Devotions By Jan

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Back Scratcher

Scripture for Today: Matthew 5:46a-47a “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?”

This cat and cat owner have learned how to live out the saying, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!”  The owner scratches the cat’s back first and then the cat obligingly does the same for her!  What could be better than having your own in-house masseur?  This saying came from sailors in the 17th century.  When crew members were told to flog one another for an offense, they would sometimes do it lightly, only “scratching” the back, in hopes of being treated the same way.

Today’s verse points out that only loving those who will love you in return is not so admirable.  Greeting only those who will greet you back is no big risk.  Even those who do not follow Christ do as much.  The believer is held to a higher standard.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies (verse 44) which means loving those who will not respond in kind.  We are not to do for others in order to receive something in return.  We are to love and even pray for those who treat us poorly.

Our world does not work this way.  There are expectations and obligations that come from gifts and favors.  But as a believer I am to show love that is unconditional and not dependent on someone’s response.  It is not always easy to ignore the lack of a thank-you note or a return dinner invitation.  However, the Lord delights in rewarding and blessing my obedience.  Knowing this frees me up to give and give again without any strings attached.

Lord, make my love for others like Yours is for me!

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Walking the Cat!

cat-on-leashScripture for Today: James 3:7-8 “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

When our cat, Tiger was young we were worried about him running away.  We tried putting a leash on him so he could be with us while we worked in the garden.  You can imagine how that worked out!  He was more likely to hang himself on it than be safe in the yard.  But I suppose like Pavlov’s dogs, any animal can be trained to some extent.  There are some cases where cats will consent to the leash but not ours!

Today’s verse talks about the impossibility of taming the tongue.  Unlike animals, there is no taming it.  It is wild and unpredictable.  It is full of evil and poison.  The potential it has to destroy people is sobering.  The fact that it is restless suggests to me that it is very often in motion, almost looking for trouble.  What comes out of the mouth reveals what resides in the heart (Matt. 15:18).  No man can tame the tongue because the root problem is a heart issue.

Too many times I have tried and failed to control my tongue.  Too late I see the look of hurt and disappointment on another’s face.  My regret does not call back those words.  They hang in the air and echo in my memory.  But there is hope with the Creator of that nasty tongue.  God’s Spirit offers His control for the uncontrollable.  He changes the root problem; my heart.  And He gives me the the ability to check my tongue and control that outburst!

Lord, tame my tongue today!

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Angry Cat

angry-cat-13Scripture for Today: Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

It was always obvious when our Tiger was angry.  Like this cat, his eyes would dilate and his ears would lie flat.  That flicking tail did not mean he was any too happy.  And of course, the hissing, spitting and odd moaning sounds were a sure indication that he was ready to strike.  Sometimes his back would arch and his fur would stand on end.  At that point, I did not argue with him but just got out of there!

Today’s verse tells us just how important our feelings are.  The strong emotions we feel are the motor behind so much of what we do.  That is why it is so important to guard our hearts from emotions that fester, build, and boil over to hurt others or hurt ourselves.

Guarding our hearts is an intentional activity.  Like a soldier guarding an entrance, we can be disciplined and vigilant about what we allow ourselves to feel.  Rather than nursing a hurt, we can choose to let go and forgive.  Rather than feeling envious of others, we can choose to be thankful for what we have.  Instead of stoking the fires of our anger, we can seek reconciliation.  With the Spirit’s help, we do not have to be the victims of our emotions.  Our thoughts can turn to what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely and admirable (Phil.4:8).  Thinking on these things can guard our hearts from those negative emotions.

I do not share these warning signs with a cat.  But I have my own.  When sleep eludes me, when I cannot face that person or when my stomach is in knots, then I know my heart is not right.

Make my heart right today, Lord.

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Face Plant

stupid_cat_by_sasori_toastScripture for Today: I Kings 18:39 “When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God.'”

I have never understood why cats do this!  Our Tiger would often bury his face into the couch, so much so I worried that he was not getting enough air.  He would face plant on the hard uncomfortable floor as well.  I guess when sleep overwhelms, any position will do.  But he sure did look silly.  However, face planting by his owners is embarrassing, unintentional and takes looking silly to a whole new level!  Who wants to look that undignified?

Today’s verse describes an intentional face plant!  There was no concern about looking undignified.  The Israelites fell prostrate, face down on the ground in response to the awesome power of God.  In answer to Elijah’s simple prayer, the only true God sent fire down from Heaven in a contest between Baal and Himself.  This fire was unique not only because it fell from Heaven, but because it burned up sacrifice, wood, stones, soil and water!  What other response is possible but to fall face down to the ground in fearful humility and worship?  The Lord, He is God.

In our French church, we stand when we take communion.  There is standing and lifting up of hands in many churches as an expression of worship as well.  Paul tells us that one day every knee will bow in humble recognition at the name of Jesus (Phil. 2:10).  But when God reveals Himself completely and I see for the first time all His magnificent power and beauty, I cannot see myself in any other position but prostrate with wonder!

Standing, kneeling or prostrate, Lord, may my heart be completely Yours today.

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Curious Cat

Top-10-Curious-Cats-Covered-in-Packing-Peanuts-4Scripture for Today: Ephesians 5:11-12 “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”

“Curiosity killed the cat,” although not so much in this case!  But his curiosity is obvious, as there is no hiding what the cat has been up to.  The lure of the box is a temptation too strong for most felines, our Tiger included.  Their little cat brains must curiously ask themselves what that box might hide.  Satisfying his curiosity did not work out so well.   How very undignified having all these styrofoam pellets stuck on fur!

Today’s verse is surprising.  Not only are believers to have nothing to do with evil deeds of darkness, but we are to expose them to the light of His goodness, righteousness, and truth (verse 9).  We expose them by living a contrasting life, as “children of light,” seeking to please the Lord.  What is surprising is that we are not to even mention what the wicked do in secret!  As part of holy living we are to rid ourselves of “filthy language” (Col. 3:8).

It seems extreme.  We easily talk about how wicked the wicked are!  But there is a subtle danger in speaking of what goes on in secret.  Doing so can desensitize us to the seriousness of sin.  We eventually lose any sense of shock.  We can slowly move towards acceptance of what is evil or immoral.  And discussing the details of any sin can pique our interest and stimulate curiosity.

My mouth reveals what I am thinking about.  When I am thinking about what is true, honest, just, pure and lovely, than I will not be interested in discussing the evil surrounding me (Phil. 4:8).

Lord, keep my thoughts and my mouth pure and full of light!

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In or Out?

sal-s-samuele-036Scripture for Today: Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”

What this cat is doing looks very familiar.  Our Tiger does the same thing.  He stands at the door waiting to go out.  Then, when he is out, not two minutes go by before he is back at the door waiting to come in!  And before I know it, he is waiting to go out once again.  He never seems happy about where he is!

There is a store in France called, “Un Jour Ailleurs” meaning, “One Day Elsewhere.”  That store name sums up the problem of cats always wanting to be elsewhere!  I can identify with Tiger.  Often I find myself longing for my homeland, only to be pining for France soon after my arrival!

Our verse for today promises happiness and satisfaction.  But the condition is that I long for the right things!  The one whose desire is to live a life in right standing with God can find contentment.  He has already given us everything that is needed to live a godly life (II Peter 1:3)  He does not frustrate our desire to live for Him.  He will enable and equip us.  He gives immense satisfaction in our service for Him.  When we hunger and thirst after a righteous life, He will make that life worth living!

Can I really be happy and complete regardless of whether I am in or out, here or there?  God says, “Yes!”  He offers to satisfy the desires of my heart when I make living for Him my delight.  My contentment and satisfaction will never come from style of life or location or material goods.  It all comes from my relationship with Him.

Lord, may hungering and thirsting for You bring me blessing today.

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Nail Biting

nail bitingScripture for Today:  Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I wonder if this kitty is feeling anxious.  Probably not as nail biting is part of normal cat behavior.  Our Tiger does it too even though we try to keep up with trimming those nails.  It’s a bit unsettling to watch him chew at them.

Nail biting is considered an oral compulsive habit.  Some research shows that thirty percent of children and forty five percent of adolescents have a problem with this compulsion.  Most outgrow it but unfortunately, five percent of these young people continue the habit into adulthood.  I passed through this phase myself for a short time.  What starts as a stress reliever can so quickly become a mindless habit!

Our verse for today addresses the problem of anxiety.  That gnawing feeling of unrest and worry can drain us of energy.  Anxiety also causes me to doubt God’s control and goodness.  Being anxious is a sure sign of a lack of trust.  But according to this verse, there is no situation that warrants anxiety.  Whatever I am anxious about, the answer is to bring it to God in prayer.

It seems odd to see the “with thanksgiving” phrase as part of that prayer.  I used to think it was there to assure that my prayer would not seem so demanding!  But in fact, when I thank the Lord for all of what He has already done in my life, I start to feel the anxiety lessen.  In enumerating all His gifts and blessings, and all the ways He has come through for me in the past, my heart begins to relax.

Thank you Lord, that I can relinquish to You every anxiety and enjoy Your peace!

Look familiar?  This is a summer re-post due to ministry schedule.