Devotions By Jan


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Pumpkin Waste

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 1:5  “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”

After today, there will be the problem of what to do with that carved pumpkin.  Breaking it up and adding it to a compost pile can enrich the soil.  The insides can be turned into wonderful smoothies, butter, bread, soup, and of course, pie!  The shell can be turned into potpourri, and the pumpkin puree is supposed to be  good for the skin!  Pumpkins are even deemed safe for feeding birds and animals!  In any case, disposing of pumpkins is only a problem for a country with an abundance.

Today’s verse also talks about abundance; the abundance of suffering and the abundance of comfort.  Because of sin and our fallen world, there will be suffering for the believer.  Whether it is loss of health, income, or loss of loved ones, the Christian is not exempt.  But where there is abundant suffering,  God promises a comfort from Him that is just as abundant.  The abundant life of John 10:10 is not an easy painless life.  But it is an abundant one because He is there; the God of all comfort (verse 3).

The future looms ahead of me with all sorts of potential suffering.  There will be age-related sufferings as the body breaks down.  There will be the deaths of older family members and friends.  Whatever suffering is in store, I can trust the Lord to come through for me.  His comfort will make all of it bearable.  I do not have to worry ahead of time or imagine the unimaginable.  When it is needed, His comfort will be there.

Thank you, Lord, that I can trust You to be the abundant comfort I need exactly when I need it!

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Blasphemy Law

Scripture for Today:  John 10:33 “‘We are not stoning You for any good work’, they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because You, a mere man, claim to be God.'”

Ireland just voted on a referendum to change a blasphemy law in their constitution.  It had been on the books since 1937.  The idea was to avoid causing offense to any religious group by showing disrespect.  Stephen Fry in 2017 came closest to being prosecuted when on a RTE program he said, “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain?”  Police dropped the matter when they were unable to find, “a substantial number of outraged people.”

Today’s verse has an accusation of blasphemy against Jesus.  These Jewish opponents understood very clearly that Jesus was presenting Himself as God when He said, “I and the Father are one.” (verse 30)  However, it is no blasphemy to speak truth, even when it does offend!  The word, “blasphemy” in the Old Testament is used for cursing, reviling or despising God.  In the New Testament it is expanded to include insults and unjust accusations towards others.  So in fact, in these verses, the only blasphemy spoken was on the part of His Jesus’ opponents unjustly accusing Him!

Reading horrible quotes like the one above makes me indignant.  It is not easy to read or hear blasphemy spoken about the Lord.  He is so dear to me that it hurts to hear His name maligned, misrepresented, and dragged through the dirt.  But it comforts me to know there is coming a day when EVERY knee will bow at His name (Phil. 2:10)  In the meantime, I want my attitude to be as gracious and forgiving as His was on the cross.

“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

 


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Smashed!

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I was not sure why Smashburger chose the name it did for their hamburgers.  I had visions of them sitting on them, making them flat enough to actually fit in one’s mouth!  Of course, the health department would surely have something to say about that!  But there is a specific smashing process using a special tool to flatten the pre-prepared meatball.  This tool is used to press hard for a full ten seconds, but no more than ten.  More than that would squeeze out the juices and cause it to dry out.  The result is a cooking time of three minutes rather than eight.

In today’s verse, Paul is recounting some of the hardships he and Timothy had faced.  At the beginning of the chapter and at the end, he says, “We do not lose heart.”  It would have been completely understandable if they had!  Paul had been shipwrecked, beaten, stoned and imprisoned for his faith.  Being perplexed, he perhaps did not always understand the “why” behind what was happening.  Yet, he remained confident that the pressing down he felt was producing something of value in him.

When I am facing hard times I am usually perplexed.  I cannot explain why the Lord allows certain difficulties in my life.  But He promises that all the pressing and crushing will be producing a “weight of glory” one day (II Cor. 4:17).  All that is painful is only a “light affliction” compared to what lies ahead.  Even when panicked and confused, my Father reassures me  that He is in control and His control is good.

Help me Lord, not to lose heart.


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Remarkable Friendship!

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 4:3  “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

How strange to see these turtles fearlessly climbing all over this alligator!  The alligator is a meat-eater and turtles certainly qualify as meat.  Could it be that the warmth of the sun has just made everyone too lazy to eat?  Sometimes a turtle will even hitch a ride on the back of an alligator.  This uneasy peace is the result of the shape of the turtle’s shell.  If it is too high the alligator’s jaws will not be able to snap shut!

Today’s verse talks about something as unnatural as turtles and alligators hanging out together; getting along, harmony, oneness, peace.  It is not in our natures to strive for this.  It is much easier to divide into factions or to stand up for one’s rights.  We want recognition and special treatment even at the cost of unity.  But thankfully, we have the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  He is our peace and because of Him we can feel a oneness with believers who are so different than ourselves.

Our differences do not need to separate us.  Our differing race, language, or social status do not have to be a barrier to oneness.  Even differing styles of worship do not have to divide us when we are walking by the Spirit.  I am thankful to experience this oneness with French believers.  It is truly a work of the Spirit that unites us.  We are so different from one another.  Yet it is our common love for Jesus that binds us together.  The bond of peace is so sweet and worth the effort to guard and keep!

Lord, help me to value unity and peace as much as You do.


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Shade Trees

Scripture for Today: Psalm 121:5 “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand.”

These sheep are taking advantage of the only shade available on Cleeve Hill in Gloucestershire, England.  This beautiful spot overlooks Winchcombe in the valley below.  As the sun makes its trek across the sky, the bench sits in that lovely shade, providing welcome relief from the sun’s rays.  Sheep are often portrayed as dumb, but at least they know enough to move out of the sun and find comfort in the shade of that tree!

Today’s verse describes God’s care, protection and presence as shade.  His shade is at our right hand as that is the side used for battle.  The unrelenting heat of battle is lessened with assurances of His presence and power.  We are not dealing with an enemy that we can see (Eph. 6:12).  Putting on all that spiritual armor is essential for the conflict, but even more important is His divine protection.  The light of the sun or the moon will not harm us (verse 6).  Day or night He is watching over His own.  Nothing can touch our souls as He has already assured the outcome.  We are on the winning side.

What a comfort to have Him always with me!  I am so often unaware, not only of the raging battle around me but of His presence.  He is protecting me twenty-four seven from dangers I unknowingly encounter.  He is my shade and protection from any and all evil in the world.  If any of it should touch me, it is only with His permission and for His higher purposes.  He is always watching and nothing gets past Him.  He is my Deliverer and I can trust HIm.

Thank you Lord, for being my shade today.


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Tremors

Scripture for Today: Psalm 16:8-9 “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.”

That shaking of the hands can be scary.  Some folks find that with age they can no longer write legibly, tie shoelaces, shave or put on make-up without shaking.  These “essential tremors” can sometimes affect the voice box or the head.  I remember my Grandmother shaking her head yes and no without it meaning anything.  Thankfully, these kinds of tremors do not signal the onset of Parkinson’s disease.  Although it is not dangerous, it must be frustrating to live with this condition.

Today’s verse talks about a faith that cannot be shaken.  David affirms that it is the Lord who gives him security (verse 5).  He acknowledges that with the Lord close at His right hand, he can rest secure.  The right side of a man is the side where God assists in battle.  He is there to do battle for us (Psalm 109:31) and to be our strength!  David’s faith cannot be shaken as long as he keeps his eyes always on the Lord.

Whether tremors are in my future or not, I know that my body will eventually weaken with age.  But physical weakness does not mean that my faith needs to follow suit!  My circumstances may be anything but stable, but I can still rest secure, knowing that He is in control and His control is always good!  My confidence In Him means I can be glad, regardless of what is rocking my world!  Because of Him I will not be shaken!

Thank you Lord, for Your constant presence at my right hand!


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A Door

Scripture for Today: Hosea 2:15a “There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”

This picturesque scene shows the strait between the Door Peninsula and Washington Island in Wisconsin.  It looks so calm and peaceful, yet it has historically been a dangerous passage.  There are remains of ships scattered beneath the surface.  The strait is known as “Death’s Door,” not because of shipwrecks but as a reference to a battle in the early 1600’s.  One third of the Ho-Chunk tribe was lost during a storm on a failed raid against the Pottawatomie tribe.

Today’s verse speaks of another door described as a “door of hope.”  The prophet Hosea was directed by the Lord to marry Gomer, a prostitute.  His life with her was to be a real-life example of what God’s people were doing when they rejected their God and ran off with other idols.  The Valley of Achor was the setting for the sin of Achan in Joshua 7:24-26 that had caused so much trouble for the Israelites.  This verse says that calamity can be turned to joy!  What was once a symbol of despair could be turned transformed into hope.

What a beautiful picture of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness!  His love has no limit and with my repentance and His forgiveness there is always hope!  The Lord uses the most intimate relationship to illustrate just how wide, long, high and deep His love is for me.(Eph. 3:18)  And when I turn away from that love in rebellion or by being friends with the world (James 4:4) I am just as much an adulterer as Gomer was to Hosea.  How thankful I am that there is that door of hope, standing open and welcoming me back!

Thank you Lord, that You are my hope.