Devotions By Jan

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Buzz Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear 2015-09-04 04.49.56 1Scripture for Today: Psalm 108:4 “For great is Your love, higher than the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”

What little boy does not enjoy dressing up?  My grandson sure does and he just loves his Buzz Lightyear outfit!  Wearing it he almost flies as he jumps on the bed, even without the wings that light up!  This Toy Story character is best known for the catch phrase, “To infinity and beyond,” as he strikes the pose, ready to fly.  After defeating the evil Emperor Zurg, this space ranger now cares more about keeping his toy family together.

There are not too many things that can be said to truly be “to infinity and beyond.”  But today’s verse describes God’s love and faithfulness in much the same way.  His love is so great it goes beyond the heavens.  God’s faithfulness is so immense it reaches to the skies!  A faithful love like that is beyond our limited comprehension.  It surpasses anything that man can stir up in his own heart.  But this is not fiction.  His love and faithfulness have been proven over and over.  This incredible love compelled the Son of God to lay down His life in our place.

What other love will never never let go?  What other love is completely unconditional?  There is no other love that even comes close.  His love is eternal and the world cannot even contain it.  His love surpasses the far reaches of the skies.  Our God IS love (I John 4:8).  God’s love upholds me, guides me, instructs and disciplines me.  His love rescues me from a meaningless life and a hopeless future.  He crowns me with His love and compassion (Psalm 103:4).  “Amazing love, how can it be?”

Lord, I am so undeserving of such a love.  I am eternally grateful.

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Fig Tree

fig-treeScripture for Today: James 3:12 “My brother and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Growing up, the fig tree in our back year was my Dad’s pride and joy!  The whole family enjoyed those green figs and the abundant shade the large leaves provided.  In fact, my Dad built a round bench encircling the large trunk.  Every year, he would lay out those figs for drying and we could enjoy the dried fruit all year long.  In all those years, that tree faithfully bore its figs.  Never once did it surprise us with olives!

Today’s verse describes a ludicrous scenario.  How ever could a fig tree produce olives, a grapevine produce figs or a salt spring produce fresh water?  It is impossible, of course.  These images teach us that what comes out of the mouth reveals what is in the heart.  What comes out of the mouth is consistent with what is thought and felt inside.  Eventually, our hidden nature is revealed by the words we speak.

No one can tame the tongue nor can anyone make themselves new inside.  It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit that we can hope to change.  When cursing and praise both come out of my mouth, it is a clear signal that I need to do business with the Lord.  “…This should not be.” (verse 10) but unfortunately, it is.  I can blame my words on stress or fatigue  but what I really need to do is just confess it.  I do not want to disappoint or grieve the Holy Spirit.  And He graciously offers His self-control so that my life consistently bears fruit that honors Him.

Lord, control my tongue today to consistently honor You.




Strong Arms

Violin 1455986_1430721260489037_168525436_nScripture for Today: Genesis 49:24 “But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.”

Our friend, Marilyn, continues to amaze me!  At the age of 87 she still plays her violin beautifully.  She not only continues playing in the Desert Symphony, comprised of only the best professional musicians, but she is also the assistant concertmaster and contractor!  While many her age have trouble lifting their arms to do their own hair, she holds up that bow with strong arms and plays beautiful music!  That violin bow remains steady and her arms stay limber because of the blessing of the One who created her!

Today’s verse is part of a blessing given to Joseph by his Father, Jacob.  Joseph, although attacked with bitterness, remained true to God (verse 23).  God’s hand was on Joseph, making him fruitful, keeping him strong, helping him and blessing him (verse 25).  But God’s strength did not mean he would lead an easy life.  On the contrary, Joseph’s life was filled with injustice, prison, estrangement, and heartache.  However, Joseph followed his Shepherd and drew strength from his Rock.

I cannot imagine having strong unwavering arms into my eighties!  With age my body will eventually waste away and betray me.  But the Lord promises that inner strength can be renewed day by day (II Cor. 4:16).  Arms may become unsteady, but my faith in Jesus can become firmer each day.  Arthritis may keep me from being limber but inwardly I can experience firm resolve and perseverance!  When I am weak, He becomes that Rock providing strength.  As my Shepherd, His strong arms lift me up.

Lord, I need that inner renewal today.  Thank you for the strength You will provide!

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The Hills are Alive!

Hills 6B1F6DFE0E0C487BA685671451114B11.ashxScripture for Today: Isaiah 49:13 “Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.”

Such a well-known scene!  Julie Andrews sings, “The Hills Are Alive,” in the movie, The Sound of Music, filmed in the Alps surrounding Salzburg, Austria.  We had the privilege of seeing many of the movie locations around the city of Salzburg, but nothing compared to the majestic peaks of those Alps!  It seems incongruous to call them “hills” in the song.  But according to the lyrics, they are alive “with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years.”

There is reason for the heavens to shout, for the earth to rejoice and for the mountains to burst into song.  Today’s verse gives the reason; the comfort and the compassion the Lord gives to His hurting people.  He is not unmoved by our pain.  He does not ignore our cries.  He hears us in the night when we smother our tears.  He sees when the heart is hurting and we want to give up.  He offers His comfort and compassion and it is unlike any other.

He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (II Cor. 1:3).  He uses His Word to reassure my heart.  He uses the care and concern of friends and family.  He uses the lyrics of a long-forgotten song in the most unlikely moment to bring me a measure of peace.  His compassion never fails me.  His comfort and compassion are renewed every morning when I wake up to a new day (Lamentations 3:22-23).

What a wonderful reason for those mountains to burst into song!  May today be a day when I can shout, rejoice and sing because He cares for me!


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Cranberry Bogs

bog 20df2a9ef2bdaa9317174ef1b7a3d67bScripture for Today: Isaiah 44:3 “For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.”

It about took my breath away!  We were driving the back roads near Plymouth, MA when we rounded the corner and saw a shimmering field of red!  The cranberry bog was being flooded with water and the brilliant October sun was hitting it just right.  The farmers flood the area with up to eighteen inches of water to free the cranberries from the vine.  Then because of the small pocket of air contained in the cranberries, they float to the surface, ready to be harvested.

Water is of course essential to growing most anything but with “wet harvesting” it also plays an important role in getting access to the fruit.  Today’s verse pictures God’s Spirit like that water so important to fruit production.  Without His work we remain a thirsty land.  Without His blessing we continue life as dry ground.  But oh how it all changes when the Holy Spirit moves and works in people’s hearts.

When I try producing fruit and good works in my own strength, I am using thirsty land and dry ground.  I need the Holy Spirit to flood my efforts with His life-producing water and power.  I can do nothing in my own strength.  It is not how busy I am doing things for others.  It is not how many Bible verses I know.  It is allowing Him to work through me as I depend on Him.  It is getting my ego out of the way and being about His glory.

Lord, please pour out today the blessing of Your Spirit.

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stairs_to_nowhere_by_emmahillphotographyScripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 2:22 “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?”

I almost passed right by this picture without seeing it.  Yes, it’s artsy but there is a little detail easy to miss.  The stairs lead nowhere!  Perhaps, there was once a door at the top, but no longer.  I think I would be plenty irritated to expend that energy climbing for no good reason.  How awful to finally get to the top of a long flight of stairs, only to find that there is nothing there!

It must have been with this same sentiment that Solomon wrote today’s verse.  What ever is the point of all the striving, working and toil man goes through all of his life?  If at the end of the climb one finds no satisfaction in reaching the goal, than life can seem a cruel joke.  But that is exactly the case if the Lord is left out of the picture.  Everything, even the most admirable success, is meaningless.  Climbing the ladder to wealth, prestige and security means nothing in the end.  At the end of life, a hard-earned fortune gets passed down until it dwindles away to nothing (verse 21).

I cannot imagine saying on my death bed, “I wish I had worked more.”  I would hope that I would say, “I wish I had loved and served Him more.”  Living for my Creator is the only life that makes sense to me.  My strife, toil and work when done for Him gives it eternal value.  Anxious striving for my own selfish desires proves empty in the end.  “Only one life, ’twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Lord, keep me focused on living and working for You!

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grits 3a02ad0c-b3e1-4e7f-bd79-44771cdfd116--food52_04-17-12-8110Scripture for Today: Hebrews 10:36 “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”

My impression of grits is that it is bland and heavy.  But in fact, this ground-corn dish, popular in the Southern States, has many mouth-watering variations.  I have enjoyed them with shrimp and with cheese as a main dish.  But grits are often thought of as a breakfast side dish.  In any case, the word “grit” has another meaning, associated with the idea of courage, resolve and strength of will.

Today’s verse also alludes to “strength of will” but curiously, not our own.  Believers are encouraged to continue living out God’s will.  These early Christians endured “great conflict full of suffering” (verse 32).  When they were not being persecuted themselves, they were standing side by side with those who were.  They were publicly humiliated and insulted, even suffering the indignities of prison and confiscation of property.

It takes perseverance to follow God’s desires ahead of our own.  We mistakenly believe that the goal of life is the pursuit of happiness.  But God’s will is much grander than our own little lives.  He is about building His Kingdom and believers are privileged to participate in something that is eternal.  My confidence and obedience will one day be richly rewarded.  Knowing that helps me persevere in doing His will.  I enjoy His blessings now but they pale in comparison to all He has prepared for me!

I frankly do not always understand His will.  It is often at odds with my own selfish desires or what I believe are “my rights.”  But I do know that whatever it takes, He is worth following!

Thank you Lord, for giving me what it takes to persevere.