Devotions By Jan


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Looking Up

Scripture for Today: Acts 1:11 “‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into Heaven.'”

Do you see what I see in these clouds?  A friend took this (thanks Kristen) and she did not even have to suggest what was there.  Facing to the left of the screen is what looks like a huge gorilla head.  She calls it a monkey blowing kisses!  Perhaps one has to use one’s imagination.  But I love looking up in the clouds and seeing different shapes and what they suggest.

Today’s verse was addressed to the disciples by two angels at the occasion of Christ returning to Heaven.  They had just seen Him taken up into the sky and then hidden by a cloud (verse 9).  These angels reassured them that He would be coming back, and in the same manner.  Somehow at Christ’s return, clouds will be involved.  Jesus Himself foretold that He would come on the “clouds of Heaven” (Matt. 26:64).  And one day, every eye will see Him coming with the clouds (Rev. 1:7).

Whether I see strange clouds or not, I want to keep looking up.  It is then that I am reminded of His faithfulness which reaches to the skies (Ps. 36:5).  That huge expanse of sky is His creation and nothing is too hard for Him.  He always keeps His word and I can trust Him.  What He says He will do, He will do.  When I see those clouds overhead, I want to say with firm conviction, “Maranatha,” the Lord is coming!  He has promised.

Lord, keep me looking up today.

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Magic Mushrooms

Scripture for Today: Romans 8:6 “The mind governed by the flesh is death – but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”

These mushrooms look innocent enough.  But the psilocybin in them can alter the mind just as LSD does.  A recent book by Michael Pollan explores the testing of psychedelics as a treatment for depression, fear and anxiety, especially as a result of a terminal cancer diagnosis.  He even went so far as to experiment on himself!  His conclusion was that these psychedelics appear to help with what he calls a “psycho-spiritual distress.”  He also believes that there really is nothing else for people in that situation.

Today’s verse talks about two states of mind.  One mind is governed by the flesh and one is governed by the Spirit of God.  The mind that is governed or controlled by the flesh is the mind without God and without the peace of God.  There is not only physical death but spiritual death in store.  In contrast, the mind governed by the Spirit is life both here and eternally after death because there is peace with God through His Son, Jesus.

I cannot speak personally about facing death.  And I do not want to minimize what that suffering may be like.  But it is often in the sobering moments facing one’s own mortality that there is a last chance for establishing peace with God through the forgiveness offered by His Son.  To take away that last opportunity by altering one’s state of mind seems cruel.  I know there is peace and assurance facing death.  I have seen it.  And when it is my turn, I am confident because He has promised a perfect peace for a mind that is steadfast, trusting in Him (Isaiah 26:3).

Thank you Lord, that I can live and die without fear.


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The Mandarin Duck

Scripture for Today: Matthew 19:5 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

The male species of this duck originating in China and Japan is considered the world’s most beautiful.  Pairs of these birds are sometimes given at the occasion of a marriage as they are symbols of fidelity.  The thought that these ducks promote love and marriage is a centuries-old idea.  Perhaps it came about as they swim in pairs so close together.  And they do return to the same mate in the next mating season rather than establishing a new bond.

Today’s verse is the answer Jesus gave to the Pharisees seeking to trap Him with questions on marriage.  He quotes what God established in the beginning in Genesis 2:24.  The step of marriage is to be a binding commitment.  The original and best plan for marriage is that it be exclusive and permanent.  One new flesh is created from two.  Tearing apart the two can cause excruciating pain.  The Lord in His love and compassion gives us the best plan to avoid that kind of pain.

God’s plan for marriage can seem restrictive to some.  But to give love the best chance to flower and last is within that safe place of total commitment.  It shows that we are serious to stay together.  The world says that one is somehow missing out.  But I know differently.  It is through many years of ups and downs, trials and joys that my love for my husband grows.  Short term love cannot even be compared to the depths of love that commitment can foster.  God’s plan, though sometimes difficult, is the best plan there is!

Thank you Lord, for creating the best opportunity to grow my love.


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Smallest Chameleon

Scripture for Today: James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

This little guy is thought to be the smallest chameleon ever discovered.  From the tip of his tail to his nose he measures just one inch!  He is found in Madagascar and this species is threatened with de-forestation.  He is too cute to disappear with his weird rotating eyes and curly tail.  He, like his bigger counterparts, can change his color pattern when under stress.

Today’s verse explains that not only is everything good in our lives a gift from our Heavenly Father, but He is a God that does not change.  With the Lord there is no changing or shifting shadows.  He is the same powerful miraculous God yesterday, today and forever!  (Hebrews 8:13)   He does not improve with age as He is perfect.  He does not change His plans for us as He already knows the end from the beginning.  We however, are constantly in a state of change.  Our circumstances change, our thinking changes and our abilities change with age.  Emotions change with the weather!

It is a comfort to know He does not change.  I feel an enormous sense of security in this assurance.  I do not serve a capricious God.  He will always be true to His word and to who He is.  I do not have to worry if He will be faithful or not, holy or not, just or not.  I can ALWAYS count on Him.  The fact that there is no shadow of turning with Him means that He is worthy of my trust and confidence tomorrow as well as today.

Thank you Lord, for being who You are and for always being true to Yourself!


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Asparagus Lady

Scripture for Today: Psalm 37:37 “Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.”

No, the “asparagus lady” is not pictured here.  The one I saw in a news piece is a woman living in England who calls herself the “asparamancer.”  She supposedly reads the future by tossing asparagus spears on the ground.  She makes 10-15 predictions every December by studying the pattern they make when tossed.  As ridiculous as it sounds, sometimes she is correct!  She has been right about Brexit, royal babies and the burst of the Bitcoin bubble.  I guess it is not any more far-fetched than reading tea leaves!

Today’s verse assures the believer of their future without the use of tea leaves, crystal balls or asparagus.  The future for the blameless and upright is not something to fear.  For those who seek peace the future is something positive to anticipate with confidence.  In contrast, those who are deceitful and have lots to hide may very well be nervous about what may come.  But for the individual who places their trust in the One who controls the future, there is no need to even know the details!

I am not so sure that I can always be called  blameless and upright.  I do not always seek peace when I hold a grudge.  Thankfully, because of what Christ accomplished on the cross, God looks at me through His righteousness.  And although it would be nice to know some details about what is to come, I already know what is most important through His love letter to me!  He has prepared for me what I cannot even imagine (I Cor. 2:9).  He has promised to never leave me, now or in the future.

Thank you Lord, that my tomorrows are all in Your loving hands!

 


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Ravenous Ravens

Scripture for Today: Luke 12:24 “Consider the ravens; They do not sow or reap. they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds.”

I don’t appreciate seagulls, but ravens even less so.  They are big, black, shaggy and noisy.  Recently their numbers have increased in California.  They prefer building their nests along sea cliffs, being close to the water and being near a variety of food sources.  When their territory overlaps with the seagull, it can get noisy!  In referring to a group of them, old expressions used the term, “unkindness” or “conspiracy” rather than a flock of ravens.  The raven is known for being intelligent and opportunistic in finding its food

Today’s verse talks about our God being a God who cares for His creation, including the ravens.  Birds do not need to plant for the coming season or hoard their food for the lean times to come.  Yet, they do not go hungry.  God cares for their short little insignificant lives.  By contrast we, being created in God’s image, are of so much more value to the Lord.  He is intimately involved in every little aspect of our lives.

I need to remind myself that God will take care of what I eat, what I drink, what I will wear and every other detail.  For Him it is just small stuff.  Those who do not belong to Him are consumed with these issues.  The food and fashion industries encourage us to “seek after these things.”  But as a believer, I want to have different priorities.  I want my mental energies to be spent on His Kingdom and what is of eternal value!  He has always provided all that I need.

Thank you Lord, that Your care shows me that You value me!


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False Ring Tones

Scripture for Today: Psalm 5:3 “In the morning, Lord You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly.”

Imagine, hearing that ring tone sound continuously even though you know your contact is there and waiting for your call.  How frustrating to have pre-arranged a conversation and no one picks up!  T-Mobile deceived millions of their customers by creating false ring tones.  They were used to make customers believe their calls were connecting when in fact they were not.  Rather than hear silence, they were hearing a misleading ringtone.  The company was fined 40 million dollars for this illegal practice.

Today’s verse is an encouragement that the Lord always hears our prayers.  Even when it seems there is only silence, He is there and He hears our every cry.  King David made it a practice to bring his requests to the Lord first thing in the morning.  The Lord knows the moment we are awake and open our eyes (Ps. 139:2).  He knows our thoughts before they are even voiced.  He is attentive and waiting for our thoughts and prayers to turn to Him.  David did not seem bothered by the silence that followed.  Not hearing the answers right away, he would wait with faith and expectation.

God’s silence does not mean that He does not hear or does not care.  His silence is so often the method He uses to grow my faith and trust.  I can “hear” His silence with peace and confidence knowing that He has heard my prayer and is working out His plan.  Like David, I can leave the burden of that request with Him and start my day with a lighter heart.  He is at work even when I do not see it.

Lord, help me to wait expectantly!