Devotions By Jan


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Olive Tree

Scripture for Today: Psalm 52:18  “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.”

When I sang with my French chorale in Greece, we saw groves and groves of olive trees.  Even though the soil at times seemed dry and the sun relentless, these trees thrived.  Their twisted gnarled trunks and their evergreen tops dot the landscape and provide a versatile fruit.

I wondered why the Psalms used this image of the one who trusts in God’s unfailing love.  In reading about olive trees I learned that it is known for its tenacity.  It is grown in almost any condition and can thrive in great heat with minimal water.  Some olive trees grow root systems 2000 years old!  It is virtually indestructible.  Even when cut down or burned, new shoots will emerge from the roots!

Trusting in God’s unfailing love makes me strong and indestructible like the olive tree!  Being loved by my Creator gives me that tenacity to face whatever life brings.  Knowing that His love will not fail me gives me the strength to thrive, regardless of my circumstances.  His love is what makes life even possible.

Unfailing love is something supernatural.  Even with the best intentions, my love for others routinely fails.  Being so flawed, an unfailing love seems impossible.  But God IS love.  His love is from everlasting to everlasting.  His love does not depend on my performance or my love for Him.  It does not fluctuate depending on the day.  His love is so wide and long and high that it surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:18).  And it is this unfailing love that makes me flourish like the olive tree.

I am amazed that you love me, Lord!  Help me believe it today!


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Chariots

Scripture for today:  Psalm 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord.”

When I think of chariots and horses my mind goes immediately to the famous chariot race scene in the epic movie, Ben Hur.  The only way to watch that chariot race is on the edge of the seat!  It took five weeks to film this nine minute segment and the studio used 15 thousand extras for the crowd of spectators.  There was an infirmary created especially for this scene because of the potential for injury.  There were no injuries, however, except some bad cases of sunburn.  Three life-like dummies were strategically placed to give the appearance  of bodies run over by the chariots.

Horses and chariots were important instruments of war in biblical times.  The winning side in a battle were often those with the best built chariots and the swiftest horses.  In our verse for today, one can choose to place their confidence in their horses and chariots or in the name of the Lord.  The choice is basically the same today.  We can choose to place our trust in our own efforts, or we can depend on the strength of the Lord.  It is the Lord who gives victory with the power of His right hand (verse 6).  To trust in oneself is no guaranty of victory.

Trusting “in His name” is trusting God Himself.  Those who know His name will have an easier time trusting in Him (Psalm 9:10)  When I lack confidence in Him, I am doubting either His goodness, His control, or His power.  The more I get to know Him, the more likely I am to absolutely depend on Him.  That trust comes through a close relationship.

Help me Lord, to completely trust Your loving heart.


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Healing

Scripture for Today:  Isaiah 53:5 “But He was pierced for our transgressions.  He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him and by His wounds we are healed.”

It is flu season now in California.  My husband and I had our shots in November, but there are so many strains, there is no guaranty that we won’t catch it.  The hospitals in the area are not allowing children under fourteen to make visits and they are screening all others at the door.  School absenteeism is on the rise and simple preventative measures are being reviewed in the media.

No one likes being ill.  We count on our healthy lifestyles and our doctors to keep us well.  For the believer, the request for healing of loved ones or for ourselves make up a large part of our prayers.  Our verse for today says that through the sacrificial death of Christ we have peace with God.  Because He took the punishment for our sins, those who place their faith in Him are forgiven!  It goes on to say that by His wounds we are healed.

Quite frankly, even with lots of faith and lots of prayer, one is not always healed.  But this verse speaks of a more important healing in the spiritual realm.  God absolutely heals us physically when it is part of His plan.  But it is always part of His plan to give us spiritual healing.

His healing mends my broken heart, and He heals me from the awful effects of sin.  He will one day heal me for eternity with a heavenly body that is perfect and incorruptible!  Thank you Lord, that in my future, sin and sickness will be a distant memory.


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Cactus Flower

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 43:19  “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

We have friends who are “desert rats!”  They are drawn to the remote immense spaces.  No matter that it is often dry and uninhabitable.  There is something about its harsh beauty that allows one to breathe after the congestion of the city.

It is always surprising to see flowers bloom on a cactus in the desert.  Its spiny surface seems incongruent with the fragile beauty of a flower petal.  Our God is so creative to plant something so delicate where we least expect it!

Our verse for today encourages us to look and see what God is doing.  We could miss it.  Because the cactus flower often opens with the sunlight but closes with dusk, passing by its beauty is easy to do!  In the same way, we can pass by unaware of what new thing God is creating.  He makes a way in the wilderness and streams in the wastelands.  He makes something beautiful in a dry barren place.

It is too easy to see only the negative.  I need to watch for what new thing God may be creating in me or in my circumstances.  Am I looking for that good He promises in Romans 8:28 or have I become accustomed to seeing only the trial?  Have I settled for something less than what God had intended for me?

Open the eyes of my heart Lord, so I can see the bigger picture of what You want to accomplish!  If it is good and beautiful I know it is Your doing!  Thank you, Lord, that no trial or pain is beyond Your reach to produce something positive and wonderful!


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Yoga

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 48:9  “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love.”

Yoga has become more and more popular in Western cultures.  It has been around for centuries, originating in India.  The word, “yoga” comes from one of two roots meaning either “yoke” or “to concentrate.”

There have been many testimonials to the health benefits of the physical poses used in yoga.  It is said to alleviate different health problems, reduce stress, keep the spine supple, and improve breath control and core strength.  I have learned that there are different kinds of yoga.  But their goals are the same; to use physical, mental, and spiritual practices with the goal of attaining a state of permanent peace.

When one adopts the yoga philosophies of chanting and meditation to attain peace, it is at best short-lived.  Peace with God and peace with others comes from One source; the Prince of Peace.   He has promised His peace to us and it is not the peace offered by the world.

Rather than meditating on the sound of the “om” vibrating through the body, our verse for today gives a much more meaningful subject.  We are to meditate on God’s unfailing love.  It is an amazing truth worthy of meditation!  To even grasp the incredible idea that He could love me takes some serious contemplation!  It takes time to wrap my head around a love for me that is eternal and unconditional!

Thinking about His unfailing love for me gives me that elusive peace for which so many long.  When I meditate on how much He loves me, I am reassured that He cares about every little detail!   Mountains can shake and hills be removed, but His unfailing love will never be shaken or His peace ever removed! (Isaiah 54:10)   Lord, I can never thank You enough!