Devotions By Jan

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Leaky Cisterns

cistern6Scripture for Today: Jeremiah 2:13 “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

When house hunting in the Grenoble area, we almost rented a home with a cistern.  The place was just outside the busy city with a magnificent view of the Alps.  For whatever reason, the owner was not connected to the city’s water but had his own system.  Water usage would have to be closely monitored.  In thinking about our own young family and all the guests we would be hosting, we decided against it.

Our verse for today uses the image of cisterns to illustrate an important truth.  In biblical times, most every private home had their own small pear-shaped cistern for collecting rainwater.  These cisterns were carved out of solid rock. Their surfaces were waterproofed with a sticky lime plaster, but even so they would eventually develop cracks.  This system could never be as good as a spring of flowing water.

Jesus is that spring of water.  He is that well of water within, springing up into eternal life (John 4:14).  With Jesus we will never thirst again.  Leaking out and running dry will never be a problem with Him.  Why would anyone choose a limited leaky cistern over Him?  But that is exactly what I sometimes do.

My own self sufficiency is much like that broken cistern.  It may serve me well for awhile, but eventually it will develop cracks and leak out.  Gradually, life seems to dry up and I wonder why I am thirsty.  I have replaced dependance on Him with my own strength, trying to collect and hold water on my own.

You are my never-ending Source!  Thank you Lord, for daily quenching my thirst!

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Guest Room

unnamedScripture for Today:  I Peter 4:9-10 “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

One of the reasons I enjoy our century-old Alsacian home is for its guest room.  It is not the largest room but it is the nicest with a balcony that overlooks the Vosges mountains.  I have so often been a guest in the homes of others that it only makes sense to offer hospitality as often as I can.  The bed is actually two singles together so we have different options for our guests.  We have a guest book to sign and I enjoy looking back over the years, reading comments and remembering visits.

Hosting others is not always a positive experience.  Routines are interrupted.  There are new unexplained noises in the night.  The utility bill will probably increase and there will certainly be more cleaning before and after a visit.  That is why our verse for today mentions grumbling.  Hospitality is a service to others but more importantly, it is part of our stewardship to the Lord.

It is a gift to have the space and means to offer hospitality.  It is a gift to serve others in any number of ways with whatever the Lord has given us.  But the ultimate reason for hospitality or any service to others is “so that in all things the Lord is praised” (verse 11).  It is not about me.  It is not about how clean my home is or what my guests may think of the decor.  The idea is not to impress.  The idea is that the Lord is praised and glorified!

Thank you Lord, that opening my home is another way to love and praise You!

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In Debt

piano unnamedScripture for Today: Luke 7:14-42  “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender.  One owed him five hundred denari and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debt of both.  Now which of them will love him more?”

As a rule we do not purchase items “on time.”  But early in our marriage we made an exception for this piano.  My husband knew how important piano playing was to me and so one day he surprised me.  He had it wrapped in a big red bow!  When the monthly bills began to arrive, the amount of interest required took the joy right out of that purchase!  In fact, it bothered him so much, we quickly paid the piano off ahead of time.  We did not feel comfortable being “in debt.”

In our verse for today, Jesus is speaking to Simon, a pharisee.  Simon is appalled that a sinful woman would dare to anoint the feet of Jesus.  Jesus challenges this pharisee’s self-righteous thinking with a short parable.  Those who have been forgiven much will love much.  Those who have been forgiven little will only love a little (verse 47).   Both debtors have had their debt erased.  But the one with the bigger debt is more motivated to show love and gratitude.

The more I realize the enormity of my sin, the more amazed I am that Christ paid my debt.  The more I realize the ugliness of my heart, the more grateful I am for His cleansing.  When I take a good hard look at myself, I realize that Jesus has forgiven me “much.”

My debt for sin was huge and impossible to pay.  How much better to be indebted to His grace!  “Oh to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.”

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Alsacian Plains

Scripture for Today: I Kings 20:23 “Meanwhile, the officials of the King of Aram advised him, ‘Their gods are the gods of the hills.  That is why they are too strong for us.  But if we fight them on the plains surely we will be stronger than they.”

Not far from our home are the World War I trenches overlooking the long disputed Alsacian plains.  Over the years the French and the Germans have repeatedly fought over these fertile plains and possession has passed back and forth.  But the price in lost lives has been high as seen by the number of graves next to the trenches.

In our verse for today is the erroneous thinking of Israel’s enemies.  They have limited the scope of God’s power to only the hills.  They are sure that their strength will prevail if they attack on the plains outside the reach of God’s power.  These enemies of Israel had a god for every area of their lives and assumed the same would be true of the Israelites.  The one and only God of the universe promised to deliver the enemy into the hands of the Israelites to show the extent of His might and power.

I smile when I read how faulty and illogical was the thinking of these enemies.  God’s Word reveals that the whole earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Psalm 24:1).  His presence can invade every nook and cranny of this world and of our hearts.  There is no putting God in a box and limiting the sphere of His power.  But maybe I do the same thing.  Do I put artificial limitations on what God can do?

His power has no limits!  Thank you Lord, for Your greatness that surpasses my feeble understanding!

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Bird10-20130426152425154895-600x400Scripture for Today:  Deut. 20:8  “Then the officer shall add, ‘Is anyone afraid or fainthearted?  Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.'”

Fear is contagious!  These travelers on a subway in Taiwan are wearing masks to avoid exposure to the “bird flu.”  Although it is deadly in about half the cases, the chances of contracting it from a person rather than an infected bird is very rare.  Even so, the fear of contagion causes many to take extra precautions.  Seeing others wearing those masks can spread that fear!

In our verse for today, officers are addressing the troops before battle.  They have been reassured that the Lord will be fighting for them and would give them the victory.  They were told there was no need to be afraid, to be terrified or to give way to panic (verses 1, 3-4).  The officers asked the soldiers for complete commitment.  Those with a new house, a new vineyard or those newly engaged were allowed to go home.  And then comes this surprising verse.  Even those afraid were encouraged to go home, because fear is contagious!

In God’s Word is often found the phrase, “Be not afraid.”  The Spirit God has given us does not make us timid or fearful (II Tim. 1:7).  Regardless of the size of the enemy, God is greater.  Regardless of that unknown future, God is greater.  Regardless of any obstacle we face, God is greater.  When we are in a place of complete trust and confidence, then there is no room for fear.  Acknowledging His loving and sovereign control chases away any doubt or fear.

Fear is contagious.  But so is confidence!  Being around others that trust Him bolsters my faith as well.  Lord, may my trust in You be an encouragement to others today!

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28339_1473182478403_3340566_nScripture for Today: Matt 9:16  “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.”

My friend, Gale, makes beautiful patchwork quilts.  Pictured here is one she sewed called, “Square In A Square.”  Her passion for patchwork is shared by many in the Orange Grove Quilter’s Guild of which she is a member and past president.  What used to be done out of necessity by early American settlers is now a creative art form.  There are many beautiful patterns to choose from but all of them require precision in cutting and sewing in order for the edges to fit together exactly as they should.  And of course, all the pieces of fabric need to be preshrunk before sewing.

In our verse for today Jesus uses the illustration of patching a tear with new unshrunk material on to old material.  The conversation arises out of questions from those following tradition and ritual.  They are trying to connect their system of belief with what Jesus was teaching.  These men were distracted with the externals of religion that fed their own self-righteousness.  Jesus is revealing a new internal Gospel of forgiveness and cleansing.  What is legalistic and of the flesh could not be attached to what is grace and of the Spirit (Gal. 3:3).

Any time I think I can earn God’s favor by my own good works or religious observances, I am falling into that same kind of thinking!  Whether it is church attendance, fasting, hymn singing or giving, none of these activities, as positive as they are, earn right standing with God.  My relationship with Him is only because of His grace.

“Nothing in my hand I bring.  Simply to Thy cross I cling.”  I am forever grateful for grace!

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Window Cleaning

window 9970844_origScripture for Today:  John 16:8  “When He comes (the Holy Spirit) He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin, righteousness and judgement.”

Spring is not really here yet, but because of a few days of sunshine, I decided I had better clean my windows.  I do not usually notice how dirty and streaked they are.  But with the arrival of the sun, all of a sudden I see the dirt that has been clouding my view!  Out comes the ladder, the cleaning supplies and the newspapers.  The sunshine shows me exactly where to concentrate my efforts.  My arms are sore but it is a great feeling to have those windows free of dirt and the sunshine unobstructed, lighting up the rooms!

In our verse for today, the role of the Holy Spirit is described by Jesus to His disciples.  Not only will He guide us into truth (verse 13) but He will also convince men of what sin is, what righteousness is, and the certainty of the coming judgement.  It is because of the Spirit’s conviction that men see the need for confession and come to Him for forgiveness.

Just like windows that are cloudy from unnoticed dirt, so are the lives of those who ignore God’s conviction.  His light shows us where cleaning is needed.  There are spots and streaks we do not see without Him showing us.  His forgiveness clears out the dirt.  I sometimes find myself arguing over a small spot here or there.  Is this really sin?  Couldn’t I just leave it as it is so small?  But His truth keeps pointing it out until I agree with Him and allow His forgiveness to cleanse it.

Thank you Lord, for forgiveness and giving back to me sweet warm and sunny fellowship with You!