Devotions By Jan


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My Hamster

Scripture for Today: Psalm 31:7 “I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.”

This sweet hamster is called a “Dwarf Hamster.”  They are different from the larger more territorial ones as they are social and thrive in pairs.  That did not seem like reason enough to call the love of my life, my “hamster!”  But to my untrained ear, it seemed as if couples on French television were calling each other “hamster.”  In fact, they were saying, “âme soeur” meaning “soul sister” or loosely translated, “soulmate.”  But somehow it stuck and that is our English term of endearment in our marriage!

Today’s verse tells us there is Someone who knows our soul more than any lover could.  The Lord not only sees our physical afflictions but He goes deeper and He knows and understands the anguish of the soul.  Not knowing what to pray, His Spirit intercedes with wordless groans expressing our anguish (Romans 8:26).  The Lord sees and understands what we are feeling far better than we understand ourselves.  He knows when we are loving Him with all our soul (Deut. 13:3).  And in His love He knows when to restore and refresh our souls (Psalm 23:3).

I can trust this Lover of my soul.  He will never betray my confidences.  He will never renege on His promises.  What’s more, nothing in my soul shocks and dismays Him.  After all, He does not love my soul because it is worthy of love.  He loves me inspite of myself.  God not only shows me love, He IS love.  And it is a love that knows all the ugliness inside.  How amazing that He could love me!  And it is even more amazing that nothing will change that love.

Thank you, Lord, for being the Lover of my soul.

 

 


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Chinese New Year

Scripture for Today: Lamentations 3:22-23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Happy Chinese New Year!  Being that my husband is half Chinese, we enjoy getting together with family and delighting in all the special foods.  The Chinese Lunar calendar sets the beginning of months based on the new moon.  According to the Chinese zodiac of twelve animals, this is the year of the rat.  Because it is associated with the hour before and after midnight, the rat in particular stands for new beginnings.

Today’s verse is my favorite one when thinking about beginning again.  Because of the Lord’s great love for us, we can experience new beginnings, not only with the new year but with each new morning!  He is faithful to renew His compassion for us each and every new day.  He never fails us and this is why we can have hope (verse 21).  We can be assured that the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him (verse 25).  His compassion faithfully expresses itself every morning of every day.

On waking in the morning, I have the sure hope of His goodness, His love and His compassion for me.  The fact that I even woke up is a grace from Him!  And I will never exhaust His endless eternal supply of compassion.  This means a second chance with each new day!  What other love can promise that?  His love reaches to the heavens and His faithfulness to the skies! (Psalm 36:5)  Just as each day is new, so is His compassion new and not just leftovers from the previous day nor a simple continuation.  Every morning He knows just what I am feeling and facing that day.

Thank you Lord, for Your deep compassion for me.


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Swaying Bridge

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 16:13  “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”

This rope bridge cannot help but sway with the way it is suspended.  There are plenty of supports to hang on to while crossing over it but there is no avoiding its side-to-side movement.  It may seem like this bridge in Borneo is attached to that nearby tree, but in fact it stands a few feet from it.  Looking down would probably not be helpful!  But you could bet that I would be alert and wary of my steps.

Today’s verse almost sounds like a pep talk!  Paul is ending his letter with some personal requests but includes this charge to stand firm in the faith.  We stand firm by being alert and on our guard.  We stand firm by being courageous and strong.    One can be lulled by a false security in the routine.  We can become inattentive and just not paying attention.  But we are to be watchful that our faith is not destabilized by the hard times that can surprise us.

For what am I to be watching?  The answer could be anything that weakens my faith.  It could be worry over a family member or a health problem.  It could be financial concerns.  It could be loss of a loved one.  Everyday has the potential to weaken faith.  It is a temptation to think God does not care.  I can begin to doubt His love or His goodness.  Instead of standing firm, I begin to sway.  But thankfully, when that happens, the Lord reaches out His arm to steady me!  His help is what gives me courage and strength!

Thank you, Lord, for helping me stand firm!

photo credit Shankar S. at https://flickr.com/photos/77742560@N06/11968508036.


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Black Mamba Snake

Scripture for Today: Philippians 1:21 “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

It is said of Kobe Bryant that he was one of the most lethal guards ever to play basketball.  Perhaps this is why Kobe chose the black mamba snake as his alter ego.  It is Africa’s longest and the world’s fastest snake as well as being extremely venomous.  Nothing was going to get in the way or stop Kobe from reaching his goals.  He had a singular focus to attack those goals.  Ironically, Bryant’s words after his final NBA game were , “Mamba out.”  What a shame to have left this life so early.

Today’s verse describes the mindset of Paul.  He writes these words from house arrest, not knowing what his future may be.  He longs to be freed from not only his physical chains but the restraints of his earthly life, affirming that being with Christ is far better (verse 23).  For Paul, the issue was not life or death but the realization of his goal, that Christ would be exalted through him (verse 20).  He had a singular focus that marked his life and affected others, both in his day and currently.

I would love to have that kind of focus.  My eyes are not always fixed on my Sovereign Lord (Psalm 141:8).  I am so easily distracted by the mundane or the routine.  But when my focus is on living for Him, I not only feel His pleasure but my day takes on wonderful purpose!  There is not a worthier goal out there than to live the life my Creator has planned for me.  Living is Christ.  Dying is Christ.  I have in fact already died and my life is hidden in Him (Col. 3:3).

Lord, keep  my focus on You today!


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Sunlamps

Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:11 “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

People are not the only ones to appreciate a sunlamp!  This meerkat is soaking up the heat from one on a cold January day at a British zoo!  I am not so sure what it does for him, but for people there are some real physical benefits from sitting under a sunlamp.  It even improves one’s mood.  The light affects our brains by increasing the production of serotonin, a hormone connected with feelings of happiness.

Today’s verse describes the Lord as our Sun.  His sunshine is in the form of grace, favor and mercy.  There is no danger of getting too much of His light.  His love warms us and makes us grow.  And like sunshine, He improves our mood too!  His kindness and favor are the blessings He pours out on the one who trusts Him (verse 12).  In His wisdom He gives exactly what is needed and withholds what is not good for us.

I cannot say that my walk is blameless.  Who can?  But because of Christ’s sacrifice for my sin, I am righteous in His sight.  Even so, there are clouds that block His warmth and blessing when I knowingly choose my way over His.  When I am struggling to trust Him, I am not feeling the warmth of His favor.  Thankfully, His love does not change.  Coming clean with Him breaks up those clouds of rebellion and once again, the warmth of His love breaks through!

Thank you, Lord, for the warmth You bring my soul.

photo credit: Kevin Walsh https://www.flickr.com/photos/86624586@N00/10196142


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Watch and Wait

Scripture for Today: Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.”

Have you ever seen a cat watch and wait for his prey?  The total concentration is surprising as they lay in wait.  Every muscle is tensed and the pupils are wide in anticipation.  The patient focus of a determined cat is amazing!  Our cat, Tiger, used to spend much of his time in the yard crouched in readiness.  And often, just before he pounced his whole back end would quiver in excitement!

Today’s verse is a statement of faith and trust of the one who cries out to the Lord for mercy.  Faith is most evident when there is waiting involved for a response.  And when we wait it is with our whole being, putting our hope in His sure and infallible Word.  We wait for the Lord to act more than the wait of the watchmen (verse 6).  They guard a sleepy city by watching and peering into the distance as they wait for the morning.  Our wait will not last forever.  As morning comes for the watchmen ending their shift, so we will eventually see His Word fulfilled!

I have been watching and waiting for a response to a particular prayer request for thirteen years!  My morning has come with His incredible answer!  I could wait with hope because of His unfailing love and His full redemption (verse 7).  But there remains more reasons to watch and wait with unfulfilled promises in my life.  I am encouraged though to persevere having seen Him respond!  One day there will be no more watching and waiting.  One day, there will be no more need to hope as every hope will be realized in His presence!

Lord, thank you that I can wait with hope.


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Thorny Cactus

Scripture for Today:  II Corinthians 12:7 “….Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me.”

These thorns look wicked!  And they seem so innocent surrounded by those delicate yellow flowers.  The spiny surface of a  cactus plant seems incongruent with the fragile beauty of a flower petal.  For the unsuspecting, those thorns could be overlooked when reaching for the flowers and could inflict some real pain.

In today’s verse, Paul is describing a thorn in the flesh.  It was sent by Satan in order to torment him.  But in God’s hands it was used for a good purpose; to keep Paul from becoming conceited.  Paul had received some incredible visions and revelations from the Lord and the temptation was to boast and feel that he was better than others.  Some believe his thorn was a physical ailment.  Others believe it could be a person as enemies and neighbors are described as thorns (Numbers 33:55 and Ezekiel 28:24)

A relationship that has gone sour, a conflict that goes unresolved, or a family member that has no interest in reconciliation can all be like a thorn in the flesh.  But whether it is a broken relationship or a broken body, the pain and discomfort from those thorns are a constant reminder that I am weak.  Thankfully, He uses the thorns for good in my life as well.   It is through thorns that I discover that His grace is all I need (verse 9).  For me those beautiful flowers are evidence of Christ’s power resting on me despite my weakness!

Thank you Lord, that I can delight in Your strength regardless of the “thorns” in my life!