Devotions By Jan


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Hawker Centers

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”

This young man looks confused as to which food stand to choose.  He is standing in a “Hawker Center,” in Singapore where he can find many different inexpensive hot foods.  These centers are the government’s solution to the mobile food carts on the streets.  The street hawkers would often attract customers with loud cries, chants or banter.  Of course, this practice is not unique to Singapore.  I have heard “hawkers” even in the Latin Quarter of Paris!

Today’s verse is an invitation to eat and drink but with no monetary gain the one offering.  This is an invitation to come quench one’s thirst and satisfy one’s hunger without any cost!  But somehow, we miss this invitation.  Instead of being satisfied with no cost, we spend money on what does not satisfy (verse 2).  Instead of listening for the invitation, we fill ourselves with what is not good.  Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life.  And to the woman at the well, Jesus offered a water that would end thirst!

The noise of other offers drown out this invitation.  Too often I am distracted by the world’s ideas of what will satisfy.  I am duped into spending money, time and energy on what in the end brings no satisfaction at all.  Even though I know better, I am lured into mainstream thinking and carried away by consumerism.  Instead of meeting the deepest needs of my soul, I content myself with the trappings of success.  Then I wonder why I feel so impoverished.  My God and Creator is the only One who truly satisfies.

Lord, may I respond to Your gracious invitation today.


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Fallen Leaf Art

Scripture for Today: Psalm 1:3 “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Have you ever walked by a leaf on the ground that had such vibrant color that you had trouble leaving it behind?  The Japanese use these beautiful leaves in what they call, “ochiba art.”  What would normally be swept up and left to decompose is instead arranged in beautiful designs.   Of course, the beauty is temporary.  But at least they go out in a burst of glory before they wither and die.

Today’s verse describes a seasonal cycle unknown in our world.  There is no Autumn as leaves do not wither, die and fall from the branches.  This unique season enjoys continual growth and greenery.  There is seasonal fruit and a steady supply of water for this tree planted by streams of water.  What a beautiful image of the one who delights in the law of the Lord and does not walk, stand or sit with the wicked. (verses 1- 2)

The wicked are pictured as chaff that dries up and blows away (verse 4).  What a contrast!  Rather than being vibrant and living, it is utterly useless and is carried away with the slightest breeze.  But the Lord will not allow me to be dried up and useless.  There may be differing seasons of fruitfulness, but my leaves will never wither.  I may not always see how He is using me, but He does produce fruit.  His life continues within and He never stops working in me!  Because of being planted in Him, I will stay green and vibrant and beautiful.  Because of Him my shade is inviting and my limbs provide protection.

Thank you Lord, that You can and do use me in spite of myself!


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Paradise Lost

Scripture for Today: Luke 23:42-43 “….’Jesus, remember me when You come in Your Kingdom.’  And He said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.'”

I am heartbroken when seeing images of the ongoing fire in Paradise, California.  To date, 146 thousand acres are burned and the town itself devastated.  So many structures were destroyed, over 11 thousand.  But most importantly, 71 souls have been lost.  And with over 1,000 unaccounted for, that number is sure to rise.  The survivors run the spectrum of emotions, from thankful to bitter.  I cannot imagine this pain of loss but I was saddened to hear one survivor blame God and ask how He could allow a town with the name, “Paradise” to burn.

Today’s verse is a promise of Paradise for a thief.  He hung on the cross next to Jesus because he deserved to be there.  He did not deserve Paradise.  But Jesus made a way.  He offers Paradise anew as mankind has lost it.  With the sin and banishment of Adam and Eve from the garden, Paradise can no longer exist on this earth.  There will always be fire, natural disasters, evil, sickness and death.  God did not intend life to be like this.  We brought it on ourselves.  But He did give us a solution in the sacrifice of His Son.

There, in Paradise, I will live life as it was meant to be.  There will be no pain, no sin, no guilt nor ugliness.  There will be no regrets or dashed expectations!  There will only be unending joy in His presence!  It is so hard to imagine.  But one thing is sure.  It will be so much better than my imagination!

Thank you Lord, that because of You, Paradise can be found again!


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The Tarantula

Scripture for Today: I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

My grandson loves spiders, the bigger and hairier the better!  A tarantula certainly qualifies!  Their size and appearance are frightening and I would not relish even the idea of them crawling all over me.  This off-putting creature burrows into the ground and does not bother with webs.  They will sometimes spin a trip wire at the approach of their burrows.  The venom in their bite is weaker than most typical bee stings but that does not stop them from provoking fear in most people.

Today’s verse talks about fear having no place in a perfect love.  In fact, this is a love that drives out fear.  The one who struggles with fear of punishment does not have that complete and perfect love.  Because God showed His love by sending His Son to die in our place (verse 9-10) we can know and rely on the love God has for us (verse 16).  The punishment for sin has already taken place for those who place their faith in Christ.

How awful it would be to try to love and serve the Lord out of fear of pain and punishment!  That is not love at all but obligation and coercion.  But because He took the initiative and paid for my sin, I can enjoy a complete, undivided and sincere love for Him.  I am not weighed down with guilt and shame.  There is no doubt that He loves me.  He has paid the price for my sin and guilt forever!  I am free to love Him completely and enjoy His love without fear.

Thank you Lord, for Your perfect love without fear.

 

 

 

 

 


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Coffin Homes

Scripture for Today: John 14:2 “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”

I cannot imagine living in such cramped conditions!  The housing crisis in Hong Kong is so dire that it has been ranked the least affordable housing market in the world for seven years.  More than 200,000 residents live in subdivided units.  And some of them are so small that they are called, “coffin homes.”  In some shoebox spaces there is no place to step and one cannot stretch out legs for sleep.

Today’s verse speaks of rooms that are being readied for the arrival of God’s children.  Each is being especially prepared by our loving Father.  The number of rooms in His house are too numerous to even be counted!  Yet, I imagine that each one is stamped with the personality of the one who is to live there.  The space will be all we would ever want.  The rooms will be perfect.  The style will suit us.  The comforts will be exactly right.  But the best part is that there will be uninterrupted time with the Owner of the house!

I love that the Lord uses this image of a house.  It will feel more like home than anything we have ever experienced on earth.  The idea of a perfect home is not the size or the number of rooms but the love and warmth that this place can encompass.  Just because it is perfect does not mean that it is cold or impersonal.  It will be filled with love and laughter and eternal joy in His presence!  There will be music and running and skipping on those golden sidewalks!

Thank you Lord, for the room You are preparing for me!

 


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Crocodile

Scripture for Today:  Romans 15:4  “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

How would you like to have someone follow you around and constantly tell you how great you are?  That was the role of Steve “Crocodile” Fitch for Mike Tyson, the heavy weight fighter, at the peak of his popularity.  He was a self-described master motivator or personal cheerleader.  Perhaps why he referred to himself as a crocodile had something to do with his big mouth!  He was a professional screamer and a very loud mouthpiece, given the task of dealing with the public and the press.

Today’s verse describes a better source of encouragement; Scripture.  We need its encouragement to hold on to our hope.  We need the encouragement of Scripture to endure.  Our spirits sometimes lag.  We get discouraged waiting for that answer to prayer or His promise to be fulfilled.  But God’s Word is so much more than a pep talk.  His Word is a love letter where the Lord reassures us of His faithfulness and the worth He sees in us.

The Lord so often points me to just the right passage to encourage me when I am down.  He speaks to me through His Word when I am tired and feel like giving up.  He knows just what I am feeling.  Although I appreciate the kind words of others, nothing can give me the same kind of encouragement to hope that God’s Word does.  His Word cheers me on! And I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering me on as well! (Heb. 12:1)  He is on my side and He wants me to succeed.

Thank you Lord, for Your Word that keep me keeping on!

 


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Reunification Centers

Scripture for Today:  Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We do not have to imagine it.  Too often we see children separated from their families as a result of natural disasters or man-made violence.  These children can be traumatized for their entire lives, especially when there is a delay in reuniting them with their parents.  The Reunification Centers exist for the purpose of bringing together those who belong together as quickly as possible following a disaster.

Today’s verse reassures the believer that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  The list of possibilities seems very inclusive.  In each of these scenarios, one might imagine that God stopped caring.  But just in case something was missed, Paul says nothing in all creation has the power to separate us from the Lord’s love.  Certainly not height nor depth as His love is described as so wide, long, high and deep! (Eph. 3:18)

I can know this love even though it goes beyond my understanding (Eph. 3:17-19).  I can be rooted and established in this love even when facing unthinkable tragedy.  He knows.  He is there and His comfort is real.  The Lord has promised to never leave me or forsake me.  There is no need for reunification as He has never left!  I do not need to wonder if He is still there or if He still loves me.  I may never understand the “why’s” but I can be convinced of His unfailing and faithful love.

Thank you Lord, that I am never separated from You!