Tag Archives: Worship

Many follow pastors, but few encourage them. (Luke 7)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 23-24, Psalm 51, and Luke 7. Our devotional is from Luke 7.

Luke 7 records some of Jesus’ greatest miracles: Healing a dying servant in response to a Roman centurion’s faith (Luke 7:1-10; note also Matthew 8:5-13) and raising the son of a poor widow from the dead in a village identified as Nain (7:11-17).

We are also made privy to an intriguing interview when the followers of John the Baptist, the forerunner and maternal second cousin of Christ, come to Jesus desiring on John’s behalf the affirmation that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (Luke 7:18-35).  Lest we be tempted to criticize  John the Baptist, we should remember John was in prison after boldly confronting king Herod’s adultery (Luke 3:19-20).  There is little doubt the hardships of prison, his isolation from the people, and knowledge his own life and ministry are nearing the end moved John to seek assurance Jesus was the promised One, Israel’s Messiah.

Rather than rebuke John for doubting, Jesus responded to the questions with reassurances. The first response was in deeds; we read, “in that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight” (Luke 7:21).  Having performed many miracles, Jesus sent the Baptist’s followers away commanding them, “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (Luke 7:22).

Turning to the people, Jesus affirmed the ministry of His forerunner (7:24-28) and hailed his character saying, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).

I close with an exhortation to believers: If John the Baptist, the greatest of the prophets (Luke 7:28), could succumb to doubts and fears, realize the same is true of your pastor. 

The number of disciples who followed John the Baptist is uncertain; however, in his most vulnerable hour there were “two of his disciples” (Luke 7:19) to whom he expressed his earnest desires and “sent them to Jesus saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?” (Luke 7:19b).

I have learned there are many who follow faithful pastors, but few who encourage them.

John the Baptist had at least “two of his disciples” in whom he confided (Luke 7:19-20); however, I am afraid that number may be two more than many pastors feel they have.

Many pastors quit the pastorate prematurely and the pulpit of many Bible-believing churches has become like a revolving door. Why? Why is the minister retention rate so deplorable in our churches?  I am of the opinion many pastors feel taken for granted and there are few church members who make an effort to encourage them.

A hurting pastor in the midst of his sheep might raise the anxiety level of a church; however, loving, understanding and compassionate church members will get their pastor through dark days and trying times.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

A Sacred Trust: Standing Between the Dead and the Living (Numbers 16)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 15-16, Psalm 49, and Luke 5. Our devotional is from Numbers 16 .

The drama in Numbers 16 serves as a warning to any who sow discord and usurp the spiritual leadership of a congregation.

We are not told the reason for the rebellion, but given the assertions made against Moses and Aaron, we can venture pride leading to discontentment was the root issue.  Three men are named as leaders of the rebellion with the ringleader one named Korah, a Levite, but not a priest (Numbers 16:1). Incredibly, these three men were able to engage two hundred and fifty others, “princes…men of renown”, to join their band (16:2).

While the criticism of the rebels appeared sincere in motive and spiritual in nature, (“Ye take too much upon you”), their object was not for “they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron” (16:3).  Notice how the rebel’s veiled criticism of Moses and Aaron grew to open derision (16:3).  The object of the rebels was not to relieve Moses and Aaron; instead, they aspired to the dignity and duties of the priesthood (Numbers 16:10).

When Moses heard the criticism of the rebels and saw the crowd gathered against him, “he fell upon his face” (16:4); a visible sign of humility.  Rather than a hasty diatribe against his critics, Moses deferred to seek the LORD saying, “Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy” (16:5).

On the next day, Moses called an assembly of the rebels and warned, “ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi” (16:7).  Two of the rebels refused to come before Moses (16:12) and sent an accusation that he had failed the nation in not leading them into “a land that floweth with milk and honey” (16:14).  The charge against Moses was a lie and stoked his anger (16:15) for it was the people, not Moses, who rebelled and turned away from the land the LORD had promised as an inheritance.

The LORD’s judgment against the rebels fell swiftly when “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed [the rebels] and their houses…[who] went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the congregation” (16:31-33).  As the congregation fled from the LORD’s judgment, “there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense” (16:35). Unfortunately, the LORD’s judgment against the rebels did not quench their influence and on the next day another 14,700 were slain (16:41-50).

There are many lessons and cautions we might derive from Numbers 16.  One is, while this passage is instructive, it does not suggest the LORD must always swiftly judge the critics of His ministers.

I have known too many pastors who aspire to pedestals and presume to be above accountability.  The same might be said of some in the church who are all too eager to level veiled criticisms at spiritual leaders and not give them the respect due their office.

Pastors are far from perfect and some engaged in ministry lack the Biblical qualifications of the pastor\shepherd (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9); however, those ministers who are qualified and faithful should be honored for their sacrifices and endeavors.  After all, as purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ they stand “between the dead and the living” (16:48).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride!

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 3-4, Psalm 45, and Luke 1. Our devotional is from Psalm 45.

The heading of Psalm 45 identifies this psalm as “A Song of Loves” that was sent to the chief musician and set to a tune for worship. The tune is identified in the setting as “Shoshannim”, meaning “Lilies”.

Psalm 45 appears in the first reading as a love song composed by a king for his bride; however, the fact verse 6 states, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre” (45:6) and the song was used in worship means its application rises above that of a love song composed for a bride.

Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes Psalm 45:6-7, identifying the “Son” as Jesus Christ; therefore the bride of Psalm 45 is the Church, the bride of Christ.  What a wonderful thought!  As a groom loves his bride, even so does Christ the King love His bride, the Church.

Notice the idyllic description of the Church and the manner of people her members ought to be: “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness” (Psalm 45:7).

As a godly groom anticipates his bride to save herself, a virgin and morally innocent; so it is the duty of believers to be pure and holy in the sight of the King of kings and Lord of lords (Psalm 45:10-17).

Romans 12:1-2 –“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

God is ever faithful and His promises never fail. (Numbers 1-2)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 1-2, Psalm 44, and Mark 16. Our devotional is from Numbers 1-2.

Our Bible Reading Plan, this 1st day of March 2019, bring us to the Book of Numbers.  The author of Numbers is Moses and the opening verse (Numbers 1:1) gives us the exact chronological timeline for events found in its pages:  “first day of the second month, in the second year after they [the Twelve Tribes of Israel] were come out of the land of Egypt” (1:1).

The Book of Numbers traces the journey of the Twelve Tribes of Israel from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the threshold of Canaan, the land God promised Abraham for an inheritance.  The book derives its name from the fact it records three separate census counts of Israel during her sojourn in the wilderness.  Admittedly, one can get lost in the details enumerated in Numbers 1-2; however, there is an important truth concealed in the verses:  God is faithful and remembers and keeps His promises!

God charged Moses and Aaron to take a census of the men of Israel, twenty years and older; men who are identified by their tribe, father’s name and own name, and described as “able to go forth to war” (1:1-4).  These are the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the offspring of the twelve sons of Jacob the Old Testament patriarch whose name God changed to Israel, who was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham.

The thousands numbered in these verses are a testimony God remembered His covenant with Abraham whom He called out of ancient Ur (modern-day Iraq), commanding him to leave his country and kindred and journey to a land God promised would be an inheritance for his lineage (Genesis 12:1-3).  God promised Abraham would not only be father to a great people, but also “all families of the earth be blessed” through him (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ as our Savior Redeemer – Genesis 12:3b).

Thirteen tribes (Numbers 1:5-15) are named; however, two tribes descended from Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh – Numbers 1:10, 32-35) and the priestly tribe of Levi was excluded from the census because of their dedication and service to the LORD (1:47-54).

The LORD had set the tribe of Levi apart for Himself in lieu of the first-born from every tribe and family being set apart for the priesthood (Numbers 3:12-13).  The Levites were charged with the responsibility of the tabernacle and the vessels used for worship and offering sacrifices (Numbers 1:50; 3:8).  When the nation was on the move, the Levites were responsible for taking down the tabernacle and erecting it (Numbers 1:51, 53).  Numbers 2 gives the organization of the encampment by tribe.

I close today’s devotional reflecting on two lessons. The first, the tabernacle was located in the center of the encampment serving as a constant reminder of not only God’s presence, but also the privilege of access the people enjoyed in worshipping, sacrificing, and serving the LORD (1:53).

The second lesson is how the people obeyed the LORD’s commands:  “And the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers” (2:34).

Friend, is worshipping and serving the LORD central to your life or have you relegated Him to Sundays only?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Life Got You Down? (Psalm 43)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 27, Psalm 43, and Mark 15. Our devotional is from Psalm 43.

Heavy heart, cast down soul, melancholy, and depression are terms men employ to define what the Scriptures describe as a “weary” soul (Job 10:1) and a broken spirit (Proverbs 17:22). 

While words defining depression have evolved, no one denies it afflicts men’s souls.  Robert Burton, the 17th century Oxford scholar and author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, wrote: “If there be a hell upon earth, it is to be found in the melancholy [of] man’s heart.”

Let’s take a page out of King David’s life and learn how he not only identified the loneliness of depression, but also the one place he could turn for deliverance. David writes.

Psalm 43:1-2– “1Judge [vindicate] me, O God, and plead [argue] my cause against an ungodly [unmerciful] nation: O deliver [preserve] me from the deceitful [dishonest; deceptive] and unjust [wicked; unrighteous] man.  2For thou art the God of my strength [place of safety]: why dost thou cast me off [forsake]? why go I mourning because of the oppression [distress; affliction] of the enemy [adversary]?”

David does not name his enemy; however, the tactics of his enemy were the same as those you and I face in our day.  Lies, libel, slander, threats, and attacks on one’s integrity are the modus operandi of the enemies of God, His Church and His people.

Rallying his heart, David states what he knows, “God is my strength”(43:2); literally, my fortress, stronghold and refuge.  David struggled that his knowledge of the LORD and His promises was at odds with his feelings and state of mind.  The king knew God was faithful; however, he confessed he felt forsaken, alone and overcome by adversaries (43:2).

Psalm 43:3-4– “O send out [stretch forth] thy light [illumination] and thy truth: let them lead [guide] me; let them [God’s light and truth] bring me unto thy holy [sacred] hill [mount], and to thy tabernacles [place representing the presence of God]4 Then will I go unto the altar [place of sacrifice] of God, unto God my exceeding joy [gladness]: yea, upon the harp [string instrument] will I praise [give thanks; worship] thee, O God my God.”

Turning his heart and thoughts from his despair, David looked to the LORD in the same manner the captain of a ship peers through the fog and darkness for the piercing beam of a lighthouse.  David appealed to God to illuminate his way and guide him with His Truth to the safe haven of God’s “holy hill” and the “tabernacles” where the saints of God gather to worship (43:3).

Though despairing, the king rallied his heart to look past his sorrows and set his heart upon the joy of once again offering sacrifices to the LORD and singing His praises (43:4).

Psalm 43:5– “Why art thou cast down [depressed], O my soul [life; heart]? and why art thou disquieted [troubled] within me? hope [wait; trust ] in God: for I shall yet praise [give thanks; worship] him, who is the health [deliverer; salvation] of my countenance [face], and my God.”

David counseled his soul with two questions (43:5a): Why are you depressed?  Why are you so troubled?

Realizing the error of his fear, David counseled his heart, “hope in God” (43:5b)! 

Resetting his spiritual compass from the delusion of self-pity to trust and faith in the LORD, David took courage and declared, “I shall yet praise Him [the LORD], who is the health of my countenance [face], and my God” (43:5c).

My friend, I do not know what fears and doubts haunt your soul, but I challenge you to pass through this time of trouble by turning your thoughts from self-pity to trust in the LORD!

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

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Hey Millennial Pastors: God has not called you to be “real”; He has called you to be “holy”! (Leviticus 21-22)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 21-22. Our devotional is from Leviticus 22.

Leviticus 21 reminds us God’s calling to ministry is a sacred calling.  Whatever laws God commanded His people, the priests ordained to minister sacrifices and offerings were to strictly observe in their homes, marriages, and families (21:5-15).  Indicating God’s demands for his ministers to be holy and unblemished, no sons of the Aaronic priesthood could serve as priests if there was a physical blemish (21:16-24).

The opening verses of Leviticus 22 remind 21st century ministers and believers that God sets forth the highest ideals for those who minister before Him on behalf of His people.  I understand the context of Leviticus 22 is in its immediate application guidelines for the priesthood; however, we find enduring principles for those who serve the LORD.

The first, priests were to treat as sacred the sacrifices brought to them by the people (22:2).   The work of continually offering sacrifices might have easily become routine for priests and, rather than treat their duties as a sacred responsibility, a sense of doldrums and lethargy might set in that would treat the offerings as less than holy.

There is also a danger of failing to take account of one’s spiritual standing before the LORD (22:3).  Samuel’s rebuke of king Saul’s pretentiousness in offering sacrifices echoes this same principle when we read, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).  The people bringing sacrifices might not have known the priest ministering before them was merely going through the motions; however, the LORD knows the hearts of those who serve Him and requires holiness.

A third example of treating the priesthood with less than the holiness God demanded was a laxness in who might share the portions set aside for the priest and his immediate family (22:10-16).  In other words, the heart of a priestly father might be to give a portion of meat to family members and guests who did not qualify to partake of the portions God set aside for priests and their families.

Finally, sacrifices offered to the LORD were to be of the highest standard (22:17-32).  Like those who offer the LORD less than a tithe, there was the temptation to offer animals for sacrifice that were deformed, ill or injured.  God’s standard was “there shall be no blemish therein”(22:21).

Pastors who fail to live above reproach and take the high road when it comes to so-called “gray areas” in life are a leprosy in the 21st century church.  Projecting an ideology of being “real” and approachable, our pulpits are sacrificing holiness, embracing carnality, and our church members are following the same (1 John 2:15-17).

I close reminding pastors and believers, God’s call for holiness is for us all.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – 15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Holy Calling of the Pastor\Shepherd (Leviticus 7-8)

Today’s Bible reading and devotional are from Leviticus 7-8.

The institution of sacrifices began in Leviticus 1 and continues today through the ordination of the Levitical priesthood (Leviticus 8).  Our study of the sacrifices continues with the “law of the trespass offering”, a sacrifice identified with an individual’s sin (7:1).  A “peace offering” served as an acknowledgment of God’s grace and an offering of thanksgiving (Leviticus 7:11-21).  The portions of the “peace offering” not consumed by the fire were given to the priests for their households.

Some portions of the sacrifices were forbidden to be eaten including the “fat of the beast” and the “blood” (Leviticus 7:22-27).  Blood was never to be consumed because it was the means and object of atonement (Leviticus 17:11).

Leviticus 8 establishes the Levitical priesthood, publicly ordaining and consecrating Aaron and his sons to serve as priests before the LORD on behalf of the nation (8:1-5).  Each step of the ordination is described beginning with the ceremonial washing of Aaron and his sons with water (8:6).

Aaron, the first high priest, is distinguished by his garments (8:7).  The high priest would wear a breastplate (8:8), referred to as “the breastplate of judgment” (Exodus 28:30), upon which was mounted twelve precious stones bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  “Urim and the Thummim” (8:8) are believed to be so form of dice that were cast by the priests in matters of judgment, trusting the LORD to determine the outcome.

As a word of caution for some tempted to adopt a manner of the same in making judgments, either tossing dice or “putting out a fleece” (Judges 6:36-40); God has given us a superior means of determining His will and making good judgments…His Word!

Moses continued to offer sacrifices for seven days while Aaron and his sons remained at the tabernacle as they consecrated themselves to the LORD as priests (8:31-36).  On the eighth day Aaron and his sons began ministering before the LORD and offering sacrifices on behalf of the nation (Leviticus 9:1-24).

I close today’s devotional, reminded of the great responsibility borne by those who minister for the LORD before God’s people.

An offering of sacrifices is no longer necessary because Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, is our sacrifice and high priest ever making intercession for us before the throne of God (Hebrews 7:25-28).  Nonetheless, God has called and ordained men He has set apart for the purpose of shepherding His church.  The apostle Peter challenged pastors,

1 Peter 5:2-3 – “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”

Such is the great calling of the pastor…teacher, shepherd and spiritual leader.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith