Devotions By Jan


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Monkey Puzzle Tree

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 20:24 “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?”

“It would puzzle a monkey to climb that!”  This is the quote that led to the popular name of this tree which happens to be the National Tree of Chili.  Its leaves are very thick and tough with an average lifespan of twenty four years!  But that is nothing compared to the longevity of this tree, living as long as one thousand years!  Its reptilian branches and its symmetrical appearance make it easily recognizable.  But that does not help the poor monkey trying to navigate it!

Today’s verse acknowledges that the Lord directs the steps of those who belong to Him.  But often, the one directed has no idea of His direction!  The question expresses what is often felt:  How can anyone understand their own way?  It often is puzzling.  We do not have the same vantage point and we can never understand it all.  We are told in any case not to lean on our own understanding but to acknowledge Him so that He can direct us (Prov. 3:5-6).

Because I cannot see what lies ahead, I need to trust the One who is already there and knows the way.  If I were to wait until I understood the reasons behind every directive, I would be at a standstill and make no progress!  But I can be confident of my direction even without full understanding.  That is because I trust Him.  His eyes are always on me and the twists and turns are not random.  He has a loving purpose in every change of course.  His direction is always towards a more loving relationship with Himself!

Lord, help me to trust You completely!


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Standoff!

Scripture for Today: Matthew 5;13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”

This State Trooper in Western New York had quite the story to tell!  There on a snow covered road in a small town, this horse blocked his way and would not move!  He had wandered away yet again from his owners.  The trooper tried to lure him off the road with a hand full of alfalfa.  But the horse would not budge, preferring instead to lick the salt off the hood of the car!  Horses required two to four tablespoons of salt per day but that would normally come from a salt block.

Today’s verse tells us that as believers we are called the salt of the earth.  We are to have an influence on those around us.  Our tasty contribution to this world is to draw attention to the Father and His glory (verse 16).  We sprinkle our surroundings with acts of love and kindness that point to Him.  But we can lose that saltiness by living for our own comfort and pleasure.  We can become tasteless by taking credit for the good things we have done rather than giving Him the praise that is due Him.

For me to be salt and an influence for Christ, I need to be out there in the world.   Salt does no good sitting on the shelf with all the other salt shakers.  But there is always the risk of losing my saltiness.  Living to serve others is often not a comfortable way to live.  I am faced everyday with the temptation to live entirely for myself.

Lord, keep me salty for You.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/khq.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/80/48054c2a-5041-11ea-afad-fb2b43d6d280/5e486e97f1de1.image.png?resize=750%2C412


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Pickleball Ball

Scripture for Today: I Peter 4:10 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Pickleball has become more and more popular, using elements from tennis, badminton  and ping-pong.  But who knew there could be so many choices with the pickleball ball?  There are indoor or outdoor ones.  The weights and colors can be different. But they all have to have  26-40 round holes.  If this ball had no holes, there would be problems in playing the game.  Without the holes the ball would not travel in a true line but would fly upward, downward or sideways.

Today’s verse explains that every believer has been given a gift for the service of others.  More than a natural talent, these spiritual gifts are supernaturally infused with God’s strength (verse 11) and He uses them uniquely for His glory.  The gifts come in various forms and God uses them in different ways.  But like the pickleball ball, we are imperfect and full of holes.  This is no problem for the Lord as He uses even our weaknesses to show His strength (II Cor. 12:9).  What He looks for is our availability and faithfulness.

I keenly feel my imperfections.  Dwelling too much on them can completely block me from any kind of service for Him!  But it is those very “holes” that He uses to point us in the right direction.  Thankfully, I do not need to be perfect before He can use me.  I do not have to have all the answers before I open my mouth.  I do not have to have my life completely together before I can help someone else.  He uses every weakness and covers it with the strength to serve Him!

Thank you Lord, for the privilege of serving You.


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Worry Stones

Scripture for Today: Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways,  when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

Rubbing a “worry stone” is supposed to create a sense of relaxation.  These smooth polished gem stones are oval-shaped with a thumb sized indentation.  The idea is to rub one’s thumb over and over the smooth surface.  This self-soothing exercise is touted to generate a sense of calmness and is sometimes used for refugees or children with post traumatic stress.  Whether they are called palm, thumb, fidget or soothing stones the idea is to make the mind more relaxed.

Today’s verse tell us what to do when worried and fretting over those who seem to get away with wrongdoing.  We are to be still.  We are to wait patiently in His presence for Him to act.  The wicked seem to prosper but sooner or later there will be consequences they will have to face.  This knowledge of God’s perfect justice calms the spirit and erases the tendency to be worried and fretful.  No one gets away with anything.  God will not be mocked and whatever is sown will be reaped (Gal. 6:7).

I do not need a worry stone to calm down about the success of the God-mockers.  I am to wait for Him.  He promises a reward of peace and prosperity (verse 11).  He upholds me (verse 17) and I am under His watchful care (verse 18). What beautiful promises!  They calm my heart and relax my mind more than any self-soothing exercise can do.  He sees and He knows.  And He is faithful to execute perfect justice when we ourselves are wronged.  I serve a mighty, all-knowing God and nothing, no matter how seemingly small, escapes His attention.

Thank you Lord, for the peace of Your perfect justice.


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The Chuckwalla

Scripture for Today: Psalm 27:5 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

I had never heard of a chuckwalla until it was spotted and photographed by a family member in an arid rocky area of Arizona.  They can weigh up to two pounds, measure up to sixteen inches and live as long as twenty five years!  But what is most surprising is the way they escape predators.  They dodge into the crevice of a rock and inflate themselves with air!  This wedges them in so firmly that it is nearly impossible to remove them!

Today’s verse describes our God as a rock.  He provides refuge, protection and the strength of our salvation.  When we feel threatened or vulnerable, we can run to the permanence of this Rock.  His strength and protection are constant and constantly available.  It is a place that is safe when we feel under attack.  In the crevice of this rock we not only catch our breath, but are filled with His Spirit in this place of refreshment.

Sometimes it takes a crisis for me to realize that I am far away from my Rock.  When life is smooth I can be lulled into thinking that there is no danger.  Self sufficiency begins to subtly influence my thinking.  But even when I do sense any kind of threat, I am ashamed to admit that my first reaction is not always to run to my Rock.  But it is no weakness to run to His strength.  He invites me to firmly wedge myself in and enjoy His love and protection!  In the crevice of this rock, I will not be moved or removed!

Lord, be my Rock today.

 


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Canadian Geese

Scripture for Today: Matthew 13:4  “and as he sowed some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.”

Homeowners in a Tallahassee neighborhood did not share my appreciation for these beautiful birds.  That’s because they roamed the streets, entering garages and making a nuisance of themselves.  And for anyone trying to plant a lawn, they considered the seeds as their personal lunch buffet!  But they would only go after the seeds lying on the surface.  All it takes is a fourth inch of soil to discourage them.

Today’s verse is part of the parable of the sower.  The seeds sown did not sprout and grow as they were quickly devoured by birds.  Jesus explains that those who hear the Word but do not understand it are prey to the evil one who snatches away what was sown, before it can take root (verse 19).  That seed is exposed and vulnerable without the topsoil of understanding.  The understanding of His Word keeps the seed safe, rooted and growing.  And this understanding comes from the Son of God who is true (I John 5:20).  When one quickly gets into God’s Word with the understanding He offers, than those birds have no chance to snatch it away!

How vitally important it is that the seed of salvation in me is protected by understanding His Word!  The more I read, study and meditate, the more I am protected from the deception of the evil one.  He can not snatch away what is taking root and growing.  And understanding His Word is a lifelong process.  I can never close the book and think, there….I know it completely.  It is the Spirit of His Son that speaks to me and brings to light something new each time I open it.

Thank you, Lord, that You give me Your understanding.


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Flying in Formation

Scripture for Today:  Philippians 2:1-2  “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and consolation, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

This image of perfect synchronized flying is amazing!  These birds must have the same destination in their little bird brains!  But more than that, they are flying at the same height and the same speed to get there!  No one is jostling for position or lagging behind the others.  Their united purpose brings them together and keeps them together.

In today’s verse, Paul seems to think that Christians can be united in spirit.  Not only that but he appears to be saying that believers can be in agreement, loving one another and intent on going in the same direction!  How does that happen?  When there is encouragement.  When there is consolation.  When there is fellowship and affection for one another.  We not only need the love and encouragement of other believers to keep going , but “flying together” brings honor to Christ!  It is what signals to the world that we are His disciples (John 13:35).

I am going in the same direction as so many other believers.  Like them, my desire is to grow in faith and be more like Jesus.  It is a long life-time purpose.  But going it alone is not what the Lord wants.  Just as I take notice of these three birds flying in perfect harmony, so the world sits up and takes notice of believers that are showing love and unity.  Being united and showing love to one another is something supernatural but He makes it possible!

Thank you Lord, that I do not have to do this alone!

 

Photo credit: David Joyce at https://www.flickr.com/photos/deapeajay/2694162918