Devotions By Jan


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Transplant Shock

Scripture for Today: Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Did you know that a tree can feel “shocked” when it is transplanted?  Moving a tree from its original comfort zone to a new location can cause stress with dying branches or brown leaf tips.  That shock may be evidenced by late spring budding or premature fall color.  It can take a year or more for a tree to recover as when moved it will have a smaller root system.  Reestablishing its roots will mean the difference to its survival.

Today’s verse describes how as believers we are rooted in a different soil.  No longer are we in the soil of the world, but we have been transplanted.  Those who have received Christ as Lord and Master live their lives for Him.  Being rooted and built up in Him means that faith is continually strengthened as we learn and grow. Being transplanted from the world into Him is made evident by our thankful spirit.  Unlike the Israelites who longed to return to Egyptian soil when things got difficult, we are to be thankful.

In this new soil, He has given me everything I need to thrive and live a godly life (II Peter 1:3).  I do not need to look over my shoulder at the world’s soil and wonder if it is better.  The Lord has rooted and established me in His love (Eph. 3:17).  Because of His unconditional and perfect love I can thrive and grow.  Rooted in His love makes me strong and beautiful!

Lord, grow my roots deeper and deeper into Your incredible love.

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Happy?

Scripture for Today: Psalm 68:3 “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.”

What “smile score” would your city rate?  Jetpac City Guides did a study assigning a smile score to ten American cities.  They based their findings on 100 million photos of smiling faces in 50 cities posted on Instagram.  They relied on special software that saw patterns in the pixels to get their smile score.  Although the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis looks like a giant frown, this city topped the charts!

Today’s verse makes an association with the word, “happy” that for many is the last word to come to mind; righteous.  Those who have placed their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin can experience true happiness.  To have a heart freed from the guilt of sin is happiness.  To have experienced God’s unmerited favor regardless of a spotted past is a real reason for happiness.  To know that my future in Heaven is secured by His pardon gives a whole other meaning to the word, “happy.”  This is a happiness that cannot be shaken by any circumstance on earth!

There are many things that come my mind when thinking about the word, “happy.”  The pursuit of happiness is usually associated with the pursuit of economic stability.  The thought that happiness is just one purchase away is a hard one to dismiss from my thinking.  But I know better.  I know that material wealth does not mean happiness as seen by the heartache of many well-to-do friends.  True happiness has little to do with what is owned.  True happiness is being loved and accepted by my Creator.  His forgiveness has made my heart light!

Jesus, thank You for that happy day when You washed my sins away!


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Courtyard

Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:1-2 “How lovely is Your dwelling place, Lord Almighty. My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

This courtyard one would think to find on the grounds of a European castle.  But in fact, this idyllic spot is part of the Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Built in 1925 by the inventor John Hays Hammond, it sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean and operates as a museum.  As beautiful as the castle is, it is the courtyard that beckons one to sit and enjoy the peace and stillness.

Today’s verse makes reference to the dwelling place of the Lord Almighty.  His courts are so lovely that it rivals anything that man can build or even imagine.  But I do try to imagine it as small, enclosed and intimate.  I can hear water lapping and there is welcoming shade under beautiful green palm trees.  To spend even one day there in His court is better than a thousand days anywhere else.  Being even a lowly doorkeeper in this place would make me more privileged than dwelling in the richly appointed homes of the wicked (verse 10).

This is a place I can come to anytime.  His court or dwelling place is His presence.  And unlike the temple of the Old Testament, His temple is now within me (I Cor. 6:19).  His court is a place that satisfies the deepest longings and yearnings of my soul.  But oh how distracted I am by what I can see and touch!  When life is good and I am comfortable or feeling self-sufficient, I am not crying out to God.  It is when I come to the end of myself that I reach out to Him.

Lord, keep me in Your court.


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Anteater

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 10:19 “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”

He could almost be cute if it were not for that tongue!  The anteater is also called the ant bear.  His Greek name means “three fingers” referring to his claws.  His long bushy tail and elongated muzzle give him such an odd appearance.  Even so, he can be fierce  which is why perhaps he is  UCI’s mascot.  That sticky saliva-covered tongue can stretch up to two feet.  He can flick his tongue 160 times a minute.  He would need to be rapid to eat his required 35,000 insects a day!

Today’s verse points out that stopping sin is not done by increasing our words.  In fact, the more we try to dig ourselves out of a hole by talking, the deeper we sink in!  We tend to excuse, rationalize and shift blame with our words.  We try to minimize the importance of our wrong doing and end up bringing more attention to it!  This reminds me of the famous line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much.”  Nothing is resolved by trying to talk our way out of the situation.  The prudent one will hold his tongue and not make things worse.

I have a hard time holding my tongue.  It seems to have a life of its own.  The words in my head can sound so reasonable and even necessary to say.  But once uttered aloud, they can transform what was something minor into something major.  And once said, they cannot be called back.  How many times I have regretted that impulse to speak when silence was the better way!  I need the Lord to give me the self-control He has promised (Gal. 5:23) and His wisdom to know when to keep quiet!

Help me Lord to be prudent today!


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Super Bloom

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 61:3 “…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…”

This incredible “super bloom” in Southern California is breathtaking!  The once barren hillsides and scrub lands are bursting with color and people are descending in droves to experience the beauty.  After all the rain we have had, it is a welcome sight.  But in some areas there is an additional reason for this super bloom.  The wildflowers are especially spectacular in areas affected by the Woolsey fire where 97,000 acres were burned.  It is truly a “miracle of nature” to see the blackened ash-covered ground recover itself in vibrant color!

Today’s verse is a declaration of what God would do for the Israelites through His prophet, Isaiah.  He was to replace the ashes on their heads with a crown of beauty.  Those ashes were a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin, along with the sackcloth worn.  That itchy rough garment of despair over sin would be replaced with a garment of praise.  Joy would replace mourning.  God’s forgiveness changes everything!

I do not always feel much sorrow over my own sin.  But when I do, it can feel like a crushing weight.  Thankfully, He promises to be near the one who is brokenhearted over sin (Psalm 34:18).  His forgiveness turns my ashes into a crown of beauty!  When I humble myself and go to Him in confession, the black ugliness of sin disappears.  Despair over my past mistakes and failures is transformed into beautiful colorful praise for the new start He gives me!  He is faithful and just to forgive every single time!

Thank you Lord, for turning my ashes into beauty!

 


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Face Blindness

Scripture for Today: Psalm 119:58 “I have sought Your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to Your promise.”

Imagine seeing everyone, even those closest to you, as strangers!  Those dealing with the neurological disorder “prosopagnosia” or face blindness, sometimes do not even recognize their own faces in the mirror!  Those who have this disorder use other techniques to distinguish people including: voice, gait, hairstyle, clothing, body type or context.  Brad Pitt and Jane Goodall are among the 2.5% of Americans who suffer from this problem, which sometimes runs in families.  Not remembering names can be annoying but how much worse this would be!

Today’s verse comes from the longest psalm in the Bible.  The author values God’s law and precepts more than life and makes following them his life’s mission.  With the same ardor he seeks God’s face with all of his heart.  And in seeking God’s face he asks for God to remember His promises and be gracious to him.  One of His promises is that the upright or those in right standing with Him will see His face (Psalm 11:7).  To those who wholeheartedly seek Him, He reveals Himself, His character and His love.  He is the rewarded of those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

He is worth the effort of seeking and searching!  He rewards such effort with more and more revelation of Himself!  Nothing on earth can compare to Him.  I cannot see His face with anything but spiritual eyes.  But one day I will be face-to-face in His literal presence.  But even today I can recognize His face shining on me (Numbers 6:25) when I see all the ways He has been gracious to me.  With all my heart I want to seek His face more today than I did yesterday.

Lord, help me recognize Your face.


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A Three-Legged Race

Scripture for Today:  Amos 3:3 “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

They were doing so well, outrunning all the others on their combined three legs!  But all it took was a small deviation to the right or to the left without the cooperation of the other to bring down this duo.  There is no hope of winning the prize unless the two runners can move together in sync.  The only way to be coordinated in their movements is to have complete agreement on their direction and their speed.  The most important agreement to make is on who will lead and who will follow.

Today’s verse is in a little-known book of prophecy.  Out of God’s love for Israel, he warns them of coming judgement through his prophet, Amos.  He asks obvious questions of cause and effect to point out that their sin will be punished (verses 3-6).  Two cannot walk together unless they can agree on their pace and their route.  As a nation, they were collectively going in the wrong direction.  Rather than walking toward the Lord in confession they were willfully walking away from Him in their sin.

I want to be intentional about who my walking companions are!  My direction is very different than that of the world.  If I am yoked with unbelievers than I will be tripping and falling all over the place (II Cor. 6:14).  I want to walk in sync with the Lord and follow Him.  That can only happen as I humbly agree with Him in confession.  When I do, that walk is sweet and satisfying.  He chooses just the right path and keeps me from stumbling.  Walking with Him through life gives me purpose and fulfillment.

Lord, don’t let me wander.   Keep me walking close to You.