A Devotion May Be Someone's Only Bible

Faith & Family

Faith is a vital role in the family unit. It draws us together. Holds us tight. Binds us with the ties of God. Keeping faith in our families secures the values of Christ are embedded in our children



Freedom

Let Him Say So.

Twenty-seven-hundred and ninety-nine days. That’s how long I had been on this same three acres of chain-link encircled Florida soil. Seven years, eight months, and thirteen long, mind-numbing, aching, lonely, and occasionally terrifying days.

Finally, by the grace of God, I reached the end. The last sunrise I would have to see reflected through coils of concertina razor wire. My few possessions had been packed for days. Most everything that had been of value inside would have no meaning outside the fence, and so I had passed them on—as they had been passed to me.

Collected over the better part of a decade, these simple items made life in this hell slightly more bearable. A twenty-two-ounce insulated mug, a stadium cup, and a pair of clip-on sunglasses. Meaningless items that were invaluable inside that constant chain-link fence that had for so long marked the boundaries of my world.

The morning stretched on. It felt like an eternity before I finally heard my name called to report to the front gate. Taking my cardboard box of remaining belongings, I reported as instructed and then went through another excruciating hour of signing one bureaucratic form after another. 

At last, the time came for me to rid myself of the prison uniform I had worn for so many years. I was handed a package from home—Levi jeans and a polo shirt. For the last time, I peeled off my prison uniform.

Changing clothes felt as if I were shedding a skin. Years of tension and stress seemed to wash away. I was a new person. No longer Inmate #269493. I was once again Kevin Eudean Spencer, human being.

And then it was time. With a final instruction from the corrections officer processing me out and a cynical “good luck,” the steel door swung open, and I stepped into a glorious Florida spring. It was April 14, 1994, and my mom and dad were waiting—having come all the way from North Carolina to take me home. I fell into their arms, fighting tears. I was free.

Someday, I’ll feel that way again. Having been freed by the blood of Christ, I’ll step out of the prison of this world into new clothes and a new eternal, heavenly life. And there to greet me, I expect, will be my mom and dad.

Let Her Say So.

I had “nothing left to lose,” as a songwriter once described freedom.

When the door opened and I walked into the ice-cold darkness of a winter’s night, I had nothing but jail-issued scrubs. I was in an unfamiliar town; no one was waiting to pick me up. I didn’t care. I would have crawled under a shrub and frozen rather than stay another minute in a cell. I was free. The kind of freedom I understood. It was tangible. It could be bought, fought for, taken. But that night, it was all I had.

I chased after my kind of freedom for years—crossing a multitude of lines. My freedom was elusive but necessary—or so I thought. I didn’t realize every step I took only added another link in the chain, pulling me further into an abyss of dejection and indifference. I became cold, bitter, and angry. After my final arrest and incarceration, the freedom I knew became only a memory of a good idea I once had. 

During my days in isolation, I despairingly reached out for anything resembling freedom. And in a time of desperation, I met Christ. There were no white light moments of transcendence or blink-of-an-eye epiphanies in which I suddenly realized true freedom. That kind of Christ-liberation took a long time. I read words like forgiven, pardoned, and free in the Bible, but there were no judges, lawyers, or jury members offering to go back to my jail cell for me.

My new faith collided with reality on a daily basis. Still, I believed and accepted God’s freedom because I had no hope for anything else. Even today, behind all of my Christian beliefs, there is a reality I can’t quite ignore. I still have untamed emotions and wild dreams of the freedom I once imagined. I’m not always sure how to be real about that, while at the same time honoring the God I love. Like crafting a beautifully structured poem when I can’t seem to get the meter right in every verse.

I’m not perfect, but the freedom Christ has given us does not require perfection. He simply wants us to be free from the bonds of our sins. 

The freedom Christ gives is the only freedom worth losing everything for. Experience Christ’s freedom today.

(Photo courtesy of pixabay.)

(For more devotions, visit Christian Devotions.)

A Father's Love

He was a gruff old bird. My friends shuddered when he spoke, and his stare sent chills down your arms. That was dad. A little on the brusque side. A little sharp around the edges. He demanded respect and rarely failed to attain it. You knew he meant business, yet when he’d gently squeeze your shoulder, his inner tenderness showed. You. Felt. Loved.

Perhaps that’s why my friends spent so much time with my parents. Many of them lacked what I didn’t realize I had … a true father. One who loved me despite my shortcomings. Despite theirs. Forty-five years later, many of my friends still tell me how much they loved and respected my father.

I had as many guy friends as girls and each one loved my folks. The proof was in the pudding. They were at our house even when I wasn’t. Dad guided my friends. He gave them rules, commands, and standards he expected to be maintained. As they loaded into their cars to go home, Dad paced the length of the car, kicking the tires, checking under the body. And before he’d send them on their way, that big bear hand would grasp their shoulder and tenderly squeeze. “You know what I expect.”

“Yes sir.” They’d smile and drive away.

My father always welcomed them and always commanded their respect.

When Jesus explained who He was and how He loved us, the instructions were clear. Keep my commands. When we obey, the promise is to remain in His love–and Jesus always keeps His promises.  Christ showed us through His own relationship to the Father what God expected of Him. In turn, He expects the same from us. The reward of obedience is pure love in Him. What a gift.

The love and joy given to me ... to my friends … by my Dad has never been forgotten. Years later they still feel the warmth of his touch and the expectations he held from the tone of his voice. God’s love for us commands one thing: keep my commands, and you will remain in my love.

On this Father’s Day, never forget the warmth of the Father’s hand on your shoulder. Keep His commands, and you will always remain snuggled tightly in Him. 

(Photo courtesy of pixabay.)

(For more devotions, visit Christian Devotions,)

Friends

Dear Jonathan,

You are worth more than a friend; you are family. To share a bond with you that was woven with the cords of love, honesty, and faithfulness is God’s handiwork. God, in His greatness, formed a friendship through which He will draw us to Himself and work out His amazing plan. The sharp edges of hatred and jealousy were too blunt for our bond of friendship as we sharpened each other to the very end. I thank God for choosing you to be my friend.

Your friend,
King David

Apart from the amazing friendship we have with Jesus, our Saviour, the friendship between David and Jonathan is one of the greatest friendships we find in the Bible. And one we can learn from. I wonder if these are words David would have said to Jonathan, his close friend. I would love to say them to my friends.

When we understand friendship, we cherish friends. They are people we share our deepest thoughts and secrets with. We’ve had the most laughs with them and watched each other cry. It is amazing the kind of bonds two unfamiliar people are able to share.

God’s greatness is seen in His ability to create such amazing bonds. Friends are Gods messengers, people set aside to be there for us and through whom He stirs up laughter, joy, and happiness in us. Through friendship, God causes us to enjoy the world in another way. The Lord is able to teach us amazing truths and help us grow in Him with the friendships He gives us.

Don’t let selfishness and unforgiveness pull back the hand that is meant to hold another. Choose to thank God for your friends, and celebrate friendship.

(Photo courtesy of pixabay.)

(For more devotions, visit Christian Devotions.)

Making Turtles and Building Relationships

“I think we need to make some turtles.”

We hadn’t seen Anne for several years. She had completed her education, married, and moved to another town. She enjoyed a successful teaching career and was expecting her first child. Although as beautiful and outgoing as always, grief overwhelmed her.

Standing with her mother and sister, she accepted condolences from friends and family during visitation at a local funeral home. Her father had suffered a sudden, massive heart attack. He died moments later. The physical and emotional strain left her drained. Yet when my husband and I drew near, she smiled through her tears. While we hugged and held to one another, she whispered her desire to make turtles.

We created those wonderful gooey, chocolate-covered candies for hours when she and her sister Val were elementary-school age. I relegated my turtle molds to a shelf of seldom-or-never-used items soon after. However, with those few words, floods of memories returned.

Anne’s father and my husband worked together. Our friendship grew through shared family recreation. We invited the girls to stay with us several times, and one of our favorite activities was working in the kitchen. Turtles were our specialty. In the process we made messes, giggled, and endured endless teasing from my husband.

I can’t recall spending a great deal of time discussing deep theological issues. We had our usual prayer of thanks before eating, and we read the Bible and prayed together at night. I’m sure we discussed whatever tragedies revolved around their lives at school, especially involving some of those horrible boys in their classes. But most of the time we simply enjoyed one another’s company.

Little did Anne or any of us realize God would use our fun days so long ago to help us through one of the hardest experiences of our lives as we mourned together.

In much the same way, God offers to spend special time with us. He loves us, wants to share our daily joys, and wants to be a part of our ongoing growth. Whether we’re making turtles, folding clothes, or visiting friends, allow God to be a part of it all.

When inevitable difficulties arise, let your strong and vital relationship with the Lord provide an unlimited source of comfort and peace.

(Photo courtesy of pexel.)

(For more devotions, visit Christian Devotions.)

Let the Redeemed of the Lord "SAY SO"

Let him “Say So.”

The noise in prison is neverending.

Blaring loudspeakers rule your life twenty-four hours a day, along with constant reverberations of every sound of life. The noise is enough to unhinge a man from reality. Some of it is deliberate, designed to reduce a man as an individual. A human being who once had a name becomes an inmate with a number. A cog in a machine. Go here, go there. Wake up, go to sleep. Eat. Obey.

I knew correction officers who would deliberately wear taps on their shoes when they patrolled at night. The tap-tap-tap echoing in the dead of night yanked me from whatever escape I had found in my sleep and thrust me back into the hell that had become my life.

Prison allows no individualism. Inmates dress alike, wear the same haircut, and eat the same meal. No facial hair. Conform. Stay in line. Don't speak. The mayhem is neverending. Sounds of incarceration pose a constant threat to any tenuous peace of mind . . . even the peace invading your dreams.

Our Lord said to be still to find Him. He showed us through Elijah that He wasn't found in major special effects, but in still small places.

The problem in prison is finding those still places. After the trauma of my arrest, I was shut down. The Lord answered my prayers, as promised, but a nagging problem remained. I could not consistently seek Him in the chaos of carnality surrounding me every day.

God will provide, however. In time, that still, small, quiet place found me. The prison recreation yard had a quarter-mile track. I began to run. First for the exercise. Then for the peace. Years passed. I was eventually running between eight and ten miles each day and began to experience what long-distance athletes call runner’s high—where the runner reaches a mild state of euphoria and endorphins flood their system.

For me, this stage was a place of peace. The world faded away until the only conscious sound was my rhythmic breathing. And there I met with and talked to my Father.

Where do you meet your Father? Find your place to “be still.” He will be there.

Let her ‘Say So.’

A thread is not much to hang by.

Years ago, I discovered how fragile my connection was to things I’d tried to hold on to. The weight of bad decisions was unbearable. Every fiber of hope that I could have what I wanted suddenly snapped. I fell hard into the deepest level of despair and hopelessness ever imagined and landed on rock bottom. My “rock” was a slab of concrete inside a secluded jail cell smaller than a typical horse stable. There, I lay in silence for nine months.

Sometimes, God needs us to be in a quiet isolated place to hear from Him. His Word says, Be still and know that I am God. I would have preferred being still in a green pasture in Ireland or on a deserted Hawaiian Island, but I met God in prison. I had no place to run or look—except up.   

As days in isolation passed, another thread began to unravel  … the one my sanity hung by.  Experts have studied the effects on individuals held in solitary confinement and concluded their ability to relate socially, enjoy life, or hold a job (once released) disintegrates—a result of being segregated and alone.

While I don’t disagree, I’m thankful my personal experience could not be used to help support those findings. A single moment makes my life an anomaly: the night I went to my knees and knelt beside a metal bunk. The negative effects of solitude would not be my story because Jesus came into my life that night. I was no longer alone. 

Through the silence, God’s voice resounded. My mind—and more importantly my heart—grew stronger. Today, friends would describe me as socially adept, life-loving, and hardworking. My life is empirical evidence that knowing God can improve a person’s capacity for positive change and success.

Do not hang your hopes on anything other than Jesus Christ. He hung on a cross to endure the weight of our sins. While I did not choose my time of silence, I rejoice in the memory of hearing God’s voice.

When everyone else abandons you, God says, I will never leave you. And He won’t.

He didn’t leave me. 

(Photo courtesy of pixabay.)

(For more devotions, visit Christian Devotions.)

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