Devotions By Jan

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Rod and Staff

IMG_20130213_091842-1Scripture for Today:  Psalm 23:4  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

My husband could not resist pulling off the side of the road to get this picture.  We have it on our wall with the twenty third Psalm printed below it.  I am not sure if this shepherd is carrying a rod or a staff, but in any case he uses it to keep those silly sheep in line.

When one thinks of the shepherd’s rod for discipline or his staff for guidance, the word “comfort” is not one that comes to mind.  Being on the receiving end of either of those instruments can not possibly be comfortable, quite the opposite.  And yet the psalmist can say that they are a comfort to him in the hard times of life.  They keep the sheep from evil whether it originates from within or without.

There is plenty of evil in my own heart that makes me prone to wander.  There is also the evil around me in the form of predators.  His rod and His staff will keep me from all forms of evil.  My shepherd is my Guide and my Protector.  I belong to Him.

When I fight His rod and staff I am putting myself in harm’s way.  Everything He does is for my own good as He is good.  That is why those uncomfortable instruments He uses with me are a comfort.

Even when all looks dark and desperate when facing death, I can have confidence.  Evil will not win.  No believer ever makes that walk into eternity alone.  He is there.  There is no reason to fear.  My loving Shepherd will keep me safe.



IMG_20130212_154420Scripture for Today:  John 15:14-15  “You are My friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you.”

My tea kettle always sits out on my stove.  With the convenience of our microwave, I do not use it much anymore.  The other day, my husband helpfully moved it to a cupboard to give me more room to work.  I immediately rescued it and put it back on the stove.

I think my husband was surprised as my reaction seemed illogical.  But for me, the tea kettle represents warmth and hospitality.  I like the idea of always being ready to serve tea should a friend come by unannounced.

Our verse for today contains a revolutionary idea, the idea of Jesus being a friend!  Friendship is viewed so differently from culture to culture.  Each country has its own expectations and rules about it.  But one idea remains constant; the idea of open sharing.  One can tell a true friend anything and still be accepted.  True friends can honestly share their feelings, their hopes and their dreams.

Jesus calls us His friends because He has openly shared with us His business.  God’s plan and will are clearly spelled out in His Word.  We wish we knew more details, but it is amazing that He lets us know anything at all!  He daily communicates His love to us and we have the freedom to tell Him absolutely anything.

Sometimes my friendship with Jesus seems one-sided.  By that I mean that I do lots and lots of talking but maybe not so much listening!  Thankfully, He is a patient faithful Friend!

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Sweet Indulgence

Scripture for Today:  I Corinthians 9:25  “Each competitor must exercise self control in everything.  They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”

Can one ever have too much chocolate in life?  It is a wonderful source of magnesium.  It certainly boosts my mood.  And it is said that chocolate is an aphrodisiac.  I always say that chocolate is good for my health as it comes from the cacao bean.  Doesn’t that make it a vegetable?  It seems that there are many good things in life, that taken to an extreme become harmful.  Too much work.  Too much sleep.  Too much confidence.  Too much free time.  Too much talking.  Self control is all about avoiding overindulgence.

Today’s verse talks about the athlete who exhibits self control.  He restricts himself in all things with the goal of winning a temporary prize.  I always felt sorry for the young person in training who could not eat certain foods.  But I would admire his focus.

For the believer, our motivation to show self control and live temperately is for a much higher purpose than a prize that does not last.  We live our lives to please Him.  We strive for His approbation and approval.  Like Paul, we do not want to ever disqualify ourselves by losing control and becoming unfit!

I have no self control on my own.  Self control is really Spirit control.  It is part of the fruit or evidence of His work in me (Galatians 5:23).  I need Him to help me tell myself “no.”  Living with dependence on Him gives me that power to restrict myself.  Usually in saying “no” to something, I am saying “yes” to something better!

Thank you Lord, for helping me control myself!

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Scripture for Today:  Psalms 63:1  “O God, You are my God!  I long for You!  My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”

I have friends who are definitely “desert rats.”  Like the Joshua Tree, they seem to thrive in the dry desert heat.  I do not mind the desert if there is a lake available.  When our children were young we went to Lake Havasu in Arizona with another family for nine summers in a row.  The only comfortable place was half in the water in a beach chair, with an umbrella and a cold soda in hand!  One could maybe get used to the heat but the dryness of the air was something else.  My skin always felt dry and flaky.

David wrote this psalm while in the wilderness of Judah.  He likened his longing for God to his need for water in an arid land.  His thirst for a relationship with his Creator was all consuming.  No wonder he was a “man after God’s own heart!”  (I Samuel 13:14)

David recognized the thirst and longing of his soul.  He knew it could only be quenched by the One who created his soul.  Sometimes I do not even recognize my deepest longings for what they are.  I feel some dissatisfaction or some restlessness and do not attribute it to the correct source.  I look to other solutions or distractions.  They may even work for awhile.  But there remains something missing.

My soul was created for Him.  He is the only One who can fill those empty places within me.  When I ignore Him, I am in a spiritual desert experiencing dryness and thirst.  Lord, keep me close to You and away from that dry barren desert!

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Watch Your Mouth!

Summer 2009 413Scripture for Today:  Psalms 141:3  “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

My dummy, Renée, and I have had lots of adventures together.  She says things that I would not dare to say!  And she gets away with it.  Renée is allowed to speak English at our summer outreach English camps.  Otherwise, she speaks French.  I do not quite understand why she speaks it with such a funny accent!

There is one routine we do together where the reaction of the children is always the same.  Renée starts to get sassy and says she does not need me to be able to speak.  I put her down, walk a distance from her, and wait for her to talk on her own.  Invariably, the children all look at Renée in breathless anticipation!  Somehow, they start to believe that she controls her own mouth!

Renée has no choice of who controls her mouth, but I sure do!  When I control my mouth, it is sometimes “out of control.”  So much of what displease my Lord comes from my mouth, whether it be gossip, lying, arguments, criticism, swearing….the list goes on.  Like James 3 says, so little a member of my body does such huge damage.

Inside of Renee is a large controlling stick with a small lever on the side that opens and closes her mouth.  For me, that small lever represents the “guard” or “door” that the Lord wants to use with my mouth.  He offers to control my mouth, as my control only causes problems.

Humility is required to admit being a “dummy” in need of Someone at the controls.  The Lord invites me to echo the prayer of our verse.  May He control what comes out of my mouth today!