Devotions By Jan


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Roller Coaster

Scripture for Today: Romans 8:39 “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is no way I would ever ride this roller coaster at Carowinds Amusement Park in Charlotte, North Carolina!  For me the steep climb and abrupt drop does nothing to amuse!  Perhaps if the curve were flattened and the ride became slower I would enjoy it!  The phrase, “Flatten the curve” is the rally cry today to slow down the spread of this COVID virus.

Today’s verse speaks to highs and lows of a different sort.  There is no height that can separate us from God’s love in Christ.  Nor is there any depth that can do so.  His love is never in question no matter how dire circumstances become.  Nothing in creation can create a barrier to His constant and unconditional love.  Wherever we are on the spectrum of high or low, He is there and He is faithful.  If I were to go up to the heavens or go down in the depths, He is there (Ps. 139:8).  His love never fails.

Of course, I want to do my part to “flatten the curve.”  Slowing the growth of this virus through social distancing and hygienic measures is so important.  But at the same time I am confident of God’s loving control.  His love has not changed.  These circumstances are so bizarre and unique but they will not distance me from Him.  In fact, this slow down is giving me more opportunities to know and feel His love.  How reassuring it is to know that He holds me fast!  During uncertain times, I can always be certain of Him.

Thank you Lord, for Your constant love.

 

 


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Face Masks

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 30:5 “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”

Fashion statements show up in some of the unlikeliest places!  A seamstress friend in France is selling these face masks in a variety of materials.  Of course they do not give the same protection as the medical surgical masks.  But in an area of the world where the COVID virus is gaining momentum, they provide the wearer with at least a sense of security.  This little piece of whimsical material may not be any kind of guarantee.  But the one wearing it can hope to be a little more shielded.

Today’s verse describes the Lord as our shield.  He can be counted on and so can His Words!  Everything God has said and everything He has promised is true and worthy of our trust.  And taking refuge in Him is the best way to be shielded from whatever life can throw at us.  He provides His protection to those who run to Him for it.  There is confidence with this shield of divine control.  Nothing, no matter how small or how big can get through this barrier.

Nothing else can give me this kind of refuge.  I cannot count on the words of limited scientific discoveries.  I cannot count on the words of the media.  I cannot count on the words of the government.  But I can trust God’s Word.  I run to God to shield me from evil, from spiritual attack or the attack of an unseen virus.  His shield will not allow anything to touch me without His permission and without His using it as part of His plan.  What comfort in this thought, that I am shielded by the love and control of my Creator!

Shield me today, Lord.


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Bufflehead Duck

Scripture for today: Deuteronomy 6:5 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

This duck is remarkable with its beautiful colors!  The name of the Bufflehead was derived from “buffalo head” due the male’s odd puffy head shape.  But what interested me was his feeding habits.  He rarely feeds with only his head submerged but instead will completely submerge himself.  Many times a whole flock will all surface dive at the same time!  This energetic feeder is “all in.”

Today’s verse describes one who is all in!  God’s command did not allow for any half measures.  He wants a love that is total and complete with no holding back.  We are to love Him with ALL our heart, soul, and strength.  When Jesus cited this command He added “all your mind” as well (Mark 12:30).  This is a commitment like no other.  God’s commands are to be on our hearts and impressed on the next generation through living them everyday in the home (verses 6-9).  The love He wants is one that involves our entire being.

It is because He loves me that He wants all of me.  But to give the Lord my all is a life-long challenge.  It means trusting Him not to hurt or disappoint.  And to completely relinquish all of me to Him also means the giving up of my own control.  But He has the right to ask this of me.  He so loved and so proved His love for me by His sacrifice, that it is ludicrous for me to hold back anything!  And I find that when I can be “all in” there is a closeness and warmth unlike any human relationship!  It is worth the effort!

Lord, may my love for You involve my entire being.

 


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My Hamster

Scripture for Today: Psalm 31:7 “I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.”

This sweet hamster is called a “Dwarf Hamster.”  They are different from the larger more territorial ones as they are social and thrive in pairs.  That did not seem like reason enough to call the love of my life, my “hamster!”  But to my untrained ear, it seemed as if couples on French television were calling each other “hamster.”  In fact, they were saying, “âme soeur” meaning “soul sister” or loosely translated, “soulmate.”  But somehow it stuck and that is our English term of endearment in our marriage!

Today’s verse tells us there is Someone who knows our soul more than any lover could.  The Lord not only sees our physical afflictions but He goes deeper and He knows and understands the anguish of the soul.  Not knowing what to pray, His Spirit intercedes with wordless groans expressing our anguish (Romans 8:26).  The Lord sees and understands what we are feeling far better than we understand ourselves.  He knows when we are loving Him with all our soul (Deut. 13:3).  And in His love He knows when to restore and refresh our souls (Psalm 23:3).

I can trust this Lover of my soul.  He will never betray my confidences.  He will never renege on His promises.  What’s more, nothing in my soul shocks and dismays Him.  After all, He does not love my soul because it is worthy of love.  He loves me inspite of myself.  God not only shows me love, He IS love.  And it is a love that knows all the ugliness inside.  How amazing that He could love me!  And it is even more amazing that nothing will change that love.

Thank you, Lord, for being the Lover of my soul.

 

 


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Sunlamps

Scripture for Today: Psalm 84:11 “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

People are not the only ones to appreciate a sunlamp!  This meerkat is soaking up the heat from one on a cold January day at a British zoo!  I am not so sure what it does for him, but for people there are some real physical benefits from sitting under a sunlamp.  It even improves one’s mood.  The light affects our brains by increasing the production of serotonin, a hormone connected with feelings of happiness.

Today’s verse describes the Lord as our Sun.  His sunshine is in the form of grace, favor and mercy.  There is no danger of getting too much of His light.  His love warms us and makes us grow.  And like sunshine, He improves our mood too!  His kindness and favor are the blessings He pours out on the one who trusts Him (verse 12).  In His wisdom He gives exactly what is needed and withholds what is not good for us.

I cannot say that my walk is blameless.  Who can?  But because of Christ’s sacrifice for my sin, I am righteous in His sight.  Even so, there are clouds that block His warmth and blessing when I knowingly choose my way over His.  When I am struggling to trust Him, I am not feeling the warmth of His favor.  Thankfully, His love does not change.  Coming clean with Him breaks up those clouds of rebellion and once again, the warmth of His love breaks through!

Thank you, Lord, for the warmth You bring my soul.

photo credit: Kevin Walsh https://www.flickr.com/photos/86624586@N00/10196142


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Green Gold

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 12:11 “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

No wonder the pistachio is referred to by the name, “green gold.”  This nut is prized not only for its taste but appreciated for all the intensive labor needed to harvest it!  It is true that the partially-opened shells are hard and sometimes uncooperative, but at harvest time there is also a hull that needs to be removed from the seed.  Some small growers put the pistachios in a sack and roll it around with their feet to loosen that hull!

Today’s verse speaks of the fruit of righteousness and peace.  It comes as a result of painful discipline.  Every believer goes through it from time to time.  The Lord disciplines those He loves.  And He does it for our good so that we can share in His holiness (Heb. 12:6 &10).  We can be sure that He is not exacting punishment as He took that on Himself at the cross.  But discipline is proof that He loves us and that we belong to Him (Heb. 12:8).  Out of love He uses it to correct and teach.  Nevertheless, it hurts.

Tumbling around in that sack, I can trust Him that He knows what it will take for me to have this fruit.  It is such a long process of removing that “hull” of sin.   And I do not want to prolong it further by not responding the way He intends.  I want to be “trained by it” and see the good result.  When He uses the hard times to mature me and produce fruit, He also graciously reassures me of His love.

Thank you Lord, that You love me enough to discipline me.

 


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Reply or Reply All

Scripture for Today: Romans 11:4 “And what was God’s answer to him? (Elijah) ‘I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.'”

In my haste, I have sometimes made the mistake of hitting that “reply all” button on a group email.  Many times it can be appropriate to reply to all.  Normally, it is not a problem but there are times when I want my response to be very personal.  One of my pet peeves is reading responses sent to the whole group when it does not involve me or concern me.

Today’s verse is a very specific answer to a discouraged cry for help.  Elijah ran for his life after death threats from Queen Jezebel.  Strengthened and encouraged with rest and food provided by an angel, he continued to put distance between himself and the threat, traveling 40 days and nights.  Elijah felt totally alone, spent and discouraged.  The Lord never reprimanded him for feeling this way.  The answer to his prayer spoke directly to his need.  Elijah was told to anoint Elisha to help and was told of seven thousand who like Elijah were faithful to God!  He was not alone.

This is no “reply all” response from God.  It was an intensely personal reply.  God’s answer to Elijah was for a certain time and place.  But I learn from it that He hears the individual prayer and provides a specific answer.  And He does the same for me.  He knows exactly what I am feeling and why.  I may not even be able to articulate my need but the Holy Spirit intercedes for me with wordless groans (Romans 8:26).  As my Creator He sees and understands my heart.  When I cry out to Him, He answers with exactly what I need.

Thank you Lord, for Your very personal replies.