Tag Archives: United States

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm”

September 10, 2017

A Sunday Devotional Thought from Mark 4:35-5:1

Canceling worship services this Sunday, September 10, 2017 is something I did not want to do; however, facing the uncertainty of Hurricane Irma’s direction and arrival in Tampa Bay, Hillsdale’s pastoral leadership felt it wise to not place upon our church family an expectation to leave your places of safety.

I am writing this devotional knowing I will miss the opportunity to worship, sing, and study God’s Word with you this Sunday, but purposing to remind you the LORD gives peace to those who put their faith in Him, even in the midst of storms.  Storms, trials and troubles are, after all, our lot because we live in a sin cursed world.

The focus of this Sunday devotional is Mark 4:35-5:1.   Jesus had been teaching parables throughout the day and when the crowd became too large and pressed upon Him, He sat in a fishing boat and taught them near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other side, some seven miles away.  Lying down in the boat, Jesus slept.

Although named a Sea, the body of water known as the Sea of Galilee is a large lake, only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide.  This body of water; however, is notorious for violent storms that without warning turn the lake into a raging sea.

Lying 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round, much like our own Tampa Bay.   Encircled by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift.  To the north is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Hermon whose melting snows feed the tributaries that form the Jordan River, running southward into the Sea of Galilee and finally into the Dead Sea.  Cold winds from mountain peaks in the north drift down through hillsides funneling cold air into the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.  It is a storm such as this we find the disciples and Jesus.

Luke writes, “as they sailed He [Jesus] fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy” (Luke 8:23).  Matthew writes of the same incident, “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

The magnitude of the storm is evident when we remember at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman on the Sea of Galilee; however, not even veteran fishermen were able to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.  Cold winds whipped up the waves threatening to overwhelm the ship while exhausted disciples fought to keep the vessel afloat.  Finally, when all seemed lost, we read, “they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Master, master, we perish…” (Luke 8:23-24).

Physically and emotionally exhausted, the disciples realized they could not save themselves and cried out to Jesus: “Master [lit. – Teacher], carest though not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)

Embodied in that question is sadly, a revelation of their lack of faith and understanding of the LORD.   In their distress, they questioned the LORD’s compassion, “Carest thou not” (Mark 4:38).  Years later, Peter would write, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

It was not a lack of compassion, but a lack of faith that was the problem.  The disciples viewed the storm as a challenge and threat to their physical well-being.  The LORD was not surprised by the storm, nor overwhelmed; He had a far greater purpose for the storm…a lesson in faith.

Mark 4:39-40 – “And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40  And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith and their failure to trust Him.   When He rebuked the storm and the winds immediately ceased and the water was stilled, “they feared exceedingly [terrfied], and said [lit. kept saying] one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)

They had heard Him teach, but did not know Him.  Witnessed His miracles, but failed to understand His divine power and nature.  What manner of man is this?

The disciples should have known the man sleeping in the hindermost part of the boat and whose command, “Peace Be Still” the winds and waves obeyed was no mere man…He was Jesus, the Son of God, Creator.

King David wrote of the LORD, “Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people” (Psalm 65:7).

Another psalmist wrote, “O Lord God of host….Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8-9).

Many reading this Sunday devotional are in the midst of a very real storm.

My church family in Tampa Bay is awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  Many in Houston are nigh overwhelmed by the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.  Some are in storms deeply personal in nature…a crisis of health, problems at home, in marriage or a financial crisis.   Many are ill-prepared for storms because their faith is anchored on a shallow, unbibilical theology duping them to believe “Something good is going to happen!”

Friend, God does not promise to spare us from trouble or trials; however, He promises to be with us!  Before ascending to heaven Jesus promised His disciples, “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b).

What spiritual benefits can we derive from storms?

Storms remind us we are weak and incapable of saving ourselves.  Storms are opportunities to know God personally and intimately.  Storms invite us to turn our focus from oursevles to the LORD.   The disciples experienced what David as shepherd wrote, “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

I assure you, the safest place in the world is in the will of God and yes, He sometimes leads you into the midst of storms!

I close inviting you to listen to Evangelist Ben Everson singing, What Manner of Man Is his?”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Justice Falters When The Ungodly Sit In Judgment”

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 19

Today’s devotional commentary is from Proverbs 19 and focuses on one proverb from the chapter, Proverbs 19:28.

Proverbs 19:28  “An ungodly witness [i.e. false witness given in court] scorneth [mocks] judgment [justice; due process]: and the mouth [speech] of the wicked [ungodly; morally wrong; guilty] devoureth [swallows up; destroys] iniquity [sin; wickedness; trouble].

Once the envy of the world, America’s judicial system is compromised by lawmakers who have no moral compass, law enforcement who sometimes show a lack of restraint, lawyers who distort matters of law, judges who have no interest in justice and a citizenry that encumbered with a seared conscience and openly scorns moral absolutes!

Lies, deceit and distortions have become the modus operandi of American politics and the distinct lines of right and wrong erased by a nation that tolerates injustice and is intolerant of God’s Laws.   The innocent suffer when a judicial system tolerates lies, encourages compromise, exacts injustice and rewards criminal behavior.

Are you wondering what is happening to America?  Why is our nation decaying spiritually, morally and financially?  Why corruption and violence are tearing the fabric of our society?

You need look only at who is in authority:

Proverbs 29:2  “When the righteous [just; lawful] are in authority [lit. grow great; are many; increase], the people [nation] rejoice [joyful; cheers; happy]: but when the wicked [immoral; ungodly; lawbreakers] beareth rule [have dominion; govern; reign], the people mourn [sighs; groans; sorrows].”

 There is little hope for America until “We the people” elect leaders who are good, honest and upright. 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: America is Not Too Big to Fail!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Jeremiah 47-52

Today’s scripture reading brings us to the conclusion of the prophecies of Jeremiah in this book that bears his name.  These final chapters, Jeremiah 47-52, predict the devastating invasion of Babylon’s army (“waters rise up out of the north” – Jeremiah 47:2) and the forthcoming destruction of the nations that were Israel’s ancient adversaries.

The annihilation of the Philistines (Jeremiah 47), the Moabites (Jeremiah 48), the Ammonites and Edomites (Jeremiah 49); even the destruction of Babylon (Jeremiah 50-51) is all predicted.   We can take many lessons from the judgment and destruction suffered by those proud nations that resisted the God of Israel and made themselves enemies of His people.   The Sovereignty of God over nations and the eradication of Israel’s ancient foes is the great lesson we take from Jeremiah’s prophetic revelations.

Jeremiah 52 records the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah.   The sins and rebellion of the people had exhausted God’s longsuffering and He determined to deliver Judah for judgment.   Jeremiah’s record of the suffering of God’s people includes famine, the captivity of king Zedekiah, the slaying of his sons, his eyes “put out” and his imprisonment until he died.   Jeremiah’s book concludes with the king’s palace and the Temple being plundered  (52:12-23) and the people of Judah led away captive to Babylon (52:24-30).

Some closing thoughts on the nations of the world and the sovereignty of God: Politicians and societal experts of the 19th century aspired to “Utopia”, a world of peace and justice where humanity lived in perfect harmony and every man pursued the common good. Unfortunately for those idealists, their ideology of atheism and the good in man was proven false by the atrocities of war and oppression of humanity in the 20th century. From the holocaust and atrocities committed by the Armies of the Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan) to the crimes against humanity committed by Communist regimes (particularly the old Soviet Union, Vietnam and China), modern nations prove they are no more humane than their ancient counterparts.

One would think any aspirations for “Utopia” that survived the 20th century have surely been extinguished by the barbarity committed by the followers of militant Islam (ISIS, Taliban and Hamas) in the dawning of the 21st century; however, such is not the case.  Crucifixion, stoning, beheading, drowning, fiery deaths, poisonings and mass killings in the name of religion and the perversity and wickedness of modern man are on full display in the Middle East and around the world.

Babylon’s mighty army dominated the ancient world and her city walls appeared impenetrable; however, God declared war and against that nation (Jeremiah 50-51) and Babylon  faltered under the weight of her sin and fell.

Citizens of the United States would do well to remember the LORD bears the sword of judgment (Jeremiah 47:6-7) and no people or nation is beyond His justice or too big to fail.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Are the Hordes of ISIS the Sons of Esau?

isisMonday, March 6, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 36-39

I am afraid Genesis 36 holds little to get excited about for the average believer.  This chapter is the birth record of the sons born of Esau’s lineage, the son of Isaac and brother of Jacob.  The names of Esau’s sons and their titles, “Duke”, meaning chief, reveal much about Esau and why God chose Jacob over him.

Although the sons of Esau shared a physical lineage with the Hebrew people, tracing their ancestry to Isaac and Abraham, they, like their father Esau, did not value their spiritual heritage nor have a share in God’s covenant promises with the descendants of Abraham.  The sons of Esau became the fathers of kingdoms we recognize in the Scriptures as the nomadic tribes of the Arabian Desert. Their descendants became enemies of Israel and the basis of a bitter strife that continues in the Middle East to our day.edom

Esau had become a wealthy and powerful man (36:6-8) who, following their father Isaac’s death (35:29), chose to keep peace with his brother Jacob and remained in Seir (32:3).  Seir, located in Edom, was the land on Israel’s southern border stretching from the salt marshes of the Dead Sea eastward to the desert (36:6-8).

We read an important statement in Genesis 36:8, “Esau is Edom”, meaning he was the father of a people who would become known as the Edomites.  Two of the three wives of Esau were Canaanite in origin and a grief to Isaac and Rebekah because they worshipped idols (Genesis 27:46).  Esau’s third wife was an Ishmaelite, a descendant of Ishmael, a son of Abraham born to the Egyptian handmaid Hagar (Genesis 28:8-9).

The Edomites, the descendants of Esau, hold important significance in our study of Israel in the Old Testament.  When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, the Edomites refused to allow them to pass through their land (Numbers 20:18-21).  The Edomites were adversaries of King Saul and King David (1 Kings 11:14-16).  When King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Israel, the Edomites became allies with Babylon and participated in the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.jacob-and-esau

The birth of Amalek (36:12), the father of the Amalekites and the grandson of Esau, marks the birth of another people who would become enemies of Israel.   It was the Amalekites who, during Israel’s years in the wilderness, fought against Joshua and Israel while Aaron and Hur held up the hands of Moses during the battle (Exodus 17:8-16).  We read in 1 Samuel 15 that King Saul warred against the Amalekites.

Why did God have the names of Esau’s lineage recorded in Genesis 36 and why is it important to 21st century believers?

I believe the roots of the conflict and strife we are witnessing in the Middle East is traced to a people whose ancestry is that of Esau in origin.  We identify the enemies of modern Israel as Palestinians, Muslims, proponents of Islam, and the followers of the prophet Mohammed.   In the most basic sense, they are all sons of Esau.

I invite you to take some time and read the judgments of God prophesied against Edom in the Book of Obadiah, in particular Obadiah 1:1-4, 6-7, 10-16.

Obadiah 1:1-4 – “The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour [tidings; report] from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her [Edom] in battle.petra

2 Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised.

3 The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock [Petra, capital city of Edom], whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?

4 Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.

Obadiah 1:6-7 – “How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up! 7 All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him.”

israelObadiah 1:10-15 – “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob [Jews; descendants of Jacob] shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.

11 In the day that thou stoodest on the other side [side of the enemies], in the day that the strangers [foreigners; Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans] carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them [Esau’s descendants were numbered among Israel’s enemies].

12 But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother [descendants of Jacob] in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.

13 Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity;

14 Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress.

obadiah15 For the day of the LORD [prophetically, often refers to the Tribulation] is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. 16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Standing at the Precipice of God’s Judgment

Friday, January 6, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Isaiah 1-6

The Book of Isaiah is the first prophetic book in our yearlong “Read-Thru the Bible” challenge. The prophet Isaiah lived in the 8th century BC during the final days of Israel before the armies of Nebuchadnezzar conquered the nation and the Jews were taken captive to Babylon.  His prophetic ministry was directed to a rebellious people who had maintained an outward formality of religion; however, whose hearts had turned to idols and rejected God and His Law.

Isaiah stands out as the foremost among the Old Testament prophets; however, in his lifetime his people viewed him as a traitor. He was a fearless preacher, courageously confronting the sins of Judah’s kings and boldly calling the Jews to repent.  His preaching was powerful, his style soaring, and his prophesies vivid.

isaiah-5-20Isaiah foretold the judgment of God in a series of “Woes” pronounced against the nation should the people not repent of their sins (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). In a parallel to our own day, the first “woe” condemned the nation for rejecting God’s Laws leaving the people with the dilemma of no moral absolutes. We read:

Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Such is the condition of our nation and world. I will illustrate with one example, “Gay Marriage”. Our nation’s leaders, judicial courts, secular schools and liberal churches have rejected God’s definition of marriage, condemned those who embrace the biblical and historical definition of marriage between one man and one woman, and now promotes the lunacy of men marrying men and women marrying women (Romans 1:26-27)! Condemning moral virtue, our society has embraced wickedness and depravity.

A second “woe” describes the people as unteachable.

Isaiah 5:21 – “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent [wise, shrewd] in their own sight!”

Paul’s letter to Christians in Rome described the same in these words, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22).

A third “woe” illuminated the narcissistic nature of the people and the “pay to play” sin of 21st century politicians.

Isaiah 5:22-23 – “Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine [drunkards], and men of strength to mingle strong drink [boasting of their drunkenness]23 Which justify [acquit] the wicked for reward [bribe], and take away the righteousness [innocence; justice, rights and liberties] of the righteous from him!”moral-absolutes

I close with a fourth “woe” stated by Isaiah of himself.  Shaken by a vision of the LORD sitting on His heavenly throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), the conviction of his own sinfulness overwhelmed the prophet:

Isaiah 6:5“…Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

When God asked, “Who shall I send [i.e. to preach to the nation], and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered God’s call, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Prophetic Portrait of World War III

ww-iiiWednesday, January 4, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 1-2

Psalm 1 is a contrast of two lives: the “blessed” man (Psalm 1:1-3) who walks in the way of God’s Law and prospers and the “ungodly” who defy God, oppose His Law, and “shall perish” (Psalm 1:4-6).

Psalm 2 is known as a “Messianic Psalm” and is a prophetic utterance regarding the person and Second Coming of the Messiah Lord Jesus Christ.  Notice the opening verses of Psalm 2 are a prophetic portrait of a World War that is yet to come (Psalm 2:1-3).

Psalm 2:1-3 – “Why do the heathen [the nations of the earth] rage, and the people imagine [ponder; speak; declare] a vain thing [empty; worthless]?
2  The kings of the earth set
[stand; withstand] themselves, and the rulers take counsel [consult] together, against the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God], and against his anointed [Messiah], saying,
3  Let us break
[break down; pluck off; tear away] their bands [bonds; chains; shackles] asunder [break down; tear away], and cast away [cast down; fling] their cords [ropes; chains] from us.”

armageddonUnlike World War I and World War II that pitted the nations of the earth against one another, the war described in these verses gather the armies of the nations of the earth against God’s people (“His anointed”) and the King of Heaven (“the LORD”). (Psalm 2:2)

What is God’s response to man’s universal rebellion?

Psalm 2:4 – “4  He that sitteth [dwells; inhabits; abides] in the heavens shall laugh [scorn; mock; hold in derision]: the Lord [God] shall have them in derision [mock; scoff; sneer; deride].”

What folly that man would dare think he is able to assail the throne of the King of Heaven! The psalmist declares the Son of God, the only “begotten” of God the Father, will reign in Jerusalem [“my holy hill of Zion”] (Psalm 2:6-7).

Psalm 2 concludes with an invitation to sinners and a promise to saints:

Psalm 2:10-12 – “Be wise [understand; prudent; act wisely] now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed [disciplined; corrected; taught; warned], ye judges of the earth. 11  Serve [do; work; worship] the LORD with fear [dread; reverence], and rejoice [be glad; delight] with trembling [fear]. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry [displeasure; enraged], and ye perish [die; fall] from the way [journey; path], when his wrath is kindled [burns; consumed by fire] but a little. Blessed [Happy; i.e. prosperous] are all they that put their trust [confidence; hope; i.e. find refuge] in him.”

psalm-2-12My friend, the world is raging and the rulers of the kingdoms of the earth give little regard to the God of Heaven; however, God in His grace is extending an invitation to lost sinners to humble themselves, hear His Word, and turn to Him.

The saints of God rest in this promise, “…Blessed [Happy; i.e. prosperous] are all they that put their trust [confidence; hope; i.e. find refuge] in him” (Psalm 2:12).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Israel’s Right to Her Own Land

unTuesday, January 3, 2017

Daily Bible reading assignment: Joshua 1-5

Recent national and international events have stoked the fires of animosity for Israel as a nation and the Jews as a people. A recent vote of the United Nations Security Council condemned Israel for settlements on lands deemed by the UN as illegally occupied territories, lands captured by Israel when Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan attacked her in 1967 during a conflict known as the “Six Day War”.   Although the United States had the power to veto the resolution condemning Israel, the Obama administration abstained from the vote and in effect gave tacit support of the condemnation.israels-enemies

The intrigue of the debate is fascinating and tragic when one realizes that historically there is not and has never been a nation of Palestine or a Palestinian people.  The Muslim population in today’s Israel is for the most part Syrian and Lebanese.  The irony is some claiming a land of Palestine deny the historical claim of the Jews who occupied the land as their own for millenniums.

In today’s devotional (Joshua 1-5), God set the boundaries of the land of Israel for the Hebrew people. We read:

Joshua 1:1-41  Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,
2  Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
3  Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
4  From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast [boundaries].

tribes-of-israelGod defined Israel’s boundaries as the mass of land between Lebanon in the north and the “wilderness” or desert of Arabia in the south; from the river of Euphrates in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.  Defined as the “land of the Hittites”, an ancient people known elsewhere as the Canaanites, Israel was to drive the Hittites out of the land, a people who would eventually be assimilated into the tribes of Arabia.

 

While all the ancient tribes and nations are a footnote in history, a testimony of God’s person and sovereignty over the nations of the earth is the existence of an ancient, distinct people we know today as Jews.  Israel’s existence and prosperity, however, was dependent upon the people obeying God’s Law.

Joshua 1:88  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Sadly, the testimony of history is that the nation of Israel failed to keep God’s Law.  Israel’s existence in the 21st century is a testimony of God’s longsuffering and, in spite of Israel’s rebellion, His promise to keep His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:7; 17:1-8).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith