Devotions By Jan


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Thorny Cactus

Scripture for Today:  II Corinthians 12:7 “….Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me.”

These thorns look wicked!  And they seem so innocent surrounded by those delicate yellow flowers.  The spiny surface of a  cactus plant seems incongruent with the fragile beauty of a flower petal.  For the unsuspecting, those thorns could be overlooked when reaching for the flowers and could inflict some real pain.

In today’s verse, Paul is describing a thorn in the flesh.  It was sent by Satan in order to torment him.  But in God’s hands it was used for a good purpose; to keep Paul from becoming conceited.  Paul had received some incredible visions and revelations from the Lord and the temptation was to boast and feel that he was better than others.  Some believe his thorn was a physical ailment.  Others believe it could be a person as enemies and neighbors are described as thorns (Numbers 33:55 and Ezekiel 28:24)

A relationship that has gone sour, a conflict that goes unresolved, or a family member that has no interest in reconciliation can all be like a thorn in the flesh.  But whether it is a broken relationship or a broken body, the pain and discomfort from those thorns are a constant reminder that I am weak.  Thankfully, He uses the thorns for good in my life as well.   It is through thorns that I discover that His grace is all I need (verse 9).  For me those beautiful flowers are evidence of Christ’s power resting on me despite my weakness!

Thank you Lord, that I can delight in Your strength regardless of the “thorns” in my life!


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Dandelion Seed

Scripture for Today: Psalm 66:16 “Come and hear all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me.”

Pictured here is the bane of anyone trying to grow their lawn!  I am sure my parents were not too thrilled with me when as a child I would blow on the dandelion seedhead!  After the dandelion flowers, the head, petals and stamen dry up and fall off.  The bracts curve backwards and a parachute ball opens into a sphere.  The mature seeds attach to white fluffy “parachutes”.  A bit of wind or the breath of a child is all that is needed to send the seeds flying!

Today’s verse encourages using our breath to tell of all God has done for us!  Just as the dandelion spreads its seed, so the believer can influence others to praise and worship the Lord.  But also like the dandelion, dispersing that seed comes after dying.  The believer has died and his life is now hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).  We no longer live for self but for Him (II Cor. 5:15).  And it is often after a strong wind of adversity that our praise and faithfulness to Christ is clearly seen.

I want to make a difference.  I want to leave a legacy.  I want to have an influence in this world for the Lord.  But the dying to self is the part that is oh so difficult.  The accolades and recognition of man are often times too important.  And that wind can be plenty uncomfortable.  However, it is my faithfulness to Him in the hard times that validates my faith and makes it credible to others.  Regardless of very negative circumstances, I can always tell others of His love and goodness.

Thank you Lord, for all You have done for me!

 


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Fading Flowers

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withers, the flower fades but the Word of our God shall stand forever.”

Flowers that fade are not uncommon.  It can happen when there is too much exposure to sun and heat.  A once vibrant color can fade after being pollinated, no longer needing its suitors.  But the flower can also fade from stress after being transplanted.  Flowers growing from bulbs, such as the daffodil, fade with age.  The hydrangeas in my garden in France would fade being sensitive to the acidity of the soil.  The writer, Robert Bridges, used this image of fading flowers to describe diminishing love.

Today’s verse uses the grass that withers and the flower that fades to illustrate how brief and temporary life is.  The green grass can spring up overnight after a good rain and blanket a hillside.  And just as quickly, the grass can wither in an unrelenting sun.  The flower can enjoy a stunning burst of color, but eventually fades.  What a contrast to God’s Word that never withers and never fades!  It is always true and never changing.

God’s Word is living and enduring, making my life full of vibrant color (I Peter 1:23).  Through His Word He has put in me seed that never dies.  In a winter of bare trees and dry grass, I know that in the spiritual realm it is always spring!  His Word refreshes and strengthens me (Ps. 119:28).  Nothing can ever happen to make it untrue, unreliable or irrelevant.  What God says brings me comfort and hope in the most dire situations.  His promises keep me strong and His reassurances give me courage.  I cannot even imagine life without His precious Word to help me live it!

Lord, keep me faithfully reading Your Word.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministries.


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Forget-Me-Nots

forget-me-notScripture for Today: Psalm 103:2 “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”

This sweet blue flower was described by Henry Thoreau as “unpretending” and “modest.”  Their name is said to come from an old German legend where God named all the plants.  But this tiny one cried out, “Forget me not, O Lord!”  So God replied, “That shall be your name.”  They are small being only one centimeter or less in diameter.  King Henry IV used this flower as a symbol during his exile in 1398.   And ladies in medieval times wore this flower as a sign of faithful love.

Today’s verse tells us to “forget not” all His benefits.  This passage goes on to list just a few including forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, compassion and satisfaction.  David is reminding his soul to praise the Lord for what He has done for him and to remember.  David knew of God’s ways with Moses and His miraculous deeds with the people of Israel.  He also experienced God’s grace in his own life.  But like so many of us, his soul was forgetful and needed reminding.

How could I forget these incredible benefits in my own life?  It is really very easy.  I forget His forgiveness when I am plagued with guilt.  I forget His healing when doubt clouds my prayers.  When I feel worthless I forget that He thought enough of me to redeem my soul.  I forget His love when I beat myself up.  When I wonder if He cares what I am going through I am forgetting His compassion.  I forget that only He satisfies the deepest longings of my soul when I look for that satisfaction elsewhere.

Lord, do not let me forget today.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministries.


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The California Poppy

Scripture for Today: Psalm 119:130 “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

What could be more breathtaking than a boring brown field suddenly coming to life with a vibrant carpet of red?  The spring rains in California change the landscape into a burst of color with the blooming of this state flower.  Not only is it beautiful but it has many uses.  Its leaves are used medicinally, its pollen cosmetically and its seeds are used in cooking. If you pick one, this simple fragile flower will lose its petals almost immediately.  And without the sun, the flower folds into itself each night or on a cloudy day.

Today’s verse is part of that very long psalm extolling the wonders of God’s Word.  His Word gives light and understanding, even to the simple.  The light of His statutes and commands allows us to be who we are meant to be.  Obeying Him and His way warms us and causes us to grow and be beautiful.  Without the light of understanding, we close up and shrivel.   When the clouds of darkness or disobedience block the warmth of His light, we suffer without even knowing why.

It takes faith and trust to obey Him.  Our way seems better and easier.  Certainly, life would be less complicated if a believer could just do as he pleases.  At least that is how we reason.  However, the more I compromise His standards, the darker my day becomes.  The light of His loving words and counsel to me fall on deaf ears as I close in on myself.  But when I choose obedience, despite the cost, then my spirit opens to a renewed closeness to His heart.

Lord, keep me in the light of Your Word!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministries.

 


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Super Bloom

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 61:3 “…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…”

This incredible “super bloom” in Southern California is breathtaking!  The once barren hillsides and scrub lands are bursting with color and people are descending in droves to experience the beauty.  After all the rain we have had, it is a welcome sight.  But in some areas there is an additional reason for this super bloom.  The wildflowers are especially spectacular in areas affected by the Woolsey fire where 97,000 acres were burned.  It is truly a “miracle of nature” to see the blackened ash-covered ground recover itself in vibrant color!

Today’s verse is a declaration of what God would do for the Israelites through His prophet, Isaiah.  He was to replace the ashes on their heads with a crown of beauty.  Those ashes were a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin, along with the sackcloth worn.  That itchy rough garment of despair over sin would be replaced with a garment of praise.  Joy would replace mourning.  God’s forgiveness changes everything!

I do not always feel much sorrow over my own sin.  But when I do, it can feel like a crushing weight.  Thankfully, He promises to be near the one who is brokenhearted over sin (Psalm 34:18).  His forgiveness turns my ashes into a crown of beauty!  When I humble myself and go to Him in confession, the black ugliness of sin disappears.  Despair over my past mistakes and failures is transformed into beautiful colorful praise for the new start He gives me!  He is faithful and just to forgive every single time!

Thank you Lord, for turning my ashes into beauty!

 


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The Amaryllis

Scripture for Today:  Revelation 3:17 “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

I love the burst of vibrant red color in the amaryllis.  The color is especially surprising as it can bloom indoors in the middle of a dark cold winter.  Each bulb produces 2-12 funnel-shaped flowers.  This flower goes by many names; Belladonna Lily, Jersey Lily. March Lily and Easter Lily.  But the Amaryllis is not directly related to the lily even though it is shaped like one.  Because of its long leafless stems, it is commonly called, “Naked Lady.”

Today’s verse talks about a nakedness that is spiritual.  What is so sad is that the person described does not realize his nakedness, nor his poverty or blindness.  Being wealthy has caused this person to feel self-sufficient and not in need of anything.  But Christ proposes a remedy.  Along with salve for the eyes to restore spiritual sight and true eternal riches, Christ gives us white clothes to cover our nakedness (verse 18).  Those white clothes are a symbol of His righteousness obtained for us.

I may stand proud and colorful like the Amaryllis, but in fact, I am poor, blind and naked without the Lord.  My pride keeps me from realizing my need.  As a matter of fact, the word “Amaryllis” means pride!  And instead of answering His knock (verse 20) I mistakenly think I am fine on my own.  I need to let go of of my pride and denial so I can open the door to His knock.  I am so grateful that He waits there, ready to forgive and begin anew an amazing love relationship!

Lord, may I always realize my need and open the door to You.