Devotions By Jan


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No Fear

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I do not normally think of myself as a fearful person, but then I am not trying to do what this woman is doing, hanging over the Hong Kong skyline!  She is either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid to take such a risk!  The hammock seems to suggest ease and relaxation, which has got to be far from what she is feeling!  Even so, it is a sure bet that she does not suffer from acrophobia!

Today’s verse is an encouragement to not fear.  I am to put my trust in God.  His presence keeps me from being dismayed at dizzying heights.  He strengthens.  He helps.  And most importantly, He upholds me with His righteous right hand!  Whether I am facing insurmountable odds, or the presence of evil, I do not have to give in to fear.

The stronger my faith is in Him, the less problem I will have with fear.  In Matthew 8:26 Jesus challenges His disciples with the question, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Their boat being pummeled by a storm seemed reason enough.  But had they had more trust in Him, fear would not have been an issue.  I do the same thing when faced with scary circumstances.  The level of fear I am feeling is a barometer of just how much I am trusting Him.  But with God for us – who (or what) can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)  Through Him, we are more than conquerors, even over our own fears!

Thank you Lord, that because of You, I do not have to fear.

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Bones

Scripture for Today: Ezekiel 37:5 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”

This must be what happens when Halloween meets Valentine’s Day!  I just had a bone scan done for the first time but I am fairly sure I did not look like either one of these skeletons.  I have osteoporosis in my family and need to be concerned about good bone health.  There are lots of preventative measures to take.  Weight-bearing exercise is recommended as well as a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.  I am thrilled to see ice cream and frozen yogurt on the high-in-calcium list!  Although vitamin D is important, I would prefer getting it from the sun rather than a pill.  The next time I enjoy ice cream in the sunshine, I can do it without a shred of guilt!

Today’s verse comes from a vision the Lord gave His prophet, Ezekiel.  The bones represent the nation of Israel.  Their bones were dried up as their hope was gone and they were cut off.  God promised to put flesh on those bones and give life through His Spirit.  It was an image of what He would do for them, bringing them back to their land.

There is no life without His Spirit.  We are all dead in our sins without His life-giving Spirit.  Those who reject Jesus Christ are like dried up bones, without hope and cut off from a vital relationship with their Maker.  But with His breath comes true life.  In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).  The breath of His Spirit moves me to a living loving relationship with Him.

Thank you Lord, for breathing true life into me!

 


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Petty or Pretty?

Scripture for Today: I Peter 3:4 “Instead, it (your beauty) should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

It was quite an education to spend two summers on a Navajo reservation as a teen.  The women there were beautiful, especially when decked out in all their finery and turquoise jewelry!  It used to be that a Navajo woman would show the world her wealth by wearing every piece of her turquoise jewelry at once!  The hand-done silver work and red coral pieces were very pretty as well.

Today’s verse encourages a woman to value inner beauty.  Rather than depending on an outward show of elaborate hairstyles, jewelry or fine clothes, a Christ-follower will be beautiful for her gentle and quiet spirit.  Not only does this kind of beauty last, it is much more valuable in the eyes of our Creator.

There is just a one letter difference between the words, “petty” and “pretty.”  It is a whole lot easier to work on the outside than on the inside.  Image can be changed with very little trouble.  And because image is so important, the prettiness can hide the pettiness, at least for awhile.  But it will fade, leaving the inside exposed.  Our true selves can be harsh, critical, impatient and petty.  But the true beauty of gentleness and quiet confidence in God is much more attractive.

For me, being petty is much easier than being pretty.  But when I spend time with my Savior and ask His help, I become a little bit more like Him!  Aspiring to His beauty is a lifelong endeavor but such a worthy goal.  An old hymn echos this thought; Let the Beauty of Jesus be Seen in Me!

Lord, help me be beautiful like You.

 


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Apple Fritter

Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 5:15-16 “Be very careful, then , how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

I can turn down donuts fairly easily but I have a weakness for apple fritters.  I can tell myself that they are “healthier” having apple in them.  But in fact they do not differ much from the donut, being deep fat fried cake batter.  The word, “fritter,” comes from the French word for fried.  However, there is another meaning to the word, “fritter,” as in the saying, “to fritter away.”  This is when we gradually squander or waste time or money.

Today’s verse stresses the importance of making the most of every opportunity.  Doing so makes us wise.  When we fritter away the day or the week, we assume there will be many more ahead of us.  But the days are evil and life can be cut short.  However, missed opportunities are not an issue for the believer who is carefully living to please Him and do His will (verse 17).  In being filled with His Spirit (verse 18) we can make the most of our days.

Making the most of today may involve doing absolutely nothing and “recharging my batteries.”  I do not have to worry that I am frittering away anything if I am closely following what He wants for me today.  He knows when I need to slow down and when I can speed up.  He places those opportunities to serve Him squarely in my path, and gives me the motivation to, “fulfill His good purpose.” (Phil. 2:13)  I only have this one life to offer Him.  When I come to the end of it, I do not want to have any regrets over missed opportunities.

Help me Lord, to live wisely today.


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The Pomegranate

Scripture for Today:  Colossians 1:11 “being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”

As a child I tired quickly, trying to pop out those pomegranate seeds one by one!  I would get more of the staining juice on my hands than in my mouth!  Unlike other fruits, it is the seeds or “arils” that are eaten.  But de-seeding a pomegranate takes either some know-how, some patience, or both.  However it is done, this sweet red fruit is well worth the effort.  I love them sprinkled on a salad or made into a glaze over roasted duck!

Today’s verse indicates from where patience comes.  It is through the strength and power of the Lord that we can live with a patient attitude.  It is His “glorious might” that makes it possible to have great endurance and patience.  To live a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way (verse 10) will take patience and endurance.  But thankfully, we do not muster it up on our own.  It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us (Gal. 5: 22).  It is also the result of having our faith tested and seeing the Lord come through for us. (James 1:3)

For me, the biggest test of patience is waiting for the Lord to answer my prayers, my way.  His timing is rarely my own.  And I tend to treat my prayers as “unanswered” if I don’t receive the answer desired!  How many times I have worried, full of anxiety while awaiting His response!  But being impatient serves no purpose and certainly does not obligate Him to hurry!  I know He is pleased when I wait for His answers and promises with a patient calm heart.

Lord, help me to patiently trust You more.


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Sun Dogs

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”

I recently saw two sun dogs as the sun was setting over the Puget Sound in Washington.  These rainbow-patches of light will sometimes appear on either side of the sun when it is low in the sky.  The crystals in the cold air act as prisms, bending the rays of light passing through them.  It is thought they are called “sun dogs” as these lights to the left and right of the sun follow it around as a dog follows its master.

Today’s verse tells us that God who created light, also made light to shine within the heart of the follower of Christ.  This light shines as we get to know Him.  As we learn more and more of the glory of His face and presence, we begin to reflect some of that light ourselves.  The light within the believer causes him to shine like stars in contrast to a “warped and crooked generation.” (Phil. 2:15)  As we follow that Giver of light, we reflect Him.

I cannot generate any of this light on my own.  If there is any light at all coming from me it is all a reflection of Him!  It can only happen as I follow Him and stay close, just as those sun dogs do!  But even a small chink of light can make a world of difference to finding my way or helping others find theirs.  And the light of the knowledge of Him keeps me warm and loved in a world that can be cold and dark.

Thank you Lord, for Your life-giving light!


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Coloring Outside Lines

Scripture for Today: Romans 8:29 “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

One of my earliest memories involved coloring outside the lines of my color page.  I was so impatient to have the praise of my teacher that I raced through to be the first one finished!  But rather than receive praise, I was reminded that it was not a race and that I should color inside those lines.  Perhaps there is less insistence on this point today.  But at least when coloring within the lines, the image is clear.

Today’s verse reminds us that as believers we are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus.  All of mankind has been created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) but when sin entered the world, that image became blurred.  Man has colored outside the lines with his pride and rebellion against God.  The image is not so clear anymore.  But for the one who turns to God in repentance, this image of His Son is slowly being restored.  Just as brothers and sisters can resemble one another, so the believer is to increasingly resemble the character of Jesus.

I have a long way to go!  I pray people realize I am His child but there are definitely days when I am far from being like Him.  Hopefully, there is progress but often it is three steps forward and two steps back.  How infinitely patient He is with me!  And I am so glad His love does not depend on my progress or lack of it.  How reassuring it is that one day, the transformation will be complete when I meet Him face to face! (I John 3:2)

Lord, make me like You today!