Devotions By Jan


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Masked!

venetian-mask-colombina-carnival-of-venice-italyScripture for Today: Psalm 38:9 “All my longings lie open before You, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from You.”

Among the many kinds of Venetian masks is this elaborate one called the “Colombina,” or “little dove.”  Made of paper mache, Venetian stucco, shiny gold macrame and black feathers, it is certainly ornate and mysterious.  Based on a character from the Italian stage, beautiful women especially preferred this style as it covers only half of the face.  These masks are worn for the annual festival in Venice, Italy which is one of the oldest in Europe dating back to 1162.  Being masked gives people the opportunity to hide their identity and freely mix with those above their social standing.

Today’s verse makes it clear that there is nothing hidden from the Lord.  With Him, we are unmasked.  David acknowledges his sin (verse 18) being overwhelmed with guilt and groaning “in anguish of heart.” (verse 8)  He pours out his complaint that his friends have turned on him.  He ends this psalm with a cry for help and a plea that God would not forsake him as well.  Every longing and every sigh is seen by the One who knows our hearts and thoughts.  Nothing is hidden from Him.

I wonder if sometimes I do not wear a “mask” in my private prayers.  If all is open and bare before Him then there is no need to sanitize my prayers.  He knows just what I am feeling and He waits for me to be honest with Him.  He does not censor my words or rebuke me for wrong theology.  He hears my frustrations and my ill-concealed doubts.  Nothing shocks Him and He loves me no matter what.

Thank you Lord, that I can unburden myself with You and find sweet relief.

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Breaking Free!

freedomb04c55f51dc9b7be98221b54113ab02fScripture for Today: Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This Freedom Sculpture was created by Zenos Frudakis and can be seen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  It depicts several people in different stages of breaking free of their molds.  The artist felt that everyone could relate to this image as the struggle to be free is a universal one, common to all mankind.

Today’s verse is put differently in another version; “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold.” Without a transformation of our minds, we stay firmly ensconced in the world’s way of thinking.  Like the last figure in this sculpture, we can so completely conform to the values and thinking of this world that we lose the freedom to follow what is best.  What the Lord wants for us is good and pleasing and perfect.  And so often, it is in direct opposiiton to the prevalent thinking around us.

I do not want to look, think and act like everyone around me and call that freedom.  But I can walk about in freedom when I intentionally seek out what God wants (Psalm 119:45).  His plan for me is not just good but perfect.  When He changes my heart and mind with His Word, pleasing Him becomes a pleasure.  Blending in by following another standard may sometimes be easier.  In fact it is usually easier to just go with the flow, but not as fulfilling.  His transformation is freeing me to become who He meant me to be, rather than a carbon copy of everyone else.

Thank you Lord, for the freedom Your transformation brings!


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Inside Out

clothingd7587cae-9b39-49de-a72f-6043d7620bf6-620x620Scripture for Today: Romans 5:5 “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

I have done this often enough when dressing in a hurry.  Wearing something inside out is even considered good luck by some.  But for your day to be lucky, it has to be done unintentionally and not corrected if pointed out by someone.  The same is said for wearing one’s socks inside out.  But rather than thinking of clothing mistakes, I like thinking of the song by Bryan Adams called, “Inside Out.”  The lyrics say, “I wanna know you like I know myself…..I wanna know you inside out.”

Today’s verse describes God’s love as being poured into our hearts.  Any other love on this earth comes from the outside.  But God’s love is unique as it reaches to the inside and fills our hearts.  His love actually resides on the interior.  There is nothing hidden from His love.  He knows our deepest thoughts and desires.  He understands all of our motivation and fear.  Because He lives and loves from our hearts, He knows what makes us mad or makes us cry.  There is no other love as intimate or knowledgeable.  He loves me from the inside out.

How amazing that He could love me knowing all the junk in there!  I can be completely honest and open with Him as He knows it all anyway.  And yet, He still loves me!  He does not love me because, but in spite of myself!  There is only one best response to this kind of unconditional love: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.”

Thank you Lord, for reminding me of Your overwhelming love.

 


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One Thousandth Blog Post!

paul-muldoon9780374536688Scripture for Today: Psalm 119:72 “The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”

I was intrigued by the title of this collection of poems by Paul Muldoon.  It is entitled, “One Thousand Things Worth Knowing.”  This Northern Irish poet has won the Pulitzer prize for a previous work and is a professor at Princeton.  His collection of poems has been described as full of witty pleasures, having strong feelings, as powerful and as a work meant to be re-read.

One thousand things contained in this work may very well be worth knowing.  But there is one place that I can always be confident that I will find something worth knowing.  And that is in God’s Word.  This is my 1000th blog post and for me, every verse I have quoted is worth knowing because of our Divine Author.

Today’s verse describes just how valuable God’s Word is.   It is more precious than thousands of pieces of gold or silver.  His words are always true and able to point one to the very Source of life.  What comes from His mouth is eternal and unchanging, able to draw its reader into a close intimate relationship with its Author.  And every word is worth knowing.

There is nothing more valuable in life than God’s revelation of Himself.  No matter how much I study, meditate, memorize or discuss the Bible with others, there is always more to learn.  It is so deep and personal that I can never completely know it.  The Lord continually reveals something new and different to verses I have known since childhood!  For me, writing this devotional blog has been an incredible blessing.  And my prayer is:

Lord, please give me a thousand more blog posts to encourage my heart and the hearts of others.

 


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Black Out Curtains

curtainhqdefaultScripture for Today: John 1:4-5 “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The black out curtains in my bedroom do a pretty good job of blocking out the morning light.  After living in France for so many years, I have been accustomed to shutters that keep the room entirely dark.  Now, I am much too sensitive to the morning light.  Even with black out curtains, there is always that chink of light that manages to get through and wake me.

Today’s verse describes Jesus as life.  And the life in Him is as a beacon of light illuminating this very dark world.  But no matter how dark and sinful the world is, that darkness will never overcome the light.  Even a tiny pinprick will dispel darkness.  Despite man’s best efforts to block it out, there will always be a chink of light shining through.  In that darkness we remain asleep until that moment Christ shines on us (Eph. 5:14).  And from that time on we are called “children of light” (verse 8).  That is because Christ made His light shine in our hearts, giving us the light of knowing Him! (II Cor. 4:6).

Every time I turn on the news I am reminded that I live in a dark world.  I can get quite depressed thinking about all the evil and injustice.  But these verses give me hope.  It will never be completely black around me.  He illumines my world with the light of His presence and love.  It is said that it is always the darkest before the dawn.  I am so thankful that He has overcome the world and the future is bright with Light!

Lord, I need You to shine on me today!


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Mondays

8-mondays-beatles-funny-parodyScripture for Today: I Thes. 2:13 “And we also thank God continually because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as human word, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”

I wonder if even the Beatles hated Mondays.  The parody of this iconic picture sums up the attitude of most people.  Somehow, when that alarm jars you awake after a full weekend, the temptation to stay under those covers is oh so strong!  No wonder we hate Mondays.  Like the Mamas and the Papas’ 1966 song, “Every other day of the week is fine.”  But, “Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day!”

Today’s verse is about a work that is continual, regardless of the day of the week.  The Word of God is at work in those who believe.  When God sends out His Word, it will accomplish what He desires (Isaiah 55:11).  His Word is unlike any other book, being that it is alive and active, judging our thoughts and attitudes (Hebrews 4:12).  His Word reveals who God is and who I am.  Reading His Word brings comfort and encouragement.  It is absolute truth that changes how I see my world.  His Word guides my steps and keeps me on the best path.

Of course, His Word cannot be at work in me every day of the week if I am not reading it, listening to it or singing it!  I need to hide it in my heart like the Psalmist tells me.  It is then that His Word can do its work, slowly transforming me by renewing my mind (Rom. 12:2).

Lord, keep me motivated to read and love Your Word, even on Mondays!


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The Praying Mantis

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

This mantis looks to have been interrupted in his prayers!  These alien-looking insects got their name from their prayer-like stance.  These strange creatures are the only insects that can turn their heads 180 degrees!  They may look like they are praying but in fact they are very alert and highly visual, noticing any disturbance in their environment.  Even when flying at night some are able to avoid bats, detecting their echolocation sounds.

Today’s verse encourages the believer to pray on any and every occasion.  This verse closes out the passage talking about how to fight the spiritual war.  The battle we wage is not fought individually but in concert with others.  Of course we pray for ourselves.  We want strength, protection, and greater faith.  But we are also to be praying for all of the Lord’s people facing the same challenges we do.

We are told to be alert.  We need to have our “antennae” up and sensitive to needs around us.  All it takes is to turn our head in a half circle to see someone who needs prayer.  Our prayers lift up and encourage a fallen soldier.  Praying for another encourages them to get back in the battle and to persevere.

I sometimes feel that praying for others is not as important as some of the other ways we serve Him.  How often I have heard, (or said) “Well, I guess all I can really do is pray for her.”  Are not our prayers the most important thing we can do?

Lord, make me a faithful prayer warrior today!