Devotions By Jan


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Cat Attack!

Scripture 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 may not be right.

Make my heart right today, Lord.

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


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O.D.D.

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

What changes a young person who is normally sweet and compliant into a defiant rebellious person?  The answer could be the mental disorder called, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or ODD.  It could be difficult diagnosing this as almost any child has his moments.  But this is something more.  It is a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance and even vindictiveness.  There is no clear cause but factors can include genetics or environment.  To avoid a lifetime of grief it’s best to have an accurate diagnosis and seek help from a professional.

Being easily provoked and dealing with anger issues is already a common problem for most.  Today’s verse tells us that this kind of anger is especially a problem for the fool.  A fool is described as one who does not believe in God (Psalm 53:1).  Without a relationship with our Creator we do not have the recourse of turning to Him for the self-control He gives (Gal. 5:22-23).  Belonging to the Lord does not mean we are never angry, but it does mean that we do not have to be characterized by it.  He is in the business of transforming us little by little to be like His Son (II Cor. 3:18).

My anger can be so destructive to myself and others.  Even when I feel it is justified, it does more harm than good.  I need His help to replace my anger at that slight I feel or at being overlooked or at that injustice.  I need His help to replace anger with His kindness, compassion and forgiveness.  His anger at my sin has been satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice.  If He can forgive me than I can show grace too.

Thank you Lord, that You calm my anger.


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Snowflakes

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

Did you know that some millennials are called “snowflakes?”  The reason for this derogatory term is that they have a reputation for melting down in the face of opinions with which they disagree.  Some believe they are special and unique (like a snowflake).  But more than that some believe that the world owes them because they have always been handed everything their whole lives.  The snowflake generation is thought to be self-obsessed and fragile, easily taking offense.  One example of this attitude is the banning of clapping at a meeting in case it caused trauma!

Rather than easily taking offense, today’s verse talks about overlooking it completely.  The one who lets that verbal jibe slide is the one who is taking the high road.  The intended insult and humiliation loses its impact when there is no response or biting reply.  That offense may have been unintended.  Sometimes, the offense is only a perceived one.  In any case, what was nasty or negative can actually work in one’s favor when responded to with wisdom and patience.

I wish I were not as sensitive as I am.  I wish those perceived hurts would slide right off my back.  Too often, I remember every word of a past insult.  How unlike the Lord!  Jesus did not take offense and quit when He was insulted, spit upon and mocked.  He went all the way to the cross and was glorified by the Father.  Any offense I face from others is so very small in comparison.  He wants me to overlook it with grace and forgiveness.  In doing so I am well viewed by others, but more importantly, He is glorified!

Lord, make me wise and patient enough to let it go.


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Naming Cockroaches

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.”

These cockroaches have a name; the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach.  But for those that keep them as pets, they probably have an additional name such as Bob or Linda.  However, for just two dollars you can name a cockroach at the Hemsley Conservation Centre near London for Valentine’s Day.  No, the cockroach is not the love of your life but the EX love of your life!  The first names will appear on a roach board next to the cockroach enclosure.  Participants who exact this revenge will receive a certificate and a half-price entry!

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.  Unfortunately, holding a grudge just keeps the memory alive and keeps the offender at arm’s length.

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.  But 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 relinquish my hurt to You.

 

 


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The Accordion

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” 

The music of an accordion is such a happy one, reminding me of street performers, dances, and festivals in France.  The buttonboard cannot be seen by the player so some buttons have a small depression so the player can navigate by feel.  The base-note buttons sound one or more notes in differing octaves.  The chord buttons emit a three-note chord when pressed.  This 120 button layout can seem confusing.  But the one thing each button has in common is that it needs to be pushed to be sounded.

Today’s verse is a warning about anger.  When someone “pushes our buttons,” it can have a predictable result.  We can be quickly provoked to anger with the right trigger, especially when there is a history with the one goading us.  Certain words, situations or reminders can rouse us to anger in an instant.  Unfortunately, it more often happens with those who are the closest to us.  But when we allow anger to settle down and take up residence, we risk becoming a fool.

Anger can sometimes be completely justified  But anger can also turn me into a fool if I let it linger (Eph. 4:26).  And I am to be slow to get to that point of anger if I want to be like Him (Ps. 103:8).  If I always react with anger at the mention of someone’s name, than anger is residing in my lap!  I need God’s Spirit to cultivate the same kind of love, compassion and forgiveness in my heart that the Lord has shown me.  That way, pushing my buttons will only produce something melodious!

Lord, make me slow to anger and quick to forgive.


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Blasphemy Law

Scripture for Today:  John 10:33 “‘We are not stoning You for any good work’, they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because You, a mere man, claim to be God.'”

Ireland just voted on a referendum to change a blasphemy law in their constitution.  It had been on the books since 1937.  The idea was to avoid causing offense to any religious group by showing disrespect.  Stephen Fry in 2017 came closest to being prosecuted when on a RTE program he said, “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain?”  Police dropped the matter when they were unable to find, “a substantial number of outraged people.”

Today’s verse has an accusation of blasphemy against Jesus.  These Jewish opponents understood very clearly that Jesus was presenting Himself as God when He said, “I and the Father are one.” (verse 30)  However, it is no blasphemy to speak truth, even when it does offend!  The word, “blasphemy” in the Old Testament is used for cursing, reviling or despising God.  In the New Testament it is expanded to include insults and unjust accusations towards others.  So in fact, in these verses, the only blasphemy spoken was on the part of His Jesus’ opponents unjustly accusing Him!

Reading horrible quotes like the one above makes me indignant.  It is not easy to read or hear blasphemy spoken about the Lord.  He is so dear to me that it hurts to hear His name maligned, misrepresented, and dragged through the dirt.  But it comforts me to know there is coming a day when EVERY knee will bow at His name (Phil. 2:10)  In the meantime, I want my attitude to be as gracious and forgiving as His was on the cross.

“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

 


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Digging in the Dirt

Scripture for Today:  Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;”

Roots are a good thing normally.  They are what support and sustain the plant.  But then there are those roots that support and sustain what is unwanted; those nasty weeds.  I can be quite proud of myself when I have cleared a large area of weeds in a short time.  But if I have not gone deeper, digging after those roots, then of course it all needs redoing very quickly.  Those roots are tenacious.  A weed can seem deceptively small but the root can go on and on.  There is a such satisfaction in getting to the hidden root and pulling it all up.

Today’s verse speaks of the damage that is done by a root of bitterness.  It can spring up out of nowhere.  It is a surprise when it surfaces as normally it is well hidden.  And of course, the longer it has been hidden below the surface, the longer and more entrenched it becomes!  The problem of an unforgiving spirit can seem like that deceptively small weed.  In pulling it out all seems resolved on the surface.  But the Holy Spirit wants to dig deeper and reveal the problem of bitterness underneath.

Digging hurts.  The conviction of the Spirit can be excruciating.  Oh, but the relief to have that long root pulled up and out!  There is freedom in having that bitterness eradicated.  Often, the offending party is not even aware.  But the whole process is heart wrenching as I give up the hurt and the any thought of revenge.  There is freedom in giving the whole mess over to the Lord.

Thank you Lord, that You can take that bitterness away.