Devotions By Jan


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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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Sheltering in Place

Scripture for Today: Psalm 91:1-2 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.'”

A new phrase has crept into our everyday vocabulary in the wake of this nasty worldwide virus; “shelter in place.”  The idea is to limit exposure and to slow the spread of what for some can be fatal.  This is new territory and the questions and challenges can seem overwhelming.  Cabin fever, FOMO or fear of missing out, and fear of possible financial challenges to come can all create a pervading sense of unease.  That loss of connection is especially unnerving.

Today’s verse is a promise of rest from the anxieties of this unique time.  When we make the Most High our shelter we find rest in His presence.  Rather than trust in four walls, self-isolation, or the government, we can trust in God’s reassuring presence.  This is not just a place to drop in but to dwell.  Sheltering in this place gives the rest and peace so needed in the face of the unknown.  The best four walls around me are His care, His compassion, His comfort, and His control.

The best part of sheltering in His presence is that this can happen anywhere!  For now, my world has become so much smaller, but He has not!  His peace guards my heart and my mind (Phil. 4:7) regardless of where I am.  I never want to leave the shelter of His presence.  Nearer Still Nearer’s lyrics from 1898 say it best.  “Fold me, oh, fold me close to Thy breast. Shelter me safe in that ‘haven of rest.'”

Thank you, Lord, for being my shelter and my rest.

 


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The Armadillo

Scripture for Today: I Peter 5:9 “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Hello little armored one!  That is what the armadillo’s name means in Spanish.  Of the twenty-one species, the smallest is the Pink Fairy at six inches and the largest is the Giant at five feet.  However, it is not the size but the number of bands that separates the species.  Rather than flee the enemy, this guy quickly digs in the dirt, hunkers down, and trusts the overlapping plates covering his back, legs and tail to protect him.

Today’s verse counsels the believer to resist the devil.  Rather than flee, we stand firm in the faith, trusting in our spiritual armor (Eph. 6:10-18)  We can stand our ground (verse 13) by believing truth rather than believing his lies.  We can trust in God’s righteousness given to us rather than allowing the devil to paralyze us with guilt.  We not only stand our ground but take new ground by sharing His Gospel of peace.  Our unshakeable faith and our confidence in His salvation grows when we fill our minds and hearts with His Word.

It is a comfort for me to know that the struggles I have are not unique.  Believers all over the world are facing some of the same temptations and tests.  And I can have confidence that the Lord has given me everything needed to stand firm in the face of spiritual attack.  There is no reason to fear.  Christ has already secured the victory for me on that cross.  When I am submitted to God, I can resist any of the devil’s ploys and he is the one who flees! (James 4:7)

Thank you Lord, for Your priceless protection!

 


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The Chuckwalla

Scripture for Today: Psalm 27:5 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

I had never heard of a chuckwalla until it was spotted and photographed by a family member in an arid rocky area of Arizona.  They can weigh up to two pounds, measure up to sixteen inches and live as long as twenty five years!  But what is most surprising is the way they escape predators.  They dodge into the crevice of a rock and inflate themselves with air!  This wedges them in so firmly that it is nearly impossible to remove them!

Today’s verse describes our God as a rock.  He provides refuge, protection and the strength of our salvation.  When we feel threatened or vulnerable, we can run to the permanence of this Rock.  His strength and protection are constant and constantly available.  It is a place that is safe when we feel under attack.  In the crevice of this rock we not only catch our breath, but are filled with His Spirit in this place of refreshment.

Sometimes it takes a crisis for me to realize that I am far away from my Rock.  When life is smooth I can be lulled into thinking that there is no danger.  Self sufficiency begins to subtly influence my thinking.  But even when I do sense any kind of threat, I am ashamed to admit that my first reaction is not always to run to my Rock.  But it is no weakness to run to His strength.  He invites me to firmly wedge myself in and enjoy His love and protection!  In the crevice of this rock, I will not be moved or removed!

Lord, be my Rock today.

 


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Swaying Bridge

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 16:13  “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”

This rope bridge cannot help but sway with the way it is suspended.  There are plenty of supports to hang on to while crossing over it but there is no avoiding its side-to-side movement.  It may seem like this bridge in Borneo is attached to that nearby tree, but in fact it stands a few feet from it.  Looking down would probably not be helpful!  But you could bet that I would be alert and wary of my steps.

Today’s verse almost sounds like a pep talk!  Paul is ending his letter with some personal requests but includes this charge to stand firm in the faith.  We stand firm by being alert and on our guard.  We stand firm by being courageous and strong.    One can be lulled by a false security in the routine.  We can become inattentive and just not paying attention.  But we are to be watchful that our faith is not destabilized by the hard times that can surprise us.

For what am I to be watching?  The answer could be anything that weakens my faith.  It could be worry over a family member or a health problem.  It could be financial concerns.  It could be loss of a loved one.  Everyday has the potential to weaken faith.  It is a temptation to think God does not care.  I can begin to doubt His love or His goodness.  Instead of standing firm, I begin to sway.  But thankfully, when that happens, the Lord reaches out His arm to steady me!  His help is what gives me courage and strength!

Thank you, Lord, for helping me stand firm!

photo credit Shankar S. at https://flickr.com/photos/77742560@N06/11968508036.


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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.