Devotions By Jan


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Black Mamba Snake

Scripture for Today: Philippians 1:21 “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

It is said of Kobe Bryant that he was one of the most lethal guards ever to play basketball.  Perhaps this is why Kobe chose the black mamba snake as his alter ego.  It is Africa’s longest and the world’s fastest snake as well as being extremely venomous.  Nothing was going to get in the way or stop Kobe from reaching his goals.  He had a singular focus to attack those goals.  Ironically, Bryant’s words after his final NBA game were , “Mamba out.”  What a shame to have left this life so early.

Today’s verse describes the mindset of Paul.  He writes these words from house arrest, not knowing what his future may be.  He longs to be freed from not only his physical chains but the restraints of his earthly life, affirming that being with Christ is far better (verse 23).  For Paul, the issue was not life or death but the realization of his goal, that Christ would be exalted through him (verse 20).  He had a singular focus that marked his life and affected others, both in his day and currently.

I would love to have that kind of focus.  My eyes are not always fixed on my Sovereign Lord (Psalm 141:8).  I am so easily distracted by the mundane or the routine.  But when my focus is on living for Him, I not only feel His pleasure but my day takes on wonderful purpose!  There is not a worthier goal out there than to live the life my Creator has planned for me.  Living is Christ.  Dying is Christ.  I have in fact already died and my life is hidden in Him (Col. 3:3).

Lord, keep  my focus on You today!


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Sunlamps

Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:11 “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

People are not the only ones to appreciate a sunlamp!  This meerkat is soaking up the heat from one on a cold January day at a British zoo!  I am not so sure what it does for him, but for people there are some real physical benefits from sitting under a sunlamp.  It even improves one’s mood.  The light affects our brains by increasing the production of serotonin, a hormone connected with feelings of happiness.

Today’s verse describes the Lord as our Sun.  His sunshine is in the form of grace, favor and mercy.  There is no danger of getting too much of His light.  His love warms us and makes us grow.  And like sunshine, He improves our mood too!  His kindness and favor are the blessings He pours out on the one who trusts Him (verse 12).  In His wisdom He gives exactly what is needed and withholds what is not good for us.

I cannot say that my walk is blameless.  Who can?  But because of Christ’s sacrifice for my sin, I am righteous in His sight.  Even so, there are clouds that block His warmth and blessing when I knowingly choose my way over His.  When I am struggling to trust Him, I am not feeling the warmth of His favor.  Thankfully, His love does not change.  Coming clean with Him breaks up those clouds of rebellion and once again, the warmth of His love breaks through!

Thank you, Lord, for the warmth You bring my soul.

photo credit: Kevin Walsh https://www.flickr.com/photos/86624586@N00/10196142


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Watch and Wait

Scripture for Today: Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.”

Have you ever seen a cat watch and wait for his prey?  The total concentration is surprising as they lay in wait.  Every muscle is tensed and the pupils are wide in anticipation.  The patient focus of a determined cat is amazing!  Our cat, Tiger, used to spend much of his time in the yard crouched in readiness.  And often, just before he pounced his whole back end would quiver in excitement!

Today’s verse is a statement of faith and trust of the one who cries out to the Lord for mercy.  Faith is most evident when there is waiting involved for a response.  And when we wait it is with our whole being, putting our hope in His sure and infallible Word.  We wait for the Lord to act more than the wait of the watchmen (verse 6).  They guard a sleepy city by watching and peering into the distance as they wait for the morning.  Our wait will not last forever.  As morning comes for the watchmen ending their shift, so we will eventually see His Word fulfilled!

I have been watching and waiting for a response to a particular prayer request for thirteen years!  My morning has come with His incredible answer!  I could wait with hope because of His unfailing love and His full redemption (verse 7).  But there remains more reasons to watch and wait with unfulfilled promises in my life.  I am encouraged though to persevere having seen Him respond!  One day there will be no more watching and waiting.  One day, there will be no more need to hope as every hope will be realized in His presence!

Lord, thank you that I can wait with hope.


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Thorny Cactus

Scripture for Today:  II Corinthians 12:7 “….Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me.”

These thorns look wicked!  And they seem so innocent surrounded by those delicate yellow flowers.  The spiny surface of a  cactus plant seems incongruent with the fragile beauty of a flower petal.  For the unsuspecting, those thorns could be overlooked when reaching for the flowers and could inflict some real pain.

In today’s verse, Paul is describing a thorn in the flesh.  It was sent by Satan in order to torment him.  But in God’s hands it was used for a good purpose; to keep Paul from becoming conceited.  Paul had received some incredible visions and revelations from the Lord and the temptation was to boast and feel that he was better than others.  Some believe his thorn was a physical ailment.  Others believe it could be a person as enemies and neighbors are described as thorns (Numbers 33:55 and Ezekiel 28:24)

A relationship that has gone sour, a conflict that goes unresolved, or a family member that has no interest in reconciliation can all be like a thorn in the flesh.  But whether it is a broken relationship or a broken body, the pain and discomfort from those thorns are a constant reminder that I am weak.  Thankfully, He uses the thorns for good in my life as well.   It is through thorns that I discover that His grace is all I need (verse 9).  For me those beautiful flowers are evidence of Christ’s power resting on me despite my weakness!

Thank you Lord, that I can delight in Your strength regardless of the “thorns” in my life!


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Walking Canes

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

A cane can be a weapon, a symbol of power, or a statement of wealth and social status.  In the 11th century in what is now called France, women would carry slender sticks of applewood as a fashion statement.  And Marie Antoinette was known for carrying a shepherd’s crook.  But in today’s world, a cane is most often what we usually think of; simply something on which to lean!

Today’s verse tells us we are not to lean on our own understanding but instead trust the Lord.  Leaning on our own understanding may seem like the logical thing to do, but it is so woefully limited.  In any decision we cannot see what the future holds nor what consequences may result.  We do not throw logic out the window.  The Lord has given us decision-making skills but they can only cover so much.  Trusting God’s control and guidance means we can step forward confidently, knowing that He will direct or even redirect if needed.

The famous song, “Lean On Me,” by Bill Withers has the phrase, “please, swallow your pride.”  It takes humility for me to recognize my need of His direction.  Trusting in Him rather than in myself can be so uncomfortable as I do not understand where He is taking me.  But leaning and relying on Him and His wisdom will take me down paths of righteousness and blessing.  Trusting in my own wisdom has me going around in circles or following dead ends.  He is trustworthy.  And He invites me to throw down that cane and turn to Him!

Lord, I want to lean on You today.

 


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Bookworm

Scripture for Today: Revelation 20:12 “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.”

An avid reader is often called a “bookworm” and the idea is sweet.  But the other meaning of this word is pretty disgusting!  The term refers to any insect that bores or tunnels through a book, leaving behind some pretty serious damage.  They can range from silverfish to termites, although most of these insects are beetles.  Oddly enough, none of the culprits are worms!  Sometimes it is not the paper that they are after but rather the leather or the glue in the binding.

It is odd to think that there will be books in heaven, but according to today’s verse there are.  One book is singled out as incredibly important; the book of life.  It will be used at the Great White Throne Judgement and will determine one’s eternity!  Being judged according to one’s deeds is the future of those who reject salvation through Jesus.  There is nothing worse.  No one will be able to stand on their own merit.  “There is none righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)  And the deed that condemns is choosing one’s own way of “good deeds” over the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

It is because of God’s promise that my name is written in the book of life.  Praise God there is no condemnation for me because I have accepted His sacrifice! (Romans 8:1).  What amazing love!  I am so thankful that there is no fear of judgement because of His saving grace!

Lord, thank you for writing my name in Your book.

Photo credit: Dominic Mason https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bookworm_Grub_and_the_damage_done.jpg


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“I Have a Dream…”

Scripture for Today: Romans 8:24-25 “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 that Martin Luther King Junior spoke words of hope in his “I Have a Dream” speech.  Six times he repeated the words, “I have a dream that one day…”  King dreamed of racial equality, brotherhood, freedom and justice, not being judged by the color of one’s skin, and the joining of hands as brothers and sisters.  The world has changed since those days, and although there has been some progress, much of what he dreamed remains unfulfilled.

Today’s verse talks about hope.  But unlike the hopes and dreams of King, this is a hope that saves.  It is a hope that has to do with full and complete redemption (verse 23).  It is a hope that is sure because the object of that hope is Christ Himself.  What He has promised is something that is sure.  The word, “hope,” in Scripture denotes confident expectation of what is sure to come.  And hope means waiting patiently for the fulfillment of His promises.

There are many promises in my life that are yet to come.  The Lord wants to shower His goodness on me when I wait quietly and with confidence.  The Lord is especially good to me as I earnestly seek His face in those hard times of waiting (Lamentations 3:25-26).  My hope in Him is never disappointed as He can be counted on to be true to His Word.

Lord, thank you for the sure hope I have in You!  Help me to wait patiently for all the good that You have promised.