetery.

Matthew 6:20-21 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

* A fitting reminder given this devotional is my 2,000th blog post to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Cry of a Wounded Soul (Psalm 41)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 23-24, Psalm 41, and Mark 13. Our devotional is from Psalm 41.

Psalm 41 challenges believers to consider their relationship with others and how they respond to them who disappoint and betray.

King David was at a low point in his life, physically and emotionally, when he composed this psalm. Rehearsing the LORD’s promise to hear and heed the cries of His people in their hour of need (41:1), David remembered God keeps watch over His people and delivers them out of trouble in His time (41:2).  David writes,

Psalm 41:1-4 – “Blessed [Happy] is he that considereth [understands] the poor [weak; needy]: the LORD will deliver [save] him in time of trouble [sin; wickedness; evil]. 2  The LORD will preserve [keep; guard] him, and keep him alive [sustain]and he shall be blessed [prosperous] upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver [abandon] him unto the will  [desire] of his enemies [adversary; foe]3 The LORD will strengthen [support; uphold] him upon the bed [couch; canopy] of languishing [sorrow]: thou wilt make [turn; overthrow] all his bed in his sickness [disease; malady].  4  I said, LORD, be merciful [gracious; show favor] unto me: heal [cure; purify] my soul [life]; for I have sinned [committed sin; guilty] against thee.”

David tossed and turned upon his bed; as sorrow and disappointment washed over his soul.  He spent sleepless nights praying and waiting on the LORD (41:3).  Searching his soul, David confessed his sin and believed God would show Him favor and restore him (41:4).

Psalm 41:5-6 – “Mine enemies speak [charge] evil [sin; wickedness] of me, When shall he die [be slain], and his name [fame; honor] perish [destroyed]6  And if he [enemy; adversary] come to see [look; behold] me, he speaketh [declare] vanity [deceit; lies]: his heart gathereth [collect; heap; take up] iniquity [sin; wickedness] to itself; when he goeth [go forth] abroad [in the streets], he telleth [speak; say; talk] it.”

Every saint who strives to serve the LORD and walk with integrity will inevitably face the bitter distress of betrayal.   When you feel the sorrow of duplicity, remember the LORD felt the caress of Judas’ kiss upon His own cheek.

Psalm 41:7-8 –  “All that hate me whisper [mumble] together [i.e. in chorus] against me: against me do they devise [imagine; fabricate] my hurt.8  An evil [wicked] disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth [lays down] he shall rise up no more.”

It is a terrible way when embittered souls wait the day they can take satisfaction in the fall of a pastor or a fellow believer (41:8).

Psalm 41:9 gives us insight into the personal nature of the betrayal that befell David.

Psalm 41:9 –  “Yea, mine own familiar [close] friend, in whom I trusted [a confidant], which did eat [devour; consume] of my bread [food; meal], hath lifted up his heel [foot] against me [magnified himself].

David’s adversary wanted to grind the king under his heel and humiliate him.  His enemy waited for the satisfaction of the king’s demise.  Although not identified by name, I believe David’s enemy was either Absalom, the king’s own son (2 Samuel 15) or Ahithophel, the king’s trusted counselor (2 Samuel 16:23).

Let’s take a lesson from David’s life and remember betrayal and sorrow is the affliction of saints who walk with integrity and minister to others with abandon.

Be watchful you do not become embittered when you suffer injustices and betrayals; after all, the LORD suffered the same and He will never abandon you (Psalm 41:10-13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Hey Millennial Pastors: God has not called you to be “real”; He has called you to be “holy”! (Leviticus 21-22)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 21-22. Our devotional is from Leviticus 22.

Leviticus 21 reminds us God’s calling to ministry is a sacred calling.  Whatever laws God commanded His people, the priests ordained to minister sacrifices and offerings were to strictly observe in their homes, marriages, and families (21:5-15).  Indicating God’s demands for his ministers to be holy and unblemished, no sons of the Aaronic priesthood could serve as priests if there was a physical blemish (21:16-24).

The opening verses of Leviticus 22 remind 21st century ministers and believers that God sets forth the highest ideals for those who minister before Him on behalf of His people.  I understand the context of Leviticus 22 is in its immediate application guidelines for the priesthood; however, we find enduring principles for those who serve the LORD.

The first, priests were to treat as sacred the sacrifices brought to them by the people (22:2).   The work of continually offering sacrifices might have easily become routine for priests and, rather than treat their duties as a sacred responsibility, a sense of doldrums and lethargy might set in that would treat the offerings as less than holy.

There is also a danger of failing to take account of one’s spiritual standing before the LORD (22:3).  Samuel’s rebuke of king Saul’s pretentiousness in offering sacrifices echoes this same principle when we read, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).  The people bringing sacrifices might not have known the priest ministering before them was merely going through the motions; however, the LORD knows the hearts of those who serve Him and requires holiness.

A third example of treating the priesthood with less than the holiness God demanded was a laxness in who might share the portions set aside for the priest and his immediate family (22:10-16).  In other words, the heart of a priestly father might be to give a portion of meat to family members and guests who did not qualify to partake of the portions God set aside for priests and their families.

Finally, sacrifices offered to the LORD were to be of the highest standard (22:17-32).  Like those who offer the LORD less than a tithe, there was the temptation to offer animals for sacrifice that were deformed, ill or injured.  God’s standard was “there shall be no blemish therein”(22:21).

Pastors who fail to live above reproach and take the high road when it comes to so-called “gray areas” in life are a leprosy in the 21st century church.  Projecting an ideology of being “real” and approachable, our pulpits are sacrificing holiness, embracing carnality, and our church members are following the same (1 John 2:15-17).

I close reminding pastors and believers, God’s call for holiness is for us all.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – 15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Unforgiveness: A Bitter Fruit that Steals Your Joy and Saps Your Soul (Mark 11:22-26)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 15-16, Psalm 39, and Mark 11. Our devotional is from Mark 11.

Mark 11 records the beginning of the final week of Christ’s earthly life . Tradition states Christ’s “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem occurred on Sunday (Mark 11:1-11); however, there are many who believe it likely occurred on Monday.  Christ’s cursing the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves and driving the money-changers out of the Temple are both recorded in Mark 11:12-21.

Faith” and “Forgiveness” is the focus of our devotional and the subject of Mark 11:22-26.

Following a challenge on faith and prayer, Jesus admonished: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26).

Forty years in ministry has taught me there are many believers who bear a spirit of bitterness in their souls.  In fact, one of the most besetting sins in the 21stcentury church is an unwillingness to deal with offenses in a biblical manner motivated by love for God and love for others.  Many allow bitterness to fester in their souls and, like cancer in the body, spread until family, friendships, and fellowships are spiritually, emotionally, and physically infected.

The writer of Hebrews warns the same: Looking diligently [intently; be watching] lest any man fail of [fall short of] the grace [favor and blessing] of God; lest any root of bitterness [i.e. hatred or resentment] springing up [sprouting up] trouble you, and thereby many [i.e. perhaps the majority] be defiled [tainted; i.e. like one diseased](Hebrews 12:15).

Friend, have you lost your joy because bitterness festers in your soul?  Do you harbor bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights of your youth? Are you a parent who struggles with forgiving a child who has disgraced your home with foolish, sinful actions?   Have callous words and broken vows embittered your marriage?  Have you allowed slights and offenses to embitter you toward fellow believers and pastors?

An unwillingness to forgive others is indicative of a soul who has not entered into the joy of God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” is the LORD’s will (Ephesians 4:32) and when you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no reason to be unwilling to forgive others!

Harbor an unforgiving spirit and you do so at the sacrifice of joy and unanswered prayers.

Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

At the Heart of the Problem is a Problem of the Heart (Leviticus 13-14)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 13-14, Psalm 38, and Mark 10. Our devotional is from Leviticus 13-14.

I confess, it is easy to read Leviticus 13-14 and feel overwhelmed with the text, its application, and the issue of leprosy addressed in its verses.  Before you dismiss the passage, give this pastor an opportunity to make its meaning plainer.

Leprosy, known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD), is a bacterial, infectious disease.  Treatable, even curable in the 21st century; in ancient times it was a dreaded disease not only feared, but also inevitably leading to its victim’s isolation from society and assignment to miserable leper colonies.

In addressing the scourge of leprosy, the LORD directed Moses and Aaron in steps required to not only diagnose the disease, but also isolate its carriers from the people of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).  “Unclean, unclean” (13:45) was the leper’s warning to any who approached.

Should the leper be deemed healed of the disease, steps and sacrifices were prescribed in Leviticus 14 to insure the legitimacy of the healing and the purification of the leper.  After following the prescribed rituals, the leper would be deemed clean and restored to the fellowship of his family and the nation (14:9-32).

Leprosy is the disease God chose to illustrate the infectious danger of sin among his people. Notice in chapter 13 the number of times leprosy is described as “unclean”.  Leprosy is more than a skin issue; it inevitably infects the tissues, nerves and eventually the extremities of the body.  Leprosy so scars the body it is a well-nigh unbearable ugliness of rotting, putrid flesh.

Such is the way of sin.  Liberals would have you believe man is born innocent and it is his environment (i.e. home, society, religion) that is the origin of man’s societal deprivations.

God’s diagnosis is that man’s sin is a problem of the heart!  Rather than innocence, God’s Word declares, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  The apostle Paul likened sin to a physical ailment writing, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

Jesus taught His disciples,For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man”  (Matthew 15:19-20).

Without a cure for leprosy, lepers prayed for a miraculous healing, a divine intervention that would be verified by examination and sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).  In the same vein, man has no cure for sin apart from divine intervention.  21stcentury doctors and judges prescribe psychiatric evaluations, counseling, and drug-therapy for lawbreakers deemed to have “mental-disorders”; however, all fall short of addressing the heart of the issue, which is the issue of the heart.

There was no cure for leprosy without the LORD; in the same way, there is no cure for a sinful soul without turning from sin and placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

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.  9But he waswounded for our transgressions, he wasbruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace wasupon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Who Is Really #1? (Mark 9)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 11-12, Psalm 37, and Mark 9. Our devotional is from Mark 9.

Mark 9:1-13 records the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ; an event when Jesus permits His inner circle, Peter, James, and John, to witness the unveiled brilliance of His heavenly glory.  Luke writes the disciples fell asleep after ascending the mountain with Jesus (Luke 9:32), but were suddenly awakened and witnessed Jesus, “His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller [launderer] on earth can white them (Mark 9:3).

Two heavenly visitors, Moses and Elias (Mark 9:4), visited Jesus and Peter suggested the event be memorialized with three “tabernacles” (temporal earthly structures) dedicated to Jesus, Moses and Elias (Mark 9:5).  Peter was, in effect, giving no more honor to Jesus than he was His heavenly visitors. From a cloud that overshadowed the scene, the disciples heard the voice of God saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear him” (Mark 9:7).

Descending the mount, Jesus commanded the three to “tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).  Arriving at the base of the mount, Jesus was immersed in a great crowd gathered to witness the disciples’ failed attempt to cast a demon out of a man’s son (Mark 9:14-18).

Imparting a lesson on the power of faith and prayer, Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).  Embarrassed by their failure, the disciples questioned Jesus privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” (Mark 9:28).  Jesus’ answered, “…This kind [i.e. of spirit] can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Passing through Galilee, Jesus prophesied His arrest, death, and resurrection a second time in the chapter (Mark 9:31); however, the disciples “understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him” (Mark 9:32).

A spiritual lesson on servant leadership (Mark 9:33-35) emerges as we learn along the way the disciples “disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest”(Mark 9:34).

The words “servant” and “humility” are foreign to our American ideas of success.  Striving for #1, climbing the “ladder of success”, counting the number of people who serve your beckoning call has become the essence of success. Such is not the case in our LORD’s definition of success Who taught His disciples, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

Two lessons we take from that principle

The first, self-centered ambition blinds one to spiritual truth.  Jesus spoke plainly of His death, but the disciples’ ambition for thrones in Christ’s kingdom blinded them (Matthew 20:21, 24).  So it is, a heart with the wrong focus is blind to spiritual truths and struggles with fear and anxieties (Mark 9:32; 1 John 4:18).

A second lesson: Greatness in God’s kingdom is defined, not by how many serve you, but by how many you serve (Mark 9:35).  

Someone has observed, “the mark of spiritual maturity is when a believer takes off a bib and dons a servant’s apron.”

Friend, who and how many are you serving?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith