Devotions By Jan


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Lookouts

look out unnamedScripture for Today: Psalm 24:1-2 “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. For He founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.”

There are several lookouts along the paths of the Back Bay in Newport Beach.  Often, when I am intent on my power walks I just pass by them.  But when I do take the time to stop, these lookouts tell me what I am seeing.  They describe different landmarks the view presents.  They describe too the wildlife and the different species of birds and plants.  After stopping and enjoying the view and the new information, I continue my walk with a deeper appreciation for what I am seeing and smelling.

Our verse for today reminds us that all of creation is the Lord’s.  He is the Creator and like most every creator, He is pleased when we admire His work!  To have the Maker walk with us through His masterpiece of creation is a wonderful privilege.  He explains to us what we are seeing in His Word.  The Bible is our “lookout” explaining the view and how grand and awesome is the power He has.  All of creation points to the Maker and Author of life.  His invisible qualities, His eternal power, and His divine nature are clearly seen in what He has made (Romans 1:20).

Appreciating nature is something we share with most everyone.  What is sad is when creation is seen from a merely human point of view.  Passing by those “lookouts” of Scripture diminishes the appreciation and gratitude to our Creator!  A whole side to enjoying nature is missed!

I want to see it all from the Creator’s point of view!  Lord, keep me in Your Word today.

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Vinegar

Scripture for Today: Psalm 69:21 “They (my enemies) put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.”

There all kinds of vinegars to choose from when making a gourmet salad dressing.  In our area of Alsace, apple vinegar is very common. But I enjoy the strawberry and raspberry vinegars too.  There is an amazing specialty shop in Freiburg, Germany that sells grapefruit, mandarin orange and pomegranate vinegars, among others.  They are great for adding that extra bit of flavor, but I cannot imagine drinking pure vinegar!

Our verse for today describes the persecution David experienced from his enemies.  He felt scorned, disgraced and shamed.  He looked for sympathy and comfort but found none.  His food tasted bitter from their gall, and there was no quenching of his thirst as it all tasted like vinegar.  This psalm describes David’s trials but also foretells the Lord’s suffering on the cross when his enemies offered him vinegar, made with light wine turned acid.  It was mixed with gall or some kind of bitter plant.

The mockery of our faith by unbelieving friends can certainly sour our lives.  The taunting of family members can make life taste very bitter.  It is not easy to stand alone in one’s conviction of the Truth.  But this psalm ends with praise for the Lord’s response to our cries.  He promises salvation and an inheritance to all who love His name!  God is righteous and He vindicates His own!

The sympathy and comfort I long for when feeling beaten down is only found in the Lord.  He hears not only my prayers but the unspoken cries of my heart.  No one understands like Jesus.  He promises to be my strength to stand firm even in the face of misunderstanding and opposition.

Thank you Lord, that You bore much worse for me!


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Empty Arms

3177406945_f110c0d479Scripture for Today: Job 1:21 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a precious innocent baby.  I cannot imagine the heartache of losing a spouse.  It is difficult to even imagine praising the name of the Lord at such a time as that.  And yet, this is what Job was able to do when he lost all his sons and daughters.  When Job received this awful news, his immediate response was to fall to the ground in worship and speak this verse.  He recognized that the Lord in His sovereignty gave and the Lord also took away.  Job did not “curse God and die,” as was the advice from his angry devastated wife but continued to bless the name of the Lord even in his enormous grief and continual questioning.

It is one thing to bless the name of the Lord when all is well.  It is quite another thing to bless His name when it feels like one’s world is collapsing.  The fact that it can be done gives so much credibility to the truth of God’s Word.  Those who testify to God’s faithfulness while the drugs of chemotherapy drip into their arm are those to whom it is well worth listening!

Though loss is so very painful, our hope is real.  Our God proves Himself to be the God of all comfort when we need Him most (II Cor. 1:3).  Living our hope is a powerful affirmation of the Truth to ourselves and to others.  We can trust that our dear one, though gone from our arms, is safely in His.

“My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be Your name.”


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Bellows

381126203340_1_0_1Scripture for Today: II Timothy 1:6 “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

In former times this antique bellow was a common sight in starting and maintaining a fire.  The flexible bag would expand with air entering through a valve.  The air would then be expelled through a tube.  As a result the fire would burn more brightly with the supply of air.  I was surprised to see the choices available today for this age-old tool.  As different as the styles may be, they all have in common that important flow of air helping the fire to burn.

Our verse for today is an encouragement from Paul to Timothy.  Paul took special interest in Timothy, considering him as a son.  Because he was convinced of his sincere faith, Paul urged him to fan into flame the Holy Spirit’s gifts already received.

Each believer is given a gift by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 12:7) to be used in service to Him.  Sometimes though, that gift can be reduced to smoldering coals through neglect.  Life can seem so full and busy, we forget what we were given and why.  That flame can sometimes need fanning.  The Holy Spirit wants to breathe power, love and self-discipline on those coals, making us bold in our testimony and service (verse 7).  We cannot burn brightly for Him without the work of the Holy Spirit.  His Spirit is like those bellows, fanning into a flame the spiritual gift He has given us.

When the Holy Spirit is working through me, there is no chance of “burn out.”  He continually breathes His supply of power.  He accomplished in me so much more than I can ever do on my own.

Lord, keep me burning brightly today!

 

 


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Lefties

wJimmy Yu at LA pen showScripture for Today: Matthew 6:3-4 “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

No one in my immediate family is left handed with the exception of one son-in-law.  I do not normally think about it unless we are being seated at the table.  The “left-handers” usually prefer an end seat so as not to bump elbows with their neighbor while eating.  Being left handed was considered unlucky or evil in many cultures in the past.  Thankfully, most western cultures no longer force the use of the right hand.  But according to tradition, an itchy left hand indicates you will lose money.  And itchy right hand indicates you will receive money!

In our verse for today the itchy hand much be the left one.  The right hand is reaching out and sharing with the poor.  This act of kindness and generosity is to be so discreet as to keep the left hand unawares.  Jesus spoke these words in response to the proud display of giving in the synagogues and streets.  Jesus could see the motivation in the heart of these hypocrites.  They were giving in order to be seen and admired for their righteousness.   No reward awaited them in heaven.  They already had theirs in the admiration of others.

Discreet giving without exciting attention helps me keep my motivation pure.  It is too easy to look for accolades for my generosity.  It is not important for anyone to know about my gift except the Lord.  He always sees and I can feel His pleasure when it is sincerely given for His honor and His glory.

Lord, may my giving bring glory only to You.


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No Room!

Cat-Asleep-in-DollhouseScripture for Today: Ephesians 3:16-17 “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

We have just moved into a very small house and I feel much like the cat pictured here.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough room.  Trying to fit as much furniture as possible into a tight space makes the house seem even smaller.  The question keeps resurfacing, “Where am I going to put this?”  The answer is too often “in the garage” and I am wondering if there will be enough space for the cars.  There is just no room!

In our verse for today Paul prays that the believers in Ephesus will be strengthened by God’s power so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith.  It is in having Christ dwell in them that they can realize personally the amazing love He has for them.  His love is so wide, long, high and deep that they are completely filled (verses 18-20).

When I fill my heart with something other than Christ and His love, I find I have lots of room leftover.  There seem to be many nooks and crannies that look empty and bare.  And no matter how much I try to fill it with all the world feels is important, the more empty it can seem.  But what a difference with Christ dwelling in me!  There is no room for anything else when His love is so wide, long, high and deep.

My prayer is that the presence and love of Christ will be felt not only in this small house but in my heart as well.  May I be so filled with His love, that it spills out the windows and doors and touches others!


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Ripe Plantain

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:16 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

My husband wanted to help so I sent him out for some groceries, including bananas.  He mistakenly came home with these.  I do not have much experience with fresh plantains.  They did not look so good with their big black spots.  After looking at some recipes on line, I learned that the blacker they become on the outside, the more edible and sweet they were on the inside.  I let them get completely black and then opened them with some misgiving.  Sure enough, their flesh was beautiful on the inside and as sweet as could be!

I could not help but think of this verse.  Outwardly and with enough time, we are all wasting away.  We do what we can to minimize the effects of age, but eventually we look more and more beat up!  Our bodies break down but that does not have to be true for the inside.

Life can be full of hardship and struggle.  Like Paul we may feel that we are “hard pressed on every side” (verse 8) but that does not mean we despair.  We may feel crushed by the weight of our trials but we have hope.  I do not want to lose heart because God is at work creating me beautiful on the inside.  Within I am becoming more mature.  Inside I am becoming sweeter as I respond to the Lord in faith and perseverance.

Despite all the bruising, I can be confident that God is using it all to make me more like His Son.  Thank you Lord for this hope!  Keep me focused on what You are accomplishing on the inside.