Devotions By Jan


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First Day of Spring

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 35:1-2a “The desert and the parched land will be glad. The wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom. It will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.”

For many parts of the world, the small crocus poking out its little head through cold hard ground is the first indication of spring!  For years in the north of France that was true for us.  My heart was always encouraged with that unexpected burst of color appearing.  There was still plenty of brown landscape and barren trees, but at least I knew that change was in the air!

Today’s verse uses the image of the crocus to picture the joy of God’s redeemed people.  The desert of their distress and persecution will be transformed into joyful springs of water.  There will be a day when God will move on their behalf, coming with vengeance and salvation (verse 4).  Every wrong will be made right.  There will be singing, shouting, gladness and everlasting joy for the redeemed.  There will be complete healing and protection.  Sorrow and sighing will be no more!

What an incredible future awaits me!  I can choose to live with joy as I look forward to that coming day.  I do not have to be bowed down with sorrow over the struggles I face.  A different season is coming.  There is a promise of so much more to come.  All will be transformed in the blink of an eye.  At that point, there will be no containing my bursting joy!  It is so easy to look around at everything sad and barren in my life and become discouraged.  But instead, I am going to look for that small crocus flower today!

Thank you Lord, that incredible joy IS my future!

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The Quokka

Scripture for Today: Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

This seemingly sweet quokka looks as if he is smiling.  He is the smallest member of the “big foot” family that includes the kangaroo and wallaby.  They look so cuddly with their teddy bear ears and their doe like eyes.  But in fact, they can be quite vicious when using  their sharp claws.  This adorable looking animal is not so adorable when the mother pushes her baby out of her pouch when chased in order to escape her predator!

Today’s verse is a promise that the Lord will never abandon His own.  What a comforting truth that the Lord our God will go with us!  He not only is with us but He goes before us and leads the way.  Because He will never leave us or forsake us, we are not fearful or discouraged.  There is never a question of being abandoned by God.  These words were spoken by Moses to the Israelites in verse 6 and then repeated in verse 8 to Joshua and the Israelites.  His leadership was coming to an end and Moses did not want them to feel abandoned.

It is during the hard discouraging times that the Lord wants to reassure me of His loving presence and control.  Looking at my unclear future causes anxious fearful thoughts to fill me.  Looking at my daunting circumstances brings discouragement.  But looking to Him brings me hope.  He is right there in front of me, clearing the way through the mess.  The promise that He will never leave me or abandon me helps calm me down.

Lord, help me remember that You are there and working on my behalf.


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Groundbreaking!

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 3:9 “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

It is an important moment, digging up that first shovel-full of dirt.  It looks as if this groundbreaking ceremony is having some trouble getting started.  It is taking two men’s efforts to break that hard ground!  This universal and ancient custom is also called a sod-cutting or sod-turning ceremony.  It is sometimes attended by local dignitaries and the media as the new construction begins.  Often, the shovel used is saved and proudly displayed in a place of honor.  The groundbreaking ceremony symbolically consecrates that piece of land.

Todays’ verse describes believers as God’s field and God’s building.  Those who have placed their faith in Jesus are consecrated or set apart as His people.  By His Spirit the Lord has broken the hard resistant ground that was our heart.  Those that have yielded their lives to the convicting pressure of His Spirit are now “under construction!”  Our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19).  At the moment of salvation He takes up residence.  But throughout life His temple is being maintained and renovated.  We can be confident that this good work He does in us will continue until we see Christ (Phil. 1:6).

I am a little tired of the dust and mess.  I can appear so put together to others but I know the state of affairs on the interior.  I see some progress in being more others-centered but I am still so selfish.  I truly appreciate other’s gifts and at the same time find myself jealous.  I give grace to myself but can be so critical of others.  The to-do list continues.  But, He does not give up on me.

Thank you Lord, for Your patient loving work in me.


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A Squirrel and His Nut

Scripture for Today: Psalm 77:11-12 “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will consider Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.”

I am not the only one who forgets where I have put things!  The University of Richmond did a study and found that squirrels fail to recover up to 74% of the nuts they bury!  Even so, they do have a strategy.  They do what’s called, “spatial chunking” sorting their nuts by size, type and taste and then burying them in groups.  Even more surprising are the grey squirrels who frequently dig up and then rebury the same nut, a behavior perhaps to refresh their memories!

Today’s verse comes from a psalm of Asaph, King David’s music director.  In his depression he is wondering if God is going to keep His promises.  He wonders if God’s love for him has vanished (verse 8).  He doubts and wonders but then he answers his own questions with these two verses.  He resolves to remember all of what the Lord has done in the past for him and his people.  He replaces his troubling thoughts with memories of God’s miracles and mighty deeds.

I have seen the Lord do so many miracles in my life!  He has provided and proved Himself faithful.  But those memories are so often buried.  I easily forget when I am struggling with a new difficulty.  I need to go back and dig it up to refresh my memory of His faithfulness!  Thoughts of His “mighty deeds” in the past restore my confidence and trust in Him!  Not only my memories do this but the testimony of others do too!  He has done it in the past and He will do it again!

Thank you Lord, for Your incredible faithfulness.


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A Dangerous Path

Scripture for Today: Psalm 18:35-36 “You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.”

This is not a path that I would willingly take!  In all of our hiking adventures in France and Switzerland, we have never chosen a path quite so precarious.  We have enjoyed some breathtaking views, but always at a safe distance from the edge.  To walk along such a narrow path seems to invite disaster.  The vertigo, the tension and the possibility of a lethal misstep would over ride any pleasure in the view.

Today’s verse comes from a psalm of David praising God for His deliverance from enemies.  David affirms that he has kept God’s ways (verse 21) and that God’s way is perfect (verse 30).  The path God gave David to walk was a broad path where his footing could be sure.  Despite the attacks from enemies, David praises God for giving him strength and making his way perfect (verse 32).  God has enabled David to stand on the heights like the deer (verse 33).  This is a path of righteousness that is not only broad but spacious (verse 19).  On this broad path he has a clear view of God’s faithfulness.

I have a choice about what kind of path to take through life.  The path of righteousness is thought to be the more difficult arduous one.  There are restrictions there that bring out the rebel in me.  But in fact, the path of righteousness is the one most sure.  There, my steps are not hampered and I can even run without stumbling! (Prov. 4:11-12) Guilt and sin can narrow my path making it uncomfortable.  But in following His perfect way, I can look up and enjoy the view of His hand and His faithfulness.

Lord, keep me following Your perfect way today.


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The Painted Lady

Scripture for Today:  Jeremiah 8:7  “Even the stork in the sky knows when it is time to move on.  The turtledove, swallow and the crane recognize the normal times for their migration.  But My people pay no attention to what I, the Lord, require of them.”

Southern California is being invaded by these dollar-sized butterflies!  These Painted Ladies are migrating north from Mexico after the heavy rains.  They are on their determined way to Oregon to breed.  A cousin of the Monarch Butterfly, the estimated one billion are swarming through streets and neighborhoods, delighting all that have the chance to see them.  The Painted Lady is called an “irruptive migrant” that sometimes migrates without any regard to seasons or geography.  They just seem to collectively know that when it is time, it is time!

Today’s verse talks about four different kinds of birds that like the Painted Lady migrate.  Their little bird brains know instinctively when it is time to move on so as to avoid the freezing temperatures.  Jeremiah mentions these birds as a contrast to the Israelites.  The people prided themselves in possessing the Law of God.  But they continually turned to their own individual course, rather than following God’s way.  The Law, instead of being written in their hearts, became a mere code or outward ceremony.

I wish obeying God was as instinctive for me as migration is for the birds and butterflies.  But then it would not mean as much.  God wants my obedience to be an intentional choice.  Knowing what God expects of me is a good thing.  But I do not want to make the same mistake as the Israelites.  The point is not how many Bible verses I can recite by heart.  He is more interested in how many I obey!

Help me, Lord, to be obedient.


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Sleeping Whales

Scripture for Today: Psalm 121:2-3 “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber.”

The blowhole of this Blue Whale can be clearly seen on the top of his head.  As a mammal, he needs to periodically surface to fill his huge lungs with air so he can breathe underwater.  This means that a whale can never fall fully asleep!  Instead, they only allow half of their brain to sleep at a time.  The other half of their brain stays awake in order to come up for air when needed.

Today’s verse reminds us of how constant God’s care is of His own.  As the Maker of heaven and earth, He is all- powerful and has no need of sleep.  During the contest between God and Baal, Elijah taunted the false prophets when their god did not answer.  Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened! (I Kings 18:27)  The frantic dancing, shouting, and cutting of their bodies did not awaken a god that did not exist.  By contrast, our God is a faithful Source of help, always attentive to our cry day or night.

What a reassuring thought that He watches over me day or night!  There is never a time when I need to get His attention.  He is always thinking of me as His thoughts toward me are more numerous than the grains of sand (Psalm 139:18).  His watch over me means that He knows and He cares.  Nothing gets past Him.  What He allows to happen will be used to strengthen my faith and deepen our love relationship.  Whatever I am facing today, I can trust that He knows what He is doing.

Thank you Lord, for Your faithful watch over me.

 

 

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