Tag Archives: Stewardship

The Providence of God: The Hand Behind the Headlines

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Esther 1-5

“Divine providence” is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Esther.

Many great minds have attempted to define providence.  The 19th century clergyman T. Dewitt Talmage said: “Despots may plan and armies may march, and the congresses of nations may seem to think they are adjusting all the affairs of the world, but the mighty men of the earth are only the dust of the chariot wheels of God’s providence.”

American patriot Benjamin Franklin observed, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man.”

Author and theologian J.I. Packer says of God’s providence, “He [God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man.”

What is divine providence?

I suggest, Providence is God’s sustaining oversight of creation and His direction of all things to His appointed end and purpose. The apostle Paul suggested the same in Romans 8:28-29, writing,

Romans 8:28-29 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

In summary, the providence of God is practical (“all things work together”), personal (to them that love God), and cannot be divorced from God’s divine purpose (“to them who are the called according to His purpose”)

The Book of Esther is best known as the only book in the Bible that never mentions God by name; however, the events recorded in the book make it clear Esther is a testimony of God’s providence in the life of a young Jewish maiden and His preservation of His chosen people by sovereignly guiding the affairs of mankind to fulfill His divine purpose and end.  Chronologically, the events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Esther was a Jewish maiden living in Persia, today’s modern Iraq, around 480 B.C.  She was a descendant of the Jews taken captive to Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.  After conquering Babylon, the Persians gave the Jews liberty to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem; however, many remained in Babylon; among them a Jewish man named Mordecai (2:5-7), the uncle of Esther who took her into his home after the deaths of her parents.

Esther 1 introduces us to Ahasuerus, the Persian king who was presiding over an empire at its peak, but facing the growing military presence of the Greek Empire.  Some scholars suggest Esther 1 follows Ahasuerus’ first defeat against the Greeks.  His impetuous demotion of Vashti, his beautiful queen, when she failed to obey his command to come to his drunken feast, sets in motion a series of events that will ultimately propel Esther from anonymity to the throne as the wife and queen of Ahasuerus.

Some seven years passed from Vashti’s expulsion as queen to the events occurring in Esther 2.  Historians believe Ahasuerus had suffered another defeat against a confederacy of Greek city-states and, returning to his palace, remembered “Vashti…what she had done” (Esther 2:1).  Knowing the loneliness of the king, his servants suggested he add to his harem, “fair young virgins” (2:3) and among them seek his queen (2:4).

It was the king’s decree that set in motion a series of events that providentially promoted Esther, who was “fair and beautiful” (2:7), to be named among the maidens “gathered together unto Shushan the palace” (2:8).  Following the advice of her uncle, Mordecai, Esther did not reveal she was Jewish (2:10).

A parade of young women entered the king’s bedchamber; however, none pleased the king until we read, “the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight…so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen” (2:17). Still, “Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people” (2:20).

Esther 3 introduces us to Haman, a man promoted by king Ahasuerus “above all the princes” (3:1).  Haman hated the Jews and especially despised Mordecai (3:2).  Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman so infuriated the man he determined to use his position to exact revenge on all the Jews (3:1-6).  Pretending a concern for what was in the best interest of the king, Haman brought an evil report against all the Jews and influenced the king to give an edict to annihilate all Jews (3:7-15).

The Jews, receiving news of the edict, began mourning, “fasting, and weeping, and wailing” (4:1-3).  Queen Esther, sheltered in the royal palace, sought to comfort her uncle Mordecai who had “rent his clothes” (4:1); however, he refused her offer of new clothing (4:4).  When she sought to know the cause of the great mourning among the Jews, she learned of the king’s edict (4:5-11).

Mordecai warned Esther her office as queen would not spare her life when her Jewish lineage was divulged (4:12-14).  Giving testimony to divine providence, Mordecai appealed to Esther, “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14).

Putting her life at risk, for no one, not even the queen was allowed to enter the king’s court without his invitation; Esther came before the king.  Seeing his queen, Ahasuerus invited her to approach and offered to grant her whatever she requested (5:1-3).  Setting her plan in motion to save her people, Esther requested Haman be summoned for dinner with she and the king (5:4-8).   Receiving the invitation, Haman boasted he was given a private invitation to dinner with the king and queen (5:9-13).

I close today’s devotional commentary with this thought:

God could have chosen any means to save His people, however, Mordecai believed God chose Esther to be instrumental in that task (“for such a time as this” – 4:14).  Mordecai was confident in the sovereignty of God and had faith in God’s providential care of His people (4:13-14).

Friend, God will hold you accountable for your influence and opportunities of service. Bury your talents, refuse to employ your gifts, and the day will come when you give account to the LORD.  Fail to serve Him and the LORD will raise up another to serve in your place (Esther 4:14).

Luke 12:48“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Is Your Child a Pedigree or a Mutt?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 10-13

Our scripture reading in the book of Nehemiah comes to a close today focusing on chapters 10-13.

Nehemiah 10 gives us the names of eighty-four men, spiritual leaders, politicians, husbands and fathers, who made a solemn oath and put their names to a covenant they made with the LORD (10:1-29).  Having sealed their covenant with the LORD, they “separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God” (10:28).

Israel’s dedication to the LORD was absolute, affecting every area of their lives…their families (10:28-30), businesses (10:31; 13:15-21), and finances (13:32-39). 

Having built the Temple and completed the walls of the city, the next need was for some to commit themselves to rebuilding and repopulating the city of Jerusalem; after all, you cannot have a great city without a great population.  Jerusalem was a “holy city” (11:1), a city dedicated to the LORD and the citizens of that city were to live stricter lives than their fellow Jews who lived outside the city.  With much of the city still in ruins, Jerusalem was more a place of poverty than it was a place of privilege.

Three segments of Israel’s populace were required to repopulate the city:  1) The “rulers of the people” (11:1); 2) A tenth of Israel’s population that was drafted by casting lots (11:1); 3) And others who volunteered and “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem” (11:2).

Nehemiah 11-12 presents us with a great list of men, some named and others known only by their deeds; men whose names Nehemiah inscribed in his book lest they be forgotten. Four hundred and sixty-eight described as “valiant men” (11:6).  Eight hundred and twenty-two men who ““…did the work of the house” of God using their talents and gifts for the LORD’s work (11:12).  There were men who “…had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God.” (11:16); some serving as counselors, teachers, and others the general ministries of the Temple. Others described simply as “porters” (11:19); describing the menial nature of their ministries as doorkeepers and janitors,  but all important and noted by the LORD!

Friend, don’t make light of the menial tasks some bear in their service for the LORD and His church.  “Valiant men” and “porters” had their role and ministry in the Temple and were necessary to fulfill God’s purpose that Jerusalem be restored to her glory as the “holy city” (11:1).

Nehemiah 12 gives a chronicle of priests and Levites (12:1-26) and the worship service when the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated (12:27-47).

Nehemiah 13 closes with a reminder the work of ministry and serving the LORD and His people is never finished.  Nehemiah’s task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was complete; however, he had no time to glory in his success!  Evidencing the character of a great servant of the LORD, Nehemiah began another phase of ministry…addressing and confronting the spiritual compromise already taking hold in Israel.

Consider four spiritual leadership qualities found in Nehemiah’s character in Nehemiah 13. 

The first leadership quality is courage; Nehemiah was a courageous leader (13:4-9).   As governor of Israel, Nehemiah traveled to Babylon to report to the king of Persia the state of affairs in Jerusalem; however, when he returned he found an “evil” allowed by the high priest Eliashib.

Nehemiah 13:7 – And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him [Tobiah] a chamber in the courts of the house of God.

Imagine finding Tobiah, an Ammonite and enemy who had opposed Nehemiah rebuilding the wall (Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:3) living in the Temple!  Nehemiah did not wait for a committee to make a decision or seek a diplomatic solution…He courageously confronted Tobiah, throwing him and his possessions into the street (13:8), and ordered the Temple rooms cleansed (13:9).

A second leadership quality is discernment (13:10-14).  Nehemiah writes,

 Neh. 13:10 – And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.

A good leader gets the facts and ask questions when he perceives a problem.  Nehemiah rebuked the leaders and the people (13:10-14) when he comprehended their failure to give tithes and offerings forced those employed in the Temple to labor in their fields to the neglect of their public ministries.

A third leadership quality is Nehemiah maintained spiritual priorities (13:15-22). Finding the Jews had secularized the Sabbath, treating it like any other day of the week (13:16), Nehemiah confronted the leaders and said, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?”

Nehemiah did not trifle with the matter of sin. He labeled their actions an “evil thing”, a profaning and defilement of the Sabbath, the LORD’s Day.

Finally, Nehemiah was a man of conviction and boldly confronted compromise (13:23-28).  The compromise of God’s people was so grave they had allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with the heathen in the land.  Nehemiah observed,

Nehemiah 13:24 – And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ [Hebrew] language, but according to the language of each people.

Some of the Jews lost their children to the ways of the heathen; speaking a mixed language of “Ashdod” (the Philistine language) and Hebrew, Jewish youth had assimilated not only the sinful ways and customs of the ungodly, they had also adopted their language.  Being the candid spiritual leader he was, Nehemiah took their sinful compromise as a personal affront to himself and to God.  Nehemiah writes,

Nehemiah 13:25 – And I contended [treat with contempt] with them, and cursed [reviled] them, and smote [physically struck] 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.

I fear there are few Nehemiah’s in Bible fundamental churches, Christian schools and Bible colleges.  We are in short supply of courageous men who are discerning, focused on spiritual priorities at the expense of personal sacrifice, and conviction who refuse to compromise with the ungodly.  Pulpits that once thundered with sermons calling a generation of youth to personal holiness and sanctification, now whimper with a message of accommodation that sacrifices and minimizes personal spiritual disciplines.

Nehemiah contended with the people for allowing the ungodly to influence and marry their sons and daughters (Nehemiah 13:25).

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but after 38 years of ministry, it has been my observation dog breeders of champion pedigrees give more attention to the selection of the dam (i.e. female) and sire (i.e. male) for breeding their dogs than many Christian parents give to the character of friends who eventually date and marry their sons and daughters.

What a tragedy!  No wonder the divorce rate in the church is as high as the world!  Nehemiah challenged the people, “we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons” (Nehemiah 10:30).  The tragedy is, many families failed to heed Nehemiah’s admonition and lost their children (13:25).  I am afraid the same is true of our homes, churches, and schools.

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

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences

Monday, December 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 26-28

Our scripture reading is Deuteronomy 26-28 and continues Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure.  As noted in previous devotional commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is charging Israel with laws and spiritual principles that are to guide the people as they become a nation in their own land (Deuteronomy 26:1).

Moses reminds Israel when they come into the land God has promised, they are to give tithes of the fruit (or profit) of their labor.  Remembering the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (Dt. 26:1-11), the firstfruits offering was taken to the place of worship, given as a sacrifice and supported the priestly tribe of Levi and their households.

In the third year, a special tithe was given coinciding with tither’s confession he had honored the LORD’s commandments and obeyed them.  The tithe given in the third year was used locally to meet immediate needs in one’s own community and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16 and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounds to the nation the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments.  With the promise God had chosen Israel “to be His peculiar people…and to make thee high above all nations…” (Dt. 26:16-19), Moses admonished the people to “be an holy people unto the LORD thy God” (Dt. 26:19b).

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were to erect a memorial pillar of stones on the west side of the Jordan River serving as a reminder of LORD’s promises and commandments (Dt. 27:1-2).  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place and the laws and commandments were to be inscribed on the stones as a lasting testimony (27:2-10).

Reminding the people “Choices have Consequences”, the elders of the twelve tribes were charged to teach the people obedience to the Law brought the LORD’s blessing and disobedience His curse and judgments (27:14-26).

Moses pronounced a series of twelve curses should the people disobey the LORD and reject His Law and Commandments (Dt. 27:15-26).  The following sins invited God’s judgment:

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments is cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents is cursed (27:16), a violation of the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit is cursed, a violation of the sixth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled is cursed (27:18).

5) The fifth curse is upon one who is unjust in how they treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses address sexual purity, a violation of the  seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother is cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality is cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings and parents is cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother is cursed (27:23).

The fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), is the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (Dt. 27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor is cursed (Dt. 27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another is cursed (Dt. 27:25).

The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed God’s Law and Commandments (Dt .27:26).

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them…”

Deuteronomy 28 enumerates God’s blessings for the people and nation who obey His Laws and Commandments (Dt. 28:1-14).  The promise of God’s blessings on Israel if the people obeyed His Law and Commandments is stunning!  The nation had so much to aspire to, if only they obeyed the LORD.

If Israel “observe and to do all His commandments”, God promised He would “set thee on high above all nations of the earth” (28:1).  The blessings of the LORD are described as so great Israel would be overtaken by them (28:2)!  Every area of the nation’s life would be blessed… “in the city…in the field” (28:3).  Universal fruitfulness was promised to Israel…the womb of women, cattle, sheep and the fruit of the fields would reap a harvest of God’s blessings (28:4-6).

Israel’s enemies would fall before them and their storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:7-14).  All this was promised to Israel, if the people obeyed the LORD’s Law and Commandments.

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicts the curses that would come upon Israel should the nation turn from the LORD and disobey His Law and Commandments (28:15-68).  In the same way God promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobey Him.

If the nation continued in the LORD’s Law and Commandments, the LORD promised His blessings would overtake them (28:2); however, should they disobey the LORD they were assured “all curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (28:15).  The city, fields, storehouses, wombs of wives and livestock…all cursed (28:16-18).  The coming and going of the people…cursed (28:19)… “until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly” (28:20).  The promise of God’s judgment for disobeying His Laws and Commandments continues another forty-eight verses!

Sadly, Israel would turn from the LORD and all the curses noted in today’s scripture reading befell the nation!

Friend, it is not popular and few preachers have the courage to state it so, but “Choices Have Consequences” and no nation, people, or family should expect to disobey the LORD’s Law and Commandments and be blessed!

The message of the scriptures is one of redemption through the blood of Christ!  The Gospel is a message of God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness…and there is nothing required of a sinner to be saved than believing Christ, the sinless Son of God died for their sins, was buried and raised from the dead victorious over sin and the grave. The apostle Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus,

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace [God’s unmerited favor] are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

However, “Choices Have Consequences” and ignoring that truth does not change it. 

 The pulpits of fundamental churches, schools and Bible colleges are filled with a generation of preachers failing to remind the saints while salvation is “by grace”, God’s blessings are conditional.  “Good works” is evidence of the genuineness and sincerity of our salvation.  Paul writes,

Ephesians 2:10 – “For we [believers] are his workmanship [product; result of God’s grace], created [made and renewed] in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them [i.e. our life in Christ is to be a testimony of good works].

I close with a reminder of the manner of people believers are to be:

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Are You Passionate and Faithful to Your Calling?

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 21-22

You might remember our last devotional commentary in the Book of Acts concluded with addressing Paul’s determination to return to Jerusalem for the Passover (Acts 20:17-38).  Knowing the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin were determined to arrest and put Paul to death, believers along the way did all they could to dissuade Paul from going to Jerusalem.  Paul’s journey to Jerusalem continues in today’s scripture reading (Acts 21-22).

Paul arrived in Caesarea (Acts 21:8-14).  Because there is more than one Caesarea in the scriptures, this one on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea is known as “Caesarea by the Sea”.  A beautiful, picturesque location northwest of Jerusalem, in the first century, “Caesarea by the Sea” served Roman governors of Judea as a retreat from the capital city.  Saved by the sands of the desert, the ruins of the Roman fortress, a beautifully preserved amphitheater, and Roman aqueduct are visible today.

It is at “Caesarea by the Sea” that Paul renews his fellowship with Philip.  Philip, formerly a deacon in the church of Jerusalem, was one of seven men chosen to assist the apostles in the distribution of food (Acts 6:1-6; 21:8).  Our last knowledge of Philip was when the Lord commanded him to leave Jerusalem and go into the desert near Gaza where he met an Ethiopian eunuch of “Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure” (Acts 8:26).

This Ethiopian eunuch, a proselyte of Judaism, was reading the prophecies of Isaiah when Philip came upon him (Acts 8:26-30).  Asking the man if he understood what he was reading, Philip began to share the meaning of Isaiah’s’ Messianic prophecies of a suffering Messiah, and declared they were fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:30-35).

Desiring to be baptized and identified with Jesus Christ as his Savior, the eunuch declared, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:36-37), and Philip baptized him (Acts 8:38).

It is that same Philip with whom Paul renews his fellowship as he makes his journey to Jerusalem for the last time.  Philip, rather than return to Jerusalem and continue serving as one of its deacons, had made his way to Caesarea where we find him aptly titled, “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8).  True to his testimony in Jerusalem as one of seven men “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3), Philip raised a godly family in Caesarea of whom four daughters are described as “virgins, which did prophesy” (Acts 21:8).

We could focus on many things in today’s scripture reading (Acts 21-22); however, I limit myself to one.

Philip was a young man faithfully serving the LORD in the Jerusalem church when we first meet him in Acts 6.  He was distinguished as “one of the seven”, the first men chosen to assist the apostle in ministering to the church (Acts 21:8).

When the LORD called Philip to be an evangelist in Acts 8, he obeyed the LORD’s command.  What a joy that twenty years later he continues in the same and is known as “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8)!

Christian friend, what title or designation would your family, friends, and peers give you?

When acquaintances hear your name, what adjective or attribute comes to mind?  What would they say compels or drives you? What is your passion?   What is your calling?  Are you today, plying the trade, the ministry, the vocation to which God called you?

It is with growing sorrow I realize there are few who, like Philip and Paul, continue in their calling and vocation. There are few who accept Paul’s challenge to Timothy and follow the apostle’s example:

2 Timothy 4:5-7 – But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
6  For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t enable your children’s sins!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 29-30

Today’s devotional commentary focuses on one verse, Proverbs 29:3 and was first posted on this blog April 29, 2014.

As I was considering today’s devotional it occurred to me how little has changed in the world since Solomon’s writings nearly 3,000 years ago.  We share the same concerns in our day as those addressed by Solomon in his.  Granted, we are more sophisticated and enjoy the conveniences of modern technology; however, the problems of humanity are the same.  Poverty, rebellion, wickedness, oppression, heartache, sorrows and immorality are ever-present.  How can this be, you ask?

Times have changed, but the sinful nature of man is the same from generation to generation.  All humanity shares the bloodline of Adam and bear his nature and the curse of sin (“For since by man came death…For as in Adam all die” – 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Today’s proverb is timeless, as is all wisdom.

Proverbs 29:3  “Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.”

Solomon returns to contrasting a wise son with a foolish son.  Someone might mistake Solomon’s observation of a son who loves wisdom with the more recent phenomenon of what I will describe as “perpetual students”—young adults who make going to school and pursuing degrees a career rather than the means to a career.  No, this son who is a delight to his father is more than a learner—he loves and adheres to godly wisdom and counsel.   A wise son who “loveth wisdom” rejoices the heart of his father!

The contrast to a son who walks according to wisdom is the son who is a heartache to his father and walks an ungodly path where he wastes his inheritance [“his substance”] in the company of the immoral.   I believe this son was a child of privilege and grew up in a home of affluence.  Like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), he has no appetite for wisdom and, once free of his parent’s constraints, follows sinful pleasures until all is spent.

Sound familiar?  I have observed this pattern far too often over the years.  It has become commonplace for well-meaning parents longing for their child’s affections and desiring to keep peace in the family, to become enablers of an adult child’s waste and wantonness.

There may be parents and grandparents reading today’s proverb who feel as though you are looking at the reflection of your home and family in a mirror.   I know the pain of disappointments hurt, but you must accept that no amount of “substance” will earn your rebellious son or daughter’s affection.   At the same time, you must weigh your stewardship of the material possessions God has entrusted to you as a sacred trust.

Don’t enable your children’s sins!  Love them, care for their basic needs, but don’t become an enabler of sin.

I challenge sons and daughters reading this devotional to love godly wisdom, obey your parents and heed godly counsel.

Ephesians 6:1-3 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2  Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3  That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Failure to Thrive

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 119

Today’s scripture reading is Psalm 119.  With the exception of Psalm 23, Psalm 119 may be the favorite psalm of saints down through the centuries.  Its celebration of the Word and Law of God might seem out of step with many 21st century believers’ emphasis on grace [which is in danger of becoming “lawless grace” that knows little of the holiness of God]; however, its truths are eternal and its lessons regarding what manner of people the saints ought to be timeless.

I preached a series of messages on Psalm 119 in January 2016 and authored a brief series of devotions on the chapter during that time.  Today’s devotional commentary was first posted on this blog, January 25, 2016.

Psalm 119:129 – “Thy testimonies [witness; admonitions; ordinances] are wonderful [marvelous]: therefore doth my soul [life; person] keep [preserve; guard] them.”

“Failure to thrive” is an ominous term I have heard doctors use for both the very young and elderly patients.  The terminology is not a disease, but a description of a patient who is failing; failing to gain weight, failing to grow and failing to mature.  It is a state of being undernourished despite heroic actions taken to encourage physical weight gain and well-being.

The term, “failure to thrive”, is a fitting diagnosis for many church members.  They come to church faithfully and sit in pews year after year with no visible signs of spiritual life, health or growth.  

American Christians are hardly undernourished when it comes to physical weight; however, there are too many who are spiritually undernourished…failing to grow and mature.

The writer of Hebrews observed the same malady in the 1st century church when he wrote:

Hebrews 5:12-14 – “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers [Instructors], ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God [Old Testament sayings]; and are become [having degenerated] such as have need of milk [unable to chew solid food], and not of strong meat [solid food; advance doctrines].
13  For every one that useth [drink] milk is unskilful [ignorant; inexperienced] in the word [doctrine; preaching] of righteousness: for he is a babe [spiritually immature].
14  But strong meat [solid food] belongeth to them that are of full age [mature], even those who by reason of use [exercised in the Word and Law of God] have their senses [discernment] exercised [train; workout; disciplined exercise] to discern both good and evil [moral and immoral].”

anorexic ChristiansFailure to thrive” is the malady of the 21st century church.   Although we live in a day of mass communication and modern technology has put within our reach opportunities of studying and hearing God’s Word taught 24\7; the reality is there is a gross ignorance of the scriptures.  Like the 1st century, there are Christians who should be faithful students and teachers of the Bible, but are content with being spoon-fed the puree of elementary truths in churches more focused on entertaining the masses than the faithful exposition of God’s Word.

A spiritually anorexic Christian is the portrait of 21st century Christianity in America!  No wonder sin and lawless liberty abounds within our churches; we have fostered a generation of carnal Christians who demand pandering because they are spiritual babies desensitized to sin by their ignorance of the Truth!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Gender Roles and Spiritual Synergy

Monday, October 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 33-36

We come today to the closing chapters of the Book of Numbers.  It is fitting that Numbers 33 begins with a look back at the providences of the LORD and His compassion on the twelve tribes of Israel.

The sovereignty of God is one of the great spiritual truths we take from this historical review of God’s providences.  From Israel’s triumphant exodus out of Egypt following the tenth plague (33:3-7), through the midst of the Red Sea (33:8), to the starts and stops of the nation’s forty-year journey in the wilderness and the LORD’s miraculous provision of water and food along the way (33:9-37).  Suddenly and unceremoniously we read:

Numbers 33:38-39 – And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month. 39  And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor.

The record of Aaron’s death at the threshold of the Promise Land reminds us a whole generation had died in the wilderness because they refused to trust the LORD and enter into the land He promised Israel forty-years before.  With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, all perished short of the journey’s destination.

The LORD promised Israel a fertile and fruitful land; however, it was a land inhabited by the Canaanites whom the people would have to drive out of the land in order to possess it (33:40, 50-54).  Israel was to destroy all the ways of the Canaanites, their idols and the high places where they worshipped.  God’s people were to be intolerant of the Canaanites in their midst, being warned their failure to drive them out would become “pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (33:55).  Indeed, Israel’s failure to fulfill God’s command would demand He do to them what He commanded them to do to the inhabitants of the land (33:56).

Numbers 34 records the boundaries of the land God promised His people.  The southern boundary (34:3-5), the western boundary (34:6), the northernmost boundary (34:7-9) and the eastern boundary (34:10-12) are determined.  The land was to be divided among the tribes by lot (34:13); this meaning God, not fate, would determine in the sight of the people their portion by tribe in the land.  Per their earlier request, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh had already received their inheritance east of the Jordan River (33:14-15).

Unlike the other tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned a portion of the land.  Instead, the Levites were apportioned forty-eight cities in the midst of the tribal lands (35:1-5).  Six of the forty-eight cities were to serve as cities of refuge to which a man accused of slaying another might flee to seek justice (35:6-34).

The Book of Numbers ends on an interesting note as the matter of inheritance is raised.  Because lands were assigned by tribes and families, there was concern what would become of tribal lands should a man’s legal heirs be his daughters (Numbers 36:1-4).  It was argued the lands assigned to a tribe would be lost should a man’s daughters marry outside their tribal bloodline.  The dilemma was solved by requiring daughters to marry within the tribe of their father (36:5-9), thereby keeping the land within the tribe.

Numbers 36 concludes with the “daughters of Zelophedad” being assured of their inheritance in the land and them submitting to the LORD’s will that they marry men within their tribal bloodline, thus securing the inheritance not only for themselves, but also for the future generations of their family (36:10-13).

The context of the matter of a man’s heirs and the rights of his daughters began in Numbers 27 and concludes in Numbers 36.  The decision that a daughter had a right of inheritance in the absence of a son was a radical one for ancient times since women were viewed as less than men in society and in matters of inheritance.  As late as the 20th and early 21st century, the majority of women in our world live in oppressive conditions; however, such is not to be the case among God’s people.

The church and believers must recognize that, though gender roles differ, a spiritual synergy between male and female, husband and wife is God’s will.  When a man accepts a woman is not his servant, but his helpmeet and companion (Genesis 2:18; Ephesians 5:25) and the woman fulfills her role following her husband’s lead (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:23-24), there is harmony, respect and peace (Ephesians 5:31-33).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith