This page has various series of Daily Devotions that the Staff and members of Second Baptist have written and shared. These devotions have been for both specific times – Christmas/Advent and a January Bible Study – as well as for general encouragement and hope. 

January Bible Study

A Regular Day

It’s Christmastime and surely it seems that everyone is doing something. At the very least, most appear to be doing something more than you are currently doing. And, they are all smiling in the pictures that they are sharing of all their events. 

As we move forward and begin to look at some of the individuals who were present or played a role in Jesus’ birth and his early life, let me remind you of something: their interaction with the King of heaven and earth happened on what probably seemed to them to just be a regular day. 

Yes, Zachariah was serving in the temple, but he never expected to encounter an angel in there. 

We don’t know what Mary was doing or where exactly Mary was, but I would assume that she was going about her regular daily life, and then she met an angel.

Yes, the wisemen were looking for signs, but they had look for signs on multiple multiple multiple days before and seen nothing.

The shepherds were out in the fields because that is what their seasons and their jobs dictated for them and yet they met a host of heavenly angels that directed them to meet a precious child.

What are you doing today? Working at your job. Caring for your family. Sitting at home and wishing for more. Get ready.

The King has come.

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A Welcoming People

To truly embrace the idea of Expectation we let’s think for a few moments on hospitality and welcoming others. When our church hosted the Bethlehem Live for so many years we always included the part where Joseph and Mary are shown to a stable. Exclusion stings.

I’ve often wondered exactly what that meant for Jesus’ family. During those times you would not necessarily have an Inn that would function as our Hotels and Motels do but rather individuals would host travelers in their homes. Travelers would simply go to the town square or some other noticeable spot and then would be invited to share a home with whomever passed by. Hospitality, and the opportunity to welcome others, was taken very seriously.

And yet Luke reveals to us that Jesus’ family did not receive this kind of welcome. Was it because Joseph’s family, whom they presumably would have been traveling with and potentially staying with, knew that Mary was pregnant before her marriage to Joseph? Did Joseph, in his attempt to look out for Mary, make sure that he stayed away from crowded places or maybe even people they knew?

Whatever the case we know that at the time of Jesus’ birth that they found themselves among the animals. Forgotten. Outcasts. There was no space for them.

To embrace Expectation, the truth that God has come and is present with us, then we have the opportunity to serve as the welcoming people. The people who take joy in making sure others are recognized and acknowledged. The people who take pains to ensure that uncomfortable situations are straightened to help the weak feel secure.

In a world where we can communicate with just a few pushes of buttons and be seen and heard all over the world, we are surrounded by those who do not feel welcome. Welcome someone today. Serve them. In this place you will find your own heart beginning to swell in expectation of Christmas.

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Have You Seen a Great Light

To fully learn about expectation, we must find ourselves going back to the garden. Down under the tree, that surely bordered the river, and there we find quite a group.

First we see Adam and Eve disgusted with themselves. Disgusted with the tempter. Ultimately disgusted with God, for if we’ve learned anything on this earth it is that surely someone else must be to blame for our experiences and our suffering.

In that vile and terrible moment Adam and Eve were at a complete loss. Angry with each other. Angry with the tempter and angry with God. Adam and Eve were no help to anyone, especially themselves.

The tempter was angry and disgusted as well. Things had not worked out as he planned. Yes, he had seen the birth of pain and suffering in the lives of these disgusting humans but it had not elevated his position one bit. He too was on the outside looking in, with only fear and pain as his currency.

The only one present in that moment with any hope at all was God. He is hope. He is love. In that moment where it may have seemed all was lost he gave a promise. There would come One who would make all things right. One who would bear the load and pain of all who suffered.

The rest of the story of Scripture up to Jesus’ birth is one long story of hope and expectation. The story of Abram being called away from Ur; expectation for the coming One. The story of Joseph delivering his family; expectation for the coming One. The manna, the giant, the speaking donkey, and every story that you have ever learned is about the coming One who would make all things right.

From the very beginning we have been a people of hope. A people who believe in a King who will make all things right. As you approach this holiday season may we live as people of hope. May we believe in the light which has come.

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

a light has dawned.

Isaiah

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Expectation > Perfection

Perfection! Ah the glorious thought.

The Perfect Tree.

The Perfect Gift.

The Perfect Movie.

The Perfect Store.

The above are just a few of the things that we say and think around Christmas. Less often said, but certainly in the forefront of many of our minds is whether or not we will be The Perfect (you fill in the blank) for someone else.

Will our picture be perfect – or at least as good as our friends that we just saw on Instagram?

Will our cookies turn out perfect – or at least good enough get a compliment at our work event?

Will our kids be perfect at Aunt Sally’s – or at least not ruin another doily?

The question that is found in these times when we are striving for perfection is will we be enough? Good enough, strong enough, funny enough, engaging enough, or whatever enough that you might can imagine.

Christmas is not about perfection. Christmas is about expectation. Hope has arrived. The king has come. The world has forever been altered. Our lives are being daily altered by the presence of Jesus. Not our abilities or even our efforts but in his faithfulness.

The following are some prayers, crafts, or suggestions for you and your family during this Christmas season. Remember, it is about expectation, the King has come!

Idea 1: Create some space.

Utilize a shelf, a sitting area, or even wall space to serve as a reminder to your family of your expectation of the arrival of God in earth. Have copies of Christmas prayers written and place in a basket/on a shelf/stapled to a bulletin board to allow adults and kids alike to pause and remind themselves of what they are anticipating.

A Sample prayer from Faithful Families: For Advent and Christmas by Traci Smith

During Advent, we wait:

            We wait for Christmas Day.

             We wait to give and to receive.

              We wait for family.

               God, please help us to be patient as we wait and to enjoy the journey together.

Idea 2: Count up.

There are a multitude of ways that the following activity can be completed. The idea is to create a paperchain counting Up (or down if you prefer) to Christmas. Each day someone in the family could write something they are grateful for or something that they have seen that is good in the world or something that is a fond memory, or some way that they have been encouraged by others. Staple the strips of paper together that will create a chain of gratitude leading to Christmas. These could be written down daily or you could get several folks to work together to write it down at one time and then as they are attached daily they will serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness.

Daniel Harding

For a list of the resources I am using please click here

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Hope Has Arrived

As December begins we will be posting a series of devotions as we head towards Christmas. Yesterday marked the beginning of Advent, a time of expectant waiting and preparing for the celebration of Christmas. If, like myself, you were raised in a Baptist church, you may have never participated directly in the celebration of Advent.

If you are so inclined I would challenge you to check out the meaning and purpose behind this celebration that the church at large has participated in for hundreds of years. Many of the things that we refer to as traditions are derivatives of Advent celebrations. As we go through the next few weeks we will be looking at devotions, traditions, symbols, and functions that you can do or reflect on to help us anticipate the reality of God’s presence.

In his song, So, This Is Christmas, John Lennon pens these words:

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

Following a year that has been full of insecurity, suffering, and general discontent for many, these lyrics bring the emphasis to us; our ability, our effort, and our worth. This is where I often find myself. But Christmas is about the arrival of God coming to dwell with man.

Thousands of years before, Adam and Eve in an attempt to elevate themselves, had sought to become equal with God and succumbed to temptation. In that time God had promised that one day the roles would be reversed. The Tempter would be crushed and the woman would bear a great role in that victory.

So this is where our story begins. With news that would rattle even the most composed of people. God was coming.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.”
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

In your circumstances, God is present.

In your confusion, God is present.

Christmas is not a marker for what we have not done, but a reminder that God is present. Don’t get lost in the melancholy of John Lennon’s words but speak as Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

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Fruit of the Spirit | Conclusion

Galatians [5:22] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

We did not talk about the list of the “deeds of the flesh” which are found in Galatians [5:19]-21.  “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

These are in contrast to the Fruit of the Spirit which has been our topic found in Galatians [5:22]-23. Verse 19 says the deeds of the flesh are evident or obvious. The meaning is that they will manifest themselves or show up in the life of a person who is not being led by God’s Spirit. It further says in verse 21 that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

So looking at the list of deeds of the flesh, that could feel like an ominous statement. Who among us has not ever been jealous or had an outburst of anger? The key to understanding this is the word “practice”. To practice means to me that your life is characterized by this thing. You habitually do it. Your daily life being controlled by jealousy or outbursts of anger. Not one of us is perfect and has a fruit-filled life being always led by the Spirit and always making the right choices. But that is the goal. If we don’t have a goal, we really don’t know what direction to head for.

I have thought for a while about balance in all this.  Balance is very important.  Let’s say for example that a person is extremely patient. That part comes easy. But if they are not equally filled with love then the result may be that they are judgmental. Or maybe a person has a lot of self-control, but not much patience. They may become pious. Looking down at others who are struggling with self-control. I’ve heard people say… “I’m good at loving others, but bad at self-control.”

We can’t pick and choose. We are supposed to be working on all these areas. We can’t excuse our bad behavior in one area because we are doing pretty good in others. If you have ever tasted a fruit that is not ripe, you know that it is bitter or sour. In the same way our fruit must be mature so that our lives are not bitter or sour and that the Lord that we follow seems like a sweet thing to those people in the world who are looking.   God help us all to be the very best version of ourselves as Christians!

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday it is a privilege to bring to you this opportunity for self-reflection. This series of devotions are written by Harriet Bowman and allow for us to consider the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.

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Self-Control

Galatians [5:22] “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

How is it that Self-Control is a part of the Fruit of the Spirit? Self-Control comes from yourself, Right? This seems to be a contradiction in some way. The Fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians [5:22]-23 is one fruit, as we have mentioned earlier, with various parts. Since Self-Control is included, let’s figure it out.

Self-Control may be defined by its extreme opposite – Self-Destruction. The Bible tells us that as we have God’s Spirit within us as Christians and as we allow the Spirit to work in our lives we will begin to have self-control. We will have the ability to control ourselves. Restraining from what is bad and also choosing to do what is good.

As we move further from that what things may begin to be seen in our lives? First it might be small things like acting inconsistently or lowering your expectations. Then being easily taken advantage of, a pushover, unable to say no, or lowering your guard. Follow this with being obsessive or indiscrete. Being addicted to _______. Fill in the blank with drugs, porn, etc.

The spiral continues downward until you reach self-destruction. If we can understand this as a Spiritual problem, it helps. The devil is alive in the world and he seeks to destroy people. We must have God’s Power through the Spirit to be able to stand against him. As you see a person making a series of destructive choices in their life, it will help to know that what they need is not your advice on dieting or exercise. They may need a new set of friends or help getting off drugs. But what they really need is to have a closer relationship with God. Or if they have no relationship with God, then they need to be introduced to Him.

Since none of us is God, then none of us is going to have perfect self-control. We are going to lack in some areas. How can you today get closer to God and closer to being the very best version of yourself? How can you help other people around you to do the same?

As we head into the Thanksgiving Holiday it is a privilege to bring to you this opportunity for self-reflection. This series of devotions are written by Harriet Bowman and allow for us to consider the work of God’s Spirit in our lives.

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