Devotions By Jan


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Megaslumps

megaslumpsthermokarst.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smartScripture for Today: Psalm 88:17-18 “All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken from me friend and neighbor – darkness is my closest friend.”

Although this image looks like an alien landscape, it is actually a view of Northern Siberia.  These “megaslumps” are sinkholes in the Arctic permafrost.  The craters are formed from the melting ice buckling the land.  They are growing larger as the greenhouse gas is released into the atmosphere, leading to more warming and thawing.  It becomes a vicious cycle, changing the terrain for centuries to come.  These depressions in the landscape are aptly named, “megaslump”, as the earth turns in on itself.

Today’s verse as well as the entire psalm could well be called an emotional megaslump.  The author feels abandoned by friend and neighbor, feeling utterly alone and forsaken.  All that is seemingly left are enemies who threaten to engulf him in total darkness.  What a dismal picture of the depression he is experiencing.  The more alone he feels, the farther he sinks into that black hole; another vicious cycle.  His emotions threaten to completely overwhelm him.

This must be how Christ felt on the cross when cut off from the Father for the first time in all eternity.  He was betrayed and forsaken by His closest friends.  He was despised and rejected, “like one from whom people hid their faces” (Is. 53:3)  He endured that darkness to give me hope.  He took up my pain and bore my suffering so that I can look up and be rescued.  He has pierced my darkness with the wonderful light of His love.  No matter how black the night, with Him there can be joy in the morning!

Thank you Lord, that with You there is always hope.

 

 

 

 

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ADD

ADDd45d7263eb34efd2f6d6f4413a98e862Scripture for Today: Luke 10:39-40a “She (Martha) had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

We smile at the picture of a distracted kitty or a tee shirt with a pithy saying.  But the problem of Attention Deficit Disorder is no laughing matter and a real problem for many children.  This disorder can be coupled with hyperactivity, but not always.  In any case, the problem can include inattention, impulsive behavior, forgetfulness and the inability to sit still.  Those who deal with it as an adult can easily tune others out and only appear to be listening.  The potential to be distracted is much higher for someone with this problem.

I am not sure that Martha had ADD but she was certainly distracted in today’s verse.  Mary, on the other hand, was very focused on the words of Jesus to the exclusion of all else, much to Martha’s annoyance.  Mary could sit there for hours at the feet of Jesus.  However, Martha was distracted by the many details of service.  Not only was she distracted but worried and upset over many things (verse 41) one of which was her sister’s insensitivity.  As important as her work was, Jesus commended Mary for choosing what was better.

I find it difficult to sit quietly at the feet of Jesus and just listen.  I am constantly distracted by my own flying unbidden thoughts about what needs to be done next.  Of course there is to be balance between reflective devotional time with Him and the necessary tasks of living.  But when I pull away to be alone with Him, am I all there?

Lord, help me to focus on You and Your Word today.


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Milk Toast

Scripture for Today: Romans 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

Milk toast has been around for a long time and is considered a “comfort food.”  It is not so popular now but was common in the late nineteenth century as a dish for young children and the invalid.  Warmed milk is poured over toast and butter and sugar is added.  It was thought to be easy to digest, warm and soothing.  Since the mid thirties, milk toast has come to represent a spineless, mild and unassertive person.  This is largely due to the creation of the cartoon character, Caspar Milquetoast in the strip, The Timid Soul.

Today’s verse could be directed to the person with the mistaken view of God as “milk toast.”  The Lord is patient and kind with the intent of leading the rebel to repentance.  He holds back His judgement for a time in order to draw more to His saving grace and forgiveness.  Instead of responding in grateful humility, some show contempt for God thinking Him weak, ineffectual or uncaring.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There will be a time of wrath, judgement and settling of accounts.  But He waits out of love for that stubborn individual who keeps turning his back.  He waits and for now shows patience.

That same kindness is what He asks me to show others.  It does not make me “milk toast,” but instead kindness helps me persevere in patient prayer for that unrepentant one.  His fruit of kindness in me is so much more attractive than a critical judgemental attitude.

Lord, make me patient and kind, confident that You are working in hearts even when I do not see it!


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“Can Opener Bridge”

canopener1Scripture for Today: Psalm 119:66-67 “Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I trust Your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word.”

This railroad bridge in Durham, North Carolina is called the, “Can Opener Bridge,” for all the over-height truck roofs it has peeled back like sardine cans.   It is two feet lower than the average bridge, which is why there are multiple signs and flashing warning lights.  Even so, drivers routinely ignore the signs and crash into it at least once a month!  The city plans on installing an extra long red light to encourage drivers to stop, think and consider the warning signs!

Today’s verse recognizes that without God’s commands we get off track.  The Lord’s directives in Scripture are there to make us knowledgeable and give us good judgement in decision-making,  They are clearly posted and there is no ambiguity.  Yet, like those truck drivers, we have the freedom to ignore them.  We can think that the sign applies to someone else or that we know better.  Or perhaps we are distracted and just not looking.  It is not until “affliction” comes that we realize we have strayed away from God’s path of righteousness.

I do not want to get stuck and damaged because of my disobedience to what God has said.  The natural consequences from my poor decisions convince me that obeying His Word is far better!  But still, I am tempted to ignore the clearly posted signs and do what is easier and more popular.  However, I never have to wonder or question His way.  Like the author, I can trust His commands as being what is absolutely the best for me!

Lord, make me wise and knowledgeable simply by obeying You.

 


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Hat Boy

hatboy13305243_10205381619654575_6703969849693217733_oScripture for Today: Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

This young man has a problem.  Or at least he thinks he does!  He shades his eyes against the sun when he has a perfectly good and better shade on his hat!  Out of sight, out of mind I guess.  Or perhaps he remembers it is there but ignores it in the name of “fashion!”  In any case, he does not use what he already has.  I imagine that his arm could get quite tired being raised in that position too long.  The solution is really too simple.

Today’s verse is full of praise for blessings already given to those who know and love the Lord.  These blessings are not material but spiritual.  That means they will last into eternity!  He has blessed His own by choosing them, adopting them, granting redemption and forgiveness, marking them with the Holy Spirit, and giving them an inheritance!  What an incredible list of blessings!

Like this young man, I forget what I already have.  I sometimes live my life under my own power or according to my ideas.  I can forget how extensive, full, and free His forgiveness is and allow guilt to resurface.  I forget that I am His chosen one, and allow feelings of shame to overwhelm me.  The Holy Spirit offers comfort and strength.  So often, I do not avail myself of His life-changing presence but instead go it alone.  I have an inheritance that is eternal and beyond my wildest imagination.  Yet I forget and get consumed with financial questions and worries.

Help me Lord, to trust You and be mindful of all Your spiritual blessings!


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Graceland

Graceland-mansion-Memphis-c-Steven-MartinScripture for Today: Psalm 119:14 “I rejoice in the lifestyle prescribed by Your rules as if they were riches of all kinds.”

My Mother-in-law is a huge fan of Elvis Presley, so it only makes sense that she would love to visit his Graceland home.  This opulent mansion sits on fourteen acres in Memphis, Tennessee.  The museum it has become attracts over 600,000 tourists each year from all over the world.  It is the second most visited home in America after the White House.  Of course, Elvis enjoyed all the goodies that go with fabulous wealth.  One funny fact is the buzzer he had under his dining room table, there to summon the kitchen staff.  His lifestyle was the envy of many, but it is said that his choices led to his untimely death at forty-two.

Today’s verse talks about an entirely different lifestyle.  It is one that brings joy, although one would not think so at first glance.  It is a life that follows rules.  Where is the joy in that?  We normally feel that a happy life is one that is not bound or restricted by rules of any kind.  But His rules are different.  His rules make possible a full, rich and abundant life.  Guilt plays no part of it when we enjoy His forgiveness.  Worries about tomorrow do not destroy our peace.  Following God’s way brings blessings that are as enjoyable as riches of all kinds!

It is so difficult to stop equating financial ease with happiness.  It is a message I constantly hear.  I know better but I still am influenced by this very prevalent thinking.  Even harder to grasp is the idea that God’s rules can make life work and bring joy.  But this is what He promises.

Thank you Lord, for the riches You give in following Your way!


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Calloused Hands

callous a9aeddaed0f3c150bb972747d9f178c6Scripture for Today: Psalm 119:69-70 “Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep Your precepts with all of my heart. Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in Your law.”

As a young girl, I must have held that pencil too tightly when learning to write.  Ever since, I have lived with a callous on my finger where the pencil pressed.  It used to be tender years ago.  But as I continued writing, the callous got harder.  Now I hardly notice that hard bump that slightly deforms my finger.  It does not give me any trouble and it allows me to write any way I want.

Today’s verse uses the word, “callous,” to describe a heart that is unfeeling.  This heart used to be soft and tender, able to feel pain and conviction.  But now, by repeating a response over and over, it has become callous and insensitive.  It has built up protective tissue around it and remains hard and unchanged.  The arrogant wicked do not keep God’s law.  They are sure to know better and likely feel they are above the law.  They maybe did not start out that way but grew callous over the years.

What a contrast the author makes to himself!  His heart is soft and yielding, not only keeping God’s law but delighting in it.  I want my heart to be just that soft.  But delighting in His Word is an acquired taste.  It comes from continually reading and thinking on it.  Just as callouses are formed from a repetitive activity, so a soft heart that delights in the Lord comes from repeatedly spending time with Him.  My heart is so prone to becoming hard and stubborn, wanting my own way.

Lord, keep my heart soft and yielded to You.