Devotions By Jan

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Poorly Planted

Scripture for Today: Jeremiah 17:8 “They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes. Its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Judging from this photo, someone really messed up!  There seems to be some confusion on the best place to be planted.  The trees appear to be doing fine for now.  But before long their roots may well be stunted without more space to grow.  Water will surely have some difficulty being absorbed.  Before long, the leaves will no longer stay green during a heat wave.  It looks as if a lot of effort was wasted with this planting!

Our verse for today describes those that put their trust in the Lord.  They are like trees planted in the best possible place.  Trusting the Lord for everything makes us green, healthy and growing.  There will certainly be heat waves that come in life.  I Peter 4:12 calls them “fiery trials” and they can generate lots of heat.  But the one who places their confidence in the Lord will not wither but will stay healthy and green.  Their roots are drawing in life-giving water.

My tree does not need to worry about what weather is ahead for next year.  I can look to the future without fear.  With confidence in Him, my roots draw on a Source that is not my own.  Jesus calls Himself that “living water.” (John 4:14)  I want to be well planted, connected to the One who gives me true life.  Regardless of what trials may be ahead, He assures that I can always grow and bear fruit.

Lord, keep me worry-free and confident in You today….and tomorrow.

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Childbirth-educationScripture for Today: Hosea 13:13 “Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him, but he is a child without wisdom; when the time arrives, he doesn’t have the sense to come out of the womb.”

One never completely forgets the childbirth experience, even after decades have past.  But the memories of the pain give place quite quickly to the joy of holding that precious newborn!  My firstborn was two weeks late but the wait, though hard, was well worth it!  Experiencing the miracle of birth is a privilege I am glad God gave to women!

I cannot imagine a baby refusing to be born!  Our verse uses the image of childbirth to describe Israel’s rebellion.  It was a dark time of idol worship.  The people had become proud after being satisfied with God’s provision.  They forgot Him and turned to Baal.  It is a difficult chapter of painful judgement.  But God’s judgement is always just.  There is opportunity to repent but in this instance, there was no wisdom or sense to do so.  Ephraim, or Israel, acted like a child refusing to exit the womb towards life.

Sin hurts.  Whether it is enduring its consequences or undergoing judgement, there is pain.  I am thankful for God’s grace that gives the opportunity to ask forgiveness.  There is pardon and mercy for those that do.  There is life when exiting that sinful behavior.  There is life for me because of Christ.  He took all the pain and death that rightfully should have been mine and bore it Himself.  Because of Him I am born again!

The time has arrived as “today is the day of salvation!” (II Corinthians 6:2)  My prayer is that today, family members and friends will “exit the womb” to new birth, forgiveness and new life!

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Dead in the Water

blogger-image--1887243036Scripture for Today: John 3:8 “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

We have had some unusually calm warm weather lately.  We took advantage of the sunshine and drove up the Vosges mountains all the way to Lac Gérardmer.  The sailing club was out in full force but no one was moving.  It was absolutely still and calm with glassy unruffled water.  There was nothing to do but wait for the wind to pick up again.  They were dead in the water without that wind to move them.  How long they were to be stuck no one could predict.

Our verse for today is part of a discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus.  The Lord is describing spiritual matters using images in nature.  No one can know the origin of wind or its direction.  So it is with the Holy Spirit.  Although God’s Word teaches the role of the Spirit, there remains something mysterious in the way He works.  One cannot predict or reduce to a formula the movement of the Spirit.  Revivals can happen in the most unlikely places and at the most unexpected times.  The Spirit is God and He will do what He wills.

I may never completely understand the work of God’s Spirit but I do know that without Him I am “dead in the water” going nowhere. It is the Spirit that gives power and strength.  There is no progress without Him.  It is the Spirit that keeps me moving in the right direction, giving wisdom.  He knows when to push hard with hurricane force!  He knows when to be a gentle breeze.

Lord, I need your Spirit to fill, move and direct me today!

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Packing Fruit?

IMG_20141014_082419Scripture for Today: Galatians 5:22-23a “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Moving is such a life-changing and stressful time.  I am surrounded by numbered boxes and already I find myself needing something previously packed.  Every object I lay my hand on requires a decision.  Do I pack it in a box destined for the French studio or our American home?  Do I give it to a friend?  Do I give it to the thrift store?  Do I throw it away?  Do I sell it?  Will I regret the decision I just made?

One thing I do not have to think about is the perishables.  Whatever does not get eaten will at the end be given to the neighbors.  I would not make the mistake of packing the fruit!  However, when putting together these boxes, it is almost as if I have packed away fruit, that is the fruit of the Spirit.  I am stressed and crabby.  I am not so kind and loving to my husband.  So often, I lose it and self-control is out the window.

Our verse for today describes the one who is filled with and walking by the Spirit of God.  The results of being in close communion with Him are evident in one’s behavior and attitude.  I have none of these qualities on my own, especially in tense stressed moments.  But as a believer the Spirit of God resides in me.  The more I confess my inadequacies and turn to Him for help, the more He responds with this beautiful fruit.  These qualities describe to perfection the One I serve.  He is slowly (some days very slowly) producing His character or image in me!

Lord, especially in the middle of boxes, produce Your fruit in me!

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colleen-35Scripture for Today: Proverbs 4:9 “She (wisdom) will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”

What flower garland on the head does not make a woman feel more beautiful?  Even as little girls, we play with field flowers, making chains and placing them on our heads.  We pretend we are princesses and prance around feeling special.  There does seem to be something royal about a garland on the head as it can resemble a tiara.  The bridal industry understands this and there is quite a wide choice of flower garlands for the big day.

Our verse for today describes wisdom as being that garland or crown.  Wisdom in a life makes it beautiful and graceful.  Wisdom, or skillful living, even brightens the face and changes its hard appearance! (Eccl. 8:1)  More important than physical beauty, a wise life exudes a loveliness and grace that does not diminish with time.  Who would not want that?  Where is this wisdom found?

God’s Word leaves no doubt as to the source of wisdom.  The first time wisdom is mentioned is in Genesis 3:6 where Eve disobeyed God in an effort to gain wisdom.  That did not work out so well!  Wisdom is found in obeying and loving His Word as is declared repeatedly in Psalm 119.  The Lord gives this wisdom as knowledge and understanding come from His mouth (Prov. 2:6).

The image of garlands and crowns brings to mind beauty and honor.  That is just how a life looks that is marked by wisdom.  Right choices lead to lives uncomplicated by sorrow from sin.  Confidence in God’s promises changes our outlook and our demeanor.  Obedience to our Creator is wise living that creates grace and glory!

Lord, grace my head with Your wisdom today.

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Short or Long Term?

longterm-investmentScripture for Today: Philippians 3:8 “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”

There is so much advice out there regarding investments and how to plan for the future.  CNBC and Bloomberg TV are daily giving their economic forecasts and their tips about investing.  Whether a short or long term investment, the idea is to sacrifice now for the prospect of gaining something later.  There is said to be three points to consider: time, today’s sacrifice and prospective gain.  Being an impatient person. it would seem to me that short term investments are the way to go!  But of course, that is not always the case.

Our verse for today speaks of loss or sacrifice and the resulting gain.  Paul’s spiritual investments are both short and long term.  He gives up all the recognition and stature he had as a Pharisee.  He was lauded for his zeal and righteousness.  But he sacrificed all of this to gain a loving growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  Knowing Christ far surpassed any greatness Paul had experienced.  He was willing to leave it all behind in order to gain Christ.  He gains Christ in the short term, enjoying his relationship on earth.  But he also gains Christ in the long term with his future in heaven.  For Paul, to live is Christ and to die is gain as it is even more of Christ! (Phil. 1:21)

I want to have that perspective.  Too often I get caught up in what I possess, what the bank balance says, and what my level of comfort is.  Compared to the incredible greatness of knowing Christ, it is nothing at all!

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Color Crayons

Crayola---Crayons-64-Pack-with--pTRU1-2908038dtScripture for Today: Ephesians 4:2-3 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Growing up, I usually had just the smaller box of crayons.  I would look with longing at the mega box of the person next to me.  Their choices were so much more varied and their pictures just seemed better.  Not only was my box smaller but often my crayons were dull, broken or mixed up.  There was nothing like opening a bright new box!

Imagine opening a new box and finding sixty-four crayons of just one color!  It might be a very pretty bright color.  But without the others, the resulting image would lack interest and depth.  Without the others, the picture would be incomplete.

Our verse for today teaches us to keep intact the unity of the Spirit.  It is together that the Body of Christ, or the Church, functions as it should.  Each color is important to demonstrate God’s glory and design.  He created us to have different colors or gifting.  The purple does not insist on being more important and necessary than the green.  The darker colors are needed for shading.  Each member is important to God’s family.  Each gift is needed to add color and beauty to God’s design for the Church.

It takes concentrated effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.  Our tendency is to be prideful about our own color.  We get impatient and unloving with the one next to us, coloring outside the lines.  We can easily destroy unity by inciting divisions according to color!  Keeping the unity, we create something beautiful together and God is glorified.

Lord, keep me humble, gentle, and appreciative of all the “colors” You have created!