Devotions By Jan


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Thorny Cactus

Scripture for Today:  II Corinthians 12:7 “….Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me.”

These thorns look wicked!  And they seem so innocent surrounded by those delicate yellow flowers.  The spiny surface of a  cactus plant seems incongruent with the fragile beauty of a flower petal.  For the unsuspecting, those thorns could be overlooked when reaching for the flowers and could inflict some real pain.

In today’s verse, Paul is describing a thorn in the flesh.  It was sent by Satan in order to torment him.  But in God’s hands it was used for a good purpose; to keep Paul from becoming conceited.  Paul had received some incredible visions and revelations from the Lord and the temptation was to boast and feel that he was better than others.  Some believe his thorn was a physical ailment.  Others believe it could be a person as enemies and neighbors are described as thorns (Numbers 33:55 and Ezekiel 28:24)

A relationship that has gone sour, a conflict that goes unresolved, or a family member that has no interest in reconciliation can all be like a thorn in the flesh.  But whether it is a broken relationship or a broken body, the pain and discomfort from those thorns are a constant reminder that I am weak.  Thankfully, He uses the thorns for good in my life as well.   It is through thorns that I discover that His grace is all I need (verse 9).  For me those beautiful flowers are evidence of Christ’s power resting on me despite my weakness!

Thank you Lord, that I can delight in Your strength regardless of the “thorns” in my life!


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Kite Mishap

Scripture for Today: John 3:8 “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

I did not see the beginning of this kite mishap but I can just imagine it!  The wind this day was not so terribly strong but it was capricious.  The dangling string did nothing to help free it from the tree’s clutches and of course climbing the tree proved too difficult.  As far as I know, the kite is still there, victim to the wind’s change of direction.

Today’s verse likens the work of the Spirit to the wind.  Man has learned how to harness the power of the wind, but we still cannot control where it is coming from.  Man has no say in when it will arrive, how strong it will be or when it will abate.  In the same way, we cannot explain the movement of God’s Spirit but we do see the results.  We see His presence by the change affected in hearts and lives.

Just as I cannot control the wind, I cannot control God’s Spirit.  He is a Person, not just a force of nature.  I do not have the power to oblige Him to do anything.  He is God, and it would be presumptuous of me to think that I could control Him!  His power and how He chooses to use it is part of what makes Him God.  But I can be assured through His Word that His movements are not capricious but purposeful and good.  No, I do not control Him.  What I desire most is that His Spirit controls me.

Lord, may Your Spirit empower and direct me today.


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Christmas Colors

Scripture for Today: Psalm 108:4-5 “For great is Your love, higher than the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth.”

Credit to G. Lombardi https://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1147a/

The Christmas season is all about the red and green.  Anytime I wear these two colors during the year I may hear the comment that I am wearing Christmas colors.  Nature has no such seasonal restrictions!  Red and green are part of the skies as seen in this photo of the “green flash” at sunset.  It is a rare event that few have the privilege of seeing.  This flash of green above the upper rim of the sun’s disk only lasts a few seconds.  Refraction bends the light, the atmosphere working like a weak prism.  I look for it but have yet to see this colorful display.

Today’s verse exalts and praises God for His love, faithfulness and glory.  They are seen in the beauty of the heavens.  From all over the earth one can look up and see His glory in the expanse and resplendence of the sky!  The red and green sky is one more reminder of His faithfulness at Christmas time.  He was faithful to His promise to send salvation in the person of Jesus.  He proved His love in putting on flesh to walk among us.  Jesus is now exalted to the highest place at the right hand of God (Acts 5:31 and Phil. 2:9).  He is higher than the heavens!

His faithful love was shown all over the skies, in the star of Bethlehem and in the appearance of the angels.  He continues to remind me when I am not feeling it.  He lifts my head to look up!  He is faithful and He is love.

Lord, remind me again today.

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2017.)


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Electric Eel

Scripture for Today: II Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”

You may be shocked to learn that an electric eel much like this one has been delighting spectators at an aquarium in Tennessee!  He even has a name, Miguel Watson.  A system was connected to his tank that enables his shocks to power a strand of lights on a nearby Christmas tree!  When trying to find food Miguel will emit low-voltage blips that cause a rapid dim blinking of lights.  But when he is actually eating or gets excited he releases higher-voltage shocks that result in bigger flashes!

Today’s verse talks about the divine power that God uses to give the believer everything needed to live a godly life.  His power creates a life that man cannot achieve on his own.  Godliness means to resemble Him and it can only happen through our knowledge of Him.  His power enables us to have faith, goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, affection and love (verses 6-7).  And when these qualities increase over time we become more effective and productive in our knowledge of Him (verse 8).

In looking at this list I am convinced that showing these qualities can only happen through His power!  Quite frankly, my light is sometimes just a dim flash.  Without being connected to His power I can do nothing (John 15: 5).  But when I am abiding and connecting with Him, He produces a godly life that not only pleases Him but is a light to others.  And just as the eel produces more power when eating and excited, I need to be feeding on God’s Word!  His Word motivates and encourages me to be more like Him.

Thank you Lord, for empowering me!

 


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The Redwood Tree

Scripture for Today:Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

How could anyone not be impressed with the mighty Coast Redwoods with their amazing height and longevity!  One would think that in the earthquake country where the Redwood grows they would be at risk to fall.  But they have developed a survival strategy when forced to lean due to shifting ground.  They are able to accelerate their growth on their downhill sides and so buttress themselves and remain standing!

Today’s verse talks about how we can grow and be strengthened in our faith.  We can accelerate our growth by being rooted and built up in HIm.  When we feel ourselves leaning because of shifting ground, we can shore ourselves up by being firmly planted in Him.  In a world that is constantly changing and shifting its norms and values, we can be built up by His unchanging Word.  Being rooted in the soil of fine-sounding arguments (verse 4) and deceptive philosophies (verse 8) will stunt our growth and make us unstable.

I will not grow strong and firmly planted when I read, see or listen to prevailing thought that discounts God and His Word.  I am surrounded by godless philosophy and it is a struggle to be intentional about what I allow to influence me. When I feel myself start to lean with shifting ground I want to grow my roots deeper.  I want to stand tall and firm.  I cannot do that without being buttressed by His truth in His Word.  He is my strength and if I lean at all I want to lean into Him!

Thank you Lord, that You strengthen my faith.


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Sticking My Neck Out

Scripture for Today: Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”

It is obvious how this Eastern Snake-Necked turtle got its name.  The neck on this common Australian turtle can be as long as his body!  When it feels threatened it can emit a strong musky liquid from the armpits and groin area.  Of course, its best protection is his shell.  But for this species, to fit that long neck into his carapace he has to bend his head sideways and make it go in sideways.  Retreating into his shell may take some extra maneuvering but worth the protection it gives.

Today’s verse talks about the Lord being our refuge in times of trouble.  He is good and He cares when we have stuck our necks out too far!  The refuge He offers is His presence and is always available.  There is no situation that is too difficult for Him regardless of how vulnerable and exposed we feel.  By hiding in Him we can wait out whatever is making us feel threatened.  He is our refuge, our fortress and our hiding place.  In His loving and protecting presence we can patiently wait out any pressure, stress or assault.  It is God who gives perseverance and encouragement (Rom.15:5).

I do not know what tomorrow may bring.  But I do know that He is already there and He will give me what I need to persevere.  At the first sign of trouble, He wants me to hide myself in Him.  He cares for me because I trust in Him.  He responds to my trust by being exactly what I need when the hard times come.  What a comfort that He is good and ready to hide me!

Thank you Lord, that You care.

 


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Little Grasshopper

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 40:22 “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

Of all the insects I can run into, I am the least threatened by the grasshopper.  Perhaps the delight of seeing them jumping in the grass when I was a child has stayed with me.  According to the Urban Dictionary, calling someone a “grasshopper,” is to refer to someone as a novice, a student, a subordinate or to someone who is just ignorant.  This use of the word was made popular by the Kung Fu television series in the seventies.  “Patience, my little grasshopper.”

Today’s verse refers to all of mankind as grasshoppers when compared to the God of the universe.  God’s creativity, His sovereignty and His incomparable power are so far above man’s experience and capabilities.  We are only small insignificant grasshoppers next to such greatness!  If God had not revealed Himself to us we could never have had any relationship with HIm.  There are no limits to His knowledge and understanding.  When communicating with us I can just imagine Him saying, “patience, my little grasshopper.”

How ludicrous of any “grasshopper” to say there is no God!  But even though I love Him and belong to Him I can act as though He is not there.  I get so busy jumping from one thing to the next that the whole day can pass without even a thought of Him.  Yes, He sits enthroned above but He is also intimately involved in every detail of my puny insignificant life!  His love and faithfulness are as high as those heavens He spread out.  What an amazing thought that He could care for me!

Lord, thank you for loving this grasshopper!