Tag Archives: Worship

God is Faithful, His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-14)

* Today’s Bible Reading assignment is Genesis 13-14.  Today’s devotional addresses events in Genesis 12-14.  Though longer than most, this devotional will give a representation of Abram’s faith and failures and God’s grace and faithfulness.

Genesis 12 is one of the great pivotal crossroads in the Scriptures’ narrative of God’s plan of redemption.  Genesis 11 closed with Abram (Abraham) departing from “Ur of the Chaldees” with his father Terah (Genesis 11:32).  [The site of Ancient Ur was in today’s Iraq, some 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf, in the vicinity of what became ancient Babylon].

God came to Abram in Genesis 12 and commanded him to separate from his country, his relatives, and his extended family (12:1).  If Abram obeyed, God promised to covenant with him and bless him (Genesis 12:2-3).  God promised Abram he would bless him with a son, make him great, his name famous, and he would be a blessing to all people through his lineage (a promise ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ).  Abram obeyed God and traveled to Canaan, the land God promised He would give him as an inheritance.  When he arrived at Bethel, Abram built an altar and worshipped the Lord (12:7-8).

Realize God had purposed to fulfill His promises to Abram, including giving he and his wife Sarai a son in their old age; however, Abram’s faith in the LORD was soon tested when we read, “there was a famine in the land” (12:10).  Rather than trust the LORD, Abram abandoned his faith in God’s promises, left Canaan and journeyed to Egypt, putting in jeopardy God’s covenant promises (12:10-13).

Sarai, Abram’s wife, was beautiful and, fearing for his life, he asked her to tell others she was his sister and not his wife (12:11-13).  Pharaoh noticed Sarai’s beauty and took her into his harem to become one of his wives, putting at risk God’s covenant promise of a son and heir to Abram.  In spite of Abram’s faithlessness, God spared Sarai, sending a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealing to the king that Abram had deceived him (12:17-20).

Genesis 13 reminds us Abram was a mere mortal, though a man of faith and an object of God’s grace, he faced the consequences of his failure to leave all of his father’s household (12:1).  Contrary to God’s command, Abram had journeyed from Ur with Lot, his brother’s son.  Both men were wealthy, owning great flocks and servants to tend them, there arose a strife between the servants of Abram and his nephew Lot (13:1-7).  To avoid conflict, Abram suggested they divide their households, servants, and flocks, graciously offering his nephew the first choice of the land (13:8-9).

Failing to defer to his elder, Lot betrayed his covetousness and chose the best of the land for himself; land that included the cities in the plain, among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13).  Lot departed and God again renewed His covenant promises with Abram (13:14-18).

Genesis 14 gives us a history of the nations that inhabited ancient Israel in Abram’s day (around 4,000 BC).  A conflict arose among those nations and we read, “the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled…And they took Lot…and his goods” (14:10-12).  Suggesting how rich and powerful Abram had become, we read he led three hundred and eighteen armed servants of his household (14:14) in a successful attack on the kings who had taken the citizens and material possessions of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:15-24).

Abram returns victorious and a king identified as “Melchizedek king of Salem” [Salem perhaps the ancient name of Jerusalem] greets him (14:18).  Melchizedek, described as “the priest of the most high God” (14:18), pronounced a benediction upon Abram and rewarded him with a tithe, a tenth of the spoils (14:19-20).

The king of Sodom, likewise, offered Abram the riches he had recovered in battle (14:21); however, Abram refused the wealth of Sodom.  Jealous of the name and testimony of “the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22), Abram confessed he would take none of Sodom’s riches less the king of Sodom boast he had “made Abram rich” (14:22-24).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

What is in Your Heart? (Genesis 7-8)

It is not too late to take up the challenge of reading through the Bible in a year.  You can download the Bible Reading Plan at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org. Today’s assignment is Genesis 7-8, Psalm 4, and Matthew 4.

The historical narrative of the universal flood begins in Genesis 6 where we read, “5the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…7And the LORD said, I will destroy man…” (Genesis 6:5, 7).

Out of all the earth, one man “found grace [divine favor] in the eyes of the LORD”(Genesis 6:8).  “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

The last four words of verse 9 answers the question, “Why did God spare Noah and his family?”  He was a man of faith “and walked with God”.  While wickedness and rebellion were universal, Noah believed God, called upon Him, and walked with Him.

A testimony of Noah’s faith and God’s grace is he and his family were saved from the greatest cataclysmic event to ever come upon the earth.  It rained 40 days and 40 nights (7:12,17) and when the rains stopped the waters covered the earth another 150 days.

The story of God’s universal judgment is interrupted with a phrase that is a joy to read; “God remembered Noah…”(Genesis 8:1).  Altogether, Noah and his family remained in the Ark 370 days until the waters receded (Genesis 8:14-16).  When God commanded him to leave the Ark, Noah’s first act as spiritual leader of his household was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God (Genesis 8:20-21a).  The LORD accepted Noah’s sacrifice, promising He would never again destroy the earth.

We read an ominous statement regarding the heart of man after the flood;  “the imagination [thinking; inner thoughts] of man’s heart [mind; understanding; center of his thinking] is evil [sinful; wicked; ] from his youth”(Genesis 8:21b).

The pre-flood world had been laid waste and the face of the earth scarred as a lasting reminder of God’s wrath [example – the Grand Canyon]; however, one thing had not changed…the heart of man.

God’s observation before the flood was, “every imagination of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  The same malady was true of the heart of man after the flood (Genesis 8:21b).

Sadly, that reality will be too soon apparent in Genesis 9.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Worship With Hillsdale This Sunday!

Following a tragic week when our State witnessed the loss of 17 innocent lives, our church family will remember in prayer this Sunday the grieving families, students, faculty and administrators of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

When I began my new series, “Reflections on Compassion and Grace”, I had no idea how appropriate that theme would become for our church, State, and nation. This Sunday morning, my focus is on John 6 and my title is, “Feeding the 5,000: What Would You Do?”

I plan to address several questions in the morning service:

1) Why did Jesus retreat to the wilderness on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee?

2) Why is the Sea of Galilee referred to as the “Sea of Tiberias” in John 6:1?

3) Why did the multitude follow Jesus?

4) Why did Jesus ask Philip, “Whence shall we buy bread?” (John 6:6), if he knew what He was going to do? (John 6:7)

We will consider three responses to Jesus’ suggestion to feed the multitude (John 6:7; Matthew 14:15; John 6:8-9) and the spiritual principles we should take from this wonderful miracle.

“There She Is, Mrs. Persia”

We continue our verse-by-verse study of Esther 2 in Hillsdale’s 6:00 PM service this Sunday.  Remembering the overriding truth in the Book of Esther is the providence of God, I look forward to drawing your attention to God’s unseen hand as He providentially orchestrates the affairs of man to accomplish His eternal purpose and the good of His people.

Have a blessed Saturday, prepare your heart, and join us as we worship the LORD this Sunday!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Hillsdale’s Ministry Theme for 2018: “Revive…Renew…Reach…Restore”

Looking ahead to the New Year, it is my heart’s desire that Hillsdale’s ministries will experience a renewed passion for serving the LORD; to that end, I have chosen four words I pray will define our ministry this New Year: “Revive…Renew…Reach…Restore”

REVIVE”…that we would see the LORD stir a flame of spiritual revival in our church (Romans 12:1-2); “RENEW” a passion for holiness and sanctification (2 Corinthians 5:17); “REACH”…the unsaved by sharing the Gospel and showing them the love and compassion of Christ (John 4); and “RESTORE”…ministering the grace of Christ to others (Galatians 6:1).

New Sunday Morning Sermon Series

I am excited to begin a new sermon series this Sunday morning titled, “Compassion and Grace: A Study of the Gospel of John”.  Rather than an exhaustive, verse-by-verse study of this great book, I will be highlighting our LORD’s contact and compassion for sinners in John’s Gospel in 2018.

My sermon title for this Sunday’s 10:30 AM service is, “Quenching A Spiritual Thirst”, based on Christ’s encounter with the Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4).  It is my prayer this new sermon series will stir within our church family a spirit of revival and a renewed compassion for lost sinners.

Charitable Giving

A reminder to those who faithfully support Hillsdale through tithes and offerings:  This Sunday, December 31 is the last day you can give and be credited for charitable giving in 2017.  You can also go to Hillsdale’s website, www.HillsdaleBaptist.org, and give online.

If you are thinking of giving a special year-end gift, allow me to suggest designating to the purchase of new office chairs for our Conference rooms or toward the purchase of vacuum cleaners for our school classrooms ($69\each).

Happy New Year!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

pastorsmith@hillsdalebaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

The Centrality of Music in Worship and Praise

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 149-150

Our year-long reading of the Psalms come to a close today on an appropriate theme… “Praise ye the LORD”.  Psalm 149 and Psalm 150 begin and end with a call to worship.  What an incredible thought that the LORD, our Creator Who is Almighty desires we His people praise Him.

Dogs bark, cats purr, lions roar, and eagles screech…but man alone has the means to communicate in words, song, and musical instruments his worship of the LORD through songs of praise.

I have taken liberty to add to today’s psalms my amplification of the closing chapters in this wonderful book of songs of worship and praise.  As one who loves music, I invite you to especially note the prominence of music, musical instruments, and trained musicians in worshipping the LORD.

Psalm 149:1-9 – Praise [Glory; Celebrate; Sing; Boast] ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new [fresh] song, and his praise [hymn of adoration; song of praise] in the congregation [Assembly] of saints [the godly; pious].
2  Let Israel [lit. “He will rule as God”; another name for Jacob] rejoice [be glad; joyful] in him [i.e. the LORD] that made [Created] him [Israel or Jacob]: let the children of Zion [mount upon which Jerusalem was found] be joyful [be glad; rejoice] in their King.
3  Let them praise his name [the name of the LORD] in the dance [i.e. round dance; dance in circular motion]: let them sing praises [psalms] unto him with the timbrel [tambourine] and harp [the string instrument].
4  For the LORD taketh pleasure [delights; pleased] in his people [people of His congregation; like Israel]: he will beautify [glory; boast] the meek [poor; humble; lowly] with salvation [He will deliver; prosper].
5  Let the saints [the godly; pious] be joyful [i.e. jump for joy; rejoice] in glory [or splendor bestowed on them by the LORD]: let them sing aloud [rejoice; shout for joy] upon their beds.
6  Let the high [exaltation] praises of God [Almighty God] be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand;
7  To execute [work; create; make; show] vengeance [revenge] upon the heathen [Gentile nations], and punishments [chastening; rebuke; reproof] upon the people [nation];
8  To bind their kings [rulers of the Gentile nations] with chains, and their nobles [those who exercise authority] with fetters [chains; manacles that bind] of iron;
9  To execute [make; create] upon them the judgment [law; ordinance] written [prescribed]: this honour [glory; majesty; splendor] have all his saints [godly]. Praise [Glory; Celebrate; Sing; Boast] ye the LORD.

Psalm 150:1-6 – Praise [Glory; Celebrate; Sing; Boast]  ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary [holy; sacred place dedicated to the LORD]: praise him in the firmament [in the heavens] of his power [strength; might; majesty].
2  Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent [abundance] greatness.
3  Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery [lyre] and harp.
4  Praise him with the timbrel [tambourine] and dance [i.e. round dance; dance in circular motion]: praise him with stringed instruments and organs [flute; pipe].
5  Praise him upon the loud cymbals [large, clashing cymbals]: praise him upon the high sounding [jubilant; loud noise] cymbals [i.e. perhaps like a ringing bell].
6  Let every thing that hath breath [breath of life] praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

It saddens me to witness the diminishing of congregational singing and choral anthems in the 21st century church.  

In today’s church, the choir, a central part of worship dating to the time of King David, has become little more than a backup for spotlight hungry semi-professionals vocalists.   Even worse, congregations singing great, majestic hymns of the Christian faith are relegated to audiences mumbling in almost muted silence, “Seven-Eleven Choruses” [seven words repeated eleven times].  Worship today is a far cry from the worship the psalmist describes in today’s psalms.

I praise the LORD He has blessed Hillsdale with skilled musicians who voluntarily give and use their talents when our congregation worships the LORD with hymns of worship and praise.  What a joy to have musicians and choir members who, week after week, dedicate their time and talents to serving the LORD and praising Him!

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD” (Psalm 150:6).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Harden Not Your Hearts”

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Acts 23-24

Paul, after declaring his testimony of conversion in Acts 22 and how he who was once persecutor of Christ and the church (22:1-8) became an apostle and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles (22:9-21), faced an uprising of the Jews led by members of the Jewish Sanhedrin (22:22-23).

Led away from the tumult, a Roman commandant ordered soldiers to question Paul by first scourging him (22:24).  However, the order for scourging was withdrawn when Paul revealed he was a Roman citizen, knowing scourging without conviction was a violation of his civil rights (22:25-29).

On the next day, the commandant summoned the Jewish Sanhedrin (22:30) and Paul continued his defense before them (23:1).

Paul’s courage in confronting the Jewish leaders is admirable (23:2-9).  Never one to cower, he declared the hypocrisy of the high priest Ananias who, on one hand pretended to judge him according to the law, but on the other acted in contradiction to the law (23:2-5).

Knowing two factions of the Sanhedrin were bitterly divided over the doctrine of the resurrection (23:6), Paul introduced the question of the resurrection leading to an uprising and forcing Roman soldiers to remove Paul less he be slain by the Jews (23:7-10).

We know Paul as a great preacher of the Gospel, fearless in his demeanor; however, the LORD, knowing his servant better, came to him at night and encouraged him, revealing he would be His witness in Rome (23:11).  Foiling a plot by the Jews to kill Paul (23:12-22), the captain of the guard ordered Paul be provided with an escort of two hundred Roman soldiers (23:23-32).  Conveying Paul safely to Antipatris (23:31), a town thirty-five miles from Jerusalem, the soldiers returned to Jerusalem (23:32).

Far from the volatility of Jerusalem, Felix, governor of that province who resided in Caesarea and was the Roman commandant’s superior, determined to hear the matter that caused such an uproar among the Jews in Jerusalem (23:35).  Acts 24 continues Paul’s trial, this time before Felix (24:1-27).

Five days later, Ananias the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin gathered in Caesarea and put forward “a certain orator named Tertullus” (24:1) who accused Paul of sedition, a crime that would demand his death (24:2-9).

Paul sat in silence as false accusers brought charges against him; and when beckoned to answer them, Paul addressed the Roman governor with diplomacy and discretion deserving of Felix’s office as his civilian authority.  We read,

Acts 24:10 – Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself [i.e. make his defense]:

Pauls’ defense answered the accusations brought against him by the Jewish Sanhedrin (24:11-20) proving the only dissension between him and the Jewish leaders was not that he had provoked sedition, but he had challenged them on the doctrine of the resurrection (24:21).   After all, it was the fact of Christ’s resurrection from the dead that was the central doctrine of the church…that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, crucified for the sins of the world, buried and raised from the dead on the third day!

In his letter to believer’s in Corinth, Paul writes of Christ’s resurrection from the dead:

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 – But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.21  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Acts 24 concludes with Felix retaining Paul in prison, though giving him liberty to have guests (24:22-24).  Having heard Paul, Felix and his wife Drusilla, “which was a Jewess”, came to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ (24:24).  For two years (24:27), Paul had opportunity to converse with the Roman governor regarding the matter of man’s sin, Christ’s righteousness and God’s judgment (24:25).  Though Felix trembled at the thought of God’s judgment (24:25), he delayed his decision to accept Christ as Savior, waiting until it was too late and he was reassigned elsewhere, leaving Paul bound in prison (24:27).

I close with a few brief observations. Paul’s passion and boldness in declaring the gospel is one of the many things I admire in the man; however, we should also note his tact, prudence, and patience in preaching Christ to those who will listen.

Too many 21st century Christians go to extremes in the matter of their witness.  Some are simply silent; when opportunity arises to give testimony of their faith in Christ they mute their lips and allow an opportunity to share Christ to pass that might never come again.

Others witness for Christ, but do so in a manner that is often crude and petulant.  Having spoken before several government bodies over the years, including City Councils, County Commissioners, School Boards, and State Hearings, I am often embarrassed by professing Christians who are rude and offensive in their words and demeanor.

While Paul was bold in addressing the hypocrisy of Jewish religious leaders, he was wise, discerning and patient when speaking to the Roman commandant in Jerusalem and Felix, the governor.

Rather than offensive, those who witness for Christ should be inviting and passionate for men’s souls.

Hebrews 3:7-8 – Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8  Harden not your hearts…”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

PRAYER: God’s Prescription for Troubles

Wednesday, December 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 143-145

King David is the author of the three psalms assigned for today’s scripture reading, Psalms 143, 144, and 145.  Psalm 143 is a penitential, sorrowful psalm; Psalm 144 and Psalm 145 are psalms of worship and praise.  Although not the last of the psalms, Psalm 145 is the last of the psalms attributed to King David.

For the sake of brevity, my focus for this devotional commentary is Psalm 143.

We have seen a pattern and practice of prayer throughout David’s life.  When assailed by enemies, he prayed (Psalm 13:2; 61:3).  When trials came and troubles threatened to overwhelm him, he prayed (Psalm 120:1).  When faced with the scourge of his own sinfulness, David called upon the Lord, confident God would hear and answer his penitent prayer (Psalm 51).

Psalm 143 continues David’s habit of prayer.  Psalm 143:1-6, he prays for God’s grace in judgment (143:2) and, remembering the LORD’s works in the past (143:5), he asks Him to quench the thirst in his soul for the LORD’s presence (143:6).

Notice the personal, intimate petition of David’s prayer.  The king prayed to the LORD, “Hear me (143:7)…Deliver me (143:9)…Teach me…Lead me (143:10)…Quicken me (143:11)”.

I am not sure what “trouble” David was in when he prayed, “bring my soul out of trouble” (143:11); however, he knew the only place he could go to have his soul delivered from sorrows was to the LORD (143:11b).

Perhaps you are where David was spiritually and emotionally when he prayed, “Quicken me” (143:11).  Too many believers fail to follow David’s example when they are troubled.  The word “Quicken” was an entreaty for the LORD to encourage, revive and restore his joy.

Friend, don’t allow your troubles to mount up and you become so overwhelm you resort to counselors, doctors, psychologists, prescription drugs, vices, and amusements… turn to the LORD, claim His promises, and pray, “Hear me (143:7)…Deliver me (143:9)…Teach me…Lead me (143:10)…Quicken me (143:11)”; after all, the LORD is jealous for His servants (143:12).

I close with promises that were David’s meditations in his final psalm (Psalm 145:18-21).

Psalm 145:18-20 –18  The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
19  He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
20  The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.”

What a great God we serve!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith