Devotions By Jan

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IMG_20140519_171222Scripture for Today:  Acts 20:24 “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

Our son loves to run.  In high school he was very good at cross country running.  The rugged terrain around our home was just right for training.  Later, he ran a few marathons and also did well.  The training for a full marathon (26.2 miles) is no little thing!  It is advised to begin training a full six months ahead of time, running at least three times a week.  So much of doing well is the result of mental toughness.  It is said that the last three and half miles of a marathon are the most difficult.

Our verse for today reveals Paul’s heart.  The image of a race for the Christian life must be a marathon.  Paul is approaching his last three and a half miles.  He is on his way to Jerusalem where he knows through the Spirit’s revelation that hardship and prison await him there.  He is compelled to go on, even when it means having to say his final goodbyes to the elders from the church in Ephesus.  Paul had only one aim in life, to communicate the wonderful grace of Christ that he had found.  It was a God-given task and he was determined to finish, no matter what.

That kind of mental toughness is incredible.  He finished his race well, staying faithful to the Lord and continuing his witness, even in prison.  His death as a martyr has earned Paul a special crown at the end of his marathon.

Can I be that tough?  Keep me determined Lord, so I can finish well.

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Tormenting Thorns

thorns_on_greenScripture for Today:  II Corinthians 12:7 “….Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me.”

The weeds are getting nasty in my yard.  There are a few that hide out and attack my unsuspecting hands with their sharp thorns.  I do not like wearing gloves, especially when feeling for roots, so I am an easy target.  No matter how vigilant I am, they somehow make their way into the bunch I am pulling out.  Some even manage to attack my hands while being thrown out!  There is nothing worse than trying to dig a thorn out of a hand or finger.

In our verse for today, Paul is describing a tormenting thorn.  It was sent by Satan but in God’s hands it was used for a good purpose; to keep Paul from becoming conceited.  The text tells us that Paul had received some incredible visions and revelations from the Lord.  The temptation for Paul was to boast and feel spiritually strong because of them.

What was that thorn?  Many interpretations make that thorn out to be a physical problem.  I am wondering if it was a person in Paul’s life.  Numbers 33:55 describes Israel’s enemies as thorns in the side giving trouble.  Ezekiel 28:24 uses the image of a thorn to describe malicious neighbors!

A relationship that has gone sour, a conflict that goes unresolved, or a family member that has no interest in reconciliation can all be like a thorn in the flesh.  The pain and discomfort from those thorns is a constant reminder that I am weak and not strong.  Like Paul, my only boast should be in God’s strength.

Thank you Lord, that I can delight in Your strength regardless of the “thorns” in my life!

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handsanitizerScripture for Today: II Corinthians 7:1  “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reference for God.”

I do not think I am a “germaphobic,” but I do admit having one of these hand sanitizers always within arm’s length!  My husband with his chemistry background has concocted his own solution for just pennies.  It does not smell as nice as the store bought variety but it gets the job done.  I think the concern over germs comes from his side of the family.  We bought my mother-in-law a plaque that says, “Jesus and germs are everywhere.  So wash your hands and say your prayers!”  I am not sure our preventive measures keep us healthier than anyone else, but I would like to think so!

Our verse for today talks about being uncontaminated not only in the body but in the spirit too.  There is a special motivation to keep ourselves morally pure.  The context teaches that our bodies are the temple of God (6:16).  His desire is to live with us, walk among us and be a Father to us.  Because of these promises, He wants us to keep ourselves holy or set apart for Him.

Staying healthy spiritually takes a consecrated effort.  It is too easy to be contaminated by the world’s values.  It is too easy to compromise our standards for a relationship with a nonbeliever.  But when we do, that special relationship with our Father is compromised.  I do not belong to any human being the way I belong to the Lord.  He has bought me at an incredible price and I belong to Him.

Lord, take my heart, my soul, my mind, and my body.  They are exclusively Yours.

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Antique Mirrors

Mirror2_blog_2Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

I would love to buy an antique mirror from France before moving.  It would be a classy remembrance of my years here but would also serve to enlarge a small living room.  The one pictured here is said to be from a French chateau in the 1800’s.  A true antique mirror will be made of mercury glass.  This would be glass blown with a double wall then silvered between the layers with a liquid silvering solution, then sealed.  Regardless of the method of fabrication, the mirror is limited in giving one a true and accurate reflection.

Our verse for today expresses this same thought.  The mirrors used in biblical times were much less accurate.  They were made of polished metal, probably bronze.  This poor reflection is an image of our very limited understanding of the Lord.  We will not truly see Him as He is until we are with Him.  It will then be a knowledge that is similar to how the Lord sees us now and knows us intimately!

One day I will see Him face to face!  What a thought!  Fanny Crosby, the renowned hymn writer, said that her consolation in being blind is that her first sight will be that of His dear face.  Will I recognize Him?  Will His face be familiar to me?  If I have listened to my heart that tells me to seek His face today (Psalm 27:8) then I will immediately know Him.

How I look forward to gazing on the wonder and splendor of His face!  Thank you Lord, for even a partial glimpse today.

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LARGE-13-RARE-HIGH-QUALITY-SOUND-TIBETAN-ROL-MO-CEREMONIAL-RITUAL-CYMBALS-3Scripture for Today:  I Corinthians 13:1 “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love. I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

I am one of the lucky ones.  None of my children ever expressed interest in playing percussion instruments!  Perhaps with the arrival of grandchildren I will not be so lucky!  For a year, we did have a young man live with us who played his drums and cymbals with gusto in the basement.  But he was considerate to choose his practice times with care.  It was never fun to jump in my chair with the sound of crashing cymbals!

Our verse for today describes spectacular feats as meaning nothing without love.  Speaking in tongues or even in an angelic language may cause a stir and even impress.  But without love, it is nothing more than the clashing noise of a cymbal or gong.  It will cause people to sit up and take notice, but that is all.  I was interested to learn that the religious ceremonies of Buddhist monks use cymbals and hand held-gongs during their chants and hymns.

The context of our verse is the spiritual gifts in the church.  Very often, it is the visible spectacular gifts that are eagerly sought.  Here, Paul explains that no gift or service to God is as important as showing love.  That love is something available to all believers through the fruit of His Spirit (Gal. 5:22).  Any service to the Lord done without love for Him and love for others is just annoying noise.

I sometimes feel my service to the Lord is not of the very best quality.  There are always those with more talent.  But God sees the heart and to Him what is done with love makes beautiful music!

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Dust Bunnies

dustbunniesScripture for Today:  Psalm 103:14 “for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.”

We have a scene just like this one in our future.  As soon as we move out our very heavy bookcases, there is sure to be  some “dust bunnies” hiding out.  Between bird dander, cat hair and dust from the yard, our dust bunnies continue to grow each year we are here!  I sneeze just thinking about it!  But it is nothing in the face of a little vacuuming and water.

I have no compassion for this dust, but our verse for today is written in the context of God the Father’s compassion for His children.  He is not only compassionate but gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love (verse 8).  For those who fear Him, He forgives rather than accuses and does not treat us as our sins deserve (verses 9-10).  He calls to mind how very weak we are.  We are formed from some weak material; dust.

There are times I need to remember how I was formed as well.  Prideful thoughts can have me believing I am really something and without a real need for God.  But in fact I am nothing without Him.  I am weak and as inconsequential as a dust bunny blowing around under the bed.  It is in the hands of my Creator that I can become something of value.  He works in me to give the desire and the strength to please Him (Phil. 2:13).  I may be as weak as dust, but in Him I can be strong.

God invites me to “Look to the Lord and His strength and seek His face always.” Psalm 105:4.  His strength is equal to anything He asks of me.

Thank you Lord, for your gracious patient compassion for me!


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Guardian Angels

go0750Scripture for Today: Matthew 18:10  “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father in heaven.”

Long before living in Europe I had been drawn to these German Hummel figurines.  I used to have three, all purchased before living so close to where they are made.  One fell victim to a rowdy group of junior high boys.  But I still enjoy the other two, especially the coloring and the careful detail.  This figurine of a  guardian angel fires the imagination.

Our verse for today is the source of the guardian angel concept.  Jesus is introducing the parable of the Lost Sheep and is emphasizing the importance of every believer.  Angels have the role of protection among their other responsibilities.  They are continually looking to the Father awaiting His next command.

It is a pretty thought to imagine that I have my own personal angel.  But the text does not really say this.  In any case, God loves His own and uses His messengers to provide protection.  Because the Father goes to such lengths, we also are to treat others with love and respect.  We are not to look down on those who are smaller or weaker.  And we are certainly not to cause another to sin by our own actions or attitude (verse 6).

Rather than looking down on “these little ones” God wants me to treat them with consideration.  Paul continues this idea in Romans 14:13 saying that we are not to be a stumbling block for others.  Unlike the angels, I have the privilege of encouraging and building up the faith of other believers.

Thank you Lord, for Your loving protection.  Help me to have Your same heart towards others.