Devotions By Jan


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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.

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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.

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


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Table Runners

Scripture for Today: I Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

No one would know.  The damage to my table top and buffet is extensive as it dates back to the 1920’s.  I keep meaning to get it refinished but I know that each new move will add new nicks and scratches.  My solution is to cover over all the imperfections with table runners or table scarves.  I have quite a collection from all over the world and for every season.  The only way to see the problems would be to uncover the furniture to the light of day.

Today’s verse encourages the believer to love his brothers and sisters in Christ with a deep love.  Love covers over a multitude of sins.  And a deep love will require extending forgiveness.  This is a love that covers all wrongs suffered (Prov. 10:12).  Fostering this kind of love covers over an offense done to us, but repeating a matter can separate even close friends (Prov. 17:9).  This is no light-hearted superficial love.  For this, one has to dig down deep!  The hurt is still there and we bear the marks.  But we cover it with love and forgiveness. And in loving deeply, a relationship can be restored.

The only possible way to love in spite of hurts done to me is to look at what Christ did.  My sin hurt Him to the point of death.  He has the scars on His hands and side to prove it!  There is no deeper love than His for me.  If He could cover me with grace and forgiveness, than I need to do the same.  Surely, what has been done to me cannot compare to my sin and rebellion against Him.

Lord, help me to love others deeply and with forgiveness.

 


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Walled City

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 18:19 “A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.”

We see many of these walled villages in Alsace, France.  Pictured here is Eguisheim, one of our favorites.  Its cobblestone streets and beautiful flowers make for a pleasant walk.  The town is laid out in concentric circles, the outer most circle of homes forming a wall.  Charm oozes from these quaint 16th century homes as they not only house families but provide a line of defense from attack.  It would be difficult to scale the wall without attracting the attention of the home owners or their neighbors.

Today’s verse describes how difficult it is to win back someone who has been wronged.  He has put up an impenetrable wall around his heart.  His resolve not to be further wronged is like being barricaded behind the gates of a fortress.  Because of hurt and a deep sense of betrayal, he is as unyielding as stone and metal.  This proverb does not say it is impossible to win him back, but that getting past that natural self-protection will be very difficult.

It took nearly eighteen years to get back in the good graces of a brother who felt we had wronged him.  There have been countless attempts to scale that wall with numerous apologies and expressions of regret.  We would not have continued our efforts had we not cared for him so much.  Eventually, he felt that love and our sincerity.  Small cracks in the wall began to grow and now, our friendship is back on good footing and we are thankful!  Being forgiven was one thing.  Becoming close again was quite another and well worth the effort.

Thank you Lord, that because of You, healed relationships are possible!


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Silk Floss Tree

Scripture for Today:  Col. 3:12-13  “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else.  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.”

We have one of these silk floss trees growing right down the street from us.  Their blooms are beautiful and inviting, resembling the hibiscus.  And their pods are full of a cotton-like fiber that some use in making upholstery.  But their trunks and branches are covered with these thorn-like growths.  Some tree owners even put a barrier up so the passerby does not inadvertently knock into it.

Today’s verse reminded me of this tree.  A believer can seem pleasant and inviting by wearing mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and even patience.  But without the grace to bear with each other’s faults we become harsh.  Without forgiveness, we are like those prickly thorns and people keep their distance.  Our motivation to forgive others is the realization of how much the Lord has forgiven us.

Forgiveness has got to be one of the hardest things the Lord asks of me.  When I have been wronged, I feel it is my right to harbor ill will, at least until that person shows some remorse.  But letting go of the hurt seems nearly impossible until I am able to forgive the one who caused it.  True healing can only happen when I let that person off the hook, regardless of their attitude about it.  Jesus died for my sins while I was still His enemy (Romans 5:6-8).  If I am to forgive like He forgave, then I need to extend forgiveness whether deserved or not!

Lord, I need Your help to forgive.

 

 


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Counting Jelly Beans

Scripture for Today: Matthew 18: 21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”

It was pure guess work.  I tried being methodical as a prize would be awarded for this baby shower-party-game.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered trying to count the jelly beans in this jar.  But in fact, my counting left something to be desired as my total was way off.  Someone else walked away with the coveted prize.  I would have been happy to walk away with the jelly beans!

Today’s verse is about something we are not to count; how many times to forgive someone.  Peter perhaps felt he was being generous to suggest forgiving seven times as the current thinking among the Pharisees was three times.  That makes Jesus’ answer all the more surprising.  The idea was not to forgive seventy-seven times or even seventy times seven.  The idea is that forgiveness is not to be counted at all.  Forgiveness is to be immeasurable.

My memory is so faulty on some subjects but somehow, the memories of when and how I have been wronged are very clear.  Forgiving someone more than once for the same offense is also too easy to remember.  I have had to say to my husband, “I am sorry, forgive me,” countless times over almost 40 years of marriage.  And I have had to forgive him too, many times without number.  It is so difficult to “forgive from the heart” (verse 35) over and over again.  And yet, I cannot think of a better way to show true love.  This is exactly what the Lord has done in forgiving me countless times.

Thank you Lord, that You do not count.


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Silkworms

Scripture for Today: Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

We had the privilege of visiting a silk-making factory in Taiwan and seeing all those larvae in their cocoons.  The process has been around for almost 5 thousand years in China.  The resulting silk is not only beautiful but soft and silky to the touch.  But how strange to think it all starts with worm spit!  The unwrapping of each cocoon supplies one long strand of 1000 feet, three of which are needed for a single thread.  In fact, it takes 2,500 cocoons to make one pound of silk.  No wonder silk is thought to be such a luxury.

Today’s verse points out that believers, though being many, form one body.  Christ is our head and as the Church we are the body (I Cor. 12:12-13).  Just as there are many cocoons and strands of thread to make up silk, so we as Christ-followers form together just one entity.  This does not happen outside of the supernatural peace Christ gives.  When we allow that peace to rule and govern attitudes and actions, we can enjoy not only our unity but the beautiful results!

My little strand I add to the whole may not seem like anything.  On my own I do not amount to much.  But added together with all the other strands I become part of that one beautiful body giving glory to Jesus!  I am called to peace by the very One who provides it.  And that peace is a direct result of loving and forgiving others (verse 13-14).  Loving and forgiving can sometimes seem impossible, but “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” (Ps. 133:1)

Lord, help me live this peace.