Devotions By Jan


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Flying High

Scripture for Today: I John 4:18  “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

My grandson is flying high but his Nana has her heart in her throat even watching this scene!  There is absolute confidence here and no shred of fear.  My son-in-law is not about to let my little guy drop.  His arms are strong and he is ready to catch him no matter what.  My grandson has absolute confidence and trust, not only in his Daddy’s strength but also in his love.  I can just hear him calling out to go higher!

Today’s verse talks about a perfect love.  It is described as a love that drives out fear.  The one who struggles with fear of punishment does not have that complete and perfect love.  Because God showed His love by sending His Son to die in our place (verse 9-10) we can know and rely on the love God has for us (verse 16).  The punishment for sin has already taken place for those who place their faith in Christ.  Now, a loving relationship of absolute confidence is possible!

How awful it would be to try to love and serve the Lord out of fear of punishment!  That is not love at all but obligation and coercion.  But because He took the initiative and paid for my sin, I can enjoy a complete, undivided and sincere love for Him.  I am not weighed down with guilt and shame.  There is no doubt that He loves me and will catch me no matter what!  He has paid the price for my sin and guilt forever!  I am free to love Him completely with all of my being!

Thank you Lord, for love without fear.

 

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Immigrant Fruit

Scripture for Today:  Galatians 5:22-23a  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

I was surprised to learn that almost every food we eat is an “immigrant!”  The plant explorer or food spy, David Fairchild, introduced more than 200,000 exotic plants and crops to the USA over 37 years.  He traveled to over 50 countries bringing us apples from Kahzakstan, bananas from New Guinea, oranges and limes from China and new strains of avocados from Chili!

Today’s verse describes another kind of fruit which is not native or natural to us!  It is the fruit or evidence of the one who is filled with and walking by the Spirit of God.  The results of being in close communion with Him are evident in one’s behavior and attitude.  The fruit comes from Him and not from ourselves.  It is not natural to react to stress with calm confidence.  It is not even normal to respond with kindness to someone who intentionally hurts us!  To have deep seated joy in the midst of crisis is certainly other-worldly.

I have none of these qualities on my own, especially in tense stressed moments.  But as a believer the Spirit of God resides in me.  That means that I have the potential to respond with these beautiful characteristics when it does not seem natural.  When I see that they are lacking, it is not a matter of “self-help” but turning to Him for His help.  The more I confess my inadequacies and turn to Him, the more He responds with this beautiful fruit.  These qualities describe to perfection the One I serve.  He is slowly (some days very slowly) producing His character or image in me!

Lord, please show Your fruit in me today.


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House of Heads

Scripture for Today: Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

This is just one head on the facade of the “House of Heads” in Colmar, France.  He is surrounded by 105 other heads as neighbors.  This historical monument sits in the heart of the town’s walking section.  Built in 1609 for the mayor, this German renaissance-styled building has served several purposes over the years, including housing the city’s Wine Exchange.  It is now a high end hotel and restaurant.  But passing by all those heads has always given me the creeps!

Today’s verse is a prophecy concerning a particular head that will be crushed.  It is perhaps the first and biggest “spoiler” to the centuries-long story of man.  Yes, evil has had a temporary victory in messing with mankind, but Satan is only able to inflict a strike on the heel.  That pain that Jesus would later endure on the cross is minimal when compared to the crushed head, or fatal blow that the Deceiver will experience.  Satan’s destiny is the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10) and the final victory belongs to the Lord!

How gracious God is to give us the good news at the same time as the curse!  He wasted no time in announcing His promise of a Savior.  And from the very beginning He has established His plan of victory.  When I see evil seemingly gaining the upper hand, this reassures me.  His purposes will prevail.  He has promised.  I can have full confidence in His control and justice, regardless of my circumstances.  I am one whom He has redeemed and made His.  Whatever may happen, I am on the winning side!

Lord, keep me encouraged by looking toward Your final victory.


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Blooming Joshua Tree

Scripture for Today:  Psalms 28:2 “Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your Most holy Place.”

Looking like hands reaching up to the sky, the Joshua tree appears as if it praying!  This strange looking plant is native to the dry southwestern states but grows mostly in the Mojave Desert.  I have seen these odd looking trees but have never seen one in bloom.  They do not grow these white clusters every year as their appearance depends on the amount of rainfall.  Not only is rain a factor, but these flowers need a winter freeze before they will bloom!

Today’s verse is David’s cry for help in dealing with the wicked who surround him.  He lifts his hands for mercy, pleading with God not to turn a deaf ear or be silent (verse 1).  Like so many of the psalms written by David, it starts out with discouragement and even despair, but then finishes with praise!  What starts out as worry over God being silent, ends with recognition of His strength and salvation (verse 8).  David renews his trust and his heart even leaps for joy! (verse 7)

That beautiful cluster of blooms on the Joshua tree can only come after being frozen and seemingly dormant.  Many times, I feel as if life has stopped, waiting for that answer to prayer.  When the Lord answers, “wait,” to the cry of my heart, it seems as if He has turned a deaf ear.  But He is working.  I can trust that He has a plan even though I do not see it.  He wants me to remain quiet and calm as I anticipate His solution.  He can do so much more than I can ask or even imagine! (Eph. 3:20)

Lord, help me trust that You hear my cry.


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Fasting

Scripture for Today:  Mark 9:31 “…He (Jesus) said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him and after three days He will rise.'”

Whether for health or spiritual purposes, I have never been able to fast.  My tummy is so acidic that when too empty, it feels like it is eating itself!  But I know there are benefits so that I can at least like it in principle!  An article in the Telegraph quoted researchers who found that fasting can regenerate one’s entire immune system!  Apparently, fasting prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells in as little as three days.

Three days.  Today’s verse makes reference to three days, the most pivotal in all of human history.  Jesus predicts for His disciples exactly what will happen to Him.  They did not understand what Jesus was saying but were afraid to ask what He meant (verse 32).  For three days it would seem as though evil had won.  The very first to live a perfectly sinless life will be unjustly put to death.  But in three short days, He would rise from the dead and conquer death, not only for Himself, but for anyone who places their faith in Him and His sacrifice.

God keeps His promises.  I can absolutely trust that what He predicts He will bring to pass.  He is called, “Faithful and True” (Rev. 3:14).  Those three days of waiting must have been excruciating as Heaven held its breath.  The disciples felt defeated, not anticipating that earth shattering moment to come.  But Jesus proved that first Easter morning that He is God with power over life and death.  The power demonstrated in that single miraculous event has changed my life forever!

Thank you Lord, for conquering death forever!


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Easter Baskets

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 40:12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”

I can still remember the squeals of delight when distributing those Easter baskets to my kids!  I started with the oldest, much to the annoyance of my youngest.  The origin of Easter baskets is thought to be from a Catholic tradition in Poland and other eastern European countries.  Families would bring their Easter Sunday dinner to mass in a basket to have it blessed.  Of course, anything in the basket other than chocolate and jelly beans would be firmly rejected by children everywhere today!

Today’s verse describes the contents of one basket as being all the dust of the earth.  This poetic description of God’s mighty power asks rhetorical questions that can only have one response; no one.  No one but God could measure all the waters of the earth, or the breadth of the heavens.  No one but God is powerful enough to hold all the dust of the earth or weigh the mountains and hills.  If He can do all of this, than raising Jesus from the dead poses no challenge at all to the all-powerful One.

I serve a mighty powerful God who is not bound by the laws of nature that He Himself created.  And because He raised Christ from the dead, He raises me to new life as well.  I was dead in my sin (Col. 2:13) but God made me alive with Christ!  I can be truly alive only because He is!  “And life is worth the living just because He lives!”

He has risen.  He has risen indeed!

 

 


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Easter Bonnet Violets

Scripture for Today: II Thessalonians 1:11 “With this in mind we  constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.”

These beautiful clusters of fragrant violets reminded someone of an Easter bonnet to have given it this name!  These dainty deep purple flowers attract bees and butterflies with their strong fragrance of honey.  They flower very early in the spring and although they look delicate, they are quite hardy and frost resistant.

Today’s verse is in a passage that commends the believers for their growing faith and perseverance in the face of persecution and trials (verse 3-4).  Paul reassures them that God will deal with those that oppose them.  He prays that God will continue His work in them by making them worthy of His calling.  But what caught my attention was the reminder that it is God’s power that allows them to realize their desires for goodness and good deeds done in faith.  It does not matter how small and unimportant a believer may feel.  Appearances are deceiving because just as a delicate flower can resist frost, so the seemingly weak individual can resist and stand up under trial.

I know this is true because the Lord has been faithful to me time after time!  It is God’s power that works in me giving me unexpected resolve.  As a believer, I do not just survive but thrive because of His strength!  Like Paul, I can even look at my weaknesses as a positive thing (II Cor. 12:9) knowing that God’s power will be recognized!  As a result of His power, He fulfills my desire to live for Him a life that is significant!

Thank you Lord, for making me strong!