Daily Devotion

Family Devotions

Matthew 6:6   “When you pray…pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”                     

Bedtime prayers were often limited to a little memorized prayer when our oldest son was very young. I remember it taught me to have my personal devotions after he had gone to bed.

We would take turns saying “Now I lay me down to sleep…” right before he hopped into bed. Sometimes I would read a short scripture before the prayer. The idea in my mind was to knit his heart to the heart of God and also to my husband and me.

I remember when our memorized prayers had turned into unrehearsed prayers that opened both of our hearts to God. Our son would thank God for the door knobs. Really, door knobs? Listening to his little prayers helped both of us catch a glimpse of our souls and learn how to relate to God, praise Him, and make our requests known to our loving Father.

Albert Schweitzer once commented on the need for parents to set an example in devotion:

“From the services in which I joined as a child I have taken with me into life a feeling for what is solemn, and a need for quiet self-recollection, without which I cannot realize the meaning of my life. I cannot, therefore, support the opinion of those who would not let children take part in grown-up people’s services till they to some extent understand them. The important thing is not that they shall understand but that they shall feel something of what is serious and solemn. The fact that a child sees his elders full of devotion, and has to feel something of devotion himself, that is what gives the service its meaning for him.”

During the time in which we live today as I reflect on our little prayers many years ago I not only thank God for door knobs but also the locks on the door knobs. And sometimes as I have devotions with our grandchildren today I hear them pour their little souls out to God. They have shared with me that their daddy leads family devotions at home. Wow, it never occurred to me that this could also be a legacy!

End your evenings with family devotions even if you are single or don’t have children. Reflect on the chaos of the day as you spend time with your Heavenly Father. God will help you to put the chaos in perspective and sleep peacefully.

Glenda Bashlor



Jesus’ Faith

Luke 4:1-13, James [2:18]-19

God is present.

God is enough.

For just a few moments let’s consider both of those phrases as we think of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. In Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 4, we are told of Jesus going to the wilderness alone following his baptism by John. At the end of this time alone, which is a temptation in and of itself, Jesus encounters Satan; The Accuser, The Tempter, and is directly tempted in three areas as recorded in Matthew and Luke.

Specifically, Luke records that Jesus is tempted with self-gratification, power, and immortality. Now, when we read the story we actually don’t see those words, but they are there in Jesus’ responses. Read those below with the paraphrase that accompanies them as Jesus addressed the reality of what was being offered to him.

Man shall not live by bread alone – I don’t always need what I might think I need.

Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only – There is nothing that I need to do to attain power, for God holds it all.

Do not put the Lord your God to the test – My life is a service to God, He is not to be summoned and commanded.

Having just finished a study on James it is amazing how much James thought the daily lives and presuppositions of these very religious people should be changing and challenged. Those Jews who had followed the Law and were committed to a singular God are now finding that their daily lifestyles and self-focus is being challenged by the reality of Jesus.

How do we challenge that? How do we challenge the in-built desire to satisfy self before others? How do we come to grips with the reality that I prefer self over others? How do we go about changing these behaviors?

Look at James’ reply to how we address these questions:

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

In the desert Jesus acted in faith and he proved this by his actions. His belief was that God was present with Him in the crazy and unrealistic moment in which he was – and that God being present was enough. He would provide.

So too he will provide for you and I. In our interactions with others. In our pursuit of our desires. In our daily disturbances of life when it feels as if surely we would be right to simply take and not have faith.

God is present.

God is enough.

Daniel Harding



The Real Thing

(Exodus 20:3, Luke [14:33])

On a window seal in my man cave (my wife might more accurately describe it as my junk room) sits a red candle in a white bowl which I inherited from some long ago Christmas time. Sitting across the top of that bowl and propped against the window is an old picture, probably older than I am. It is a painting done on a small sheet of metal and framed.

A painting of a big magnificent looking sailing ship with lots of sails. It is at sea sailing in choppy seas. On the two main masts there are at least five large sails. The forward mast over the bow holds two more and the rear mast holds maybe three more. She is a fine looking powerful ship. The metal she is painted on has been rippled so that when you reach out and touch the waves, you actually feel the rippling of the waves and can imagine them slapping against the ship’s hull. The name Frank Clifford is down in the right corner. I can stare at that painting and, little boy like, imagine sailing to Africa and other exciting places on board that ship back in the day. But… even though it looks impressive and has that wavy feel to it, it is still just a painting and not the real thing.

Is that how we are? We may look impressive in our walk with the Lord and if someone reaches out and “touches” our lives by interacting with us, we may, on the surface at least, give a good impression of being the real thing… but, are we? If someone went deep into our lives and character, would they find us to be real and authentically Christ-like?

Jesus taught a lot about being committed wholly to Him. In Luke 14 and again in Luke 16 He addressed this. In fact, you can find this teaching throughout the New Testament, the teaching which says we must have no other gods before Him. And of course, that is one of the original Ten Commandments, isn’t it? Why would it be so often repeated? Maybe it is because we so often mess it up. The ancient Jewish people failed time and time again to stay faithful to God… to be really with Him. Our current Sunday School lessons in the book of Isaiah show us that over and over.

Let’s be careful and take time each day to speak with our God and call on Him to guide us, recommitting ourselves daily to follow Him as best we can. Let’s be the real thing.

Clint Bowman



Sitting On the Porch

Luke 15: 11-32

I was blessed to be raised with my Cajun grandparents in Southwest Louisiana most of my childhood.  What great memories I have of that small home and large yard (my grandparents lived in the city of Lake Charles and had a *truck farm). In those days everything had a purpose, chores had a purpose either farming, maintenance, housekeeping, baking cooking, canning, etc. Everything was such an efficient flow of time and applying it to its best use.  What I really loved best was the part of the day that when the harvest of the ripe fruit or vegetables was done sitting underneath those big oaks and huge pine trees, with wash pans full of figs, corn, peas, etc. and preparing them for canning or baking. My grandparents and I (and whoever came by for a visit) worked as they told stories, laughed, drank coffee and had the best time sitting under those trees sharing the joy of God’s blessings. They talked about everything from family, faith, politics and the general news of the day.

One thing my grandparents never shared was the concerns for those members of the family that had gone astray or they might have had differences about a personal matter.  They quietly kept all these things to themselves but hiding them in their hearts and faithfully praying.

I am sure that my Daddy was one of their concerns. He and my Momma were living a life outside of the church.  My Grandparents never said a discouraging word or expressed an ugly thought about either one to me or anyone else. They were content to give them to the Lord as they “sat on the porch”.

What a picture that is so similar to the one Jesus told in Luke [15:11]-32 about the Prodigal Son. The father sat patiently on the porch waiting to see his son return every day. Jesus doesn’t tell us how long he sat, but we know that as he watched he prayed expectantly to see his son return and eventually God answered that prayer. He didn’t run to find him, take him out of his situation. He patiently waited sitting on the porch.

You may have a child, family member, spouse, or situation that God has not miraculously changed for whatever reason. It is discouraging when we think God has forgotten us on the porch. The truth is that the porch is not always God moving in a situation. It is for us and lives to change us before He brings the prodigal home.

So go shell some peas, peel some figs and laugh, sing and praise because you have Jesus’ company on the porch.

Jackie Gillespie

*A Truck Farm is a large city garden where people grew vegetables and sold them at a very low price to neighbors and local grocers.



Free; In A Prison

Acts [16:16]-34

I want us to keep an open mind as we read the verses from Acts. This is a well known story of how Paul and Silas were delivered out of jail. But I want to look at the jailer instead of the two missionaries. And I want us to use a little imagination here.

The scene. A courtroom where the judge is on the bench, our bailiff/jailer is standing to the side ready to escort the prisoners away to their cell, the defendants sitting on their knees in front of everyone, and their accusers standing and accusing them. So the accusers state their charges against them. They are well known businessmen and have a lot of friends in the community. They get riled up and start attacking them. The judges let it happen. 

Meanwhile our jailer thinks something is off. He’s heard these guys talk and pray. He’s heard they’re the servants of God. They good folks. 

The verdict is given quickly. Guilty. The judge calls the jailer over and tells him to lock them up good. Not willing to upset the system he follows his orders. Bottom of the jail. Pitch black. Miserable. 

He goes to start his paperwork. Shortly he hears a sound from the bottom of the jail. Great, he thinks. They are going to be complaining and yelling all night. He goes to tell them to can it but stops before he gets there. They are praying. Asking God to forgive their tormentors. They are singing. He has heard that psalm before.  

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord… serve Him with gladness…the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting.”

He thinks to himself, they serve a wonderful God, for them to be so happy in a place of such hopelessness. He tries to finish his paperwork but the singing is too pretty and he quickly falls asleep. He dreams of a grassy valley, with a quiet stream running through it. 

He is awakened by his chair overturning and throwing him to the ground. He looks around quickly to see all the cell doors open. The cells are empty. Darkness clutches his heart as he walks to the bottom where the chief prisoners were kept. Seeing the empty cell he grabs a sword to end his life before the judges and businessmen do it for him. Before he makes the fatal blow a voice tells him to stop. 

The jailer calls for light and the bulbs twinkle on revealing everything. He sees the men still in the cell! 

He falls at their feet crying. He knows that the jail is well built. Only a miracle would cause all the cells to open. Only the love of a wonderful God would constrain the falsely convicted to remain, saving a jailer from death. 

I’ll not keep you much longer. Here’s the rest of the story. 

“And he brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”

We are the missionaries in the story. We are despised by the world. We teach strange beliefs that go against the world. We are in a prison. This world is not our home. We are looking forward to a new world that is in perfect harmony with God. While here we must spread the good news to the jailors of the world. And trust that God will bless His word to find hearts ready to believe and trust in Him. 

Riley Lee



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



Go Tell Your Friends

Mark [5:18]-19 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Jesus made a couple of “foreign mission trips” with His disciples during the three years He spent training them to launch the world changing and life bringing revolution which we call Christianity. One of these is found in Mark 5 when He led his disciples to the land of the Gadarenes. It was here He set free the demon possessed man and spent a very short time talking with him (and probably teaching him).

When Jesus was asked to leave the area by the locals He agreed to go but, He commanded the now “new man” who had formerly been possessed by demons to stay behind and, “ Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he has had compassion on you.”

The man wanted to go with Jesus. We might be tempted to say that he would need more training in his new found faith. Christ knew better. He had received all the training he needed to go and tell his story of what the Lord had done for him.

We are not asked to do the impossible. We are simply told to go tell the story of what the Lord has done for us. The story of what He has taught us as we have lived life in this world. Some of us are gifted speakers and writers.  But, most of us are just ordinary folk with ordinary lives where we see the Lord working through our times of injury, unemployment, worry, illnesses, and other problems. He just wants us to tell others “…what great things the Lord has done for you …”

So, how are we doing with this assignment?

Want a tip?

Choose one thing which God has done for you and determine within yourself to share that story with someone this week, somehow. Tell them in person, write it in a letter, or call them and tell them over the phone or whatever. Who knows what fun conversation that might lead to?

Clint Bowman



Traveling Light

Luke 2: 41-52

Reading through the Gospel of Luke we come upon a story that we’re not quite sure why it exists; the story of Jesus not traveling with his parents and at the age of 12 staying behind in Jerusalem and being found three days later sitting in the Temple courtyard conversing with the religious leaders.

Did he stay on purpose? Did he act like a normal 12-year-old boy and think that the phrase; ‘we’re leaving now’, really meant sometime in a non-linear future? Did he simply get distracted and finding his parents and extended family gone did he just head to a place where he knew he wanted to spend more time; a la Kevin McCallister visiting the toy store in Home Alone?

Whatever the case, one thing is certain; Mary and Joseph assumed that Jesus was with them when they left Jerusalem, only to find out that evening that such was not the case. The words of a Leonard Cohen song come to mind;

I’m traveling light; I guess I’m just Somebody who has given up on the me and you, I’m not alone, I’ve met a few, Traveling light like we used to do.

Leonard Cohen

While Cohen sings of a lost or discarded love there is something for us to consider here. Looking back on past decisions in my life it is daunting to note how many of them I made while ‘traveling light’. In other words, I didn’t stop where I was and orient myself around Jesus.

What does he say? What did he do? How would He in this moment respond to what I am experiencing?

Are there family situations in which we are traveling light? Are there job situations in which we are traveling light? Religious situations?

Don’t abandon the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John set out to write specific realities of Jesus’ life so that you and I and millions others would have direction in our life. Seek Jesus daily.

Daniel Harding



Are You Rested

Mark [2:23]-24, Lev. 25:1-7, 18-22

I have a statement to make: “I can’t fish or hunt on a Sunday.” There, I said it in public. I rarely say that out loud in South Georgia, the land of hunting and fishing.  But, it is something my dad taught me in my childhood and if I try to go against that teaching today, I feel as if God Himself is thumping me on my shoulder and saying “Now Clint, you know this ain’t right.”  (And yes, I believe God uses the word ain’t because He speaks to us in the ways we can understand Him). So, what’s my point?

My dad hunted a lot. He fished even more. He loved the Satilla river and the Okefenokee region. But, one day when I was young and bored and wanted to hit the river and fish some, he told me that even the fish and animals need a break and we would stay home on Sundays. He lived by that all of his life so far as I know. My farming relatives taught me that the land needs a break every once in a while or it’ll stop producing well. So, here’s my point: All things (including mankind) need a Sabbath break from time to time.

In Mark 2, Jesus taught us that the Sabbath was made for man. God rested on the Sabbath in Genesis 2. And a teaching of Leviticus 25 tells us that the land needs a Sabbath break and if it is given that break to rest, mankind benefits. All things need a break to rest occasionally. Are you resting as you should? Are you taking time to rest, relax, meditate, enjoy your family and your God? Rest can be needed physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. We can wear ourselves out physically playing softball or flag football with the family and yet feel totally rested later that day.

Many missionaries, especially newer ones on the field of service, are often encouraged to take a Sabbath from the internet and social media for a few days every so often in order to distress and relax. A Sabbath type of rest can come in different forms.

The idea of the Sabbath is for our good. It’s not a punishment, it’s a blessing. I say, go for it!

Clint Bowman



Karma

II Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

KARMA. What does that mean? You hear it spoken of more frequently these days on TV. Without going deep into Hinduism or Buddhism, the meaning is that how you act today will eventually come around to pay you back in like manner. Basically, you get what you deserve.

But if you look at the world, it doesn’t seem like that’s really happening. You see some wicked politician or some evil dictator and you may wish he would get what he deserves. You may think, “If I were God, I would zap that person. Just instant obliteration!”

Why is it that God doesn’t do that? Why does a child molester have multiple victims? If God were doing His job, it seems like there would be some people that would just be gone.

The answer to this dilemma is found in the book of II Peter particularly in chapter 3. Verse 9 says this: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” If you go read the whole chapter you’ll see that it is talking about the end of time. God wants everyone to be saved from the judgment that is coming. He does not want anyone to make the wrong choice. He is patient with us. Really none of us get what we deserve. Thank God we don’t!

Instead we get what we don’t deserve which is the chance to turn away from our sin and follow Jesus. We get the chance to be saved and we do not deserve it. Don’t depend on karma to save you. Your good deeds will not save you. Make the choice to follow Jesus today while you have the chance.

Harriet Bowman