Devotions By Jan

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perspectivesScripture for Today:  Isaiah 40:15  “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales.  Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”

France just celebrated its annual “Journées du Patrimoine” or “Heritage Days.”  Every third weekend of September since 1984 monuments, churches, theaters, and castles are opened to the public for a reduced price or for free.  Buildings that are normally closed to the public are also opened, including banks, courts and government offices.

Since 1991 this idea has been adopted throughout Europe.  Learning the history and the accomplishments of a country gives one new found appreciation.  I have a special love for France and its people.  I often tell others that France is my adopted country.

Our verse for today gives one a perspective on the power held by any country.  For the God of the universe any nation is as a drop from a bucket.  In the history of the world, kings rise and kings fall.  Empires are made and then they are no more.  But God’s power remains unchanged.  His might exceeds any earthly power.

Sometimes I can get pretty worked up watching the news.  Anger and fear can make me forget who is really in charge.  No army or government can thwart His ultimate plan.  He is the King of kings and His control is absolute.  I find amazing comfort in that truth.

What is even more amazing is that this powerful mighty God who controls the universe takes any notice of me!  All the nations are as nothing before Him (verse 17) but I am something to Him!  He thought of me when He hung on that cross.  Unlike powerful nations that come and go, His power continues and keeps me safe in His hands.

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Plumb Line

station3Scripture for Today: Isaiah 26:7  “The way of the righteous is smooth.  O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level.”

My husband and I have only tried wallpapering together one time.  It was just before the birth of our first daughter and we confidently tackled the nursery with a bold geometric print.  But no matter how meticulously we lined up the print, nothing came out right.  Unfortunately, we had skipped a step.  We had not used a plumb line for that all-important vertical reference.  When we finally did use it, we found that the wall itself was not constructed correctly.  It was not straight!  No wonder we could not match up the print.  Our point of reference was crooked.

We never would have known that wall was crooked had it not been for that plumb line.  The error was so slight that it was not noticeable.  But to this day, I wonder what happened with those construction workers.  I am sure it seemed right to them at the time.

Our verse for today assures the believer of a smooth way and a level path.  The one who puts their confidence in the Upright One will have paths that are straight (Prov. 3:6).  This image is in stark contrast to the guilty man whose way is crooked (Prov. 21:8).  His way is strewn with pitfalls of his own making.  Unconfessed sin erodes the path and makes the going arduous.

That wall seemed right in our eyes.  In the same way, there is a way that seems right to man (Prov. 14:12).  But our thinking is crooked.  We need a plumb line.  We need the absolute uncompromising Truth of Christ and His Word.

Without You, Lord, my life would be a crooked wandering path.  Thank you for straightening me out!

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Bird Bandits

article-new-thumbnail_ehow_images_a04_jn_1a_keep-birds-eating-grass-seeds-800x800Scripture for Today: Matthew 13:4  “and as he sowed some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.”

I thought these Canadian Geese were just beautiful!  But the homeowners in a Tallahassee neighborhood were not quite so enthusiastic about them!  Instead of staying in the area of the lake, they roamed the streets and made themselves at home in the yards.  They were even so bold as to enter open garages!

For anyone planting a lawn, these geese were especially worrisome!  They considered any seeds their personal lunch buffet!  I learned that they would only go after the seeds lying on the surface.  Even just a fourth inch of topsoil covering the seed would keep them from being interested.

Our verse for today is part of the parable of the sower.  The seeds sown did not sprout and grow as they were quickly devoured by birds.  Jesus explains in verse 19 the meaning.  Those who hear the Word but do not understand it are prey to the evil one who snatches away what was sown, before it can take root.

That seed is exposed and vulnerable without the topsoil of understanding.  And understanding comes with faith.  Those that are sincere in diligently seeking Him in faith will find Him as He has promised in Hebrews 11:6.  In response to a heart of faith, He gives understanding.

I also learned that if a homeowner begins the germinating process in a plastic bag, then the sprouted seeds will not be eaten by the birds when sown.  It only takes the first sign of faith and understanding to ward off those birds.  Satan has no victory where there is faith!

Thank you, Lord, for giving me Your understanding.  In my heart, may the seed of Your Word never stop growing!

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Yosemite_national_park_mirror_lake_2010uScripture for Today:  Proverbs 27:19 “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.”

While hiking around a lake I was entranced with the reflections of the water.  It seemed that there was every shade of blue.  The light on the water was just right to see amazing reflections.  The lake pictured here is Mirror Lake named for its reflection.  What a treat to see the view of the mountains and sky twice!  Had the scenery been less remarkable, the reflection would not have been as  stunning.

Our verse for today likens the reflection of water to the way the heart of man reflects who he is.  It seems a very obvious statement.  But there are so many things that muddy the waters and distort that reflection.  One is distracted by a polished image.  Add a suit and tie, a classy car, and a smooth tongue and assumptions are made as to the character of a man.  A practiced smile and impeccable manners can go a long way to misrepresent the state of our hearts.  But eventually, in those quiet moments when the water is still, the true image of our heart surfaces.  And it is not so pretty.

My heart is just as desperately wicked as described in Jeremiah 17:9.  I am often deceived into thinking that I am really a pretty good person.  But that is deception.  I continually need His grace and forgiveness for all the hidden sins.  The image I project to the world is lost on the Lord!  He sees every ugly thought in my heart.  The amazing thing is that He loves me anyway.  He waits for me to turn my heart to Him for cleansing.  He is always faithful to do it!  When He does, His image in me is beautiful!

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Men at Work

danger-men-at-work-signScripture for Today: Psalm 90:17 “Let the beauty and delightfulness and favor of the Lord our God be upon us; confirm and establish the work of our hands.  Yes, the work of our hands, confirm and establish it.”

I suppose this sign can be understood several ways!  I have seen it used “tongue in cheek” for men working in what is typically a women’s domain, as in the kitchen.  Danger indeed.

Whether in the kitchen or in the trenches the thought of work is not so appealing.  When everything goes wrong or after a long day when exhaustion sets in, it is easy to think that surely work was part of the curse!  But in fact, Adam was busy with the God-given work of tending the garden before sin and the curse ever made its appearance.  Without doubt, work was a pleasant experience without sin.  But with the curse came thorns and thistles, sorrow and toil. (Gen. 2:17-19)

One day on the new earth, we will again enjoy work without sorrow or toil.  But even now, God shows His favor.  In His grace He confirms and establishes the work of our hands.  What an encouragement!  Deuteronomy has many verses that speak of God blessing the work of the one who is obedient.  That blessing and favor may be in the form of passion for our work, excellent workmanship, or job security.  For the believer, the Lord can turn around a negative work situation into something positive.  He knows how to relieve our work-related stress, “mingling toil with peace and rest.”

Many are saying today, TGIF, or “Thank God it’s Friday!”  How much better to be able to thank Him for every day’s work, knowing that He wants to bless it!

Make me grateful for work Lord, even when it is frustrating and difficult!

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P1050694Scripture for Today: Nehemiah 9:17a “They refused to listen (to Your commandments) and did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them.  So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt….”

We came across this donkey while hiking around a lake.  He was calmly grazing with his friends, paying us no attention at all.  As donkeys have the reputation of being stubborn, I imagine that if I had tried to move him, he would have resisted.  As it was, I could not make him look up at me for the camera no matter how much noise I made!  He just would not listen!

The Israelites were sometimes called, “stubborn,” in the Old Testament.  Our verse for today gives the reason for their stubbornness.  They refused to listen to the Lord’s voice.  God had made His commandments very clear.  They also chose not to remember all His miracles in leading them out of slavery in Egypt.  The result was a stubborn conviction that their way was best, even if it meant returning to that slavery!

It seems amazing to me that they could be that stubborn.  But perhaps it is easier to see it in others than it is to see it in myself.  Any time I refuse to listen to God’s voice of conviction, I am at risk of stubbornly returning to sin’s slavery.  Any time I forget all of what He has done for me, I am likely to stubbornly do what seems best to me.

Thankfully, God does not give up on me.  Our verse continues,”But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.  And You did not forsake them.”

Thank you, Lord for not forsaking me.  Help me to listen and remember today!

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002_bibliotheque-celsus-a-ephese_theredlistScripture for Today: I Timothy 3:15 “…I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and the support of the truth.”

What a thrill it was for my husband and I to stand before these pillars in Ephesus, Turkey!  They are part of the restored facade of a library built in AD 135.  To think that Paul could have addressed the Ephesians from its steps!  This library used to store as many as 1200 parchments.  Celsus, an avid reader for whom it was named, is buried in a vault inside.  I learned that once there stood four female statues representing wisdom, fortune, knowledge and virtue.

Our verse for today describes the church as the pillar of truth.  The image of the church is to be one of support for what is true and right.  It is a strong image that is unwavering and without compromise.  There is no question for the church as there was for Pontius Pilate when he asked of Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38)  We have the Truth in the person of Jesus Christ Himself. (John 14:6)

Collectively, the church is to stand up for the truth about who Jesus is.  In a world that denies His deity, believers are to stand firm.  Upholding the truth in a climate of hostility and mockery is not easy.  Yet, He calls us to testify to the truth of who He is what He says in His word.

Christ came into this world to bear witness to the Truth (John 18:37)  Now, He asks the same of me.  Can I be strong and unwavering?  Regardless of opposition or ridicule, can I hold firm?  Not without You, Lord.  Please make me a pillar of truth today.