Devotions By Jan

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Chocolate Joy!

Scripture for Today: Nehemiah 8:10 “Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”

Growing up in France, it was always a big deal for our children to buy and enjoy the Kinder Eggs.  This simple chocolate treat had a toy inside within a plastic shell.  The “surprise” was always very simple and quickly forgotten, but it was always good for a few brief moments of joy.  I am more familiar with the Kinder egg being labelled “Kinder Surprise” rather than “Joy.”

Today’s verse encourages the Israelites to enjoy food and drink and to celebrate the reading of the Book of the Law of Moses.  After years of exile, they had come back to their homeland.  And after years of exile, they were hearing the word of the Lord, some of them for the first time ever.  They were overcome with grief and were weeping as they listened.  But the joy of the Lord was the order of the day!  Continuing their mourning would only sap their strength.  Instead of grieving they were to celebrate God’s love and instruction.

There is a time to mourn and weep when facing God’s convicting word.  He is close to those who are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit for their sin. (Psalm 34:18)  But there is joy when I feel His forgiveness wash over me!  The realization of his unconditional love and grace wipes those tears and gives me new resolve.  I am energized and strengthened when His joy lifts me off my knees.

Thank you Lord, that you turn mourning into gladness (Jer. 31:13) and exchange my sorrow for Your comfort and joy!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)

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Water Lily

Scripture for Today: Psalm 19:8 “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

Water lilies fascinate me!  Their beautiful white and pink flowers look as if they bloom effortlessly as they serenely  float on the surface of the water.  They can be seen on lakes or ponds whose waters are still, and they can root up to seven feet deep.  If left undisturbed they can cover hundreds of acres of water.  Because they float, they access the sunlight unhindered by taller plant species.  Their leaves lie flat on the water soaking up all that light.  The result is beautiful!

Today’s verse tells us that the commands of the Lord are radiant.  They give all the light needed to grow and thrive in life.  His commands refresh the soul and make simple people wise (verse 7).  They give joy to the heart.  Each and every direction God gives is right and completely trustworthy.  Obeying His laws makes our lives beautiful.

I do not normally think of rules and regulations as a source of joy.  But just as a child can feel unloved and neglected without parental boundaries, so we too can feel as if God does not care if He had not given us His commands.  They are a sign of His love.  He cares that I succeed in life and He has shown me how.  His commands and precepts are designed with my welfare in mind, not to limit me or restrict my freedom.  They can give joy to my heart when I see them as proof of His tenderness and care.

Lord, keep me in the still water, soaking up the light of Your presence today!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)

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Under Armour Brand

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 6:13 “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

The Under Armour brand name was more a result of trial and error in the search for trademark approval than anything else.  The founder of the company stumbled on the name through an off-hand comment from his brother.  But the name makes sense as the first products making this business successful were the undershirts made of material that wicked away moisture from the skin.

Today’s verse describes an armor that protects us from something much more important than a little sweat.  This armor cannot possibly be hidden under our clothes as we are told to stand firm and ready for attack.  Not only is it to be visible to others but easily accessible when needed.  This is spiritual armor for our struggle against what we cannot see (vs. 12).  It helps us to stand against the devil’s schemes (vs.11).  With it in place we are strong, not in ourselves but in His mighty power (vs 10).  We as believers never need to fear any evil day as He has given us the ultimate victory in Christ Jesus (I Cor. 15:57).

What an encouragement to know that I am not without defense!  Against the Father of lies I am on the side of Truth.  I can stand firm in His righteousness against the accusations of the enemy.  My faith protects my heart from wavering and doubt.  My salvation is secure because of Him.  God’s Word will defeat the enemy every time.  And He has even given me the privilege of brokering peace through the Gospel!

Thank you Lord, that sin will not win and evil will not prevail!!

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Satisfaction Guaranteed?

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 55:2 “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

It happened again.  A news report described the chagrin of a customer buying online what she thought was a great deal on a chair.  The chair looked study enough being made of wood.  And at 5$ what could go wrong?  Apparently, she did not read the fine print describing the dimensions of what was in fact a dollhouse item.  She could have sent it back for reimbursement but instead kept it on her desk as a reminder to always read the fine print!

Today’s verse could be like that fine print that we forget to heed.  Satisfaction is not guaranteed for any of our purchases except for bread.  Bread here is a symbol for what is daily essential for life.  Jesus declared Himself the “bread of life” (John 6:35).  He satisfies the hunger of our souls and He does this daily.  Trying to find that satisfaction in anything else just does not work!  But listening to Him and His Word is a food worth any price.  And what is so amazing is that we are invited to come and buy without money and without cost! (vs. 1)

I often do not recognize my hunger.  There are days when I am soul sick because I am feeding on what does not satisfy.  Those fancy pastries the world offers are a big distraction.  But instead of feeling full and satisfied, I am left feeling a little queasy.  However when I go to Jesus, He more than satisfies what my soul craves.  He offers Himself: His love, His peace, His joy.

Thank you Lord, that You satisfy!

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Hungry Bear

Scripture for Today: I Peter 2:2-3 “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

The news recently reported on this would-be-intruder.  The voracious appetite of this bear pushed him to try all the windows and doors of this home in Avon, Connecticut.  He must have smelled the brownies baking inside, but thankfully was unable to gain entry!  While hibernating he felt no hunger or thirst, but as soon as he emerges from his den, his craving for food is all-consuming!  And no wonder after losing up to 33% of his body weight!

Today’s verse speaks of another kind of craving.  Just as newborn babies crave milk, the believer is to feel that same pressing need for God’s Word.  Before placing our faith in Christ, our souls feel no hunger or thirst for spiritual things.  But when coming to Christ we come out of that hibernation and stupor with an appetite!  We have tasted how good the Lord is and nothing else will satisfy!  The milk represents basic truths.  After growing on this the believer moves on to the solid food of teaching on righteousness (Hebrews 5:13-14).  With solid food we can better distinguish good from evil.

The less I avail myself of God’s Word, the more I feel like a hibernating bear.  It is so easy for me to slip into that comfortable non-challenging stupor.  God’s Word awakens me and keeps me sober and alert (I Thes. 5:6).  Reading His love letter to me keeps me craving more.  The more I read and study, the more I can taste His goodness in my life!  And conversely, the less I am into His Word, the less I feel His presence.

Lord, create in me a craving for Your Word today.

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Cripple Creek

Scripture for Today: Luke 8:14 “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they did not mature.”

What a funny name for a town!  Cripple Creek in Colorado used to be a thriving gold camp producing more than four million dollars in gold.  At its zenith Cripple Creek boasted over 35,000 inhabitants.  Now, despite the eighteen casinos built in the nineties, the population has dwindled to only 1,500.  This historical site attracts tourists with its gold mine tours and guided train rides.  But how sad it is to see the clusters of empty buildings, deserted homes and abandoned mines.

Today’s verse describes the growth of a seed being choked by thorns.  These thorns represent life’s worries, riches and pleasures.  What started out with anticipation and optimism ended with disappointment.  There was promise of growth with a small seedling, but the thorns took over and choked out any life.  The one who hears God’s Word is that seed, but he is distracted by the cares and anxieties of everyday living.  He abandons any thought of God and instead makes riches and pleasure his priority.  Before long, that growth and potential is crippled.

I understand that hearing God’s Word makes me grow.  But I am so easily distracted from actually sitting down to listen, read and study.  There is always something else I could be doing.  However, the biggest danger for me is feeling self-sufficient with a comfortable easy life, forgetting my need to hear from Him.  I become too busy maintaining all that I have accumulated.  And the busier I am with an active social life, the easier it is to ignore what feeds my soul!

Lord, keep me in Your Word, thriving and growing.

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Scripture for Today: Numbers 15:39 “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.”

It seems an odd thing to do; trying a string around one’s finger so as to remember something later.  It is actually thought that your sense of touch on the index fingers are the ones with the quickest connections routed directly to the hippocampus, that part of the brain responsible for memory.  At least, I seem to remember reading something about this!

Today’s verse was a command from the Lord to the Israelites through Moses.  Tassels on their clothes were to serve as visual reminders to be obedient to God’s commands.  They were to be sewn on the corners of their garments and have a blue thread.  It makes sense that all thoughts of obedience to God’s standards can quickly slip the mind while experiencing strong temptation!  Perhaps, seeing those tassels served as a splash of cold water, reminding the Israelites of their commitment to God when enticed to chase after lustful acts or thoughts.

I need reminders every day of God’s holy and unchanging standards.  It is too easy for me to rationalize my thoughts and behavior when surrounded by a permissive culture.  I am constantly bombarded with different standards which are much more attractive and easy to follow.  Better than a string around my finger or a tassel, I have God’s Word to reorient my thinking.  Waiting until I am faced with temptation is not the time to be pulling out my Bible.  I need to hide His Word in my heart ahead of time in order to remain resolute (Ps. 119:11).

Lord, keep me obedient to You today.