Devotions By Jan


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Out of Control

Scripture for Today: Genesis 4:7 “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

It is one thing when your toddler throws a tantrum in the grocery store or at a friend’s house.  But it was quite another for this mother when her toddler lost it at the White House!  I can just imagine the mother’s chagrin to have such a display at the feet of the president.  It made me smile to see her looking at Mrs. Obama rather than looking at the chaos happening on the floor!

Today’s verse is a loving warning to Cain from the Lord.  Cain’s emotions have reached the boiling point.  Much more serious than a child’s tantrum, his anger is about to erupt in violence.  God does not tell Cain to swallow or suppress his emotions.  He tells Cain that he must rule over them in order to avoid sinful behavior.  As strong as his anger was, Cain always had a choice.  And he chose to allow his anger to grow out of control.

Self-control is something that normally is learned with maturity.  We cannot always get what we want when we want it.  I know that the anger I feel from not having my own way is totally selfish.  But sometimes that self-control is totally lacking and emotions seem to rule over me.  They do not respond to reason or good intentions.  I cannot seem to rule over my emotions on my own.  Thankfully, I have God’s Spirit and the fruit of His presence includes that elusive self-control.  When I feel like I am getting out of control, I need to embrace His control.

Lord, help me submit to You.

 

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Smashed!

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I was not sure why Smashburger chose the name it did for their hamburgers.  I had visions of them sitting on them, making them flat enough to actually fit in one’s mouth!  Of course, the health department would surely have something to say about that!  But there is a specific smashing process using a special tool to flatten the pre-prepared meatball.  This tool is used to press hard for a full ten seconds, but no more than ten.  More than that would squeeze out the juices and cause it to dry out.  The result is a cooking time of three minutes rather than eight.

In today’s verse, Paul is recounting some of the hardships he and Timothy had faced.  At the beginning of the chapter and at the end, he says, “We do not lose heart.”  It would have been completely understandable if they had!  Paul had been shipwrecked, beaten, stoned and imprisoned for his faith.  Being perplexed, he perhaps did not always understand the “why” behind what was happening.  Yet, he remained confident that the pressing down he felt was producing something of value in him.

When I am facing hard times I am usually perplexed.  I cannot explain why the Lord allows certain difficulties in my life.  But He promises that all the pressing and crushing will be producing a “weight of glory” one day (II Cor. 4:17).  All that is painful is only a “light affliction” compared to what lies ahead.  Even when panicked and confused, my Father reassures me  that He is in control and His control is good.

Help me Lord, not to lose heart.


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Chip on the Shoulder

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath.  But a harsh word stirs up anger.”

This picture made me laugh!  It is not quite what a “chip on the shoulder” refers to but certainly brought the old saying to mind.  It used to mean the practice of placing a wooden chip on the shoulder.  It was done as a provocation to fight.  The idea was to knock it off as a signal for the fight to begin.  A feeling or conviction was so deeply held that to disagree meant that one would be challenged.  Examples of this practice are seen in old British movies in the early twentieth century.

Today’s verse gives a different response to the one with a chip on his shoulder.  Anger can be diffused with a gentle answer.  To respond in any other way to an argumentative person would only serve to stoke the fire of his anger.  Challenging his logic may very well fall into the category of “harsh words.”  When emotions run high is not the time to reason with a belligerent person.  However, it is always a good idea to calm the situation with a gentle soothing word.

It has been said that, “the best way to knock off the chip on your neighbor’s shoulder is to pat him on the back.”  Soft gentle answers can help validate someone who feels they have been unfairly treated.  The problem is that I want to be seen as right.  It is my pride that makes it so difficult to respond with gentleness and not try and prove my point.  I need His Spirit to keep me calm in the face of the one so angry if there is to be any “turning away of wrath”!

Lord, make my words soft and gentle today.

 


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Iceberg

Scripture for Today:  I Timothy 1:19 “holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.”

I can understand these men getting as close as they dare to this iceberg.  It is impressive, especially with its beautiful blue tint.  However, there is more to this iceberg than meets the eye!  I would be concerned that some jagged piece of it hidden below the surface may capsize the boat!  This iceberg is termed a “bergy bit” as it is roughly the size of a house.  But, of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg as about 90% of an iceberg is found under water.

Today’s verse is Paul’s charge to young Timothy.  Although Timothy had been raised by a believing Mother and Grandmother, he is encouraged to hold on tight to the faith with a good conscience.  The possibility of “shipwrecked faith” was a danger for Timothy even though he was a leader in the church.  The believer is never exempt from the threat of wrong doctrine or the temptation to sin.  All that is needed to be vulnerable to shipwreck is to think that it could never happen!

I want to hold on tightly to my faith.  There are so many unseen and hidden dangers that can put me at risk when I become overconfident.  I want to hold on tightly when I am rocked by circumstances that make no sense and tempt me to doubt.  I need to hold on firmly to the word of life so as not to capsize (Phil. 2:16).   I do not want to be stuck on a sandbar and out of commission.  I want to finish this journey right to the end!

Lord, keep my faith strong and my conscience clear.


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Elephants Never Forget

Scripture for Today:  Phil. 3:13b-14 “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

It is a common adage that, “elephants never forget.”  There have been many scientific studies done and it has been established that although they don’t remember every little thing, elephants do have remarkable memories.  The older females leading a herd are especially likely to remember previous watering holes.  They remember the urine smells of up to 30 other elephants in their herd, distinguishing friend from foe.

Today’s verse talks about the value of forgetting something very specific.  Paul is saying that to make any progress in our Christian growth, we are to FORGET what is behind.  I always assumed, knowing Paul’s past of persecuting the Church, that he meant his past sins.  However, the context of the passage speaks of his Jewish lineage, his zeal and his righteousness.  He counted his religiosity and good works as rubbish in order to know Christ and to have the righteousness which comes from faith in Him.

What does this mean for me?  Do I pride myself in past accomplishments in the realm of good works?  Am I on  “cruise control” in my spiritual journey, thinking what I’ve already done for the Lord can somehow carry me along?  Or am I motivated to keep on keeping on?  It is a sobering thought to realize that any spiritual pride or SELF righteousness will keep me from moving forward.  Better to forget even the good things in my past if they cause me to be complacent in the present.  The Lord does not want me to relax but to keep pressing on to a deeper and more satisfying relationship with HIm.

Lord, keep me motivated to press on.

 


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Grandfather Clocks

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

These beautiful Grandfather clocks stand proudly in the World Museum in Liverpool, England.  The first Grandfather clock (or Longcase clock) was produced around 1680 by a British clockmaker, William Clement.  The name “Grandfather” clock is thought to be the result of a song written in 1876 entitled, “My Grandfather’s Clock.”  Our modern ones have an eight day movement.  But earlier less expensive models had only a thirty hour movement.  In either case, time would run out if not wound by a key or if the chains were not pulled.

Today’s verse is another reminder that time is the great equalizer.  We all have the same daily twenty four hours handed to us.  But what is so amazing is that our God is in control of time.  Not only is my time in His hands but all time is.  He is eternal and outside of time.  His kingdom is an eternal one and His dominion endures forever (Dan. 4:3).  Here on earth we are frustrated with time constraints.  But time and seasons will only exist “under Heaven.”

Imagine having time for everything!  Someday it will be true, but today I need to trust the Lord to provide the time needed for what He thinks is important.  I love the song lyrics that say, “He is able, more than able, to accomplish what concerns me today…” He is in control of time, and He is the source.  The Lord is more than able to free up minutes I did not know I had!  As a result of trusting Him I find comfort that there is more than enough time for His plans.

Lord, help me to trust You, even when I seem to be running out of time.


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Jump for Joy

Scripture for Today: John 21:7b “…As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped in the water.”

I used to think that when fish jumped out of the water they were jumping for joy!  I have learned otherwise and yet still prefer to think it could be true.  Fish may jump to feed on flying insects, to propel themselves upstream for spawning, to escape predators or to rid themselves of sea-lice.  We jump at the chance.  We jump down one’s throat or jump ship.  We may jump on the bandwagon or in our family, jump in the shower.  But the best jumping is when we jump for joy!

Today’s verse has someone jumping into the water, and it certainly seems as if there were joy involved!  Not surprisingly, the disciples did not immediately recognize the resurrected Jesus after a fruitless night of fishing.  But when the Lord  miraculously filled their net, they knew who it was.  Peter could not wait to get to Jesus.  Rather than row the boat with the disciples that last one hundred yards to shore, he jumped in!

Would that I would jump at the chance to meet with the Lord with that much enthusiasm!  Can I say with David that He fills me with joy in His presence? (Psalm 16:11)  To be honest, not always.  But when I recognize His miraculous hand in my life, I do jump up and run to Him with a grateful heart.  It may not be a net full of fish, but His miracles are everywhere in my life; the miracle of His love and grace, His forgiveness and protection, and too many more to list!

Lord, may I jump at the chance to meet You today!