Devotions By Jan


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Sunk!

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 10:12 “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”

Two weeks ago, it never occurred to us that this would be our last view of the Pilgrim in all its grandeur.  After forty years at the Dana Point Harbor, it sunk.  What a heartache!  This tall-masted ship was a full sized replica of the merchantman brig from the novel, “Two Years Before the Mast” by Richard Henry Dana.  The Ocean Institute there had been battling a slow leak but thought it was under control with regular maintenance of the hull (recently postponed) and with a pump.

Today’s verse is a loving warning.  After describing the failures of the Israelites in the wilderness, Paul cautions that falling is a real possibility.  We can think that we are standing firm while at the same time being slowly weakened by compromise.  Like the small leaks in the hull of a ship, our resolve can slowly erode leaving us vulnerable.  No one wakes up in the morning and decides to give in to temptation.  Being drawn away from Him is usually a slow sneaky process.

Thankfully, standing firm does not depend entirely on me.  The Lord is faithful to always provide a way out of temptation (verse 13).  But I need to be humble enough to realize that I cannot handle it on my own and look for that escape route!  Like David I want to regularly ask the Lord to examine my heart and my mind (Ps.26:2).  This is an uncomfortable prayer but I can pray this with confidence, being convinced of His unfailing love and faithfulness (verse 3).   There are times when I feel overwhelmed.  But because of His love, His strength and His faithfulness I will not sink!

Thank you Lord, that You are my confidence.

 


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Relieved

Scripture for Today: Psalm 4:1 “Answer me when I call to You, my righteous God.  Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.”

Being relieved of duty is not always something negative.  It can simply mean a change of command.  One person relieves the other of duty and then takes it on themselves, as in someone taking over a shift.  Pictured here is a change of command ceremony for the Blue crew of the USS Nebraska submarine.

Today’s verse is a cry of David for relief.   He ends the psalm with lying down in peace and sleep (verse 8).  David has found relief in his confident trust in the Lord.  His circumstances had not changed at all.  What changed was his focus.  And his focus changed as a result of his prayer.  Prayer does that.  It relieves a heart bowed down with worry.  Prayer relieves the heavy burden of sadness.  Prayer reminds us that we are not alone or forgotten.  He is there to relieve us from any distress we feel.  That is true relief.

My problems can seem insignificant compared to those of David.  But I do need relief during this unique time of pandemic.  There needs to be a “change of command” as I give everything over to the Lord.  He never means for me to have the “duty” of keeping it all together.  And just like David I can experience peaceful sleep.  He gives a peace that defies explanation (Phil. 4:7) and that guards my heart and mind.  I am relieved of duty as HE takes over the job Himself of creating peace in my heart.  He is willing and waiting to relieve me.

May my prayer to Him today end with a sigh of relief.


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“Yoke’s on You!”

Scripture for today: Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Today is April Fools Day and for some the joke or “yoke” is on them!  I wonder if during these days of social distancing there will be the same level of frivolity!  I hope so.  We could all use a laugh!  France has its own version of this day.  They observe this silliness by taping a paper fish on someone’s back without their knowledge.

Today’s verse mentions a yoke that is no laughing matter.  This is a yoke of slavery from which Christ has set us free.  The believers in the churches in Galatia were being influenced to put back on a heavy yoke.  That yoke was the belief that they could be justified by following the Law (verse 4).  Christ came to fulfill the Law and free us from this heavy impossible burden.  We have exchanged this yoke for an easy one, shared with Jesus.  His burden is light because He carries it with us and gives rest to our souls (Matt. 11:28-30).

How wonderful to know that He cares about what is burdening me!  Whatever is weighing me down does not come from Him.  He does not want me to go through life feeling that I must always do more to be accepted by Him.  That would be an unbearable weight!  He has done it all.  He is sufficient.  And the commands He has given me are not burdensome (I John 5:3).  It is in keeping them that I show my love for Him.  This love relationship is what gives me rest.  Despite the unease of risk and of the unknown, I can rest yoked to Him.

Thank you Lord, for Your reassurance.


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Is Chivalry Dead?

Scripture for Today: Philippians 2:3b-4 “…in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Chivalry is many times thought to be an outmoded idea.  But not for the male field cricket!  After a thousand hours of infrared camera observations of tagged crickets, scientists made some surprising findings.  When threatened by a bird or frog, the males give their females priority when crawling into safe burrows!  This self-sacrificing behavior, never seen in lab studies, leads to reproductive success!

Today’s verse does not use the word, “chivalry,” but certainly has the idea of treating others well.  Our concern should not be only for our own interests.  A believer is to be concerned about the interests of others as well.  To treat others’ needs as more important than our own can only come from an attitude of humility.  And that humility is not something that comes naturally.  What comes naturally is to put oneself first.

In these strange times of worldwide pandemic, it is easy for me to think uniquely of myself and my own needs.  Staying inside is not only for myself but also in the interest of others.  However, sacrificing my freedoms for the sake of another is not so easy.  It is not easy to ask interested questions about another’s welfare and not have them return the favor.  It is difficult to allow another to go first when pressed for time.  Yet, this is what Jesus asks of me.  My life and my health are in His hands along with all my interests, goals and needs.  I can afford to be gracious and others-centered.  He has all my desires and interests at heart and I can trust Him.

Lord, help me show the kind of self-sacrificing love You showed to me!

Photo Credit: Elgaland Vargaland, https://www.flickr.com/photos/foam/


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United States of Anxiety

Scripture for Today: Psalm 94:19 “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” (NASB)

“We are all in this together.”  It is a phrase I repeatedly hear on social media.  As a society we are divided on so many fronts; political, religious, racial and economical.  But one thing seems to united us and unfortunately it is anxiety.  It may be that our anxiety is only an occasional thought.  Or it may be an underlying state of mind that colors our whole day.  For some, this anxiety is showing itself in disturbing dreams (ahem….) or interrupted sleep.  In any case, it is a natural state of affairs when we feel we are not in control and we do not know what is next!

Today’s verse gives an answer to our anxious thoughts that seem to multiply within us.  The soul can be delighted with His words of comfort and consolation even in the middle of such uncertain times.  We can move from anxiety to delight when we turn to His Word and His promises.  His lovingkindness holds us up (verse 18).  The Lord will not abandon or forsake His people who are His inheritance (verse 14).  Whatever the future holds, He is there and He is faithful.

I am a great one for asking myself, “what if?” or “what then?”  My questions come from a desire to know and control.  But there is no way of knowing or controlling.  And I do not really need these answers to experience delight in the deepest part of me.  Rather I need the One who does know and control.  He reassures my heart that He has a plan for my future and He is good.  I can let go of anxious thoughts when I spend time with Him.

Lord, thank you for relieving my anxiety.


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Roller Coaster

Scripture for Today: Romans 8:39 “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is no way I would ever ride this roller coaster at Carowinds Amusement Park in Charlotte, North Carolina!  For me the steep climb and abrupt drop does nothing to amuse!  Perhaps if the curve were flattened and the ride became slower I would enjoy it!  The phrase, “Flatten the curve” is the rally cry today to slow down the spread of this COVID virus.

Today’s verse speaks to highs and lows of a different sort.  There is no height that can separate us from God’s love in Christ.  Nor is there any depth that can do so.  His love is never in question no matter how dire circumstances become.  Nothing in creation can create a barrier to His constant and unconditional love.  Wherever we are on the spectrum of high or low, He is there and He is faithful.  If I were to go up to the heavens or go down in the depths, He is there (Ps. 139:8).  His love never fails.

Of course, I want to do my part to “flatten the curve.”  Slowing the growth of this virus through social distancing and hygienic measures is so important.  But at the same time I am confident of God’s loving control.  His love has not changed.  These circumstances are so bizarre and unique but they will not distance me from Him.  In fact, this slow down is giving me more opportunities to know and feel His love.  How reassuring it is to know that He holds me fast!  During uncertain times, I can always be certain of Him.

Thank you Lord, for Your constant love.

 

 


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Encouraging Sign

Scripture for Today: I Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

This added homemade sign in Scotland says, “Keep right on to the end of the road.”  These are lyrics from a traditional Scottish song which goes on to say, “though the way be long, let your heart be strong.”  There is good reason to continue on.  This road leads to Kirkton Manor, an historic stone manor built into a wall.  Even the three-acre-country gardens there make the trip well worth the effort!

Today’s verse tells us to encourage each other by reminders of who we are and what is ahead.  In the middle of dark times we are children of the light and of the day (verse 5).  We have the hope of our salvation (verse 8) and we have an incredible future ahead in living together with Him! (verse 10)  It is these truths which encourage us to keep plodding on.  There will be an end to what we are facing.  There will be a destination that makes every heartache and trial worth it.

I do not like having disruptions to my routine or being inconvenienced in any way.  My comfort is way too important to me.  What small trials I face in comparison to those who are imprisoned for their faith!  But I can be encouraged that in the face of any unknown earthly future, I can choose to focus on the heavenly one!  I have no control over the current self quarantine that is being imposed.  But there is an end in sight.  There will be a point where I reach my destination.  And though the way may seem long, it is the Lord who keeps my heart strong!

Lord, encourage me and make me an encouragement to others.

Photo © Jim Barton (cc-by-sa/2.0)