Devotions By Jan


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The Kiln

kiln inside-wood-fired-kiln1Scripture for Today: I Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you…”

I learned so much going through a pottery factory in Poland.  The kiln fascinated me.  In it the clay becomes strong and durable and ready for use.  The first firing is set for about 1400 degrees and there are hotter ones that follow!  These firings harden the clay into a pink bisque, readying it for the paint and decoration.  We, as clay, are not only getting stronger with heat but more beautiful too!  It is in enduring these kiln experiences that we become vessels the Potter can use for His glory.

For some, the heat seems to be more intense.  For others, the time spent in the kiln seems longer.  For still others, the kiln experiences seem to be more frequent.  The Potter deals differently with each of us.  However, NO believer is exempt from pain and suffering on this earth.  But as believers we can be sure that the Lord uses our pain.  It is not wasted.

As we ended our pottery factory tour I saw a large dumpster full of broken pieces of bisque.  This pottery did not survive the firing process.  I asked our guide if they were to be thrown out.  “Oh no,” she answered.  “They are all melted down and used again!”  What wonderful hope we have that the Lord in His GRACE picks up those broken pieces and continues His work in us!!

I am thankful that flawed as I am, I am never beyond hope!  The past and its mistakes never mean that the Potter cannot use me!

Thank you Lord, that You transform even my failures into something to use for Your glory.


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Contented Cat

purrScripture for Today: Philippians 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

It was so sweet to hear our Tiger purr.  Most cats will purr when happy and contented.  But cats will also purr when they are hungry, usually combining that sound with a cry.  Purring can also be their way of soothing themselves when hurt, much like a child sucking their thumb.  A kitten will purr when just a few days old to signal where he is to the mother and that he is fine.   When the mother purrs to the kitten it helps them bond, being used much like a lullaby.  But most often, the purr is a clear signal of contentment.

Paul tells us in today’s verse that he has learned the secret of contentment.  It is not tied to circumstances of want or plenty.  Contentment for Paul was something more and it was something learned.  There was a process to learn it.  He calls it a secret, not because it is unknowable but perhaps because it was not obvious.

I used to think that Paul kept that secret to himself.  But in fact, he did share it in the very next verse.  “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”  The “this” is that elusive contentment!  It is the Lord who gives contentment.  It comes through Him and His strength.  I cannot muster up contentment or talk myself into feeling it.  He is my source.  He gives satisfaction.  My relationship with Him is what fulfills me.

Only You, Lord.  Make me content in You today.


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Paragliding

involo2Scripture for Today: Isaiah 46:4 “Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

How thrilling it must be to experience paragliding!  It amazes me to see these giant colorful “birds” floating effortlessly above.  They can reach incredible heights and cover long distances using the air currents and shifting their body weight.  The pilot will often use a variometer to find and stay in the core of a thermal.  It helps him realize when he is in sinking air and when he needs to find rising air.

Today’s verse is such a reassuring promise of the Lord’s sustaining power.  As my Creator He carries me at just the right moments.  He knows when I am losing altitude and lifts me up to where I need to be.  This sustaining power carries me right into my old age, allowing me to live life elevated!

How comforting to know that God rescues me when I am starting to fall.  But I can avoid that sinking feeling altogether with my own “variometer;” God’s Word.  His Word lets me know where those thermal air currents are.  His Word lets me know when I am losing my cruising altitude.  It is in following His instructions for life that I can stay aloft.  Without understanding and following His way, I risk slowing down and even falling.  But oh the benefits of obeying!  Life is less complicated.

There is nothing so reassuring as being carried in His strong arms.  I can relax knowing that He has my back!  I can even enjoy the ride and those beautiful vistas.

Thank you Lord, for carrying me today!

 


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Victim or Victor?

Empty-Tomb-Picture-07Scripture for Today:  I Corinthians 15:55-57  “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

The enemies of Jesus thought they had won.  Satan thought he had won.  Jesus was dead and buried.  To all appearances Jesus was the victim and He had lost.  For three long sad days all seemed finished.  It was over.  But then……Jesus arose a Victor!  The power of sin and death could not hold Him.

As if this were not amazing enough, there is more!  Our verse for today explains that WE share in His victory!  God gives those who place their faith in Jesus the same victory over sin and death!  No longer are we victims but victors!  Jesus is OUR resurrection.  He is OUR life.  Because of what He accomplished, we will live eternally in a resurrected body like His!  We are looking forward to our own resurrection.

I am forever thankful to no longer be a victim.  No matter what man may do to me, my soul is kept safe and my future is secure.  What enemy can take that away from me?  No one (John 10:28).   Who could ever condemn me?  No one (Rom. 8:34).

There are times in life where we feel we are in that same three-day waiting period.  We feel like a victim.  All seems dark and sad.  There is failure and discouragement, guilt and shame.  Satan seems to have triumphed.  But then……we share in Christ’s victory!  We are on the winning side!  We are victors because He shares His victory with us!

Thank you, Lord, that You fought and won for me!


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Good Friday

IMG_20121124_145426Scripture for Today:  I Corinthians 1:18  “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

I have lived in France for so long, I am no longer surprised to see the cross just about everywhere.  France has strong cultural ties to the Catholic Church.  Some of these crosses date back hundreds of years.  They can be found in graveyards as pictured here.  But they are also found up in the vineyards, along country roadsides, and even on the busy corner down from our house!  I often wonder what the French think when they pass the cross on their way to their daily lives.

Today is Good Friday, a day of remembering the cross and the suffering of the Perfect One who hung there.  There has never been a greater injustice ever done to man.  Jesus, who knew no sin, did not deserve to die.  It should have been me.  But because of His great love, He took my place and paid the penalty for my sin.

The cross……has there ever been a more perfect symbol of sacrificial love?  And yet, for those that reject His love, it is foolishness.  For them it is a symbol of weakness and shame.  But the cross is the power of God, as it reconciles us with the Righteous Judge.

I have loved singing these lyrics with my French chorale, often through tears of gratitude:

“Thank You for the cross, Lord.  Thank You for the price You paid.  Bearing all my sin and shame, in love You came and gave amazing grace.  Thank You for this love, Lord.  Thank You for the nail pierced hands.  Wash me in Your cleansing flow, now all I know, Your forgiveness and embrace.”


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Serenity Prayer

serenity caf4a417e6cde9da0e10bc06eafcd380Scripture for Today: Matthew 26: 21-22 “And while they were eating, He said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ They were very sad and began to say to Him one after the other, “Surely You don’t mean me, Lord?'”

The familiar “serenity prayer” is seen everywhere on posters, plaques and cards.  It was written by Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian, and was used in his sermons as early as 1934.  But this version though similar, has a funny twist.  It focuses on accepting people rather than circumstances and it concentrates on changing the only one possible; one’s self.  But to do that does not only take courage and wisdom but something more.  That something more is humility.

Today’s verse is part of a conversation at the Last Supper between Jesus and His disciples.  He reveals that one of them will betray Him.  I am amazed that each one of them ask if it could possibly be them!  Of course, Judas asked it too but with a hypocritical heart as his plans were already made.  How gracious it was of Jesus to give Judas that last chance to come clean and repent.  He was hardened but the hearts of the others were soft and humble.  Could it be me?  Could I ever betray Him?

My pride shouts to me that it is always the other person that needs changing.  Not me!  But even when I do see that my heart is wrong, I am powerless to change anything on my own.  Somehow, that resolve to be loving and gracious to that difficult person goes flying out the window the moment she walks into the room!  Sincere and lasting change can only come about through the work of His Spirit.

Lord, help me see when it is me that needs changing.

 

 


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Hollow Chocolates

1half-eaten-chocolate-bunny-carcous-large-msg-117615558194Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 5:18  “Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery.  Instead be filled with the Spirit.”

Easter is just around the corner and the shelves are filled with chocolate bunnies and eggs.  Growing up my siblings and I enjoyed all the Easter-themed chocolates, and I have continued the tradition with my own children.  There is nothing quite like the squeals emitted when encountering that beautiful basket full of sweets!

I always hesitated to include in that basket bunnies or eggs that were hollow.  I still remember my own disappointment when biting into chocolate that had no filling.  Of course it was cheaper and not so rich for little tummies.  But I did not want them to feel that same disappointment I felt.

Our verse for today teaches believers that we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Of course, all those who belong to Christ have the Spirit living within (Rom. 8:9).  However, one can choose whether or not to allow Him control.  When we are filled and controlled by Him we are speaking and singing His praises to others, singing and praising Him directly and living with a thankful heart.

I know when I am hollow and empty.  My day is marked by discontent.  My outlook is negative and I can find nothing for which to praise Him.  I can even feel irritated to hear others praising Him when I am just not feeling it!  I am not filled and controlled by Him because I have allowed other things to fill and control me.  It can be any number of substitutes but they will all leave me dissatisfied and empty.  Hollow even.

Thank you Lord, that You are there, ready to fill up all those hollow and empty places with Your loving and powerful Spirit.