Tag Archives: Stewardship

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

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