Devotions By Jan


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Is Chivalry Dead?

Scripture for Today: Philippians 2:3b-4 “…in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Chivalry is many times thought to be an outmoded idea.  But not for the male field cricket!  After a thousand hours of infrared camera observations of tagged crickets, scientists made some surprising findings.  When threatened by a bird or frog, the males give their females priority when crawling into safe burrows!  This self-sacrificing behavior, never seen in lab studies, leads to reproductive success!

Today’s verse does not use the word, “chivalry,” but certainly has the idea of treating others well.  Our concern should not be only for our own interests.  A believer is to be concerned about the interests of others as well.  To treat others’ needs as more important than our own can only come from an attitude of humility.  And that humility is not something that comes naturally.  What comes naturally is to put oneself first.

In these strange times of worldwide pandemic, it is easy for me to think uniquely of myself and my own needs.  Staying inside is not only for myself but also in the interest of others.  However, sacrificing my freedoms for the sake of another is not so easy.  It is not easy to ask interested questions about another’s welfare and not have them return the favor.  It is difficult to allow another to go first when pressed for time.  Yet, this is what Jesus asks of me.  My life and my health are in His hands along with all my interests, goals and needs.  I can afford to be gracious and others-centered.  He has all my desires and interests at heart and I can trust Him.

Lord, help me show the kind of self-sacrificing love You showed to me!

Photo Credit: Elgaland Vargaland, https://www.flickr.com/photos/foam/


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United States of Anxiety

Scripture for Today: Psalm 94:19 “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” (NASB)

“We are all in this together.”  It is a phrase I repeatedly hear on social media.  As a society we are divided on so many fronts; political, religious, racial and economical.  But one thing seems to united us and unfortunately it is anxiety.  It may be that our anxiety is only an occasional thought.  Or it may be an underlying state of mind that colors our whole day.  For some, this anxiety is showing itself in disturbing dreams (ahem….) or interrupted sleep.  In any case, it is a natural state of affairs when we feel we are not in control and we do not know what is next!

Today’s verse gives an answer to our anxious thoughts that seem to multiply within us.  The soul can be delighted with His words of comfort and consolation even in the middle of such uncertain times.  We can move from anxiety to delight when we turn to His Word and His promises.  His lovingkindness holds us up (verse 18).  The Lord will not abandon or forsake His people who are His inheritance (verse 14).  Whatever the future holds, He is there and He is faithful.

I am a great one for asking myself, “what if?” or “what then?”  My questions come from a desire to know and control.  But there is no way of knowing or controlling.  And I do not really need these answers to experience delight in the deepest part of me.  Rather I need the One who does know and control.  He reassures my heart that He has a plan for my future and He is good.  I can let go of anxious thoughts when I spend time with Him.

Lord, thank you for relieving my anxiety.


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Roller Coaster

Scripture for Today: Romans 8:39 “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is no way I would ever ride this roller coaster at Carowinds Amusement Park in Charlotte, North Carolina!  For me the steep climb and abrupt drop does nothing to amuse!  Perhaps if the curve were flattened and the ride became slower I would enjoy it!  The phrase, “Flatten the curve” is the rally cry today to slow down the spread of this COVID virus.

Today’s verse speaks to highs and lows of a different sort.  There is no height that can separate us from God’s love in Christ.  Nor is there any depth that can do so.  His love is never in question no matter how dire circumstances become.  Nothing in creation can create a barrier to His constant and unconditional love.  Wherever we are on the spectrum of high or low, He is there and He is faithful.  If I were to go up to the heavens or go down in the depths, He is there (Ps. 139:8).  His love never fails.

Of course, I want to do my part to “flatten the curve.”  Slowing the growth of this virus through social distancing and hygienic measures is so important.  But at the same time I am confident of God’s loving control.  His love has not changed.  These circumstances are so bizarre and unique but they will not distance me from Him.  In fact, this slow down is giving me more opportunities to know and feel His love.  How reassuring it is to know that He holds me fast!  During uncertain times, I can always be certain of Him.

Thank you Lord, for Your constant love.

 

 


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Encouraging Sign

Scripture for Today: I Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

This added homemade sign in Scotland says, “Keep right on to the end of the road.”  These are lyrics from a traditional Scottish song which goes on to say, “though the way be long, let your heart be strong.”  There is good reason to continue on.  This road leads to Kirkton Manor, an historic stone manor built into a wall.  Even the three-acre-country gardens there make the trip well worth the effort!

Today’s verse tells us to encourage each other by reminders of who we are and what is ahead.  In the middle of dark times we are children of the light and of the day (verse 5).  We have the hope of our salvation (verse 8) and we have an incredible future ahead in living together with Him! (verse 10)  It is these truths which encourage us to keep plodding on.  There will be an end to what we are facing.  There will be a destination that makes every heartache and trial worth it.

I do not like having disruptions to my routine or being inconvenienced in any way.  My comfort is way too important to me.  What small trials I face in comparison to those who are imprisoned for their faith!  But I can be encouraged that in the face of any unknown earthly future, I can choose to focus on the heavenly one!  I have no control over the current self quarantine that is being imposed.  But there is an end in sight.  There will be a point where I reach my destination.  And though the way may seem long, it is the Lord who keeps my heart strong!

Lord, encourage me and make me an encouragement to others.

Photo © Jim Barton (cc-by-sa/2.0)


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Rock Hyrax

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 30:24 & 26 “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise….hyraxes are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags.”

These little creatures are no bigger than a guinea pig yet they are called “the little brother to the elephant!”  He can boast to being the elephant’s closest living relative having similar teeth, toes and skull structure.  He makes his home in the rocks and the niches of sheer cliffs.  But he does not come out of his rock shelter during rainy cool weather.  And when he does come out he starts his day with several hours of sunbathing!

Today’s verse comes from a passage describing four small living creatures; the ant, hydrax, locust and lizard.  They all have two things in common, their small size and the fact that they are wise, extremely wise.  The hydrax knows when to run to the rocks to hide himself.  He knows he is small and vulnerable.  He knows his limitations.  He does not have the size and strength of his “big brother.”  Without this wisdom to know when and where to run, he would be in mortal danger!

I have no power of my own.  It is no weakness to admit my weakness and cry out to Him!  It is even a mark of wisdom.  When my heart grows faint I need to be led to the Rock that is higher and more powerful than I am (Ps. 61:2).  In the middle of crisis, I am not even sure where He is.  I need to be led through His Word and through prayer to trust and lean on His powerful presence.  He is solid and unmovable regardless of my any panic I feel.  I am wise when I run to Him!

Lord, lead me to the Rock today.

 


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Face Masks

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”

Fashion statements show up in some of the unlikeliest places!  A seamstress friend in France is selling these face masks in a variety of materials.  Of course they do not give the same protection as the medical surgical masks.  But in an area of the world where the COVID virus is gaining momentum, they provide the wearer with at least a sense of security.  This little piece of whimsical material may not be any kind of guarantee.  But the one wearing it can hope to be a little more shielded.

Today’s verse describes the Lord as our shield.  He can be counted on and so can His Words!  Everything God has said and everything He has promised is true and worthy of our trust.  And taking refuge in Him is the best way to be shielded from whatever life can throw at us.  He provides His protection to those who run to Him for it.  There is confidence with this shield of divine control.  Nothing, no matter how small or how big can get through this barrier.

Nothing else can give me this kind of refuge.  I cannot count on the words of limited scientific discoveries.  I cannot count on the words of the media.  I cannot count on the words of the government.  But I can trust God’s Word.  I run to God to shield me from evil, from spiritual attack or the attack of an unseen virus.  His shield will not allow anything to touch me without His permission and without His using it as part of His plan.  What comfort in this thought, that I am shielded by the love and control of my Creator!

Shield me today, Lord.


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Wash Your Hands!

Scripture for Today: Psalm 26:6 “I shall wash my hands in innocence, and I will go about Your altar, O Lord.”

It is an endearing scene when a raccoon looks to be washing his hands!  Perhaps the raccoon has better hygiene than some humans!  Does he care that his hands (and food) are clean?  One would not think so when seeing him rummage through filthy garbage.  In fact, this little guy has poor eyesight and needs to wet his food in order to “see” it better.  What is so surprising is that even without water they mimic washing in the air!

Today, we are reminded constantly to do what we should have been doing all along; wash our hands.  Today’s verse also speaks of washing the hands, not in water but in innocence.  The hands washed in innocence are contrasted to the hands of the sinners (verse 10).  Their hands are full of bribes and wicked schemes.  But the hands washed in innocence belong to the one whose heart is pure (Psalm 73:13).  And these hands can be innocent because of God’s gift of grace through His Son’s sacrifice.  Once our hands were dirty, but now we are washed by Christ (I Cor. 6:11).

It is only because of His washing that I can approach God’s altar or presence.  My feeble attempts to clean myself up first have no affect.  The stain of sin is too deep and pervasive.  But because of Jesus I can be viewed in God’s eyes as innocent.  He took on Himself all the guilt of my dirty hands.  My hands can now be lifted up in praise, folded together in prayer and open to give and to serve Him.

Thank you Lord, for hands cleansed of wrong doing.