Devotions By Jan


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Sheltering in Place

Scripture for Today: Psalm 91:1-2 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.'”

A new phrase has crept into our everyday vocabulary in the wake of this nasty worldwide virus; “shelter in place.”  The idea is to limit exposure and to slow the spread of what for some can be fatal.  This is new territory and the questions and challenges can seem overwhelming.  Cabin fever, FOMO or fear of missing out, and fear of possible financial challenges to come can all create a pervading sense of unease.  That loss of connection is especially unnerving.

Today’s verse is a promise of rest from the anxieties of this unique time.  When we make the Most High our shelter we find rest in His presence.  Rather than trust in four walls, self-isolation, or the government, we can trust in God’s reassuring presence.  This is not just a place to drop in but to dwell.  Sheltering in this place gives the rest and peace so needed in the face of the unknown.  The best four walls around me are His care, His compassion, His comfort, and His control.

The best part of sheltering in His presence is that this can happen anywhere!  For now, my world has become so much smaller, but He has not!  His peace guards my heart and my mind (Phil. 4:7) regardless of where I am.  I never want to leave the shelter of His presence.  Nearer Still Nearer’s lyrics from 1898 say it best.  “Fold me, oh, fold me close to Thy breast. Shelter me safe in that ‘haven of rest.'”

Thank you, Lord, for being my shelter and my rest.

 


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Unicorn of the Sea

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called, ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

It is easy to see why the Narwal has been called the “Unicorn of the Sea!”  For the male, the canine tooth becomes a long tusk, piercing its upper lip.  This pale medium-sized whale swims in the Arctic waters and sometimes dies from drowning!  They need wide open spaces to breathe.  But if they do not leave before the waters freeze over in late autumn, then they can suffocate!

Today’s verse says that we can become hardened.  Our hearts have the tendency to turn away from God in rebellion and unbelief (verse 12).  Like the formation of ice, it can be a slow insidious process that we do not even realize is happening.  Sin is deceitful, pulling us gradually and subtly away from the God we love.  Sin is deceitful as it seems so good and right.  It can appear sophisticated and desirable.  We need encouragement everyday in order to resist its attraction.  By recognizing sin’s empty promises and praying for one another, we can hold on firmly to what we have in Christ (verse 14).

I would like to think that I am immune from sin’s attraction.  But even though I have known and loved the Savior for a long time, I am not immune.  I understand the complications and danger sin can bring to a life.  Even so I will always need the example and encouragement from other believers.  He is always ready to forgive, but I do not like the distance I feel from the Lord when I give in.  I know that if I flirt with sin, my heart will no longer be soft and pliable to Him.

Lord, do not let my heart ever become hardened.


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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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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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Heart Messages

Scripture for Today: Luke 6:45 “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Growing up, I loved these conversation hearts, giving away to that “special someone” what I could not bring myself to actually say!  And receiving these from others would communicate to me something the giver may not have intended!  Today, one can special order these candies with your own personalized message.  That way you can say exactly what you want the other to hear.  Communicating what is in the heart is not always easy.

Today’s verse gives us a reliable way to know what is in the heart of another.  What is there is evident by that person’s behavior.  Expressing emotions can be lovely but the real indicator of feelings and the state of the heart is evident in our actions.  And one action is especially telling.  What comes out of our mouths demonstrates the good or the evil found in the heart.  That sincere compliment or word of encouragement shows love.  The snide remark or the profanity that escapes our lips signals that all is not well.

What slips out of my mouth can be shameful.  I am so glad that some of it happens when there is no one to hear.  However, there is always Someone who hears.  And whether others are around or not, those nasty words signal a need for some serious heart cleaning!  Thankfully, He is full of grace and forgiveness, ready to make me clean again and give me a new start!

Lord, clean my heart and fill it with good things to say!

Look familiar? This is a repost from 2018.


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Bad Hair Day

Scripture for Today:  Matthew 10:29-31a  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not then…..”

We all have bad hair days.  But I was unaware that a horse could have them too!  It was not that they slept wrong or had hat hair, or even that their owners were experimenting with their look.  These horses were feeling the electricity in the air and it was making their hair stand on end!

Today’s verse tells us that the Lord knows exactly how many hairs are currently on our heads.  Some say that this is just an image and not to be taken literally.  But why ever not?  His omniscience is all inclusive down to the tiniest detail.  He also knows when where and why a sparrow falls to the ground.  He is Lord of the universe and nothing, no matter how small, escapes His attention.  It is because of His all-encompassing knowledge that we can face the unknowns of life without fear.

I find enormous comfort and assurance to know He is intimately involved in the details of my life.  Psalm 139 says that He knows when I am standing or sitting and what I am going to say before I say it.  Because of His love and grace, I do not have to hide from this knowledge.  His intimate knowledge of me means I can live without fear.  I can move confidently through my day, knowing He is there.  Rather than get nervous over what could happen, I can trust Him.

Thank you Lord, that You are trustworthy, even with the smallest details.


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Do Not Follow!

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:26 “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

In following this construction truck I was careful to keep my distance of at least two hundred feet.  Normally, when there is a sign forbidding a behavior, the rebel inside me wants to contest, ignore or disobey!  But because there was an explanation of possible damage with that second sign, I did not follow too closely.  I did not want to risk a broken windshield and so I hung back, regardless of the impatient car behind me!

In today’s verse there is a warning that motivates us to be wise in choosing our friends.  There is an explanation that encourages prudence in who we allow to become close.  A righteous person will take care not to associate with the wicked.  For even a righteous person can be influenced by a friend to participate in evil.  One can feel pressured to compromise morals and standards.  The pull can be subtle or progressive and barely noticed.  Friendship effects and impacts our character sometimes without us even realizing it!  This is why it was so important for the Israelites not to marry foreigners who did not worship the one and true God. They could be easily led away from Him.

I would like to think that my faith is so strong that I would never be influenced to do evil by someone wicked.  But if I were to become close friends with someone who does not have the same goal of living for the Lord, I could be gradually pulled away and faith could weaken.  Close friends have an enormous influence on my thinking.  They can encourage my faith or weaken it!  I want to choose carefully who I follow!

Lord, keep me closest to those close to You!