Devotions By Jan


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Doggie Discipline

Scripture for Today: Titus 2:12 “It (grace) teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

This dog understands the word, “No!”  I am amazed at his self-control sitting there with that piece of meat on his nose.  I wonder how long that lasted?  With smelling it, seeing it, and imagining that first bite, the dog must be trembling with the effort to refrain from gobbling it up in a moment!  I do not think the owner was too far away as the tension mounted.

Today’s verse is surprising.  The grace that normally comes to mind is the grace that offers salvation, that amazing unmerited and undeserved favor from God. (verse 11)  But this grace is a grace that teaches.  This grace allows the believer to live a godly life that pleases the Lord.  And like saving grace, it is completely unmerited.  We do not earn the ability to live a self-controlled life.  It is a gift that is part of the evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Gal. 5:23).  We cannot take credit for staying away from sin.  We cannot take credit for our obedience to God.  It is all grace.

I am so thankful for the gift of self-control without which my life would be a mess.  His Spirit enables me to say “No” to temptation.  His Spirit gives me the power to turn my back on ungodly desires and choose obedience.  And despite the occasional slip, He has changed my heart to want what is right.  My highest desire is to honor Him with my choices.  And it is with His help that I can achieve that desire even just a little.

Thank you Lord, that Your self-control is another evidence of Your grace!

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


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Covered in Spider Webs

Scripture for Today: Job 8:13-15  “Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless.  What they trust in is fragile.  What they rely on is a spider’s web.  They lean on the web but it gives way.  They cling to it, but it does not hold.”

Poor dog.  His daily walk through the fields of eastern Australia was not a normal one.  He and the field are covered in spider webs.  A massive flood in 2012 caused the evacuation of not only 9,000 residents but also the local spider population.  The spiders moved away from the flooded areas in search of higher and drier ground.  The result was an eerie white covering on bushes, grass and outdoor furniture.

Today’s verse describes the spider web as fragile and unable to bear too much weight.  The ones trusting in anyone or anything other than God are leaning on something as unreliable as that spider’s web.  It will eventually give way and let them down.  This verse is part of a conversation between Job and one of his three friends, Bildad.  Much of what his three friends said was discouraging for Job as they assumed his trials were a result of some hidden sin.  But the observation Bildad makes in this verse is absolutely true.

My own ideas, my own strength or even my own resources are like that spider web.  It will only hold me up temporarily.  It is just too flimsy and fragile.  How much better to lean on the One whose power and might can hold me up in any circumstance!  He will not give way.  He will never let me down.  He is so much stronger than any other support.

Thank you Lord, that I can lean on You and Your strength!


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A Dog Who Prays

Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:2 “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

What restraint!  What discipline!  And what training for a dog to pray before his meal!  How cute to see him balance on his haunches with his little paws together!  However, it does seem like he is peeking longingly at his food.  He can only hope that the signal to dig in comes quickly.  Of course, this little pooch has no idea what he is doing.  Like Pavlov’s dogs his sweet posture is part of “classical conditioning” with no true reverence for God involved.

Today’s verse puts a finger on exactly what separates us from animals.  An animal, even if one argued that he had a soul, does not yearn for the Lord.  His heart and flesh do not cry out to the living God.   The longing for a relationship with the God of the universe is something beyond their capacity.  But for man, it is exactly why we were created.  God Himself put the idea and longing for eternity in the human heart (Eccl. 3:11).  We are made to cry out for Him in our innermost being.  Even just one day in His presence is better than one thousand days elsewhere (verse 10).

The Lord fills and completes me.  When my relationship with Him is interrupted by my own wandering or indifference, it does not take long to feel something is missing.  Feeling that lack I cry out to Him for that reassurance that He is there and that He still loves me.  He always answers.  And somehow, I am more human when I am connected to my Creator.  The yearning is satisfied and it is “well with my soul.”

Thank you Lord, for completing me.

 


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Shamefaced!

Scripture for Today: Psalm 34:5 “Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

Can dogs feel shame or guilt?  Looking at this image one would think so.  But a number of studies have found that dogs do not feel or display guilt.  I am positive that a number of dog owners would disagree.  However, scientists believe it is too complex a reaction and it is just not how their brains work.  What seems to be a guilty look happens with scolding or questioning from an angry owner.  The dog is simply reacting to the owner’s behavior, tone of voice and gestures.

Today’s verse describes a face that is not covered with shame.  In fact, there is radiance in place of shame.  When looking to a righteous, perfect God, it would be natural to feel shame for our sin.  One’s first reaction would be to cover one’s face in the blinding light of His holiness!  But for those who fear the Lord and belong to Him, there is no more shame.  In His grace, He has paid for all our sin and shame with the sacrifice of His Son.  No one who trusts in Him will be condemned or held guilty (verse 22).

Because He has erased my sin and shame, I can look to Him and be radiant!  No longer will I blush for my past sins.  He has removed my sin and guilt as far as the east is from the west! (Psalm 103:12)  He has said that my sin He will remember no more (Heb. 10:17).  Any shame felt with my memories is not from Him.  I am in Christ (Romans 8:1) and no longer condemned.  The Lord not only took away my sin, but the shame of it all as well.

Thank you, Lord, that my face can be radiant with Your forgiveness!


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Hospital Gown

Scripture for Today: Psalm 38:9 “All my longings lie open before You, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from You.”

Is there anything more humiliating than wearing that infamous hospital gown?  I feel for this little pooch looking so forlorn.  I would have used a picture of a human patient, but this is a family-friendly blog!  Modesty goes out the window in a doctor’s examining room.  But at least there is a hospital gown.  Often in French doctors’ examining rooms nothing is offered to cover up!  One feels so open and exposed, and the indignity one feels is intensified when not feeling well.

Today’s verse tells us that nothing is hidden from the Lord.  David understands that there is not a longing or heart-felt sigh that is hidden from Him.  He sees our innermost being, knowing even our words before we speak them (Psalm 139:4).  He has searched us and known us even from the time we were in our mother’s womb.  Even at that early stage, our frame was not hidden from Him (Psalm 139:15).

Does His knowledge of me frighten me or make me uncomfortable?  To have every motive of my heart open to the Lord can be a disturbing thought.  There is no hiding behind lofty prayers or religious traditions.  He knows exactly what I am thinking and feeling.  But as His child, this intimate knowledge is a real comfort.  He understands the fumbling prayer that finds no words.  He hears the anguished cry of my heart for lost family and friends.  He knows the sadness I feel with that deep sigh.  And every unfulfilled longing that hides out in a corner of my heart is open to Him.  Oh yes.  He is my comfort because He knows and understands.

Thank you Lord, that You know me like no other and love me anyway!


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Unlikely Friends

dog-elephant1-482x590Scripture for Today: “You are My friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you.”

Meet Bella, the Black Labrador and Bubbles, the African Elephant.  They are practically inseparable taking walks and swims together at the Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina.  Bella was abandoned there as a puppy and this unlikely friendship developed over a shared love of the water.  Bubbles could throw his considerable weight around and crush Bella if he had a mind to.  Instead, he enjoys frolicking with Bella and allowing her to use him as a diving board!

Today’s verse describes another unlikely friendship.  Jesus calls those who trust Him friends.  Unlike human friendship where the footing is on an equal basis, Jesus still commands in this relationship and we still obey.  But it is a much richer relationship than just master and servant.  He has chosen to reveal to us what the Father wants to accomplish.  We are part of His plan.

Jesus calls us His friends because He has openly shared with us His business.  God’s plan and will are clearly spelled out in His Word.  I wish I knew more details, but it is amazing that He lets me know anything at all!  He daily communicates His love to me and I have the freedom to tell Him absolutely anything.  Sometimes my friendship with Jesus seems one-sided as I do lots and lots of talking but maybe not so much listening!  Thankfully, He is a patient faithful Friend!  And unlike any human friendship, His love is steadfast and enduring (Psalm 57:10).

What a friend I have in You, Lord!


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Emotional Support Animal

service-pet-2Scripture for Today: Psalm 46:1-2a “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…”

You see them more and more.  The “emotional support animal” is often a dog but can really be any animal.  They are allowed anywhere the public is but only with a doctor’s prescription.  They differ from service animals as there is no special training to do any work or task.  All that is required is that the animal provide a calming effect for the owner suffering from mental, emotional or psychiatric disabilities.  Their very presence is meant to bring comfort.

The truth of today’s verse brings a comfort far greater than any animal can give.  God Himself is our refuge and strength.  Regardless of the trouble faced, He is there to help.  His very presence is the source of protection, strength and comfort.  Realizing His presence keeps us from giving in to fear.  He is bigger and more powerful than any challenge.

When tragedy strikes someone close, I often do not know what to say.  But it is not what we say that brings comfort but the fact that we show up.  Our presence is what counts.  The person in crisis draws strength just from us being there.  How much more true is this principle with God’s presence.  Burrowing my head in an animal’s fur can only console me so much.  Crying on the shoulder of a friend or family member is important but does not go deep enough.  But when it is my Heavenly Father there, He can and does touch my soul with His loving presence.  He reassures me of His love and control.  He gives me hope.

Thank you Lord, that when troubles loom large, You are there.