Tag Archives: United States

Pay Day Someday! (2 Chronicles 10-12)

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 10-12

You will find that today’s Scripture reading in 2 Chronicles parallels events that are recorded in our preceding reading assignment (1 Kings 12-14).

2 Chronicles 10 – A Tragic Time in Israel’s History

Following the death of King Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:30-31), his son Rehoboam ascended the throne and all Israel came to Shechem to make him king (10:1).

Unfortunately, all was not well in Israel. Though not yet physically divided, the nation was spiritually duplicitous and Solomon’s “heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4). The LORD had warned Solomon that his failure to keep the Law and Commandments would be punished by Israel being divided by one of his own servants. The identity of that servant is revealed as Solomon’s old adversary, Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 10:2-3).

Evidencing the foolishness of his youth and inexperience, Rehoboam faced the grievances of Israel, lacking both grace and humility (10:4-5).  Rejecting the counsel of his father’s older and wiser advisors (10:6-7), Rehoboam heeded the counsel of his peers and the king’s harshness provoked the people to rebel (10:8-14).

Remembering the LORD is sovereign, we read, “So the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God” (10:15).  The ten northern tribes of Israel, after hearing the king’s words, “went to their tents” (10:16) and “rebelled against the house of David” (10:19).

2 Chronicles 11 – A Nation Divided

Under Jeroboam, the ten northern tribes became known as Israel and the tribes of the south, Judah and Benjamin, became one nation known as Judah. King Rehoboam had thought to raise an army to seek the unification of Israel through war; however, the LORD sent a prophet named Shemaiah and deterred him from provoking war against his brethren (11:1-4). Dissuaded from civil war, Rehoboam set about building fortresses (11:4-12) to strengthen Judah against the battles that would be provoked by a divided kingdom.

2 Chronicles 11 illustrates the swift decline of a nation that rejects God (11:13-15).

We read “the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts [borders; i.e. cities and lands in Israel]… and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off [i.e. cut them off] from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD” (11:13-14).

True to the character of a godless politician, Jeroboam consolidated the northern ten tribes not only politically, but spiritually. He instituted a new religion worshipping calves, ordaining “priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15). Thankfully we read that there were a few left in Israel who “set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel” and they continued to worship in Jerusalem (11:16).

For three years, Rehoboam exercised the wisdom passed on to him by his father; however, it was his father’s proclivity to lust and immorality that proved to be his own destructive pattern of sin (11:17-23).

2 Chronicles 12 – The Menace of Pride and Arrogance

Comfortable in his palace and with Judah secured and strengthened, Rehoboam “forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him” (12:1-2).

The LORD brought Shishak, king of Egypt against Judah. The prophet Shemaiah declared that the sins of Rehoboam were to be punished by the LORD delivering his kingdom over to serve Egypt (12:1-5). Hearing the warning of the LORD’s displeasure, the king and his leaders humbled themselves before the LORD, Who in His mercy, spared Judah from destruction (12:5-8).

Adding to Judah’s humiliation, Shishak removed “shields of gold which Solomon had made” from the walls of the palace (12:9).  Rehoboam, perhaps to save face in front of his people, contented himself with a counterfeit of the glory that once belonged to his kingdom, and “made shields of brass” to replace the “shields of gold” (12:10).

What a tragedy! Where shields of gold once reflected God’s glory and blessings upon Israel, shields of brass, cheap imitations made of tin and copper, masked the miserable state of the nation!

I close pondering what lessons we might take from today’s Scripture.

Is it possible that, like Judah of old, our nation’s wealth and prosperity has deceived us? In the same way Rehoboam became servant to Egypt and counterfeited the loss of his “shields of gold” with brass shields, I fear we have become a nation enslaved to a mounting debt we owe to enemies committed to our own demise.

The United States has rejected the LORD, His Word, Law and Commandments. Is it possible our nation’s pursuit of the pleasures of sin has blinded us to the warnings of the evangelists of old… There is a pay day someday!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“A Prophetic Portrait of a Rebellious Nation”

June 16, 2020

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Readers,

I am not one given to self-promotion; however, there are subjects I address in the pulpit at Hillsdale that I wish were preached in every pulpit across America. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true. I find few pastors willing to confront the sins of society and honestly address the spiritual issues of our day.

I fear the majority of churches in America will never hear anything more from their pastors than a spirit of compromise and appeasement when it comes to honestly confronting and addressing the social issues that are tearing at the soul and moral fiber of the United States.

I am writing to invite you to listen to this past Sunday’s introductory sermon in the Prophetic Book of Isaiah. https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=615201554572035

You can also watch a video of the same sermon on Facebook that begins at the about the 37:00 minute mark in the service. https://www.facebook.com/hillsdalebaptistchurch/videos/642918159899564/

I encourage you to have your Bible in hand and follow me as I go systematically through Isaiah 1:1-10. I will address the moral failings of the United States, using the backdrop of the cyclical nature of the rise and fall of nations that is illustrated in God’s warning of judgment to Judah that was delivered by His prophet Isaiah.

I promise to end the sermon on an encouraging note.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Remember When Superman Symbolized Justice and “The American Way?”

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 16-18

Continuing our chronological daily reading of the Scriptures, you are invited to read Proverbs 16-18. Today’s devotional will be based on Proverbs 16:10-13.

Americans live in a republic whose laws should be as binding on her leaders as they are on common citizens.  Idealistically, no leader is above the law and the scales of justice are in no man’s favor.

In a monarchy, however, the king is the embodiment of the law and the citizens of his realm can only pray that their king is a righteous man who fears the judgment and wrath of God.

Proverbs 16:10-13 expresses four principles that serve as a guide for every leader and those he serves.

Proverbs 16:10 – “A divine sentence [decision reflecting God’s Law] is in [proceeds from; is on] the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not [does not commit trespass] in judgment [sentence; verdict].”

Kings, rulers, judges and all who are in authority are to exercise judgment being mindful that God, not man, is the ultimate authority of right and wrong.  When godly men sit in places of judgment, their hearts are able to weigh matters with the discernment God alone gives.  How is that possible?

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 – “And it shall be, when he [king] sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he [king] shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: 20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.”

The kings of Israel were to possess a copy of God’s Law written in their own hand (17:18).  The Law of God was to be a king’s daily meditation (17:19) and he was to remember he was God’s servant and a minister to his people (17:20).

Proverbs 16:11 – “A just weight [right verdict; scale] and balance [scales] are the LORD’S: all the weights [stones; measurements] of the bag are His work [labor; work of His hands].”

Lady Justice continues to serve as an international symbol of equity. She is often depicted wearing a blindfold, holding in her left hand the scales of justice, and in her right the double-edged sword of judgment.  She serves as a modern reminder of what kings were to remember: God is the final judge and arbitrator.  Israel’s king was to remember that God’s Law and the immutable principles of His holiness, grace and mercy were the final word when he executed judgment.

Proverbs 16:12 – “It is an abomination [abhorrence; loathsome; repulsive] to kings to commit [do; execute] wickedness [moral wrong]: for the throne [seat of authority and judgment] is established [fixed; firmly established; made strong] by righteousness [rightness; moral virtue].”

Proverbs 16:12 addresses the responsibility and influence of kings and all who are in authority. I believe America is in a quagmire of immorality and injustice because our leaders have forsaken the Law of God, and have no moral compass for discerning right and wrong. The decay of our strength and security as a nation has paralleled the erosion of our confidence and respect for those in authority.

Proverbs 16:13 – “Righteous [true; just] lips are the delight [desire; pleasure] of kings; and they love [desire; like] him that speaketh right [just; upright].”

The integrity of a leader may be measured by the moral character of his counselors.  Godless leaders seek counsel from those who serve their immoral ends, but godly leaders have a passion for truth and love those whose words and counsel are honest and just.

Do you desire wisdom and discernment? Study God’s Word and meditate on His Laws and Commandments.

Psalm 119:103-105 – “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104  Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. 105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale’s Sunday Memorial Day Weekend Service: “The Guidance, Protection, and Loving Care of My Shepherd”

You are invited to Hillsdale’s Sunday Memorial Day Weekend Service, this Sunday, May 24, 2020.

9:45 AM Service – Youth Pastor Justin Jarrett will speak in the Teen\Family Bible Study as he continues his series in the Book of James. This week’s study is titled, Taming Our Twisted Tongues from James 3:1-12. (Please note the entrance doors to the building will open at 9:40 AM and will be closed at 9:50 AM. Per guidelines, please go directly to the auditorium.)
10:30 AM Service – Our Memorial Day worship service will begin promptly and doors to our building will reopen at 10:15 AM and be closed at 10:45 AM. The service will open with a video tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation and be followed by the pastoral staff singing the Navy Hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.”
Pastor Smith will be continuing his “Coronavirus Series” from Psalm 23. The focus this week is Psalm 23:4, “The Guidance, Protection, and Loving Care of My Shepherd.”
The following is an excerpt from this Sunday’s bulletin: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

Anglo/Irish author, statesman and orator, Edmund Burke, is credited with many of my favorite political and philosophical quotes. Burke’s observation regarding the “triumph of evil” when “good men do nothing” is cited with various wordings; however, the essence of his quote is that:

When good men are silent and do nothing; evil men will triumph in the moral, spiritual and political arenas.

I fear that day has come upon us, our nation, and our world. The wicked champion egregious sins and depravity marches in the streets under banners that assert freedom at the sacrifice of lives, individual liberty and happiness.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is credited with a “do nothing” peace agreement that he signed with Adolf Hitler in 1938. Chamberlain returned to England and announced that he had negotiated with Hitler an agreement that would give all Europe, “Peace with honour…Peace for our time.” One year later, Germany’s army invaded Poland and plunged Europe, and eventually the world into World War II and a conflict that would take the lives of 85 million people, including 6 million Jews.

This Memorial weekend we take time to honor those men and women who did not stand by in silence when our nation went to war. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines refused to be numbered among the “do nothing” crowd that was so quick to dismiss their honor, and criticize those who made a difference, often at the sacrifice of their youth and their lives.

Warning: While “We the People” choose to “do nothing,” America continues to decline morally, spiritually, and politically. When evil is emboldened, freedom erodes. In the words of the 19th century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville:

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” 

With love and the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Memorial Day Sunday Service, May 24, 2020, 10:30 AM

You are invited to join us for Hillsdale’s Memorial Day Sunday services, this Sunday, May 24.

Hillsdale will be holding our third public service since the Coronavirus Crisis began. We are also broadcasting live online at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org and on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page.

Teen\Family Bible Study: Youth Pastor Justin Jarrett will be continuing his Bible Study Series in the Book of James at 9:45 AM. The doors to our building will open briefly at 9:40 for those who will be joining us for the Bible Study.

The Memorial Day Sunday 10:30 AM service will open with a brief video tribute dedicated to our nation’s heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure our freedoms.

The pastoral staff is dedicating this week’s special number to all who served and are serving our nation. We will be singing the haunting, but beautiful Navy Hymn, Eternal Father, Strong to Save.”

Pastor Smith will be continuing his “Coronavirus Series” from Psalm 23. This week’s message is taken from Psalm 23:4 and is titled, “The Guidance, Protection, and Loving Care of My Shepherd.” 

Guidelines for Those Attending Hillsdale’s Public Worship Services: Guests and members are welcome and we ask you to understand the extraordinary precautions we are taking.

The doors to our building will open at 10:15 AM for those attending the 10:30 AM Worship service. For the comfort and safety of all in attendance, you are to proceed immediately to the auditorium, sit with your family, and put a safe distance between you and others. You will find every second pew roped off to ensure a safe space between yourself and others in attendance. Physical contact (handshaking, etc.) is discouraged. Avoiding passing offering plates, tithes and offerings can be given as you enter and exit the auditorium.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Exhortation to Pray for Our President (Psalm 20)

Today’s Bible Reading is Exodus 1-2, Psalm 20, and Matthew 20. Today’s devotional is from Psalm 20.

Psalm 20 is a nation’s intercessory prayer for her king the day before he leads the sons of Israel into battle.  The psalm is instructive and serves as a reminder of our responsibility to pray and intercede with God on behalf of our leaders.

I am afraid the majority of 21st century Christians look at the drama in Washington, DC as little more than political theater.  Some Christians suggest we be impartial in political matters and give little thought or time to them.  Of course, the matter of praying for those in authority is unquestionably commanded by God (1 Timothy 2:1-3).  Let us consider Israel’s prayer for her king (Psalm 20).

Psalm 20:1-2 – “The LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] hear thee in the day [time] of trouble [adversity]; the name [fame; renown] of the God [Elohim; the Mighty God] of Jacob defend [strengthen] thee; 2  Send thee help [aid] from the sanctuary [holy place], and strengthen [support;; sustain] thee out of Zion [site of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount];

Israel was confident the king had come before the LORD, sought His wisdom and offered sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God.  The people prayed God would not only hear the prayers of the king, but would go before him into battle (20:1-2).

Confident the battle was the LORD’s, the people prayed He would accept the king’s sacrifices, hear, and answer his prayers (20:3-4).

Psalm 20:3-4 – “Remember [think of] all thy offerings [sacrifices], and accept thy burnt sacrifice [offering]; Selah [lit. pause; or pause to think]. 4  Grant [Deliver] thee according to thine own heart [mind], and fulfil [accomplish] all thy counsel [advice; purpose].”

Before the battle was fought, the people promised the LORD He would be the object of their praise believing He would answer their prayers and give the king victory (20:5).

Psalm 20:5 – “We will rejoice [sing; shout] in thy salvation [deliverance], and in the name [fame; renown; reputation] of our God [Elohim; the Mighty God] we will set up our banners [flags; standard]: the LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] fulfil  [accomplish] all thy petitions [request; desires].”

On a personal note, troubles and spiritual battles are an ever-present reality for us in this sin cursed world.  Some adversaries threaten us with physical harm, others attack our character, question our motives and assail our testimony.  We also face spiritual trials that tempt us to turn aside from God’s purpose, question His goodness, and threaten our joy.

Consider three spiritual lessons from Psalm 20.

The first, the LORD hears and answers prayer.  Israel prayed for God to bless the king in battle and be his shield and fortress (20:1-2).  Christian friend, we should pray the same for our President.  As Israel prayed for her king, we should pray for President Trump.

The second, we need to pray and assure leaders of our prayers (20:3-4).  More than an assurance of goodwill, Israel assured the king their prayer was for the LORD to grant him wisdom and bless his strategy for battle.  Agree or disagree with his politics,  believers should be brokenhearted to hear President Trump’s enemies assail him, his family, and supporters with a vitriol exceeding any we have witnessed in modern times.  Such malicious attacks should move us to pray for our President and nation.

The third lesson expresses the faith of the nation in God’s grace and blessings.  Before the battle was waged, the people were planning the victory celebration; confident God heard and would answer their prayers.

A farmer told the story how he heard a voice when he was walking through the woods near Washington’s army encampment at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. Drawing near, the farmer found General George Washington on his knees, his cheeks wet with tears, praying to God.

Returning home, the farmer assured his wife America would win her independence.

When the farmer’s wife asked how he could be so sure.  He answered, “Because I heard Washington’s prayer.”

1 Timothy 2:1-2 – 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Is Love Really All You Need?

In July 1967 the iconic English rock band known as the Beatles released a single titled “All You Need is Love”.  The “hippy” movement embraced the song and it became the defining song of a summer that became known as the “Summer of Love”.  Abandoning the moral values of their parents and voicing an open rebellion to authority and government, a whole generation of youth embarked on a journey defined by the use of psychedelic drugs, “free love” and sex.

It is that generation, the late “baby boomers” now in their 60’s and early 70’s, that has shaped American society by their cavalier disdain of moral values, religion, and law.  They have invaded every stratum of government, education, commerce, and media.  From governing in the Oval Office of the Presidency of the United States to inculcating minds of 5-year-old kindergarteners, the influence of the “All You Need is Love” generation is pervasive.  Is it any wonder they have spawned a generation of selfish, narcissistic youth embracing a socialistic ideology that threatens our society and nation with anarchy?

The “All You Need is Love” generation has so skewed the definition of “LOVE” it has become an excuse for all manner of sin, wickedness and depravity.  Liberals in the media, government, and education would have you believe, regardless of what you do and who it hurts, all that matters is LOVE.  The measure of right and wrong is no longer immutable truth and undeniable facts, but whether or not one’s intentions were loving.

Love becomes an excuse for all manner of sin. Teens, college students, and adults defend fornication and open adultery with the excuse, “I am in love.”  Society accepts homosexuality reasoning, “they love each other.”  The LGTBQ crowd demands society accept their sin because that is the loving thing to do.  Women are counseled to abort unwanted infants because that is a loving choice.

Some quote Romans 13:8, “…love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law”; however, they fail to read Romans 13:9-10 which identifies the restraints and standards on God’s definition of LOVE.

Romans 13:9-10 – “9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there beany other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

My generation, the “baby boomers”, believed “love is all you need” and are finding too late the heartache and emptiness of a philosophy of life devoid of absolute truth and genuine LOVE.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 by Travis D. Smith

“Honor all men…” (1 Peter 2:17)

I observed in an earlier post that America cannot be great again if “We the People of the United States of America” fail to bind ourselves to the idea of “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.   

 For a half-century, “We the People” have pursued a path of self-destruction and I fear we might be nearing the tipping point of no return. Should we continue defying God’s Laws, we cannot with a sincere conscience pray, “God bless, America.”  Should we continue to sacrifice patriotism and love of country for partisan politics and political expediency, we will never be indivisible.  Should we entertain the demand, “equality for all” (equal pay, equal reward), we do so at the sacrifice of the individual and our liberties as a free people.  Should we make every man and woman a victim, we prejudice the judicial system and render justice for none.

How did America get to this sorry state? I believe Christians bear responsibility for this nation’s decline and its moral decay.  We have failed God and our nation.

The founders of our nation aspired to the highest ideals of self-rule and gave us a Republic to inspire the noblest qualities in her citizenry.  Should we desire our nation to become great again, we who call upon the LORD must dare embrace four mandates of Christian citizenship:

1 Peter 2:17 – “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”

This is my second post on the first mandate, “Honour all men(1 Peter 2:17a).  “Honor” ascribes worth to an individual by one’s words and actions.  I made the following observations in my earlier posts: 1) “Honor” is universal in scope and blind to race and ethnicity; 2) Honor is not without discretion; 3) Honor another does not negate the fact some are more deserving of honor than others; 4) Finally, the nature of virtue calls for honor.

That brings me to another consideration.  While all men are to be honored, some are purposely and specifically honored.  Consider three instances where the scriptures charge God’s people to honor others.

The first, children are to honor their parents. The fourth commandment reads, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORDthy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12; Deut. 5:15).  Indeed, to honor one’s parents was so fundamental to Hebrew society that the penalty for dishonoring one’s parents was death (Mt. 15:4; Mark 7:10).  The command to obey and honor one’s father and mother comes with a conditional promise, “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Husbands are commanded to honor their wives.  Men make much of the wives submitting to them; however, as much should be made of the husband’s duty to honor his wife.  Peter instructed believers, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [wives] according to knowledge [understanding]giving honourunto the wife, as unto the weaker [i.e. physical strength] vessel [because she is a complement to her husband]…”  (1 Peter 3:7a).  Wise is the husband who cherishes and honors his wife.

Thirdly, we are to honor our elders.  Too many families warehouse their Senior citizens in institutions and make too little effort to oversee the care of their loved ones.  The gray head (i.e. “hoary head”) saints are to be prized and valued.  Paul instructed Timothy to give particular attention to widows, especially those who are “widows indeed” (meaning those having no children, grandchildren, or family).

The honor due “widows indeed” was personal, practical, and even sacrificial.  In a day when there was no social welfare system, the cares and financial needs of the widows fell upon their families.

Another aspect of honoring one’s elders is the instruction to stand up in the presence of an elder.  The children of Israel instructed their chidlren, “Thou shalt rise up [lit. stand up; i.e. indicating value] before [in the presence of] the hoary head[old, gray-haired], and honour [favor; respect; defer; value] the face presence] of the old man, and fear [be afraid; revere] thy God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32).

I close today’s challenge to “Honour all men” with a story from the life of George Washington, the commander of America’s revolutionary army, father of our nation, and first president of the United States of America.

One morning while riding his horse on his plantation in the company of the French General Lafayette, a slave approached Washington on foot and greeted him with “Morning, Sir.” 

Washington, acknowledging the slave’s greeting, tipped his hat and said, “Good morning, my dear friend.”

Lafayette was astounded and asked, “Why is it that you, General and President George Washington would speak and tip your hat to a common slave? 

Washington replied, “Why sir, I could not allow him to be the better man!”

What an inspiring outlook on life; to live in such a way you aspire to be the better man or woman.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

“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