Devotions By Jan


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Unchained!

brass-chainScripture for Today: Psalm 107: 13-14  “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses.  He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and broke apart the bonds that held them.”

The French have an expression that makes me smile.  They use their word for “unchained” to express the idea of over-active, over-playful or hyper!  It is a great way to describe school children let go from their classes at the end of the day.  There is visible joy in being liberated at last!

There are all sorts of chains that hold people back.  My heart goes out to people seen on news reports who are bound and used because of evil men.  But there are spiritual chains as well.  Chains due to our own sin are the hardest to break.  One can be chained to a sinful habit without even being aware.  Some live their lives in the pursuit of personal freedom, rejecting whatever mores and values they feel restrain them.  They end up bound and tangled in their own sinful behavior, powerless to change things.

Our verse for today is a cry for freedom from bondage.  These people were bound because they rebelled against Him and His counsel.  There was nothing they could do to free themselves.  Yet God was gracious and saved them from their distress.

He is still doing it!  His grace is still unchaining those who cry to Him.  Satan would like one to believe that those chains are unbreakable.  But Christ’s sacrifice has broken the power of sin and death forever!  His love is unending and His grace is amazing!

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.  My God, my Savior has ransomed me.  And like a flood His mercy reigns, unending love, amazing grace!”


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Hedgehogs

hedgehogScripture for Today:  Col. 3:12-13  “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else.  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.”

We have hedgehogs living under our one hundred year-old home.  Spring is a bit late this year so they are still hibernating.  They are quite harmless when left alone.  They come out at night and mosey around the yard.  They are certainly slow creatures but very timid.  When one approaches, they roll up into a spiky ball and stay immobile.  Our cat pretty much ignores them.  Perhaps there was an “incident” that convinced him to leave them alone!

These hedgehogs can look so sweet and cuddly.  But the up-to-sixty spines clothing their bodies are a strong incentive not to get too close!  They are solitary creatures for good reason.

If I ever resemble a hedgehog, our verse for today gives me the solution for ridding myself of those nasty hurtful spines.  I am to clothe myself with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  I am to be forgiving because I myself have been forgiven.  These adjectives bring to mind the character of Jesus who is “gentle and humble in heart.”  The list also reminds me in part of the fruit of the Spirit.  And as one having a new nature, they are also to characterize me.

But I am not always so soft and approachable.  Quite frankly, before that first morning cup of coffee I can be quite prickly!  There are times when being a hedgehog is just easier.  Lord, help me to resemble You today.


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Roots

bonsai170-1Scripture for Today:  Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;”

Roots are a good thing normally.  They are what support and sustain.  This Ficus Benjamina Bonsai needs to have ample room for its roots to spread and grow.  But then there are roots that feed and sustain what is unwanted.

When people see all the grounds around our house, they politely ask what I like to grow.  There is only one thing I end up growing; weeds!  Time, energy, and money are all factors in limiting my gardening.  All my effort seems to be invested in keeping those weeds at bay.

I can be quite proud of myself when I have cleared a large area of weeds in a short time.  But if I have not gone deeper after those roots, then of course it all needs redoing very quickly.  Those roots are tenacious.  A weed can seem deceptively small but the root can go on and on.  There is a such satisfaction in getting to the hidden root and pulling it all up.

Our verse for today speaks of the damage that is done by a root of bitterness.  It can spring up out of nowhere.  It is a surprise when it surfaces as normally it is well hidden.  A problem with unforgiveness can seem like that deceptively small weed.  In pulling it out all seems resolved on the surface.  But the Holy Spirit wants to dig deeper and reveal the problem of bitterness underneath.

Digging hurts.  The conviction of the Spirit can be excruciating.  Oh, but the relief to have that long root pulled up and out!


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Storks

photo-1Scripture for Today:  Jeremiah 8:7  “Even the stork in the sky knows when it is time to move on.  The turtledove, swallow and the crane recognize the normal times for their migration.  But My people pay no attention to what I, the Lord, require of them.”

I am fortunate to live in an area known for its stork population.  I so enjoy watching them fly past our windows.  The cranes around here are almost as big but do not have the same “wow” effect for me.  I am anxious to see them return with the warmer weather.  They winter in Sub-Saharan Africa, something I wish I could do!  They often will return to the exact same nest.

Our verse for today talks about four different kinds of birds but with one thing in common; they all migrate.  Their little bird brains know instinctively when it is time to move on so as to avoid the freezing temperatures.  Jeremiah mentions these birds as a contrast to the Israelites.  The people prided themselves in possessing the Law of God.  But they continually turned to their own individual course, rather than following God’s way.  The Law, instead of being written in their hearts, became a mere code or outward ceremony.

I wish obeying God was as instinctive for me as migration is for the birds.  But then it would not mean as much.  God wants my obedience to be an intentional choice.  Knowing what God expects of me is a good thing.  But I do not want to make the same mistake as the Israelites.  The point is not how many Bible verses I can recite by heart.  He is more interested in how many I obey!  Help me, Lord, to be obedient.


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Weary

IMG_20130319_102100Scripture for Today:  Matt. 11:28-30  “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I am not sure our Tiger could be any more relaxed!  If he were, he would fall off.  Ah, the life of a cat!  I can not imagine why he needs twenty hours of sleep a day!  From what is he resting?  Maybe he is weary from his dreams.

Our verse for today promises rest for those that are weary and feel burdened.  I can often feel that way with a schedule that is too full.  I can feel burdened with impossible demands that I put on myself.  I know there is weariness in me when I find myself continually sighing.  I love that my Jesus does not want me to feel that way!

Even so, my first inclination is to fix my own problems rather than coming to Him.  But in taking matters into my own hands, I am not really at rest where it counts, in my soul.  Finding rest in Him is so much more than just changing the “to-do list” or getting more sleep.  I look at “soul rest” as quiet unruffled confidence in His control.  There is peace in handing everything over to Him.  There is rest.

These verses do not say that I necessarily stop working.  But in taking on His yoke, I have Someone who shares the weight of it.  The burden of work is no longer heavy but light.  In the midst of work and activity, my soul can be at rest.  Lord, I come to You today.


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High Road or Low Road?

IMG_20130319_164837Scripture for Today: Colossians 1:10  “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

There is a very old Scottish melody that comes to mind when I see one path climb higher than another.  The lyrics from The Bonnie Banks O’Loch Lomond say; “Oh, ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road.”  I more often than not find myself taking the low easier road.  Although, these particular paths are deceiving in the vineyards behind the house.  The lower road is actually the more difficult one as it becomes much steeper around the bend!

“Taking the high road” is also a saying that can mean walking the higher moral ground, exhibiting honesty and selflessness.  It signifies a choice that is harder and takes more consecrated effort.

Our verse for today is part of Paul’s prayer for the Colossians.  As believers we are to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.  In doing so we will be pleasing to Him.  Our good work will have fruit and our knowledge of Him will increase.  This is walking the high road.  It is a road that takes much more effort.

The low road is easy.  There is no effort involved.  In walking it, there is no thought about pleasing Him, only ourselves.  But the good works done will bear no fruit.  Our knowledge of Him does not grow.  No pain, no gain.

Everyday these two roads present themselves in the choices of the day.  Do I strive to please Him and walk in obedience?  Or am I being lazy and enjoying a leisurely stroll on the low road.  Today, may I enjoy His pleasure on that high road!


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Boomerang

Boomerang in front of a blue skyScripture for Today:  Matt. 18:21-22  Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

I have never understood how the boomerang can keep coming back when thrown a certain way.  I looked up its design and read that it is made to spin about on an axis perpendicular to the direction of its flight.  There was a lot more  aerodynamic detail that I immediately forgot, as my mind does not seem to have room for it!  The point is, that boomerang is designed to circle back over and over again.

In our verse today Peter asks the Lord how many times he should forgive his brother.  I am sure that when he suggested seven times he felt he was being very generous.  But the Lord’s answer was surprising; seventy times seven.  It is not that we are to count at all.  The idea is that we forgive our brother every time he asks.

Like that boomerang, there are those in our lives who keep coming back for forgiveness.  Perhaps it is a family member.  Maybe it is someone in the church.  It could even be that they are asking forgiveness for the same exact offense every time!  How exasperating!  That is, until I realize that I am like a boomerang myself.

How many times do I keep coming back to the Lord for forgiveness?  And very often for the same failing.  I am so glad He does not count.  I am so thankful that He promises to forgive me every time I come to Him (I John1:9)  Lord, help me to show that same forgiveness to others!