Devotions By Jan


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All Directions!

toutes-directionsScripture for Today: Joshua 1:7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law My servant Moses gave you.; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”

These signs are common in France.  Apparently, everywhere I want to go is to the left!  “All Directions” is actually a helpful indication when trying to change course.  It helps to know how to change direction when confused.  Details come later.  This sign at least points toward major streets from which one can exit the area.  By following it, one can avoid going around in circles and getting tied up with one-way streets.

Today’s verse calls for strength and courage.  This is the charge the Lord gave directly to Joshua as he took over as leader of the Israelites.  The law came through Moses but was not to be considered invalid at his death.  Obedience to the law was to continue.  And following it would bring blessing and success.  But there was plenty of temptation to turn away from it.  A few steps to the left or to the right would be detrimental.  The verse warns us to be careful not to turn away from what God had said.

There are signs everywhere encouraging us to turn off with promises of an easier route.  The sign, “All Directions” is everywhere.  Surely, there is more than one way.  Try this route, or maybe that one is just as valid with less trouble.  There are roads that are narrow that lead to life or there are roads that are wide that lead to destruction (Matt 7:13-14).  How important it is to choose well!

Give me strength and courage Lord, to carefully follow Your way!

 

 

 


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Shearing Sheep

sheep-to-sheerScripture for Today: Hebrews 12:11 “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

This silly sheep disliked shearing so much that he hid in a cave for six consecutive seasons to avoid the ordeal.  With the sixty extra pounds of wool he could barely move!  Life was getting a bit difficult and it was probably with a sense of relief that he finally gave up and allowed himself to be sheared.  Without shearing, that wool fleece becomes heavy, soiled and unhealthy.

In today’s verse there is a harvest, not of wool but of righteousness and peace.  This harvest requires a process that can be as uncomfortable as shearing.  The Lord’s discipline is unpleasant and painful.  But for the believer it is not a question of punishment.  Jesus took on Himself that punishment on the cross. Discipline is love in action and a sure sign of belonging to Him. (verse 8)  Just as a father lovingly disciplines his son, so the Lord corrects and trains through discipline. (verse 9)

When I am experiencing something negative in my life, I can sometimes wonder if it is a “trial” or “discipline.”  But usually it is clear.  I am like that three year old who looks sideways at the parent to see if he is watching.  There is rebellion in my heart when I refuse to acknowledge that something is wrong.  When I stubbornly continue my behavior the Lord lovingly corrects me for my good.

When I finally give up what I know is wrong, that heavy weight on my back is lifted!  Like the newly-shorn sheep, I can run and jump and move with ease!  Peace and righteousness feel good!

Thank you Lord, for Your loving correction.


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Open Hands

Open-HandsScripture for Today: Psalm 104:28 “When You give to them, they gather it up; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”

Hands can be so expressive.  When curled up they indicate tension.  When folded they can communicate a readiness to listen.  When their palms are lifted, the hands express bafflement or confusion.  Anger is expressed when they form a fist.  But the open hand is a giving hand.  I remember when our children were small.  We tried to avoid spanking with our hand.  We never wanted our hands to be feared.  How terrible when children cringe from a helping hand!  We wanted our hands to have a positive association.

This beautiful verse for today mentions God’s hands.  They are open in a giving gesture to provide for His creation.  Although God is spirit (John 4:24) it is helpful to have this image of His hands.  He reigns, delivers and does mighty works with His powerful right hand.  His hands are like no others and when He opens them, it is with loving provision.  All that is good in our lives comes from those open hands.

For the over zealous parent, a hand can be lifted in anger and punishment.  Wrath and judgement come from His righteous hands as well.  But for the believer who has placed their trust in Christ, His hands are full of mercy and grace.  His hands bear the scars from the nails that held Him on the cross.  I do not fear those hands as His perfect love has cast out all fear. (I John 4:18)  His outstretched hand provides not only for my physical needs but offers me forgiveness and peace for which my soul longs.  His hands provide for me what truly satisfies!

Thank you Lord, for opening Your hands to me.


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Straddling

car pebqc8vvuixt2pttab0vScripture for Today: Deuteronomy 30:19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live”

There is nothing so frustrating as being behind a driver who is straddling two lanes!  My first inclination is to pass him and get well away.  But I sure would not try to pass in either of the two lanes he is using.  Chances are he would decide on my lane just as I am passing!  Better to bide my time and wait until he makes his intentions clear.

The choice of a traffic lane is one of a myriad of choices we make in a day.  But far more important is our choice of whether we turn toward or away from the Lord.  Today’s verse makes it clear that there is a choice to be made.  There is no possibility of “straddling lanes.”  We either turn our hearts toward God in obedience or we turn away from Him in rebellion.

I love how this verse reveals God’s loving heart as He urges us to choose life and blessing.  He reassures us that what He asks is not too difficult or beyond reach (verse11-14).  He promised life, blessing, and protection for the Israelites ready to cross over into the Promise Land.  And today He promises an abundant life for all those who belong to Him (John 10:10).

Choosing Him is choosing a life consumed with loving Him, listening to His voice and holding fast to Him (verse 20).  Choosing Him is living a life that is worth living.  The Lord is my life.  I cannot even imagine living life without Him!

Thank you Lord, for giving me the choice and the privilege of choosing You!

 


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Apples and Oranges

apples-and-oranges-in-cratesScripture for Today: II Samuel 7:22 “How great You are, Sovereign Lord!  There is no one like You, and there is no God but You, as we have heard with our own ears.”

“It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”  The expression has been around a long time to mean that two items are incomparable, being so different.  But in fact, the expression does not hold up too well as both the apple and the orange are sweet.  Both are similar in size, weight and shape.  Either fruit can be eaten or juiced.

Today’s verse points out that no one can compare to our unique God.  It goes further to say that there is no God but Him!  In today’s pluralistic society, this is not a popular thought.  It is a much more comfortable thought that each person can worship their own God, whoever he may be.  In allowing for this we can agree that our gods may be different and we can choose the one that most fits our style.  We can even be content in comparing apples and oranges, not being concerned with the slight differences.

How can we say there is only one God and that there is no one like Him?  We do not say this, He does!  His greatness and power are incomparable!  In fact, trying to compare other gods with Him is ludicrous, as there is no other god in existence but Him.  They are all just a figment of human imagination, or the creative wood carvings of man.  They have no power.  They are not all-knowing or eternal.  They are not in every place at once.  To trust in them is to lean on a spider’s web.  They will not hold us up. (Job 8:14)

Thank you Lord, for being the only Sovereign incomparable God.

 


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Table Settings

table settingScripture for Today: Psalm 78:19 “They spoke against God; they said, ‘Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?'”

I had no idea that the Orange County Fair included table settings in their competitions!  Each one was elaborate, detailed and creative.  This ribbon-winning setting had an inviting Western theme.  I could just imagine the barbecued ribs, beans and coleslaw that surely would be the preferred menu!  Attention to table decoration always makes the food tastes better.  When I have company they will often ask to set the table.  But that is a job I like to reserve for myself!

Today’s verse talks about the Lord Himself spreading a table.  It was no picnic being in the wilderness year after year.  The Israelites complained and repeatedly put God to the test.  How gracious He was to rain down manna, called the “grain of heaven” and the “bread of angels” (verse 24-25).  They gorged themselves on meat that He provided.  Yet, their hearts were not loyal.  Though He provided for their needs again and again, they continually forgot His power (verse 42).  How exasperating it must have been for the Lord to hear the question posed in our verse when He had proven Himself over and over.

I imagine that though the Lord loves me, He must sometimes be exasperated with me!  Can He really meet this need?  Will He come through for me this time?  Can I completely count on Him for that?  To even have such thoughts reveals that I have forgotten His power.  He has already shown Himself faithful time after time.  Yes, He can and does spread a table in the wilderness!  When all seems dry and desolate, He provides above and beyond all we can ask or think! (Eph. 3:20)

Thank you Lord, for spreading a table for me and meeting my every need!


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Butterfly Collection

vintage-butterfly-entomology-collection5Scripture for Today: Psalm 104:24 “How many living things You have made, O Lord! You have exhibited great skill in making all of them; the earth is full of the living things You have made.”

The closet was full of at least thirty display boxes like the one pictured here.  Each one was filled with an amazing variety of butterflies.  The colors of the differently-sized butterflies were brilliant and each had a different pattern.  My elderly friend’s husband had died many years before.  But his butterfly collection remained.  I imagine it will soon be split up among her children and grandchildren.  I was struck with the same wonder this gentleman must have felt in gazing at their detailed beauty.

Today’s verse extols the creativity of our God.  The living things that He has made far outshine man’s creativity.  The most impressive man-made work of art pales in comparison to His creation.  The tallest building or newest technology does not even come close to the amazing skill God exhibited in making a single short-lived butterfly.  Every wonderful thing that man has made is but a poor shadow of what God has fashioned.

We understand just how powerful God is by contemplating what He has created (Romans 1:20).  It is obvious that there is intelligent and thoughtful design by Someone when we see the intricacies of a single butterfly wing.  Seeking to attribute the wonder of His works to lucky chance cheapens all of life and creation.  How does anyone really appreciate the beauty of creation without acknowledging the beauty of the Creator?!

It am humbled to think that this same powerful Creator loves me and wants a close intimate relationship with me!  What a privilege to know and love the Creator!

Lord, may the wonder of Your creation bring me closer to You!