Tag Archives: Worship

God is With You in The Midst of Trials

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezra 1-5

The setting of the Book of Ezra, a contemporary of Haggai, is the end of the 70-year Babylonian captivity.  Remembering, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1), the opening verses of Ezra serve as notice the God of Israel is the Sovereign God of heaven and earth (Ezra 1:1-2).

Having conquered Babylon, the Persian king Cyrus, declared the God of heaven moved his heart to build His Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-2).  Fulfilling the LORD’S promise to restore Israel as a nation, Cyrus granted the Jews liberty to return to their land (Ezra 1:3).

The hardships that laid before the remnant that returned to Judah would be formidable.  The city of Jerusalem was in ruins, its walls reduced to rubble, and the Temple destroyed.  After seventy years in captivity, many of God’s people had embraced the Babylonian culture and only a small minority were willing to accept the challenge of returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 2).

Under Ezra’s leadership, the people rebuilt the altar (3:1-6), laid the Temple foundation (3:7-9), and paused to celebrate and praise the LORD as a free people (3:10-11).

Consider three qualities God’s people share when they set aside personal agendas in favor of the will and purpose of the LORD (Ezra 3).

The first shared quality is a mutual purpose; “they gathered…as one man to Jerusalem (3:1).  The second, they shared a spirit of mutual sacrifice as they “gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters”, meat from their livestock, wine from their vineyards, and oil refined from their olive groves (3:7).  The third is a satisfaction of mutual joy; when the foundation was laid, “all the people shouted with a great shout” (3:11).

Unfortunately, in the midst of those celebrating the newly laid Temple foundation, were some who did not share the joy of those rebuilding the Temple (3:12-13).  A discordant sound arose from the “ancient men”, the elderly who were living in the past instead of celebrating in the moment (3:12-13).

Ezra 3:12-13 – “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:  13  So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.”

The “ancient men” remembered Solomon’s Temple, the one destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and comparing the glory of that Temple to the foundation of the new one, became critical and scoffed at the work being done.  Through Zechariah, the LORD confronted the ancients asking, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9-10).  The prophet Haggai echoed Zechariah’s question asking, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

Friend, the second Temple would not match the physical splendor and beauty of Solomon’s Temple; however, it would be greater than the first for the LORD Jesus Christ, would grace it with His physical presence as the incarnate Son of God.  Of the new Temple, Haggai prophesied:

Haggai 2:9 – The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.

I close on a personal note drawing upon my experiences as the Senior Pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church these past 22 years.

Today’s scripture reading brings back memories of a series I preached in the Book of Ezra in the spring of 2004.  At the time, Hillsdale Baptist Church was in the midst of a relocation and building program that commenced with the purchase of land at our current location in 1999, followed by the design and preparation of architectural blueprints, and the sale of our old facilities February 2003.  From groundbreaking to completion, the timeline for our new facility was to be ten months.

Hillsdale’s pastoral leaders and deacons prepared the church for what was supposed to be a temporary inconvenience of renting a public school auditorium for Sunday worship services while our new home was under construction.  Unforeseen by any of our leadership was an adversarial spirit evidenced by the contractor soon after groundbreaking.

A lack of performance forced the church to terminate the contractor and subcontractors, and embroiled the church in a prolonged legal battle with the surety bond company that, using various legal maneuvers, attempted to exhaust the will of the church and its leaders.  A ten month construction project ended up taking thirty months to complete, followed by legal battles that continued another five years costing Hillsdale hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Late July 2005, Hillsdale Baptist Church experienced the joy of holding our first services in our new home; a joy tempered by a sorrow for some who did not persevere with us to the dedication of our new home.  In the fall of 2010, the surety company and contractors were forced to settle with the church.

The toll on the church was great; however, those who persevered have been richly blessed and God glorified.  Being reminded God is Sovereign, Hillsdale’s adversaries paid a far greater price.  The contractor died in a tragic accident the very day the financial settlement for the church was under deliberation; the construction firm and the majority of subcontractors were either forced into bankruptcy or dissolved.

I close with a verse that carried me through much adversity.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [test or trials] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tested or tried] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [provide you the strength and means to pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Take Time to Be Holy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 5-6

When I was young and with a lifetime ahead of me, reading the Book of Ecclesiastes was a chore.   I confess; I read its verses, but did not relish its truths.  The ponderings of Solomon, his youth spent and his heart laden with the weight of sin, was depressing.

Solomon’s counsel in his old age stands out in sad contrast to the proverbs of wisdom he taught his sons when they were young.  Rather than exhortations of wisdom and cautions to walk in the way of the LORD, Ecclesiastes calls to mind the counsel of foolish parents who say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Such is the counsel of too many fathers and mothers in our day.

Ecclesiastes, the Book I found discouraging in my youth, has become a challenge for me to examine my walk with the LORD and walk in wisdom.  I hope you will find today’s reading, Ecclesiastes 5-6, will be the same for you.

Solomon stated his counsels in Ecclesiastes 5 so clearly there is little commentary you need from this country parson to grasp and apply them to your life.  Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 instructs us regarding the preparations of our heart and attitude when worshipping the LORD.

Permit me to suggest four ways we offend God when we worship Him.

The first, we offend the LORD when we open our checkbook before we open our heart to Him (5:1).  

Ecclesiastes 5:1 – “Keep [guard; watch] thy foot [i.e. be careful] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear [listen; obey], than to give the sacrifice of fools [silliness]: for they [fools] consider not that they do [commit] evil [sin; wickedness].

The definition and practice of “worship” in American churches has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  What was once a deliberate act of solemnity, conscious a holy God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b) and knows our thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 17:10), has become raucous entertainment with “worshippers” dancing to the beat of drums and the blare of deafening music.  Oh how far we have strayed from the call to, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

Secondly, we offend the LORD when we speak before we think (5:2).

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash [hasty; eager] with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty [swift; quick] to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

God may seem distant; however, He hears every word!  Too many of us are so busy making requests and “doing ministry” we fail to take time to be quiet and listen to the soft voice of God’s Spirit.

Saying one thing and doing another is a third offence committed by those who worship the LORD in haste with little thought of heart preparation (5:4-7a).

Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 – “When thou vowest [promise] a vow unto God, defer not [dont be slack] to pay [perform] it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay [render] that which thou hast vowed.
5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6  Suffer not [do not allow or permit] thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel [i.e. a messenger or servant of God], that it was an error [mistake]: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work [labor] of thine hands?   7  For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities [meaningless; no purpose]: but fear thou God.”

God remembers every prayer, every vow, and every thought.  Before you open your mouth and make a vow, remember, God will not forget the vows you make.  Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 12:36-37  – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Finally, we offend God when we fail to revere and worship Him in humility and sincerity.  We read, “but fear thou God” (5:7b).

When you come before the LORD to worship Him, whether in the quietness of your daily devotions or in the congregation of His saints on Sunday, slow down, take time to be quiet, weigh every word, and humble yourself before Him.

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Obedience bears the assurance of God’s blessing.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 4-6

We began reading the Book of Deuteronomy last Monday and continue in the same this day with our study focusing on chapter 4-6.  As a reminder, we are in the midst of Moses’ challenge and final words of exhortation to Israel before God takes him home to Himself.

Having rehearsed God’s providences and faithfulness to His chosen people, Moses communicated to Israel he was not allowed to enter Canaan because He had sinned against the LORD (Deut. 3:25-27).  The LORD, however, promised to give Moses a vision of the land He promised the nation.   One of the final acts of Moses’ leadership was God’s command for him “charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (Deut. 3:28).

Moses’ exhortation continues in Deuteronomy 4 when he reminds the people of their special covenant relationship with the LORD.

Deuteronomy 4:1 – “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.”

Unlike any other, the LORD chose Israel and privileged that nation to know Him personally for He revealed His character and person in His Word and “statutes and judgments”.   The people knew the LORD and were custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:7-14).

Moses exhorted Israel to not take lightly their covenant responsibility to know and obey the LORD’s commandments, warning, the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” [He will not accept second place in the lives of His people] (4:24).

Less the people be disheartened, Moses reminded the people the LORD is not only a “consuming fire, even a jealous God”, He is also merciful, longsuffering, and forgiving.

Deuteronomy 4:31 – “(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.”

Who is Israel’s God?  He is the Creator and the God of heaven (Deut. 4:21).  He is God alone and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39).

Moses rehearsed God’s covenant, the giving of His Commandments at Mount Horeb, and the commandments themselves in Deuteronomy 5.

Deuteronomy 6 states not only the responsibility of knowing, keeping and obeying the “commandments, the statutes, and the judgments” (6:1) of the LORD, but also the individual responsibility of parents imparting to their sons and daughters the LORD’s commands.

When a Pharisee asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest (Matthew 22:36-37), He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5.

Deuteronomy 6:5 – “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

Each generation was to not only obey the commandments out of a heart of love, they were also to communicate the commands, statutes, and laws of the LORD “diligently” to their children (6:7-9).  The Word of God was to be the subject of every household in Israel.   The commands, statutes, and laws were the standard and spiritual guide for every area of life…sitting down, walking, lying down at night or rising at dawn.  No area of a man’s life was to go unchecked.

Deuteronomy 6:17-18 – “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. 18  And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers,”

I close with two spiritual lessons in today’s study.  The first, remembering the providences of the LORD and how He delivered Israel out of Egypt and slavery is a frequent theme of Moses’ final address to Israel in the Book of Deuteronomy.  The same should be true of 21st century believers; we need to remember the LORD’s providences in our lives, how He saved us from the condemnation and bondage of sin through Christ’s sacrificial death, burial and resurrection (Romans 3:23-28).

A second lesson is, Obedience bears the assurance of God’s blessing.  Moses challenged Israel to obey the LORD’s instructions, assuring the people their God was intimately invested in the “good [of Israel] always” and their preservation as His chosen people (6:24).  The apostle Paul gives that same assurance to believers in Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

My LORD Never Slumbers or Sleeps!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 120-121

Our scripture reading today is from a section of fifteen psalms, Psalms 120-134, titled “A Song of Degrees”.  The designation “degrees” might refer to one’s elevation or ascent to higher ground and the psalms in this section are believed by some to have been sung by pilgrims journeying up to Jerusalem for a feast day.  Others suggest the “degrees” might be a reference to our modern concept of musical keys or scales.  Today’s scripture reading is the first two of the psalms in this section, Psalms 120-121.

The author of Psalm 120 is David and it was apparently written as a reflection on a time of trouble and affliction.  The title of Psalm 120 in my Bible is, “David prays against Doeg and reproves his tongue”.  Who was Doeg and why did he cause David such distress?

When David fled from king Saul and was hungry, he requested “hallowed bread” of Ahimelech, the high priest, bread dedicated to the LORD, for himself and his men (21:1-6).  Doeg, identified as “a certain man of the servants of Saul” (1 Samuel 21:7), overheard the request and took notice it was David.

King Saul, hearing how the high priest gave aid to David and his men, commanded his servants to slay the priest and his household; however, the servants of Saul refused to harm the LORD’s priests (1 Samuel 22:16-17).  Doeg, however, had no conscience and rose up and slew eight-five priests (22:18).

With that background, we understand David writing, “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me” (Psalm 120:1).  There is no doubt David was downcast when he learned men who aided him had died for his sake.  Doeg perpetuated the lie David was Saul’s enemy and the king made war against David (Psalm 120:2-7).

Some refer to Psalm 121 as the “Pilgrim’s Psalm”, one the saints of God sang on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship and offer sacrifices to the LORD.

I suggest four major points for Psalm 121.  The first is the psalmist’s Pledge to seek the LORD: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help [aid]” (121:1).

I am not certain the dangers the psalmist faced; however, I know where he looked for help… “the hills” (121:1).  He did not look to himself and live by his wits or to others hoping they might come and save him.  His confidence was in the LORD.

The second point is the Promise; the psalmist was confident in the LORD’s care (121:2).

Psalm 121:2  – “My help cometh from the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], which made [created; fashioned] heaven [sky; sun, stars, moon] and earth [land].”

The psalmist was confident the LORD Who created heaven and earth was more than a spectator or bystander of His creation.    He affirmed the LORD would come to his aid in a time of trouble.

The psalmist was confident in the LORD’s Protection (121:3-7).  He looked to the LORD as his Deliverer in times of trouble and Keeper Who never slumbers or sleeps (121:3-4).

Psalm 121:3 – “He [the LORD] will not suffer thy foot [walk] to be moved [waver; shake]: he that keepeth [guard; watch; preserve] thee will not slumber [sleep].”

Psalm 121:4 – “Behold, He [the LORD] that keepeth [guard; watch; preserve] Israel [posterity of Jacob] shall neither slumber [sleep; i.e. be drowsy] nor sleep [slack; i.e. grow old].”

The psalmist was confident the LORD was his Protector (121:5).  Like a shepherd keeps his sheep from danger, the LORD keeps watch over His people.  The LORD is “thy shade”, a place of retreat, refreshing and where one’s strength is revived.

The LORD is also Guardian of His people (121:7) and protects them from “all evil” (121:7).

Psalm 121:7  – “The LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] shall preserve [guard; watch] thee from all evil [wickedness; bad; calamity]: He shall preserve [guard; watch] thy soul [life; person].”

That does not mean “bad things” do not happen to God’s people; however, it does mean God is able to turn “bad things” into good for those who love Him and place their trust in Him (Romans 8:28-29).  David writes the same when he assures us:

Psalm 91:9-10 – “Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10  There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”

Finally, we note the LORD is a Perpetual Shepherd (Psalm 121:8).

Psalm 121:8 – “The LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] shall preserve [guard; watch] thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore [perpetually].”

Like a shepherd keeps watch over his sheep, the psalmist assures us “the LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in” (121:8a)

What a comforting truth!  There is no place beyond the LORD’s watch. 

The LORD keeps us when we rise in the morning until we lay our head on the pillow in the evening.  The LORD keeps us when we are young and strong and when we grow old and frail.  The LORD is with us in health and sickness!  When we travel afar and when our steps lead home, the LORD is with us.   He is with us in our down sittings and our uprisings.

My friend, if you are believer you are a child of the King, forever secure in the LORD.  You can be assured, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:6).

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

“He Touched Me!”

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 3-4

Attitudes toward the physically handicapped have evolved over the years, as has our vocabulary to define them.  The words crippled, lame and physically challenged evoke mental pictures of men and women who overcome extraordinary obstacles to live productive lives.  Fortunately, 21st century society has accommodated the infirmed and given them opportunities of independence never dreamed of only a century ago.

Such was not the case in Bible times when first century Jews looked upon a physical handicap as a judgment from God for some great sin in a person’s life or family.  Making that assumption, when the disciples spied a man “blind from his birth” they asked Jesus, “who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1-3).

The subject of our reading in Acts 3-4 had no doubt experienced the self-righteous judgment of many who passed through the gates of the Temple.  Some pitied him, but many gave little notice and considered him little more than a daily nuisance when they made their way to the Temple for worship and prayer.

Consider what we know about the man who’s miraculously healing caused a great stir among the Jews and their religious leaders.

He was forty years old and “lame from his mother’s womb” (Acts 3:2; 4:23).  He had never known the joy of walking, running or playing with his peers.  He was a burden to his family, who carried him to the gate of the Temple where he begged for coins to feed himself and his family (Acts 3:2).  He was well-known in Jerusalem, begging daily at the gate of the Temple (Acts 3:9-10), he was an object of charity for some and scorn for others who wondered out loud if his malady was not caused by sin.

There is much we might consider in this man’s healing and the events that followed it; however, let us ponder one question and some principles we can derive from it.  Why was he born a cripple and what good did his life serve?

God allows afflictions in our lives as opportunities for His power and glory to be displayed.  Job said of his afflictions, “[the LORD] knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).  For some, the will and glory of God are accomplished through healing; for others, sickness, suffering and even death.

The miraculous healing of the man who was a paralytic from birth gave undeniable proof of God’s power and anointing on Peter and John’s lives and ministry (Acts 3:6-7; 4:14-16).  Seeing a man whose paralysis had made him an object of pity or scorn for forty years suddenly walking, leaping and praising God filled the people “with wonder and amazement” (Acts 3:10).   They were dumbfounded, stupefied, astonished and “all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.” (3:11).

Consider a few observations:  The first, the powerful testimony of loving compassion.  Peter and John lacked “silver and gold”; however, they gave what they could and declared, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6).  Secondly, notice the powerful testimony of sincere gratitude… “And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John…” (Acts 3:11).  The man who was healed “held” to Peter and John…he clung to them, held fast with all his might.  Peter and John might have slipped away unnoticed; however, the man would not release them from his grip!

Finally, the backdrop of loving compassion and sincere gratitude opened an opportunity for Peter and John to deflect attention from themselves and put the focus where it belonged…Jesus Christ (Acts 3:12).

Peter used the opportunity to glorify God and declare Jesus Christ Holy, Just, crucified and raised from the dead (Acts 3:13-15).  Enumerating their sins, Peter declared them guilty, calling them to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ (Acts 3:13, 19).

Friend, unlike Peter and John, God has not given us the power to heal the sick and afflicted and make them whole; however, He does give us means to make a difference in the lives we can touch.

“Silver and gold” is at the disposal of many and, if employed with wisdom and discernment, can make a great difference in those who are in need.  A healing touch, a word of compassion and encouragement, can open a sin-hardened heart to trusting Jesus Christ as Savior.  A testimony of gratitude and thanksgiving has the power to give glory to God for His mercy, grace and salvation.

Like the man healed in today’s study, when a sinner’s life has been touched by God’s power and genuinely transformed…He cannot be silent!

“He touched me, Oh He touched me;

And with His touch, what joy filled my soul.

Something, happened, and now I know,

He touched me, and made me whole.”  (by William J. Gaither)

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Are you ready for Christ’s coming? It may be today!

September 30, 2017

Scripture Reading – Acts 1-2

Our scripture reading this Saturday, September 30, 2017 introduces us to a pivotal book in the New Testament, the Book of Acts, also known as the “Acts of the Apostles”.   As its name implies, the Book of Acts records the actions and activities of the Apostles following Christ’s bodily resurrection and translation to heaven after commissioning His disciples to “be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Jesus appeared to His followers on at least ten separate occasions following His resurrection from the dead.  He first appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18; Mark 16:9) and the other women who came to His empty tomb (Matthew 28:8-10).  He then appeared to Peter (Luke 24:34; I Corinthians 15:5) and to two followers on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).   Later He appeared to ten of the disciples, less Thomas who was absent and Judas who had betrayed Jesus and hanged himself (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-29).  Eight days later He appeared in the midst of the eleven disciples, this time with Thomas present (John 20:24-29).   Jesus appeared to seven of the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, known to the Jews as the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23).  In his epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul recorded Jesus’ appearance to five hundred followers and then to James (I Corinthians 15:6-7).  He last appeared to the eleven disciples before He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:3-12).

There are several foundational truths in this introduction to the Book of Acts.   Because the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central hope of Christianity (Luke 24:39-40; 41-43; Acts 1:3), Jesus stayed with His disciples forty days and emboldened them with “many infallible proofs”, an experience that forever changed their lives (Acts 1:3).

Jesus exhorted His disciples to WAIT for the promise of the Father…ye shall be BAPTIZED with the Holy Ghost” (1:4-5).  Before He ascended to heaven He commissioned them to be witnesses (Acts 1:8) and as they watched, Jesus “was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).  Two angels, appearing as men in “white apparel”, appeared giving the disciples a promise that has been the hope of believers for 2,000 years… “…this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11).

The reality of a crucified, risen and returning Savior transformed the disciples from self-promoting sinners arguing among themselves who should be the greatest (Luke 9:46, 22:24), to servants asking nothing for themselves and left wondering when Christ would “restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6).

One of the many lessons we can take from Acts 1-2 is:

When God’s people remember the main thing is a crucified, risen, and returning Savior, conflicts and divisions cease in the church.

The imminent return of Jesus Christ forever changed the disciples’ perspective on their own lives and ministry.   James would write to the early church, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1).  Knowing Jesus Christ promised to return, but not knowing the hour, James exhorted believers:

James 5:7-9 – Be patient [longsuffering; slow to anger] therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman [farmer] waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early [autumn] and latter [spring] rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts [keep hope alive]: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not [stop complaining & grumbling] one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

Friend, I do not know when the LORD will return (Acts 1:7), but I believe it is soon and  imminent.  We also know the LORD’s coming will be sudden, unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

Are you ready for His coming? It may be today!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith