Devotions By Jan

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Pizza Box

Scripture for Today: Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I loved this story on the news the other day of a man in New York who was the recipient of an anonymously donated pizza.  Inside the cover were written the words, “Stay strong,” the very words his wife daily said to him while dying of cancer.  He told the pizzeria manager that this simple message “turned his life around” and pulled him out of a deep depression.

Today’s verse is an encouragement from the Lord to Joshua that inspired him be strong.  Joshua had just taken over the enormous task of leading the Israelites after the death of Moses.  Joshua needed this assurance that the Lord’s presence would give him strength and courage.  There is a subtle difference between the words,”stay strong ” and “be strong.”  The first implies that strength is already there in some measure and should continue.  For Joshua at the death of his friend and leader, he had no strength or courage.  Not only was the charge overwhelming, but he must have felt alone and sad with Moses gone.

I absolutely have no strength without the Lord.  Whatever strength I have comes from Him.  Paul recognized this when he said to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Eph. 6:10).  I need His strength especially when losing a family member or friend.  I need this same reassurance that He will be with me and give me all the courage and strength to face the future.  Of course there is sadness, but I do not need to feel discouraged.  He is there and will get me through.

Thank you Lord, for the strength You give.

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Scripture for Today: Numbers 15:39 “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.”

It seems an odd thing to do; trying a string around one’s finger so as to remember something later.  It is actually thought that your sense of touch on the index fingers are the ones with the quickest connections routed directly to the hippocampus, that part of the brain responsible for memory.  At least, I seem to remember reading something about this!

Today’s verse was a command from the Lord to the Israelites through Moses.  Tassels on their clothes were to serve as visual reminders to be obedient to God’s commands.  They were to be sewn on the corners of their garments and have a blue thread.  It makes sense that all thoughts of obedience to God’s standards can quickly slip the mind while experiencing strong temptation!  Perhaps, seeing those tassels served as a splash of cold water, reminding the Israelites of their commitment to God when enticed to chase after lustful acts or thoughts.

I need reminders every day of God’s holy and unchanging standards.  It is too easy for me to rationalize my thoughts and behavior when surrounded by a permissive culture.  I am constantly bombarded with different standards which are much more attractive and easy to follow.  Better than a string around my finger or a tassel, I have God’s Word to reorient my thinking.  Waiting until I am faced with temptation is not the time to be pulling out my Bible.  I need to hide His Word in my heart ahead of time in order to remain resolute (Ps. 119:11).

Lord, keep me obedient to You today.

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Scripture for Today: Revelation 22:3-4 “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face and His name will be written on their foreheads.”

What devotion!  This girl has the names of thirteen celebrities written on her body!  She asks her idols to sign somewhere on her arms or on her back in marker.  She then goes to her local tattooist to make her souvenir permanent.  Apparently she is choosy, allowing only those who she deems an icon to have this privilege.  The autographs she wears include Angelina Jolie, Celine Dion and Lionel Richie!

Today’s verse describes a time in eternity when those who belong to the Lord will wear His name.  And the privilege will be all ours!  We, as His servants, will have a closeness to His throne and will daily see His face.  His name will be on our foreheads, figuratively or literally.  More than an autograph, His name will mark us for all eternity as His very own.  And our service to Him will include forever reigning with Him (verse 5).

I may not have His name on my forehead now.  But hopefully, I am so closely identified with Him that I and others know that I belong to Him and He is mine!  His is a name that is above every other name (Phil. 2:9).  So exalted is this name that one day every knee will bow at even the sound of it!  He is the One who lifts my head high with His forgiveness (Ps 3:3).  When I look to Him I can be “radiant” and my face is not covered with shame (Ps. 34:5).

Lord, how unworthy I am.  Thank you for the incredible privilege of bearing Your name!


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Beam Me Up!

Scripture for Today: Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

“Beam me up, Scotty!”  This phrase, although part of pop culture, was never actually uttered exactly this way on any Star Trek episode or movie!  But how great that these characters could escape any and all dangerous situations just by being transported back up to the ship from the planet’s surface!  At just the right moment, they would disappear before startled eyes and escape any unpleasantness.  I often wish I could do the same thing!

Paul had a very different view of facing hard times.  Today’s verse explains that we can actually glory or be positive about what we are facing.  We are not plucked out of that suffering.  We are left here to face it with God’s help.  We may never know exactly why we were not spared that suffering, but we do know it can produce something positive; perseverance, character, and hope.  And that hope does not put us to shame (verse 5).  We are not transported immediately to Heaven after our salvation because we are slowly being shaped and molded here on earth.  The perseverance, character and hope He produces allows us to resemble Him.

I do not look for or want any suffering.  I would much rather produce that perseverance, character and hope some other way.  But it comes through the hard times when my faith is stretched.  He went through so much more than I ever will so I know He understands and cares.  He will never put me through more than I can withstand.  I can trust His heart and His purpose for me.

Thank you Lord, that You use every pain to bring me closer to You!

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The Sea Cucumber

Scripture for Today: Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

They really do look like cucumbers!  And in Asia, some species are farmed and enjoyed as a delicacy.  But what is really amazing about these funny ocean creatures is their ability to regenerate their own organs!  When in a tight spot they will mutilate their own bodies as a defense mechanism.  They will violently contract their muscles and jettison out of their anus some of their internal organs!  Fortunately, the missing body parts are quickly regenerated!

Today’s verse talks about the washing of regeneration.  Being in Christ makes us a “new creature” (II Cor. 5:17)  The old has passed away and is replaced by the new!  It is due to the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit.  It is all His work in us and has nothing to do with our own good works.  He saw our predicament, desperately needing to be saved from the judgement our sins warranted.  Rather than giving us what we rightly deserve, the Lord acted out of His infinite mercy.  He changes the heart and makes us new.

Self help and good intentions will not make me new.  Strong resolve or publicly-made resolutions will not change my heart.  I may succeed in changing my behavior for a time but I am still the same inside.  On my own, real heart change is not possible and I only end up frustrated.  I need His power to work in me.  His supernatural regeneration is the only way I can truly be made new.

I am tired of the old me.  Thank you Lord, for making me new!

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Marine Layer

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

It’s coming.  I am seeing that marine layer roll in a bit more often as we approach summer.  In our area of Southern California we are nearing “May gray,” and “June gloom.”  At least that dense wet fog coming from the ocean does not hang around all day just yet.  But when it does, the temperature drops and out come the sweaters.  The thick fog envelopes the landscape and hides the normally beautiful views.

Today’s verse is a very clear definition of the word, “faith.”  It is confidence in our hope and assurance of what is there even though we cannot see it.  We cannot see with our physical eyes what we can see with our spiritual ones!  Thomas would not believe the Lord had risen until he could actually physically see and touch Him.  But we are in that special group that are blessed for believing without seeing! (John 20:29)

Most of the time my spiritual eyes are seeing His beauty, His power and His grace towards me.  But there are days when my spiritual vision seems clouded.  Just as the marine layer blurs the landscape, so my view of spiritual truth can seem blurred.  I know He is still there but my perspective has changed.  It usually happens when I neglect His Word.  It is sure to happen when I am not speaking with Him.  And that fog can become quite thick and suffocating the longer I doubt or ignore Him.  But I am amazed at how quickly that fog can lift when I turn back to Him, His promises and His whispers of love!

Lord, lift that fog so I see You clearly today!

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Knee Jerk Reaction

Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

No one enjoys this part of a physical exam!  When that reflex hammer strikes just below the patella, the leg is supposed to extend as an automatic reflex.  This reaction is what helps maintain balance and posture without conscious thought.  But the term has also come to mean an immediate unthinking and emotional response.

Today’s verse addresses the problem of worry, which for me tends to be my knee jerk reaction!  Worry just seems to come naturally as a first response.  Sometimes my worries do not even have a basis in reality but arise from my imagination!  But Paul, who had plenty to worry about as a prisoner, gives us the solution.  Paul could experience God’s peace even when in chains.  And that is because He gave over his worrisome thoughts to the Lord in prayer.

Worrying changes nothing, but praying can.  Talking to the Lord and unburdening myself to Him helps my heart to trust Him.  He already knows what worries are running through my head.  But He asks me to name those worries in the form of petitions.  What freedom can be mine when I give it all to Him!  He replaces that worry with His peace that guards my heart and mind.  Instead of being consumed with worry, I can get some distance from that problem.  And in faith I can thank Him in advance for His answers.  My mind and heart can be at rest, knowing I can trust His hand to work.

Lord, keep me from that knee jerk reaction of worry.  Help me turn every anxious thought into heartfelt prayer.