Tag Archives: Stewardship

Reminder before Hurricane Irma: “The World Always Has Room for One More Servant”

September 9, 2017

Scripture Reading – John 13-15

My heart is blessed to observe our “Divided United States” pulling together as neighbor helps and encourages neighbor throughout the State of Florida.   With the exception of a few fringe anarchists, when lives are at risk the majority of Americans set aside political differences, come together and serve others.

Foot washing was a cultural practice in Jesus’ day as households in the first century lacked plumbing and running water.  Wealthy citizens of towns and villages went to public baths to bathe and, after walking home on dusty streets, were met by a household servant who would wash their feet in a basin of water and dry them with a towel.

Carrying forward the theme of serving others, today’s scripture reading is John 13-15; however, I am limiting my focus to John 13:1-17 and the beautiful portrait of humility and love seen in our LORD washing the feet of His disciples.  The setting of John 13 is the night Judas betrayed Jesus and His disciples deserted Him fleeing into the night.

Pride and a lack of humility prevented the disciples from taking up the task of washing the feet of the LORD or their peers.  Rising from the Passover feast, Jesus took up a towel and began washing the feet of the disciples, among them Judas who had arranged to betray the LORD to His enemies that night (John 13:1-2).   What an act of grace!  It is one thing to stoop to wash the feet of another; however, to wash the feet of a traitor is grace (John 13:2, 11)!

Although an awkward moment, the disciples allowed Jesus to wash their feet.  Peter, however, piously protested Jesus’ act of servitude (John 13:6-11).

John 13:14-15If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Consider three spiritual lessons in this brief devotional.  The first is Salvation: Washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus Christ taught them He alone can forgive and spiritually cleanse sinners of sin.  The disciples believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; however, not all believed.  Judas rejected Jesus Christ and his lack of faith forever damned his unbelieving soul (John 13:10-11).

Sanctification is the second spiritual lesson.  Jesus washing the feet of His disciples reminds us that a believer needs daily cleaning from sin.  The apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Our third spiritual lesson is that of Service—serving others (John 13:1, 5, 12-16).  To bear a servant’s towel requires three things in my estimation.  The first, “persevering love”.  We read of the LORD, “…having loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end [continually; to the uttermost]” (John 13:1).

The second requirement for those who earn a servant’s towel is “unpretentious humility”–Jesus “began to wash the disciples’ feet” – (John 13:5).  Paul exhorted the believers in Philippi to follow Christ’s example of humility.

Philippians 2:5-7 – “Let this mind [attitude] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God [possessing all the attributes of God], thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation [setting aside the glory and dignity that was His], and took upon him the form of a servant [slave], and was made in the likeness of men [became man]:”

Finally, to earn a servant’s towel requires “enduring commitment” to follow Jesus’ example.  Jesus commanded His followers:

John 13:14-15If I then, your Lord and Master [teacher], have washed your feet; ye also ought [duty, obligation] to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Hillsdale family and friends, I do not know what trials Hurricane Irma may bring us in the next 48 hours; however, I close with a challenge for you to consider three characteristics of a servant:

The first, a servant is proactive and seeks opportunities to serve others.

The second, a servant meets needs others disregard.

The third, a servant serves when others falter.

The world will always make room for one more servant.  Will you be that servant?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“The LORD Bless You and Keep You”

Monday, August 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 5-8

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” plan brings us today to Numbers 5-8.  As noted in an earlier commentary, the early chapters of Numbers are for the purpose of organizing hundreds of thousands of men and women who for 400 years knew only the burdens of slavery.   God tasked Moses with the responsibility of bringing discipline to the Twelve Tribes of Israel and organizing them into a body that will become a nation.

Numbers 1:2-54 recorded a census of able-bodied males, 20 years and older, who were able to go to war (Numbers 1:2-54).   Numbers 2 provided an organizational map of Israel’s encampment with the Tabernacle representing the presence of God being the central focus of the tribes.   Numbers 3 records a census of the Levites, the priestly tribe and their responsibility for the Tabernacle is found in Numbers 4.

While the Commandments of the LORD are recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, the specifics for addressing disease and sin in the midst of the people is given in Numbers 5.  God desired that His people be a clean and holy people and the people were to be intolerant of sin in their midst.  Contagious diseases like leprosy were not trifled with and sin was confessed and restitution made where another had been injured (5:1-10).

Because marriage is a holy covenant between a man and woman instituted by God, the nation was intolerant of adultery and an adulterous man and woman would be put to death (5:11-31).

The law of the Nazarites is instituted in Numbers 6.  A man or woman taking the vow of a Nazarite was voluntarily setting themselves apart from lawful liberties and dedicating themselves to the LORD (6:1-8).  Because a Nazarite dedicated themselves to the LORD, they denied themselves the pleasures of “wine and strong drink…vinegar…[and] grapes” (6:3).   As an outward sign of his devotion to God, a Nazarite male did not cut his hair (6:5) and were forbidden to touch dead bodies (6:6-8).

Numbers 7 records the dedication of the Tabernacle, the altar, instruments and vessels employed in offering sacrifices and the sacrifices brought by the tribal leaders of Israel (Numbers 7:1-89).

Numbers 8:1-4 takes us into the inter-sanctum of the Tabernacle and the area that was veiled from all but the high priest and known as the “holy of holies”.  Within this sacred place there was a golden altar, a table, and a golden lampstand with seven candles.

While Aaron and his sons served God as priests, the tribe of Levi was consecrated to assist the priests and serve the people when they came to worship and offer sacrifices (Numbers 8:5-26).  The leaders of the tribes put their hands on the Levites identifying them as the substitute who would serve the LORD on their behalf (8:9-11).   Rather than the eldest son of each tribal family being set apart to serve as priest for the family, God chose the Levites to serve on their behalf (8:14-18).

I close this devotional acknowledging much of what you read might leave you at a loss for a personal application.  Consider the following lessons:

1) The LORD wants those who minister before His people to be a holy, consecrated people.  Although none are perfect or sinless, the church should hold its ministers, pastors and teachers to the highest standard knowing God would not require less.

2) Whether a Nazarite or a Levite, the privilege of serving the LORD required consecration and sacrifice.  I remind you God requires the same of us all when Paul writes:

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.”

I close today’s commentary with a prayer for God to bless you, a prayer know as the Aaronic Blessing:

Numbers 6:24-26 – “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25  The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26  The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Count Your Days and Your Blessings!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 90-92

Today’s reading in Psalms, Psalms 90, 91 and 92, are among my favorite in the Book of Psalms; however, for the sake of brevity and application, my focus will rest upon the first.

Psalms 90 is a prayer and song of praise authored by Moses and is therefore the oldest of the psalms.   The eternality of God as Creator (90:2) and the temporalness of man’s earthly life (90:3) are contrasted in the opening verses of Psalm 90.

When I was young I did not grasp fully the meaning of Psalm 90:4 – “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night”; however, I have come to know all to well the fleeting of days, months, years and life itself.

When I was younger and anticipating milestones of life and achievement, time seemed to stand still; however, now that I am older, I realize a lifetime might pass and seem “as a watch in the night” (90:4) and our life “is soon cut off, and we fly away” (90:10).

Less someone be tempted to wallow in self-pity and sorrow for the years that are past and cannot be reclaimed, Moses sets forth a principle that should guide our future:

So teach [help us to know and understand] us to number [make them count] our days [time; whether our youth or old age], that we may apply [give; attain] our hearts [understanding; i.e. thoughts] unto wisdom [discernment; i.e. wise in decisions and choices] (Psalm 90:12).

How different our lives might be if we knew the day God has appointed for us to die!   No doubt there are many things we treat as critical and consume us that in the scheme of life are insignificant at best.   The same is true of moments and opportunities we give little thought to and treat as trivial that should be treasured.   Whether we are young or old, every day is a gift of God’s loving grace and to be numbered and treasured.

Friend, let us set aside pettiness and treasure the life and opportunities God will give us this day.  Let us love the LORD and love our neighbor. Let us express by our words and actions, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“The Wise Man and His Relationships”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 11-12

Today’s devotional reading is Proverbs 11 and Proverbs 12.  My focus today will be Proverbs 11:1; however, I invite you to refer to my devotional commentaries in the Book of Proverbs on my “Heart of a Shepherd” website to amplify individual verses in today’s scripture reading.

Like many chapters in the Book of Proverbs, chapter 11 reads like a shotgun scatters pellets…a plethora of truths that stand individually on their own without the necessity of being one coherent progression of thought.  Our focus will be one proverb, Proverbs 11:1 which addresses the manner of people God would have us to be.

Proverbs 11:1- A false balance [deceit or crookedness] is abomination [shameful] to the LORD: but a just [right and honest] weight [having and exercising integrity] is his delight.

The subject of verse 1 is Integrity [adhering to a moral code or absolute standard]. In our day, government agencies certify weights and volume in goods and services. One agency certifies when you purchase a gallon of gas you get a gallon of gas.  Another agency certifies when you purchase food items at the grocery store you are getting the weight and volume stated on the packaging.

For the sake of illustration, let’s put the setting of verse 1 in a butcher shop where meat is cut, weighed, wrapped and stamped with a description that certifies the cut and price of the meat based upon weight.

The use of unjust or inaccurate weights by dishonest shop owners has been the pattern of many down through the centuries. In our butcher shop analogy, a butcher, using a “false balance”, misleads a customer by presenting a cut of meat as weighing more than it really does…an act that is “abomination to the Lord”.  Solomon reminds his son that God delights in men of integrity…men who commit to being honest; men whose word is as binding as a signed contract.

The application of verse 1 goes beyond the matter of weights and balances —at issue is the character of the whole man [after all, the literal meaning of “integrity” is completeness or wholeness].

Lesson – Dishonesty in word and action is an abomination to the Lord. He accepts nothing less than truth and sincerity.

Are you honest, sincere and forthright in business? Are you a person of your word?

God is delighted when His people walk with honesty and integrity.  I challenge you—be that man! 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Beware Wolves in the Midst of Sheep

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Luke 19-20

Today’s devotional reading brings us to Jesus’ last days before Judas’ betrayal, the abandonment of His disciples and His crucifixion.

Luke 19 is rich in much that characterized our LORD’s earthly ministry.  His love for sinners, seen in the story of His meal in the home of Zacchaeus, a despised tax collector of Jericho (19:1-10); His challenge to be faithful and vigilant in His parable of the pounds (19:11027); and His love and sorrow for the citizens of Jerusalem knowing God’s judgment would come on the people and city after they rejected Him (19:28-44).

We find Jesus teaching in the Temple in the opening verses of Luke 20.  His antagonists, the religious leaders of Judaism, confronted Him in the Temple demanding by whose authority He performed miracles and taught the people (20:1-2).  Our beloved LORD, evidencing divine wisdom and insight into the heart of sinners answered their question with a question: “I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: 4  The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?” (Luke 20:3b-4). When the Jewish leaders refused to answer, Jesus responded, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (Luke 20:8).

Turning from hypocrites masquerading as devout religious men, Jesus taught the people the Parable of the Vineyard (20:9-19) and told the story of servants laboring in their master’s vineyard while he was away on a prolonged journey.  When the master sent trusted servants to collect the profit he was due from the vineyard, those laboring in the vineyard refused them and sent them away.  Finally, the owner of the vineyard sent his son (20:13); however, the laborers in the vineyard rose up and slew him (20:14-16).

Quoting Psalm 118:22, Jesus made it clear the application of that parable was those who rejected the son would themselves be rejected (20:17-18).   The chief priests and scribes realized the parable described their own wicked designs against Jesus and renewed their plot to kill Him (20:19-26).

I have had some ask over the years about the relationship of husband and wife and if they are bound in heaven.  This is an important concern to those who have, whether by death or divorce, had more than one husband or wife.   I believe the saints of God will know one another in heaven and am also convinced there will be no marriage in heaven.  We read in Luke 20:35, “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [heaven], and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:35).

Having silenced the scribes by His answers and questions (20:39-40), Jesus warned His disciples, 46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47  Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation” (Luke 20:46-47).

As it was then, so it is today–religious leaders, rather than serve the people as shepherds and servants, often burden their churches with an expectation they should be favored while they ravage the poorest and weakest to enrich themselves and make a pretense of religious piety.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Workshop”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 10

The following study is taken in part from my devotional commentary post on the Book of Proverbs dated December 10, 2014.

Today’s study in proverbs features what I will call three “stand alone proverbs” – three proverbial statements of “Uncommon Common Sense” communicating three distinct observations.

Proverbs 10:15  “The rich man’s wealth [property; possessions; savings] is his strong city [a fortified city]: the destruction [ruin; dismay; terror] of the poor [needy; helpless] is their poverty.”

“You didn’t build that!”, was an adage employed by liberal politicians in the 2012 election cycle in the United States.   Hoping to stir up class envy, the statement taunted the successful while dismissing the sacrifices and risks taken by employers and business owners.  I accept the statement if the intent is to acknowledge divine providence; however, an ideology that taunts hardworking entrepreneurs, spawns an expansive welfare state, inevitably makes citizens debtors and slaves of big government.   How tragic!   While excoriating the successful, the poor are left weak, dependent and one crisis from destitution!

Proverbs 10:15 is a statement of fact—a rich man finds comfort and security in his wealth.   In the same way citizens of a medieval city found refuge behind the walls of a city, a rich man finds security in riches providentially provided to him by God.   By contrast, the working poor are often a crisis away from desperation (an incentive to be a “saver” and not a “spender” or “debtor”).

Proverbs 10:16 – “The labour  [wages; reward] of the righteous [just; law-abiding] tendeth to life [strength; satisfaction]: the fruit [result; reaping] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] to sin [punishment; i.e. leads to greater sin].”

Though the curse of sin left man laboring for food by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3:19),  the reward of an honest day’s labor brings its own satisfaction.   I am not sure who to credit with the quote, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; however, there is a lot of truth in that statement.   The prevalence of depression in our society is, I believe, directly related to the gross amount of leisure time we enjoy as a society.  Too few of us come to the end of a day and enjoy the reward of having accomplished anything that is lasting!

Proverbs 10:17 – “He is in the way [path] of life that keepeth [heeds] instruction: but he that refuseth reproof [refuses to hear and heed correction] erreth.”

Solomon continues a common theme in verse 17—God blesses a man who heeds correction and rebuke; however, a rebel will inevitably follow a path to his own destruction.

As Solomon challenged his son to take the path of righteousness, it is the duty and responsibility of parents and spiritual leaders to challenge men and women with the same enduring truths from God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2)!

Two questions to ponder: What path are you taking?  Is your heart open to correction? 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Keys to Success

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 75-77

Our scripture reading today is three psalms, Psalms 75, 76 and 77 all ascribed to Asaph as the author (as are Psalms 73-83), a priest and musician in the court of king David (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7).  Psalm 75 will be my focus for today’s devotional commentary.

Although we know the author was Asaph, we are not told the occasion that inspired the writing of this psalm of praise.  Given the content of the psalm, it is my speculation it was written following a battle or time of conflict.

We take several spiritual lessons away from Psalm 75.  The first, God is the object of our praise and thanksgiving (75:1). The second, God promises He is a righteous judge (75:2).

The third lesson, when you find yourself living in uncertain, shaky times, rest assure God is not alarmed and will “bear up the pillars” (i.e. the supports) of the earth beneath you (75:3).

We find a warning to boastful fools tempted to “blow their own horn” (75:4b-5a) and to sing their own praises in Psalm 75:4-7.   Such fools are proud, celebrating and promoting themselves, their interests and agenda apart from God’s blessings.  The LORD warns, don’t play the fool and stiffen your neck against the LORD (75:5)

Psalms 75:6 stresses a spiritual principle God’s people, especially their leaders, should heed: “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.”

Men crave promotion and positions of authority where they are lauded with praise; however, a wise man remembers whatever promotion might come his way is an act of God’s grace.

After all, “God is the judge [governor; the final dispenser of justice]: He putteth down [humbles; abases; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts; raises up] another” (Psalms 75:7).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith