Devotions By Jan


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Just a Test?

Scripture for Today: I Peter 1:7 “These (all kinds of trials) have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

This frightening image came up on phones all over Hawaii on January 13th!  Reactions were varied.  Some grabbed the kids and pets and jumped in their cars with no clear destination.  A group of bikers sought shelter at a church being renovated that day.  Others milled in the streets unsure of what to do and panicking as no calls could to go through.  One friend faced what she thought might be the end by calmly going out on her balcony with her bird and coffee in hand.  It was a full 38 minutes of panic before the correction came.

Today’s verse reminds us that life will be full of tests and trials, all kinds.  But they have one thing in common.  The suffering and grief they cause will prove or disprove the genuineness of our faith.  And somehow, the praise, glory and honor to come will overshadow it all.  The genuine faith will emerge from this testing as more valuable than refined gold!

Just because my eternal Home is secure in Him does not mean that I am exempt from suffering here.  He allows me to go through some difficult pain.  Each time another wave of trial hits is another time to turn to Him and hang on with my faith.  And He is always faithful.  He uses it all to grow and deepen my conviction of who He is.  He is my Rock and I will cling to Him.

Lord, may my faith prove genuine and honoring to You.

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Belly Laugh

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 31:25 “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

They say that,”laughter is the best medicine.”  And apparently, science confirms this idea.  Giggles and guffaws both can reduce stress by stimulating heart, lungs and muscles.  A hearty laugh can increase endorphins released by your brain, giving you that “feel-good feeling.”  Have you ever noticed that good relaxed feeling after a big belly laugh?  That is because the stress response is fired up then cooled down, increasing heart rate and blood pressure.  A good laugh can completely turn around my mood.

Today’s verse is about a woman who laughs at the future.  This woman is clothed with strength and dignity as she lives her life with wisdom (vs.26).  She works vigorously (vs. 17) and she is not idle (vs. 27).  The public praises her because of her works (vs. 31) and more importantly she is praised by her children and husband (vs. 28).  But what is most surprising about this “super woman” is that she laughs at the days to come.  Her heart is light because she fears the Lord (vs. 30).

My tendency is to fear rather than laugh at the future.  I do not know what changes may be in store for our country or personally for my life.  Rather than have a light heart, I sometimes have this vague disquiet about what lies ahead.  But when my heart is steadfast and trusting in His power and sovereignty, than I do not fear bad news (Ps. 112:7).  How much better to laugh at the future and fear God than to fear the future and laugh at the idea of God’s control!  He is directing it all and because that is true, I can be glad.

Thank you Lord, for Your loving control of my future!


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Mudslide!

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.”

The recent mudslides in California have been devastating!  The rainfall was short lived, but because of the lack of vegetation due to recent fires, whole hillsides were swept away.  At this writing, 17 are dead and 48 are missing.  The images of homes swallowed up in mud are heartbreaking.  I do wonder why some people did not heed the ample warnings and evacuate.  I am sure there were  extenuating circumstances for some.  And  I can imagine that others had difficulty grasping the seriousness of the danger they faced.

Today’s verse describes the faith Noah demonstrated when he built that ark.  Although Noah was warned, it must have been difficult for him to believe in something that had never been seen before.  Yet, in faith, he heeded the warnings and obeyed God’s instructions.  Not only was he and his family saved from those rising waters, but he was saved spiritually as his faith was counted to him as righteousness (Romans 3:22).

What a loving gracious God He is!  He warns of danger and judgement.  He is not obliged to do so, but waits and pleads, not willing to see anyone perish but to come to Him for salvation (II Peter 3:9).  He is my “Savior” because I needed saving from the just punishment for my own wrong-doing.  Not only has He saved me for all eternity, but His commandments preserve my life here as well (Psalm 119:93).  His warnings keep me from needless heartbreak.  What a wonderful expression of His love for me!

Help me Lord, to listen for Your warnings and follow You today.


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Screaming Baby

Scripture for Today: Psalm 131:2 “But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.”

We had a young family with three children over for dinner.  Everything was calm, quiet and smooth.  Then something changed.  The two-month-old baby decided he was hungry and wanted his Mother.  The noise emitting from his mouth put all of our teeth on edge!  Gone were my impressions of a relaxed “chill” baby.  He wanted to nurse and he wanted to now!  His Mother could not move fast enough!

Today’s verse describes contentment.  One would think that the picture of contentment would be the nursing baby as he is immediately calmed and quiet.  But true contentment is the older child.  He stays close to his mother but he is not worried or agitated.  He knows from experience that his mother is there and aware.  He is peaceful and calm knowing she will meet his need.  His need does not overwhelm him and he can patiently wait.  There is confidence and trust instead of a lot of noise.

This definition of contentment recognizes needs and wants and even desires.  Regardless of my circumstances, there is no way I can live life without them.  There is so much more I want in my life and those desires may not be wrong at all.  Contentment is not the absence of desires but a desire for His presence and love over-riding them all.  At the end of the day, my contentment is not found in changed circumstances but in a Person.  I can calm and quiet myself too, knowing He is there and will meet my needs.  I can trust that He “gives unto each day what He deems best.”

Lord, help me to live that contentment today.

 

 

 

 


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Magic or Miracle?

Scripture for Today: Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You.”

Our grandson on his fourth birthday was front and center with that magician, mesmerized by the seemingly impossible feats performed.  Lately, he has been drawn to all things magic, including hats, capes and wands.  But the awe on all of their sweet faces was priceless.  These little boys were properly amazed but the parents were impressed as well with the slight of hand.  Who doesn’t like to be astonished by what looks to be impossible?

Today’s verse describes not magic, but the miraculous.  God’s power is evident in the creation of the heavens and the earth.  No tricks or slight of hand were needed, only His incredible outstretched arm.  The heavens and earth testify to His great miraculous power.  By seeing and appreciating His power in creation, we can be assured that absolutely nothing is too hard for Him!

I have evidence of God’s power all around me.  And yet, I am sometimes so accustomed to it that it no longer seems miraculous.  Sure the sun will rise tomorrow morning.  Of course, principles of gravity will continue to hold true.  However, everything that God does is miraculous.  Anything that is caused by the power of God is a “miracle.”  But when His miracles become commonplace to me, than I can find myself wondering if something could be too hard for Him.  I need to have that child-like wonder when seeing a caterpillar or gazing at the stars.  When I do then my faith grows as I realize that NOTHING is too hard for Him to accomplish in my life!

Lord, help me to trust that nothing is too hard for You.

 

 


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Changing Tack?

Scripture for Today: Psalm 25:9 “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.”

No.  I do not know these people either.  But I sense a kindred spirit in this woman who is prudently holding onto the boom.  When a boat tacks and changes direction, that boom quickly swings to the other side of the boat.  For the unaware, it means being knocked in the head if one is in its path.  I know this from experience!  The one changing direction would, in a perfect world, let his passengers know what he was doing.

Today’s verse reassures the believer that God has a plan for how we live our lives.  He is available to be our Guide and to teach us His way, which is always the best way!  All His ways are loving and faithful (verse 10) even if it seems that He is guiding us into waters that do not look so calm.  He is there and He is good.  But it is only the humble who can be guided.  When we confidently change tack or direction without His counsel, (James 4:13-16) we are likely to be in the way of that boom!

I am excited for this new calendar year, in fact so much so that I tore Christmas down a bit early!  But at the same time, I can be fearful of what changes may be in store.  There will be changes.  There always are.  He may change some of my directions.  But if I am humbly seeking Him and His guidance, I do not have to be surprised by that boom!  And I am reassured by who He is.  All His ways are loving and faithful!  I can be peaceful as I look ahead knowing that He is completely trustworthy!

Lord, I need You to guide me.


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The Nutcracker

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:8 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.”

For years I have enjoyed seeing the nutcracker in Europe, but now I am seeing more and more making their appearance in America for Christmas.  They have long been a symbol of good luck in Germany where they originated.  The early ones were in the shape of animals, birds and people in the 15th century.  By the 1800’s they were fashioned to represent and vilify unpopular leaders of the day.  Now, the most popular ones are the soldiers who benignly stand guard.   Their function as nutcrackers is almost forgotten!  But their purpose is to press that hard nut until it is crushed.

There is hard pressing in today’s verse but not crushing.  Paul goes on to say that there is persecution but not abandonment.   He is struck down but never destroyed.  Paul experienced tremendous pressure but his spirit was not crushed.  He did not crack.  He did not lose heart as he was convinced that the One who raised Jesus from the dead would also raise him (verse 14).  Despair does not have a chance as Paul is filled with hope, fixing his eyes on the unseen and eternal (verse 18).

Sadness does seem to press down on me and can feel overwhelming in the face of loss.  And like Paul says, it can be perplexing as I struggle with the questions of “why.”  But for me as a believer there is hope instead of despair.  There is God’s comfort and presence instead of abandonment.  He is especially close to those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).  What is unseen and eternal keeps me from feeling utterly crushed.

Thank you Lord, that Your birth at Christmas turns my despair into hope!