Devotions By Jan


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Black Friday Season

Scripture for Today: Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the Law.”

Today is call, “Black Friday,” although the term now encompasses a whole season!  It signals the unofficial start of Christmas shopping. The term in the 1950’s referred to all the workers calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving.  In the 1960’s it was used by policemen in Philadelphia to describe the mass of shoppers and the resulting congestion.  The term has now come to mean retailers finally pulling out of the red ink and into the black on their balance sheets.

Today’s verse talks about a debt that belongs to every believer.  Unlike retailers on Black Friday, we will never pull out of the red ink and into the black on this debt.  The debt of love is never completely paid.  Perfectly loving others completely fulfills the Law.  This is because all of the Law is summed up in loving one’s neighbor as one’s self (verse 9).  But there is only One who has been able to fulfill the Law with a perfect love and that is Jesus.

I cannot drum up love for some people, even during the feel-good holidays.  There are times I feel like a hypocrite celebrating peace and love when harboring an unforgiving spirit.  He knows and He sees my heart.  And He also offers His love, made available to me by His Spirit.  His filling and control helps me to show love even to that hard-to-love person.  I may not feel warm and fuzzy but showing love is not simply a feeling.  It is serving and giving and honestly wanting the best for him.

Lord, fill my heart with Your love today.


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The Horn of Plenty

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:15 “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”

The cornucopia or horn of plenty has long been a symbol of overflowing harvest especially on Thanksgiving.  The original idea was to have an abundance of flowers, fruit and corn overflowing from a goat’s horn.  Today, we are happy with just a basket in the shape of a horn!  But the symbolism is lost if the contents are not spilling out beyond the confines of the horn.  When it overflows we know we are blessed!

Today’s verse speaks of a thanksgiving that overflows!  The circumstances Paul was facing would normally not call for thanksgiving as he was repeatedly imprisoned and persecuted.  Yet, he understood that through his faithfulness, the grace of Christ was reaching more and more people.  It was that grace which was producing an overflow of thanksgiving.  Paul could see the undeserved favor and blessing that is grace, even in the middle of hard times.  Realizing God’s grace created in him a thankfulness that overflowed and gave glory to God.

It is easy to give thanks to God when everything is going smoothly and life is good.  It is quite another thing to be overflowing with thanksgiving when life is tough and there is hurt and disappointment.  And yet, when I look to the unseen (verse 17) I can overflow with thanksgiving!  I do not deserve even one tiny blessing from Him.  How amazing He is to have given me new birth, a living hope and an eternal inheritance! (I Peter 1:3-6)  Regardless of life’s ups and downs, I can always overflow with thanksgiving for His incredible grace to me!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers!


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Zen

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.”

The other day while exploring the tide pools of Cabrillo National Park with my grandsons, I saw an older man sitting crosslegged.  He had built three stacks of stones just like the one pictured.  His eyes were closed and he looked peaceful.  This rock configuration brings to mind the idea of “Zen.”  This Japanese sect of Mahayana Buddhism asserts that enlightenment can come through meditation and intuition rather than faith.

Today’s verse gives us the true Source of enlightenment.  It is God’s light that gives us enlightenment.  No matter how long or how well we meditate, our own ideas of truth are subjective and without Him, fall short of His objective truth.  It is His light that gives us the knowledge of God’s glory in Jesus, His Son.  If He had not revealed the truth with His light, we would still be in the dark.  And when believers meditate, it is on His truth that we meditate.

In this busy season full of so many distractions, it takes an effort of the will to turn my mind to spiritual things and meditate on His truth.  But what a blessing when I do! There are no loftier thoughts than thoughts of Him.  And meditating on His love and all that He has done for me encourages my heart.  His light and His Word reveals to me so many worthy subjects of meditation, all of them centered on Him!

Lord, keep me meditating on You and Your truth throughout the day.


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Sticker Shock

Scripture for Today:  I Corinthians 6:19-20  “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

If the idea of “sticker shock” is to be shocked at a price, then this menu item fits the bill!  What makes the $247.95 price so very shocking is that it is listed with reasonably priced offerings!  When looking closely one can see why the price is so high.  But at the risk of sounding like a food snob, I cannot imagine pairing such a high end drink with the lowly hamburger!

Today’s verse talks about a price that God paid.  The price He paid was enormously high and shocking!  On that cross He shed blood and died.  He paid the debt that we owe for our own sin.  And it cost Him everything.  The only reasonable response is to honor Him with the body He has transformed into a temple for His Spirit.  As a temple, we are to be holy and set apart for Him.

My body rightfully belongs to Him.  I am not my own.  Because of His sacrifice I am His.  So then, I am to honor Him in all I do.  I am to keep this body pure and in good shape.  But frankly, I do not always do a good job of it.  Thankfully, He does not go to “Returns” because I am defective!  He did not purchase me because I was worth it.  He purchased me to give me worth.  It is amazing that He would think I could be worth loving, worth holding.  But He does.  He created me to be His.

Thank you Lord, that I am forever Yours!


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Plane Trees

Scripture for Today:  John 15:2  “He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

These plane trees are a common sight in France, often lining a country road.  They do not look like much here, however when they leaf out they are beautiful and give welcomed shade.  But during the pruning season they are cut back so far they look as if they may not survive.  The knobby ends to those branches make the tree look so strange and forlorn.  Yet if they were not cut back so aggressively, they would become thin and scraggily with their old growth.

Today’s verse refers to the pruning of vine branches to produce more and better fruit.  But the idea is the same; that old growth needs to be removed before new growth can happen.  The one who does the pruning is the Father or the gardener.  He does not want me to be content with the fruit He has already produced.  He wants me to cooperate with His pruning shears in order to produce more fruit that is richer and more excellent.

Pruning does not feel so good.  It is a painful process.  Just after pruning the plant does not look so good either. But when the Lord allows the hard times in my life, He has in mind to produce new growth in me.  Every painful circumstance He can use.  There is new dependance on Him with every failure, with every disappointment.  I may not see the new growth for awhile, but He has promised a beautiful result; a fruitful life.

Help me, Lord, not to question your pruning shears.  Help me to trust what You are doing in my life.

 


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Bonded Leather

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

I was horrified to pull back my couch cover and see how the bonded leather was “unbonding!”  After just two years the couch was showing signs of this kind of wear.  It was my own fault for not researching the meaning of “bonded leather” before buying it.  But because the price was hefty and it was from a reputable well-known brand, I did not think it through.  This kind of leather is made up of many small pieces bonded or glued together.  Those that sell it admit that it will only hold up three to five years.  What a disappointment!

Today’s verse talks about a supernatural bond of peace that is the work of the Holy Spirit in believers.  Those belonging to Jesus come in all shapes and sizes, different races and cultures, social standings, income and education.  We are little pieces bonded together making a whole.  We are part of one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father! (verses 4-6).  And this peace is something we are to strive to keep.

The Lord knows me.  He knows how easily I can nitpick and criticize.  I so easily focus on differences rather than recognize what unites me with my brothers and sisters.  The Lord has shown me incredible grace, and yet I am slow to show that same grace to others.  Our unity is more important than me being right, recognized or visible.  Our unity can be a powerful draw to the world.  And oh how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Ps. 133:1)

Thank you Lord, that You make possible this bond of peace.  Help me to keep it!

 

 


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Jerusalem Cricket

Photo by Jeff Turner

Scripture for Today: I John 3:1 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”

Legend has it that a priest while living among the Navajo misinterpreted their name for this big-headed insect.  They called it “Skull Head” but he heard “Skull Hill.”  This put in mind the name, Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified.  But this cricket is also called Red Skull, Old Bald-Headed Man and Child of the Earth.

Today’s verse speaks of the Father’s great love for His own.  It is a love that He lavished on us to the extent that He even calls us, “children of God.”  No longer do we belong to the world.  Our identity has been changed forever as His children.  We call Him Father and we call other believers in this worldwide family, brothers and sisters.  The world often fails to recognize this family as they do not know the Father.  And it is only through faith in Christ, His Son that we can belong to this family (Gal. 3:26).

I am a child of God.  What an amazing humbling truth!  As His child I no longer belong to the world or conform to it (Romans 12:2).  No longer am I led by the current thinking or fad but instead I am led by His Spirit (Romans 8:14).  Because I have received Him and believed on His name, He has graciously made me His (John 1:12).  I am not always such an obedient child.  There are times each day when I let down my Father.  But unlike any human family relationship, I can always count on His love and forgiveness.

Thanks you Lord, for making me Your child.