Devotions By Jan


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Holding a Grudge

Scripture for Today: Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

They say that cats do not hold grudges.  There is supposed to be some other reasonable explanation for their behavior.  However, when returning from a trip, it would always take our Tiger a bit of time to warm back up to us.  He would hold himself aloof and look at us sideways as if to say, “Where have you been and how dare you leave me?”  After a few rebuffed overtures he would eventually be his loving self again.

Today’s verse can be convicting.  It is repeated throughout Scripture that we are not to take revenge (Romans 12:19).  That job is done much better by the Lord who sees hearts and is righteous.  However, holding a grudge is something that we feel entitled to do, reminding ourselves that it is not OK what was done to us.  Holding a grudge keeps the memory alive and keeps the offender at arm’s length.  But love is impossible without true forgiveness.

So often, the guilty one is unaware of that unforgiving spirit I harbor.  It certainly does nothing to him.  The pain I continue to feel becomes self-inflicted and can become more important than the original offense.  Still, it is hard to let it go.  To forgive and forget seems as if I am letting that person get away with something.  The closer the offender is to me the deeper the wound.  It is impossible to forgive and let go without the Lord.  Because He forgives me and does not hold a grudge, He empowers me to do the same.  It can only happen as I continually give it to Him.

Lord, help me to forgive like You do.

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


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Pregnant Male

Scripture for Today: Galatians 6:2  “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

This couple is unlike any other in nature.  It is the male sea-horse who carries the eggs for the female!  The female will deposit her eggs in a special pouch he carries.  There, he fertilizes the eggs with his sperm, and carries them for two to four weeks until he gives birth.  Their babies are called “fry” and there can be as many as 1000 at a time  The female has it easy.  Her part is to swim up to the male each morning during gestation  and give him a special greeting!

Today’s verse talks about helping each other to carry their burdens.  Doing so fulfills the law of Christ which is to love one another.  These burdens are the unfortunate result of our sin (verse 1).  They are different from His  burden which is light (Matt.11:30).  Rather than look askance at the one fallen in sin thinking we would never do that, we are to do all we can to lift him up and lighten his burden.  We all carry around the memories of past failures.  Understanding how the Lord has forgiven us helps us extend that same grace.  In love, we want to help with words of encouragement and affirmation.

It costs me something to help carry the burden of another.  It means that I take time out to pray, give godly counsel and practical help.  It might mean hours on the phone.  Sin can complicate a life.  The consequences can be very burdensome with broken relationships and poor self-image.  But that burden can be lighter when I come along side.  It is one of the best ways to show love!

Lord, help me be willing to carry another’s burden.


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Indebted

debt-collectionsScripture for Today: Matthew 6:11-12 “Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.”

Only 12 percent of Americans believe they will die in debt (according to a phone interview done by Princeton).  This is actually down from 21 percent a year ago!  Perhaps we are less concerned about “keeping up with the Joneses.”  It is great we are feeling more optimistic but the Federal Reserve tells another story.  According to them, credit card debt has been steadily rising over the last five years and is now close to one trillion!

Today’s verse is a familiar one being part of the Lord’s Prayer.  We are all indebted to the Lord for forgiving our sins and erasing the payment for them.  He forgave sin at great cost to Himself on that cross.  He took on Himself the awful payment sin deserves.  We could never pay it ourselves and if not for Him, would still carry the heavy burden of guilt.  Because the debt of our sin has been paid, we are to show that same forgiveness towards others who have wronged us.

If God were really to forgive me only as much as I forgive others, I would be in big trouble!  Thankfully, His forgiveness is based on His unconditional love.  The payment for my sins comes from His mercy and His grace.  But when I refuse to forgive the one who wronged me, I conveniently forget how much of a debt the Lord paid in my case!  Somehow, pride is at the root of my failure to forgive when thinking I deserve forgiveness, but they do not!

“Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe.”  Surely the price He paid for me was so much higher than any price I pay in forgiving others.

Lord, help me to forgive.


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Pot and Kettle

aroma-awk-115s-hot-h20-x-press-cordless-water-kettle2Scripture for Today: Matthew 7:3-4  “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own?

The black pot can be seen in the reflection of this shiny kettle.  The expression about the pot calling the kettle back is an old one, thought to be Spanish in origin and dating back to the 17th century.  The most common interpretation is that both the pot and the kettle are blackened by the sooty fire.  The pot has no business accusing the kettle when both are in the same predicament.  But another meaning is possible.  Only the pot is black and sooty from the fire.  The kettle, being placed only on the coals, remains bright and shiny.  What the pot is really seeing is a refection of itself!

Today’s verse shows us how ludicrous it is to reprimand someone while ignoring the same problem in ourselves and on a much larger scale.  It is silly to be overly concerned with a small fault in a fellow believer while unaware of one’s own bigger problem.  It is not that these verses discourage helping a brother see a weakness in a spirit of love.  But the passage goes on to say how important that self-examination is before the attempt.  Otherwise, one is rightly viewed as a hypocrite.

What is so convicting about this is that I am more sensitive to the very faults in others that I myself share.  I project on to others the problems with which I myself struggle!  What an uncomfortable thought!  I am so thankful for the clarity God brings and also His forgiveness!

Search my heart today. Lord.

 


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Angry Cat

angry-cat-13Scripture for Today: Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

It was always obvious when our Tiger was angry.  Like this cat, his eyes would dilate and his ears would lie flat.  That flicking tail did not mean he was any too happy.  And of course, the hissing, spitting and odd moaning sounds were a sure indication that he was ready to strike.  Sometimes his back would arch and his fur would stand on end.  At that point, I did not argue with him but just got out of there!

Today’s verse tells us just how important our feelings are.  The strong emotions we feel are the motor behind so much of what we do.  That is why it is so important to guard our hearts from emotions that fester, build, and boil over to hurt others or hurt ourselves.

Guarding our hearts is an intentional activity.  Like a soldier guarding an entrance, we can be disciplined and vigilant about what we allow ourselves to feel.  Rather than nursing a hurt, we can choose to let go and forgive.  Rather than feeling envious of others, we can choose to be thankful for what we have.  Instead of stoking the fires of our anger, we can seek reconciliation.  With the Spirit’s help, we do not have to be the victims of our emotions.  Our thoughts can turn to what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely and admirable (Phil.4:8).  Thinking on these things can guard our hearts from those negative emotions.

I do not share these warning signs with a cat.  But I have my own.  When sleep eludes me, when I cannot face that person or when my stomach is in knots, then I know my heart is not right.

Make my heart right today, Lord.


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Tattoos

broken-heart-tattoos-ideas-470x300Scripture for Today: Psalm 13:5 “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.”

There seems to be more and more tattoos used as a fashion statement, whether a small butterfly on a pretty ankle, or a skull and crossbones on a beefy arm.  I do not always understand what the message to be conveyed is.  But this one is clear.  In ancient times tattoos were used as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love or signs of religious belief.  They were used in ancient Egypt and have been found on female mummies dating back to 2000 BC.  The tattoo pictured I am guessing is on a female arm and it screams to the world, “I have been hurt,” or “Never again!”

Today’s verse is about trusting a love that will never fail.  The heart does not crack into pieces when held together by the Lord’s love.  His love never disappoints.  The Lord’s unfailing love is described as a breastplate, guarding our heart (I Thes. 5:8).   But like any piece of armor, we pick it up and put it on each day.  When we trust in that love, it keeps our hearts open and soft, instead of hardened and unreachable.  And if we are hurt by others, His love is there to bind up the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3).

My heart can rejoice in that love, regardless of what is happening in relationships around me.  He is constant.  His love for me is my sure foundation, making it possible for me to love again.  We love because He first loved us (I John 4:19).  Trusting in His love helps me to forgive and move on.  Trusting in His love heals the hurts and makes me whole again.

Lord, how amazing it is that You love me!  Help me believe it today.

 


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Broken Record

broken-recordScripture for Today: Luke 17:4 “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

The phrase, ‘sounding like a broken record,’ probably has lost much of its meaning with the demise of vinyl records.  Of course, the record was not really broken when a word or phrase of a song repeated itself over and over.  It was usually a scratch or piece of debris causing the needle to get stuck.  But the phrase came to mean repeating one’s self.  This repetition devalues whatever is said, making it sound insincere.  The more one repeats one’s self, the more what is said sounds canned or contrived.

Today’s verse describes a similar scenario.  Someone who apologizes seven times within a twenty-four hour period loses credibility.  How could it not seem forced and artificial?  Yet, Jesus is saying that even so, we are to forgive.  Even more difficult is the idea that we are forgiving a brother or sister in the Lord (verse 3).  Our expectations of them are usually higher!  Jesus added to this challenge when He answered Peter’s question with the number 70×7 (Matt. 18:22).  The idea is that we are not even to count but always extend that forgiveness to those who ask.

What Jesus asks elicits the same response as that of His disciples, “Increase our faith!”  How else could I rise to this kind of challenge?  And yet, I so often ask the Lord to forgive me over and over, like that broken record.  And He does, every time.  He never withholds His pardon.  If He is so ready to give grace to me, then I need to extend that same grace to others.

Lord, help me to be as gracious to others as You are to me.