Devotions By Jan

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Herding Cats

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I thought herding cats was impossible!  But much to my surprise I discovered there is actually a Cat Herders Day on December 15!  However, my original thought holds true.  Cats are just too independent and stubborn to be herded, or cooperate when moving them from here to there.  This day is actually to recognize the frustration of trying to “manage the unmanageable.”  This day is a day for all of us who feel like we are saddled with an impossible task!

Today’s verse seems like the impossible task of herding cats.  Taking thoughts captive can be much the same scenario.  Our thoughts run away with us, leading to wrong attitudes and actions.  Those thoughts sometimes just do not cooperate.  The thinking of the believer is not to be the same as that of the world (verse 2).  But the world’s influence is so strong that thoughts just naturally conform to wordly independent thinking, leaving God out of it.

Thankfully, the Lord does not make this task impossible.  He has given us His divine power to control and redirect our thoughts (verse 4).  On my own, my thinking becomes full of pride and disobedience.  But because of His Spirit in me, I am not subject to merely human judgements. As a believer, I have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:15-16.)  What a wonderful thought that is!  He is there to turn my heart and mind from what is false and harmful.  He brings those wandering thoughts back into the corral of His unchanging truth!

Lord, may my every thought today please You.

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How Rich I Am!

Scripture for Today: Colossians 2:2 “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ.”

I could not help that my eyes widened at this display of money!  Seeing all those bills flying around reminds me of those game shows where the contestant grabs as much as he can within a time limit.  But in most any context, a display of wealth can be alluring.  There is something even seductive about cold hard cash.  It fires the imagination and fills the mind with possibilities.  Being showered with unexpected riches is an instant game changer!

Today’s verse talks about different riches.  They are described as “full” and have nothing to do with wealth in the traditional sense.  These riches involve understanding and knowing a Person, Jesus Christ.  Progressively coming to know God’s Son makes a life full and rich.  This kind of wealth is eternal rather than temporal.  Wealth of this kind cannot be stolen or taxed.  It is a wealth that has no limit.  The riches of Christ are boundless! (Eph. 3:8)

It is easy for me to get distracted by tangible signs of wealth around me.  But none of it compares with the surpassing value of knowing and loving the One who created me and sacrificed Himself for me.  The question of how rich I am can be answered by the nature of my relationship to Him.  The closer I am to Jesus, the richer I am.  The further away I move from Him, the more impoverished I become.  Knowing, Him, loving Him and serving Him enriches me like nothing else!  How rich I am!

Thank you Lord, for the boundless and endless riches I find in You!

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“Occam’s Razor”

Scripture for Today: John 6:29 “Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.'”

Looking at this beautifully groomed poodle reminds me of the Westminister Dog Show we just viewed on television.  Hours were spent in meticulous grooming to ready the participants for the competition.  It is obvious that this dog’s hair does not grow this way naturally.  It is safe to assume that scissors and razor were used to shape the dog’s coat.  Occam’s Razor is the name of the philosophy that says that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

God made salvation incredibly simple to grasp.  What is it about salvation through grace that escapes us?  Why do we want to add our own feeble efforts?  Jesus answers the question about works in today’s verse.  There is only one “work” that saves; believing in Jesus as God.  The tendency is to complicate what God made simple.  We are not saved because of any righteous works we can do (Eph. 2:8-9).  Our salvation comes from throwing ourselves on His unmerited favor, recognizing that there is nothing good in us that can earn it.  The more we feel we contribute to acquiring salvation, the more we take away from His all-sufficient sacrifice for us.  It is all a gift, even the faith to believe.

Knowing this takes away any reason for me to boast or to be prideful.  There is no sense of being better than anyone else.  My abject need of His grace to forgive makes the ground completely level in front of the cross.  It is so simple but so incredibly profound; “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

Thank you Lord, for making it simple.  It is all Your work, not mine.

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Nuts and Bolts

Scripture for Today: Philippians 2:13 “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”

It is simple, right?  Hold the nut against the bolt and turn the nut/bolt to the left.  With a right-handed thread, one feels a “jump” and hears a “click” as the threads jump over each other and you are in business!  “Righty tighty, lefty loosey.”  No problem.  Except that the nut would not screw off of the bolt no matter how hard I tried!  There was corrosion making the nut/bolt stay stubbornly in place.  Even though there are a number of inventive solutions available, the first reaction is pure brute force!

Today’s verse reminds the believer that there will be tension and stress in our lives as a direct result of God’s work.  The Lord is in the business of creating in us the image of His Son, Jesus.  The problem is that our “corrosion” or sin keeps us stuck in one place.  Our sinful habits keep us from moving forward.  The pressure of His hands as He works can seem harder and harder to bear.  There are times when we stubbornly hold on to sin.  He loves us too much to allow us to remain stuck.  He has a purpose to be fulfilled in our lives.  So He lovingly disciplines us to rid our lives of that corrosion.  The sooner we submit, the more quickly we can be done with that pressure.

What He has in mind for me is a life full of purpose and meaning.  My small ideas are nothing compared to what He can do.  He is creating something far and above what I can ask or think because it is His power at work (Eph. 3:20).

Lord, keep me from becoming stuck and stubborn!

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Scripture for Today: Romans 12:14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

Being so close to Mexico, it is not unusual in our area of California to include the piñata at children’s parties.  Our oldest daughter celebrated her seventh birthday whacking one open with her friends.  The colorful, papier-mâché-made figure is filled with candy and hung on a string.  The children take turns putting on the blindfold and hitting the piñata with a stick until it at last opens and the sweets pour out.  That is the signal to scramble for those candies and stuff mouths and pockets!

I was surprised to learn that the piñata originally represented temptation in the Mexican Catholic Church!  It has long lost its  symbolic roots but it did make me think of today’s verse.  The natural reaction to being hit or persecuted is cursing, bitterness, and the desire for revenge.  Paul’s words to the Romans were contrary to what a normal response would be!  Instead of responding in anger, we are to respond sweetly with blessing, wanting the good of the other person.  Blessing others when we are wronged makes us not only sweet, but peaceful.

If I am able to respond this way to any attack, then I can enjoy living in harmony (verse 16) and can leave to the Lord the business of revenge (verse 19).  As a believer, I am to overcome evil with good (verse 21).  It seems an impossible standard.  But oh how thankful I am that Jesus did not respond to His persecutors with cursing.  His forgiveness meant taking on the pain of His attackers and not responding in kind.  He is my example and the source of my strength to bless and not curse.

Lord, whatever mockery or opposition I face, may my response be like Yours.