Devotions By Jan


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Beet Juice

Scripture for Today: Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”

I am not a fan of beets but dutifully served them to my family.  Not only did I dislike the taste but the juice from them was always staining clothes.  Their juice is used as dye on some fabrics, but there is another use; de-icing roads!  Apparently, when mixed with road salt, the beet juice melts the snow more effectively.

Today’s verse likens our influence to salt.  Once salt loses its taste it does not have much effect.  It cannot be made salty again.  It is thrown out and trampled underfoot.  But even salt in the form of rock salt can have some effect, clearing the road.  God in His grace can redeem a life of mistakes and blunders and use it!  We are forgiven through His blood and sacrifice.  And like that red beet juice, His forgiveness can make something useful out of something thrown out and trampled.

After completely blowing it, we can feel that God can never use us again.  But nothing is further from the Truth.  We are walking examples of what forgiveness and grace can do.  Saltiness is not perfection.  Being salty is having the courage to admit our imperfections and openly sharing what God’s grace and forgiveness has done for us!  I am salt and light in the world, not because I am perfect but because I am forgiven!  I am grateful God uses flawed people.  And if He uses me at all, it is in spite of myself and He gets all the glory (verse 16).

Thank you Lord, for Your precious grace and forgiveness!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministries.


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Playing Possum

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”

This dog looks a bit confused.  The opossum is “playing dead,” a common behavior when stressed by an imminent attack.  A predator will leave this bizarre-looking marsupial alone when he sees it limp, drooling, stiff and exuding a smell of decay.  The state of shock producing this comatose state can last up to four hours!  The opossum is a peaceful creature intent on avoiding confrontation.  But “playing dead” presents other risks, especially when involving an approaching car!

Today’s verse explains that before being saved from the penalty of our sin, we were dead in our transgressions or sins.  It took the love and mercy of God Himself to quicken us and make us alive.  Being dead spiritually means that there is no possibility of any self-help.  Being dead means not even being able to respond.  Being dead, we cannot save ourselves.  And dead people cannot “earn points” with God.  What the Lord did to make us alive He did out of grace or unmerited favor.

I am so thankful that my Savior took the initiative to begin this relationship we have.  We love because He first loved us (I John 4:19).  I could not love Him first as I was dead in my sin.  I could not listen, feel or respond to His love.  In His incredible mercy He took pity on me.  He removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).  He has awakened me to a whole other dimension to life; the spiritual dimension.  Knowing Him and loving Him makes my life always worth the living!

Thank you Lord, for true life!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministries.


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Finders Keepers?

Scripture for Today: Romans 3:23-24 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Would you return a lost wallet?  That was the question researchers explored in a three-year study.  They placed 17,303 wallets with varying amounts of cash in 355 cities worldwide.  Besides the cash, each wallet had only a name and an email address.  Their findings were surprising.  More people returned the wallets with larger amounts than those with the smaller amounts!  One explanation given was that it felt more like stealing with the larger amounts of cash.  The conscience was not quite as bothered keeping the smaller amounts.

Today’s verse does not differentiate between “small” sins and large.  It does not address whether one feels like a sinner or not.  Just as the image is black and white, there are moral absolutes when it comes to God’s laws.  And the bad news is that all of humanity falls short of the perfect standards of a holy God.  But the good news is that the same “all” who blow it are offered His grace.  Because of the redemption that came through Christ, we can have right standing before God.

I am included in that first “all.”  But I cannot be included in the next “all” until I confess and come clean with Him.  My pride keeps me from admitting my guilt.  I am an expert at diminishing and rationalizing my behaviors and attitudes.  It is easy to do when I compare myself with some others and come out “smelling like a rose.”  But when I compare myself to His perfection, I no longer smell so good.  He waits for me to be honest and humble with Him about my wrongdoing.

Thank you Lord, for freely forgiving me.


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The Crucible

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so no one can boast.”

The new recruit to the Marine Corps cannot be called a “marine” until he successfully completes what is called the “Crucible.”  This is a 54 hour training event that includes 45 miles of marching, plus food and sleep deprivation.  It is a long grueling exercise that is designed to improve leadership, teamwork and communication.  As the Marine saying declares, being a marine is “Earned, Never Given.”

Today’s verse is in direct contrast to this idea.  The marine has bragging rights for his accomplishment.  The believer cannot claim to have earned passage to Heaven.  None of us can boast about having anything to do with it.  Salvation being a free gift does not come through our own work or effort.  No matter how hard one works to earn Heaven, man will always fall short of the perfect standard of God’s holiness.  It is only through His unmerited favor that we can be saved from the just punishment our sins deserve.  In every way, our salvation is Given, Not Earned!

What an amazing and freeing truth!  Were it not for this declaration of God’s grace, I would always wonder if I were good enough.  I would always be in a state of fear and worry about my eternal destination.  He wants me to put my faith and trust not on what I can do, but on what He accomplished on that cross.  The works He has created for me to do are not tied to salvation (verse 10).  Anything I do to please Him is done out of gratitude for His amazing grace!

Lord, thank you for lifting the burden of being good enough!

 


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Raise Your Hand!

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 5:21 “God made Him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.”

While watching the NBA playoffs I was surprised to see Australian Andrew Bogut of the Warriors raise his hand.  This gesture of acknowledging a foul used to be mandatory and is still used in European play.  It helps the officiating crew in recording the number of fouls.  However, today it is something completely voluntary and rarely done.  Sometimes a player will raise his hand to take the heat off a star player, confusing the officials and taking the foul for the other player!

Today’s verse has Jesus Christ raising His hand for us!  He had no sin of His own.  He was completely innocent of any wrongdoing.  Yet, He took our place.  He paid the price God’s holiness exacts for sin; the price of death (Romans 6:23).  He did this so that those who raise their hand to admit their guilt could be declared righteousness and in right standing with Him.  Not only are believers declared righteous through His eyes, but we are to “die to sin and live for righteousness” (I Peter 2:24).

I am no “star player” that He should take the foul for me!  I am completely undeserving that He should take my punishment on Himself.  It is only because of His grace and love!  He loved me and sacrificed Himself for me while I was still an enemy of His! (Romans 5:10)  And His sacrifice for my sin makes it possible to share in His righteousness.  No longer will sin have the same power of death over me!  What an incredible love that He should die for me!

Lord, I am humbled and grateful that You raised Your hand for me!


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O.D.D.

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

What changes a young person who is normally sweet and compliant into a defiant rebellious person?  The answer could be the mental disorder called, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or ODD.  It could be difficult diagnosing this as almost any child has his moments.  But this is something more.  It is a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance and even vindictiveness.  There is no clear cause but factors can include genetics or environment.  To avoid a lifetime of grief it’s best to have an accurate diagnosis and seek help from a professional.

Being easily provoked and dealing with anger issues is already a common problem for most.  Today’s verse tells us that this kind of anger is especially a problem for the fool.  A fool is described as one who does not believe in God (Psalm 53:1).  Without a relationship with our Creator we do not have the recourse of turning to Him for the self-control He gives (Gal. 5:22-23).  Belonging to the Lord does not mean we are never angry, but it does mean that we do not have to be characterized by it.  He is in the business of transforming us little by little to be like His Son (II Cor. 3:18).

My anger can be so destructive to myself and others.  Even when I feel it is justified, it does more harm than good.  I need His help to replace my anger at that slight I feel or at being overlooked or at that injustice.  I need His help to replace anger with His kindness, compassion and forgiveness.  His anger at my sin has been satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice.  If He can forgive me than I can show grace too.

Thank you Lord, that You calm my anger.


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Snowflakes

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

Did you know that some millennials are called “snowflakes?”  The reason for this derogatory term is that they have a reputation for melting down in the face of opinions with which they disagree.  Some believe they are special and unique (like a snowflake).  But more than that some believe that the world owes them because they have always been handed everything their whole lives.  The snowflake generation is thought to be self-obsessed and fragile, easily taking offense.  One example of this attitude is the banning of clapping at a meeting in case it caused trauma!

Rather than easily taking offense, today’s verse talks about overlooking it completely.  The one who lets that verbal jibe slide is the one who is taking the high road.  The intended insult and humiliation loses its impact when there is no response or biting reply.  That offense may have been unintended.  Sometimes, the offense is only a perceived one.  In any case, what was nasty or negative can actually work in one’s favor when responded to with wisdom and patience.

I wish I were not as sensitive as I am.  I wish those perceived hurts would slide right off my back.  Too often, I remember every word of a past insult.  How unlike the Lord!  Jesus did not take offense and quit when He was insulted, spit upon and mocked.  He went all the way to the cross and was glorified by the Father.  Any offense I face from others is so very small in comparison.  He wants me to overlook it with grace and forgiveness.  In doing so I am well viewed by others, but more importantly, He is glorified!

Lord, make me wise and patient enough to let it go.