Devotions By Jan

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Overcoming Fear

Paragliding_start1Scripture for Today:  Isaiah 41:10  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

It may seem crazy but paragliding is something I have always wanted to do!  When living at the base of the Alps we would often see float by these colorful sails.  Now, living at the base of the Vosges mountains we see them regularly.  It looks so amazing to be up there with quiet amazing views.

I am too fearful and inexperienced to try it on my own.  My plan is to strap myself to the instructor and have him jump, steer and land for me.  Hopefully, I will finish in one piece.  The plan is to do this for my sixtieth birthday in July.

Our verse for today is an encouragement to not fear.  I am to put my trust in God.  His presence keeps me from being dismayed at dizzying heights.  He strengthens.  He helps.  And most importantly for this adventure, He upholds me with His righteous right hand!

Today’s verse is really a call to faith.  The more I put my faith in Him, the less problem I will have with fear.  In Matthew 8:26 Jesus challenges His disciples with the question, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Their boat being pummeled by a storm seemed reason enough.  Jesus was there so why be fearful?  But He was asleep and the disciples questioned whether He really cared.

I do the same thing when faced with scary circumstances.  I know He is there.  But is He paying attention?  Does He really care about what I am going through?  Praise God the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScripture for Today:  Proverbs 27:16  “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.”

Have you ever notice how many infomercials there are to sell knives and knife sharpeners?  One would think that life cannot be lived without them.  I am afraid the knives in my kitchen are quite dull.  I realize this can be a hazard.  One Christmas I received some steak knives.  My daughter was so accustomed to my knives being dull that she pressed too hard and we ended up in the emergency room on New Year’s Day.

Pictured here is the “steeling” method where the edge is realigned and sharpened.  There are in fact many different methods in sharpening metal, some for rough sharpening and some for fine sharpening.  Regardless of the material or method used, there is pressure, friction and grinding involved.  The  goal is always to remove unwanted metal to form a new more effective edge.

Our verse for today likens this process of sharpening to relationships.  We do grate on each other!  Where there are people there are challenging conflicts.  It is inevitable.  Even a relationship filled with love and mutual respect will have those sharpening moments.

It is in the context of relationship that we face our faults.  They surface and resurface as we interact with people.  I never realized how selfish I was until I got married and became a mother.  I do not realize that I have a problem with anger until someone else provokes it.  If I were never in a group of women I may not recognize a tendency to gossip.  The answer is not to isolate myself.  If I did that my edge would become dull.  The answer is the Lord’s help and forgiveness.

Thank you, Lord, for the sharpening quality of relationships to remove in me what does not belong!

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A River

JimJimRiverKakaduAustralia_052410-690x517Scripture for Today:  Psalm 46:4 “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.”

A river usually conjures up beautiful peaceful images.  But recently, with the flooding in Kandern, Germany, the river running through the village has been a source of worry.  The river swelled so much with the recent rains that it almost overflowed its banks!

We have enjoyed living near a river in every town we have lived during our twenty four years in Europe.  In Albertville it was the Arly.  We enjoyed the Loire in the Orleans area.  In the Grenoble area the Drac and the Isère river join.  We walked along the picturesque Kander river in Kandern.  Today in Guebwiller we are just  two hundred meters from the Lauch River.  I love living near rivers, crossing the quaint bridges hanging with flower planters and hearing the sounds of lapping water.

Our verse for today describes a river that makes a whole city glad!  It is found in the city of God where the Most High will make His abode!  This river will be clear, pristine and never in danger of flooding. The river is described in Rev. 22:1-2 as having the water of life!  It will be clear as crystal and flow from the throne of God right down the middle of the main street of the city!  It will be a river that leads to His very presence!

Water of life filling a river and leading to the Source of life!  No wonder it makes the city and all its inhabitants glad!   Near the very end of the Bible is an invitation to this water.  I am so thankful to be invited, as are you, to take of this free gift of the water of life!

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Scripture for Today:  Matthew 5:16  “In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.”

Fireflies are so intriguing!  When they light up a tree it is magical and looks like a fairyland.  Up close they are not so pretty, being a winged beetle.  I have only seen them twice: once in Kentucky as a child and more recently in Michigan on a Fourth of July.  I was more interested in the firefly show than the fireworks!

What is so interesting about their light is that the chemical reaction that produces it does not produce heat.  They glow without wasting any energy.  All one hundred percent of their energy goes into making their light.  The purpose of their glow is to attract, either a mate or their prey.  Their light attracts me too although I do not fit either category!

Our verse for today talks about the light of our good deeds.  When our kindness to others is done to give honor to the Heavenly Father, we shine as lights.  In a dark and selfish world our lives stand out and shine. The purpose of our light is not to attract people to ourselves, but to our Lord.  We are to be open about the reasons behind our giving to others.  It is not about me.  It is about Him.

People see a difference when we do not look to be thanked or recompensed for what we do for others.  There is no personal agenda behind our actions.  Public accolades are nice to receive but are never the goal.  Our light is to pierce the darkness and point others to Christ.

Lord, show me how to shine for You today!

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Poultry Hen Pinnate Chicks Boy Chicken Animal

Scripture for Today: Psalm 57:1  “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in You I take refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster is passed.”

Hens are known for being especially protective of their baby chicks.  In fact, in entering a chicken coop, it is best to wear protective clothing to avoid being pecked by a mother hen when approaching their young!  At the first sign of danger, the mother hen will gather her chicks under her wings.  There the chicks find refuge and safety.

The verse for today makes reference to the time when David was fleeing the murderous intentions of King Saul.  David was on the run for his life and found refuge in a cave.  God protected him there and David praises Him with this psalm.  He extols Him for sending His love and faithfulness in the form of deliverance.

I do not have a murderous king chasing me down.  Living in first world countries with freedom of religion, I do not face these same dangers.  However, I do have enemies.  Ephesians 6:12 describes my enemies as being the dark forces of this world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  There is a time for standing firm with the full armor of God.  There is also a time for renewal and retreat under His protective wings.

Many times I am unaware of the activity of my enemies.  As they are unseen it is easy to think that I am doing quite well on my own.  But disaster is always close by.  How much better it is to be in that place of refuge; the shadow of His wings!  Thank you, Lord, that Your love and faithfulness will protect me today.

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Withered Grass

Withered_grass_Scripture for Today:  Psalm 92:6-8  “The senseless man does not know, fools do not understand, that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will forever be destroyed.  But You, O Lord, are exalted forever.”

The hills in Southern California are beautiful when covered in green grass.  But because it is a dry climate, that green grass can quickly transform itself into dry withered grass.  In a matter of a few days the lack of water turns it all brown.  But when conditions are favorable, grass can grow so quickly.  Some varieties can produce a nice lawn in as little as a week!

Our verse for today talks about how quickly grass can spring up.  This image is used to describe how the evil seem to flourish.  Everything looks smooth and prosperous.  The wicked seem to get all the breaks.  It is a huge temptation to think the grass is greener on the other side!

David in Psalm 73 looked over at the other grass and envied the prosperity of the wicked.  They seem to have no struggles even though they mock God.  They are carefree and wealthy.  One can feel the exasperation that David felt.  Is it really worthwhile to take that righteous path?

There are times I feel that same frustration!  Why are those who turn their back on God doing so well?  Where are my blessings for keeping my heart pure?  Like David, my feet can almost slip with these thoughts.  But also like David, I understand when I enter the sanctuary of God (verse 17).  I understand the final destiny of the wicked.

It is when I am in His presence I realize the earth holds nothing that can compare to Him!  Let the wicked prosper while they can.  As for me, the Lord God is my prosperity!

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bambousScripture for Today:  Proverbs 22:6  “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

Bamboo is about the most versatile plant imaginable.  It is used for medicine, food, textiles, paper, musical instruments and construction.  In the Chinese culture, the bamboo is a symbol for a gentleman.  This is because it is strong, upright, perseverant and open hearted.

It is a very fast-growing plant and lends itself to all kinds of ornamental uses.  Bamboo can be trained to take different shapes.  It can be trained to take the form of a square when bundled tightly that way.  It can be trained to take the form of an arch when keeping it bent.

Our verse for today is also about training.  As parents we are to train our children in the way they ought to go.  Children do not always know what that way should be.  They do not see their own weaknesses nor do they always understand their own strengths.  The encouragement and feedback from parents have a huge influence on choices made.

There are some who take this verse to mean that good Christian training in the home will automatically produce Christian children.  This idea produces an unbearable weight of guilt for many whose children are not believers.  Proverbs in Scripture are not promises but principles.  In the end, it is the responsibility of each individual to make that decision for Christ independently of their parents.  There is truth in the saying, “God has children, not grandchildren.”

Bamboo and children grow so quickly.  Encouraging the natural and unique bent of each child is such an awesome privilege.  May our lives and influence do even more.  May it give them every advantage and opportunity for choosing Jesus!