Daily Devotion

Uncomfortable

Luke 6:1-11

We’ve all been there. Family. Friends. Circumstances. Places we’ve been.

Someone says something. Asks a question. Says something that you know will provoke others. And we start to shift a little in our seat.

Someone is wearing something; a rival team’s shirt, a slogan that is provocative, or something out of place. Something that just doesn’t fit the occasion, the group, or the room.

There is a tension in the room. You walk in and it’s evident that there is more going on than can be easily seen but you can sense the problem and now you’re not sure what to do.

Maybe it’s silence. Silence can be overwhelming. Silence can be a dominant force in a room or situation.

And we FEEL uncomfortable. We don’t like uncomfortable. In fact, those who go about provoking don’t like uncomfortable, they are actually provoking so that the response to them is predictable.

Jesus is uncomfortable. Jesus is uncomfortable to those who reject God. Jesus is uncomfortable to those who say they seek to honor God.

In the story of the man with the withered hand, Jesus’ command is simple; stretch out your hand. As the man did so, he was healed. Jesus did not touch him. Jesus did not say anything that could have been prescribed as work.

And the religious folks went into a tailspin. Here are a few applications for us; us religious folks, who seek to honor God.

  1. Simple questions about culture, behavior, and our witness among others can sometimes set us into a tailspin. This reflects the possibility that our reliance is more upon our performance than upon a dependence upon Jesus.
  2. We should be willing to become uncomfortable. I have learned over my 42 years on earth that if you want an opinion on something – ask a Christian. Most of us are going to give an earnest, factual (at least in our mind), answer on just about any topic; movie watching, national politics, global politics, weather, health concerns, and on and on. This often speaks to our unwillingness to be uncomfortable. Since we KNOW the answer there is no reason to give any consideration to the question, or more specifically, the questioner.

And yet the man was healed. A life was changed. Those who KNEW what SHOULD happen went away fuming. Jesus gave a parting shot that still challenges me today.

“I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

Jesus, in a first century synagogue

Daniel Harding



Hide and Seek

Colossians 3:1-17

It’s a given that anytime we go to eat with my sister that her children will want to play hide and go seek with me. Now friends, I don’t mean to brag but I may be the best hide and seeker Brantley County has ever produced. I can hide so well it takes them 20 minutes to find me (of course the three kids are younger than 7 so I don’t think I can brag too much). And when they eventually find me I in return have to find them. And like a good uncle I must take 20 minutes to find them and ignore the fact that I can hear the cabinet door close as they peek to see where I am. And ignore that I can see their feet from underneath the blanket. It really doesn’t take too much effort to find them.

But as a Christian there is something that we should be seeking very diligently in our lives. We should be seeking things that bring honor and glory to God and further His kingdom here on earth. Well how do we do this? We are by nature sinners and are prone to seek after things that please us. 

When we are born again/saved most of us that are able are baptized. This baptism is symbolic of us putting to death the natural, carnal mind and being born again into a new creature. This is what Paul is telling us to do here. We must put anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, and filthy communication away from us. We must put off the old man (sinful nature) and put on the new man (Christ). 

Well what does this new man look like? He is clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. He forgives those who have done him wrong. But in my mind the most important thing is that he is clothed in charity. Charity by definition is brotherly love, affection, good will, love, and benevolence. 

By putting on this new man we are now able to devote ourselves to seeking things that are above. Well how does that work? By letting God rule (direct or control) our heart we are able to look and think on things that honor Him. It allows us to teach and correct fellow believers (new believers and old alike) with the words of Christ that were left with us here on earth.

Seeking things that are above. So does that mean we walk around looking up at the sky all the time, waiting for God to hit us with a sucker punch of holiness and love? To quote a friend of mine, God forbid. I think that to seek things that are above we have to look down and around us to see how we can help our fellow man in their troubles. We show them the same love that Christ showed us when He died for our sins.

Paul gives us a good way to do this towards the end of these verses. 

 “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

Everything that we do in this life should be done for Christ. And it should be done with a thankful heart. Sounds good on paper but how do we make this work in the real world? For me it looks like this; I pray before I meet with a family that they will be comforted during this time of loss and whatever we do at the funeral home will be used to honor God and be a comfort to the family. While meeting with them (if the opportunity presents itself) I talk about Jesus and the comfort we have in Him, and the promise of being with Him forever one day. I tell them about the Good Shepherd and how he is with us through the valley of the shadow of death. How He loves and cares for us. I give a hug or handshake. Sometimes I just listen patiently while a family talks about their loved one. And God lets me know He’s there and working in the family’s life when the family comes to us later and says how thankful they are and how much it means for us to be there to help them.

That is just what I can do at work. What can you do at your job, school, or just out shopping? Can you hold the door for someone? Can you share the gospel with someone? Can you just take a moment and pray for someone when you see and know there is a need? 

God has put us all in positions that we may serve Him in this life. We have to diligently search for and serve Him while living in this world. 

Riley Lee



Simplicity

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.   2 Corinthians 11:3

Chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians has always seemed a little strange to me. Many bibles have headings for different sections and yours might say something to the effect of “Paul defends his apostleship” or “Paul reluctantly boasts.” It seems absurd in today’s Christianity that anyone would question Paul’s apostleship, but that was precisely the case here for the Corinthians.

To them, Paul wasn’t as big of a name as some of the earlier disciples. Although he felt it “foolish,” Paul defended himself to the Corinthians because he deeply desired for them to hear his teaching and guidance. Paul’s boasting was also odd. He points to many of his lowest moments including beatings, stoning, and being shipwrecked. But he claims that boasting about his weaknesses truly shows the strength of Christ (a lesson we could all learn).

All of this aside, something Paul said at the end of verse three caught my attention this time through. He says that we might be led astray from the simplicity of devotion to Christ. I don’t think many people would use the word “simple” when describing their relationship with Jesus. In fact, many might say the complete opposite and point to the complexity and challenges of their relationship.

If you grew up in church or have helped with children at church, you can see how simple our faith can really be. Maybe it’s the “ABCs” or “Love God, Love People” but it only seems to get more complicated the older we get. While it may be true that our lives are more complex as adults, that doesn’t mean that our relationship with God has to be more complicated. As Paul states in this verse, it’s the simplicity of devotion to Christ.

Now you may say that being fully devoted to Christ isn’t that easy, and I agree. But there is a big difference in simple and easy. While the idea of throwing a football to a teammate is very simple at its core, it’s not always easy to accomplish. Just like being devoted to Christ is simple enough (love Him, obey Him, desire to read His word and spend time with Him in prayer), but it’s not always easy to accomplish.

Although throwing a football is simple, it’s the job of the defense to make it difficult. To confuse and complicate a simple task. Paul mentions the serpent is deceiving and crafty. He can certainly confuse and complicate any situation. So while our devotion to Christ may be difficult at times, we can find hope in knowing that it’s not complicated.

Walt Howard



A Restless Spirit

  • Us four and no more.
  • Us four and no more – and shut the door.
  • Anytime you happen to pass my house, I’d sure appreciate it.

Maybe you know a similar saying. We laugh a little self-consciously about this when it comes to church. We know that’s not what we’re called to, but the comfort of knowing OUR folks and OUR routine usually trumps our conviction.

Many time we will gladly embrace those whom appear as if they will easily fit in. They know our routines, our beliefs, and our basic assumptions about life.

Let’s challenge ourselves by looking again at Luke 4. In Luke 4 we hear the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Immediately after this temptation he is in his hometown and they attempt to kill him when he proposes that the kingdom of God is not about their gaining political or physical authority. Then Jesus is met by a demon-possessed man whom he casts the demons out of and orders him to hold his tongue.

He is sought out by the people of the area and they beg him to stay with them. To completely rid them of diseased people. To completely eradicate the demonic possessed. To feed them.

Jesus rejects their wishes and states that he has a calling to go to more places and meet more people. May God give us a restless spirit to travel and engage outside of our social circles, our ethnic circles, our cultural circles, and even our religious circles. Let’s meet some folks.

Daniel Harding



Words We Speak To Our Children

Colossians 2:2 That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,

While reading a book about Outreach Ministry, I came across a passage that talked about how words can build up or destroy a child or anyone else for that matter. The question was asked, “Do you remember when someone you loved or looked up to said something very demeaning to you?” Immediately, I remember some hurtful words that someone very dear said to me and it brought me back to that moment and tears filled my eyes. Then the question was asked, “Do you remember when a person you loved and admired said some words of encouragement to you?” Again, I could tell you the place, where I was when my Dad told me that nothing was impossible for me to accomplish, the only thing that could hold me back from my dreams was me. In both situations, the words spoken to me were both heavy with hate and love. The weight of their impact is still staggering.

When we minister to children and others our words maybe the only encouragement they get that day. Having grown up in a household before Christ, I can tell you that until our family was saved, words were very critical and mean spirited most of the time. I was terrified to talk to people and kept to myself entirely, especially through my teenage years. I did not feel that I was worthy or of any value. Solomon says in the Bible in Proverbs [18:21],” death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is just a defense mechanism for a wounded heart. I pray as we go through my days and the ministry that the Lord has given all of us that, we will remember the power of words to encourage, love, lift up, to be the antidote of the ugly, hateful, discouraging things that are said to speak humiliating, lowering, discrediting phrases that only kill and destroy the spirit of those we live before.

Jackie Gillespie



Knowing Jesus

Matthew [7:21]-23  Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

I boarded a flight one time from Nigeria to Ivory Coast. My seat was on the first economy row. Soon afterward a richly dressed woman came on who had a seat further back. When she discovered the location of her seat, she began to protest loudly. She wanted to sit on the first row. There was an empty seat there. She insisted that the stewardesses give her that seat. After a very loud altercation for about 10 minutes, they gave up and let her sit there. (In America, she would have been escorted off the plane. But this was not America) 

Across the aisle, there was seated a man wearing traditional Islamic dress.  He was closely observing this ongoing loud drama.   When the plane started to take off, this lady then began to pray loudly In Jesus’ Name that we would all make it safely. I thought, “Don’t bring Jesus into this!” I was very embarrassed because I felt that she put shame on the name of Jesus and took away any witness to that Islamic man. 

There are many people who know about Jesus. They have information about him, but they do not know him. They do not have God’s Spirit living inside them to guide their lives. In Matthew [7:21]-23 Jesus talks about those who thought they knew Jesus, but find out on Judgment Day that they were wrong.

I can’t judge that lady on the plane. Maybe she was a true Christian, but the fruit of her life was not proving that.  All of us have a bad day once in a while, but if the pattern of our lives is like this then we have to question ourselves.  Each person has to examine their own heart and be sure that they have Jesus in there and not just the knowledge of Jesus.

Harriet Bowman



Complaining

Exodus 16:8  “Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him, And what are we?  Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”

Complaining. We all do it. Some people more than others. You may know someone who seems to have that as their main personality trait!  

As I was reading in Exodus chapter 16, the Israelites were complaining about having no food in their new wilderness location. They complained to Moses and he said basically, “You’re complaining to me, but the real one you are complaining to is God.” Preachers love to preach about these verses and the lesson being taught is that God provides.

But I’m making it personal this morning. We complain about the government, about high prices and greedy businesses. Complain about our neighbor, our in-laws, our co-workers or the teachers at school. It just hit me that a lot of the complaining we are doing, God sees it for what it really is. It is directed at Him.

If we are really truthful, what we are saying to God is, “Why don’t you give me a better life?” “Why can’t I have the life that I think I deserve?” If we can look at complaining in that way, maybe we won’t do it quite as often. A better option might be to try to see the things God has already brought us through and to talk to Him about our present problems and trust Him that He can bring us through those as well. Trusting and complaining can’t occupy the same space. Let’s let Trusting grow in our lives today and complaining will have to live elsewhere.

Harriet Bowman



After Temptation: More Temptation

Luke 4

When Jesus was in the desert he simply had himself to deal with. As we see from the temptation that is outlined in verses 1-13 that was certainly enough. We too can agree that the temptations, as James tells us, begin with the ideas within our own minds.

What happens when those ideas actually take shape? Jesus’ submission to the Father’s will in the desert allowed him to fully engage the next group of people; his hometown acquaintances. We know the phrase he uses in this passage; a prophet is only without honor among his hometown folks, but let’s remind ourselves of the context.

Jesus has just dealt with great temptations to use his desires and demands to construct something ‘good’ but something that was different than what God had planned. He is immediately confronted by friends and family who demand a performance from him. The very reality which he had just denied himself.

Again and again we see the humility of God on display. There is no showing off, no proving, just his care and compassion for others. NT Wright says about this experience – when they tried to toss him off the cliff for saying he was the completion of Isaiah – that his resistance of temptation alone is what enabled him to resist temptation when presented by family and friends.

If Jesus needed time alone to pray and confront the temptations of life – then most certainly I do as well. Otherwise, we’ll spend our lives responding to the requests and demands of people and not reflecting the care and compassion of our Savior.

Try some silence today. Try some alone time. Trust in the Savior. Trust in the Present God.

Daniel Harding



Holes In The Ceiling

Mark 2

My husband and I were discussing a lesson for kid’s church. Mark Chapter 2. The lesson was on the paralytic and his 4 friends. We talked about the friends whose love and faith for their friend made them do a totally desperate act by tearing a roof apart to bring a friend to Jesus. The religious men, whose pride in their religious righteousness missed the miracle, the man on the pallet that was in the middle of the chaos at Jesus’ feet and the Lord’s response to it all.  “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Then we discussed how Jesus spoke to the man and he picked up his mat and walked…walked in front of all the men who would have been satisfied if he had still laid there so their religious pride would be left intact.

(Now please forgive my humanness.) I looked at Mr. Richard (my husband) and said, “You know I thank God and I am in awe of the miracle that you are. I believe, I really do thank God, He could have made you completely and perfectly whole. It seems to me after such an incredible miracle, He would have given you the ability to walk without assistance. I just don’t understand.”

Then quietly, Mr. Richard said, “You know I wonder that too and I struggle with it sometimes, but He is teaching me that it’s not about me. That the evidence of my miracle IS my wheelchair! He raised me from almost death and I have the chair to prove it!” …. My husband and my Lord are both teaching me, that l it’s not having a perfect roof of faith over our heads that is proof of a walk with Christ, but it’s the holes in the ceiling where the good stuff of the Lord comes in! So I thank God for the holes in the ceiling.

Jackie Gillespie



Apathy

I spent the evening rewatching Seven, a thriller where a retiring detective and his upcoming replacement try to catch a killer. It’s a dark movie and I won’t go into details here but there was a conversation in the film that caught my eye. 

     This is the retiring detective talking. 

“Apathy is a solution. I mean it’s easier to lose yourself in drugs than it is to cope with life. It’s easier to steal what you want than it is to earn it.”

After being on the force and seeing all he has seen he acknowledges that he understands why people are like they are. And for Christians it’s easy to fall into the same boat. 

“I need to do my daily bible study but Netflix just dropped Tiger King season 2. I need to watch it so I can talk with the guys at work tomorrow.”

“I don’t want to go to a later service cause there are too many people there, and who wants to go to an [8:30] service.”

“Sunday fun day! Let’s party y’all!”

Paul warns the Roman believers (and us) about letting sin (missing the mark, not serving as we should) control our lives. He says we must be dead to sins and alive unto God. We must not let the pleasures of this world distract us from the pleasure of serving God. 

“Well that’s just Paul spouting words I can’t understand. It’s way above my head.” 

Well lucky for us Christ makes it pretty plain in Matthew 6.

     “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

For we Christians, Christ has shed His blood for the remission of our sins. Being freed from the bonds of sin we are free to serve God as we should. How do you serve as you should? Love God and your neighbor. If you love God you will not use your body (not just your body, your mind is included in this I believe) to dishonor Him. The same principle applies to loving your neighbor. 

It’s hard. I struggle with this daily. It’s easier to just come home and watch YouTube than to try and write words of encouragement. It’s easier to call a stranger on a video game chat stupid than to call and check on your neighbor and call out to God to heal their sickness or whatever may be afflicting them. 

Well what’s the benefit of serving a righteous God versus serving the lusts of the flesh? 

     “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

     I pray that we all can submit to our Heavenly Father and be about His business. It’s not easy. It’s not the most popular thing to do. But it is what we are called to do. 

Riley Lee