Devotions By Jan


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Doggie Discipline

Scripture for Today: Titus 2:12 “It (grace) teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

This dog understands the word, “No!”  I am amazed at his self-control sitting there with that piece of meat on his nose.  I wonder how long that lasted?  With smelling it, seeing it, and imagining that first bite, the dog must be trembling with the effort to refrain from gobbling it up in a moment!  I do not think the owner was too far away as the tension mounted.

Today’s verse is surprising.  The grace that normally comes to mind is the grace that offers salvation, that amazing unmerited and undeserved favor from God. (verse 11)  But this grace is a grace that teaches.  This grace allows the believer to live a godly life that pleases the Lord.  And like saving grace, it is completely unmerited.  We do not earn the ability to live a self-controlled life.  It is a gift that is part of the evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Gal. 5:23).  We cannot take credit for staying away from sin.  We cannot take credit for our obedience to God.  It is all grace.

I am so thankful for the gift of self-control without which my life would be a mess.  His Spirit enables me to say “No” to temptation.  His Spirit gives me the power to turn my back on ungodly desires and choose obedience.  And despite the occasional slip, He has changed my heart to want what is right.  My highest desire is to honor Him with my choices.  And it is with His help that I can achieve that desire even just a little.

Thank you Lord, that Your self-control is another evidence of Your grace!

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


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Bumper Bowling

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 2:7-8 “He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.”

Maybe I would feel differently about bowling had I grown up using these bumpers.  Imagine no more gutter balls!  But I did not have this luxury and I was on my  own trying to get that blasted ball to reach any of those bored pins.  It was not as if my Dad did not try to teach me.  He was in a bowling league at his work and had his own ball.  He and his team won trophies, but of course no serious bowler would consent to using these bumpers.  But I love the idea of having that little edge to correct the course of my wayward ball.

Today’s verse is beautiful!  The Lord God wants us to succeed but true success is only found in a relationship that follows His course.  None of His commands are arbitrary.  They exist for our good and for our protection.  Through His Word He speaks and guides.  When we obey and follow His perfect way, we enjoy the blessing of intimacy with Him.

I look at those bumpers as His grace to forgive, correct and restore.  Even with the best of intentions I fail.  I am “prone to wander” off His path.  But because I belong to Him, He does not let this silly sheep stray too far.  Sometimes that corrective bump can be a bit of a shock and not at all comfortable.  But it is just what is needed to get me back on course.

Lord, I want to always be one of Your faithful ones.  Keep me on that path of righteousness today.

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


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The Gavel

Scripture for Today: Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The tapping of a gavel in a courtroom can mean different things.  When tapped twice, everyone is to rise.  When it is tapped three times, all are to be seated.  There can be repeated vigorous tapping to restore order.  One tap may be used to declare a matter settled and finished.  With the tap of a gavel comes all the power of that court.  When that gavel is brought down there is a decision made.  And that symbol of authority brings with it a certain finality.

In the courts of heaven, the gavel comes down with unquestionable authority.  God has every right to proclaim someone guilty or not guilty.  He is our righteous Judge and all His judgements are true and just.  Today’s verse is a wonderful assurance for the one who has placed their faith in Jesus.  There is no fear of that gavel coming down.  The believer is justified, or declared righteous, not because of our own deeds but because of being credited with His righteousness (Romans 4:22-25).  The just punishment that we rightly deserve has been fully met by His death on the cross.  The righteousness Jesus achieved has been laid to our account!

It has been decided.  The gavel has already come down.  I do not have to live in fear and doubt.  He declared, “It is finished,” on that cross.  How amazing that I can stand before Him, declared righteous!  There is peace with God now and throughout eternity.  My heart is not troubled because of my guilt and sin.  His forgiveness and declaration has established heartfelt peace, relief, and the joy and hope of heaven!

Lord, how can I ever express my gratitude?

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


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Kintsugi

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 119:49-50 “Remember Your word to Your servant, for You have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”

This bowl went from broken to beautiful!  The art of golden joinery is the definition of the Japanese word, “kintsugi.”  Fragmented and broken pottery or ceramics are repaired in this process by filling the holes and cracks with a resin mixed with gold, silver or platinum.  What used to be broken pieces thought to be worthless become a thing of beauty!  The very brokenness makes the item become more precious and valuable!

Today’s verse is a comfort and reassurance when going through suffering.  There is hope.  The author of this psalm was experiencing ridicule (vs. 51).  There was intense pressure from the wicked and perhaps he felt himself cracking from it. He vows to stay faithful to the Lord through it all.  In the night he reminds himself of who God is (vs. 55) and he resolves to stay the course.  Through all the pain he remains hopeful because of God’s promises.

It is hope that brings me through the darkest times of my life.  I can feel forgotten, rotten and dead inside just like David did when he described himself as “broken pottery” (Ps. 31:12).  But then, there are the promises of God.  Whatever feels broken He can repair.  More than that, He transforms our very brokenness into something useful and a thing of beauty.  Nothing is too hard for Him or beyond the skill of His capable hands.  He works in the good where everything went bad.  That stupid decision, that utter failure or that shame at letting Him down is all part of a pattern that He redeems and makes beautiful.  This is my hope.

Thank you Lord, that Your promises give me hope.

 

 


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Death Zone

Scripture for Today: Job 33:4 “The Spirit of God has made me, the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

What an awe-inspiring scene this is on Mount Everest!  The grandeur and magnificence of these mountains have drawn many experienced climbers to its heights.  But unfortunately, ten climbers have already died this year alone.  They were found in what is called the “death zone” where oxygen is scarce.  Anywhere above 26,000 feet is part of that zone where the air is so thin that even supplemental oxygen is sometimes not enough.  The human body is just not made to function at the cruising altitude of a 747!

Today’s verse recognizes the source of life and breath.  It is the Spirit of God who created us.  It is the breath of the Almighty that gives us life.  At the very dawn of mankind, it was God who breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).  There is no life apart from His breath.  And just as this is true in the physical sense, so it is true spiritually  The Spirit of God breathes life to our souls.  Where before we were dead, He has made us alive (Eph. 2:5).

My relationship with Christ is as necessary to me as the air I breathe!  But frankly, I do not always feel His presence.  Perhaps there are “death zones” for me where the spiritual air is scarce.  He promises to never leave me (Heb.13:5) but I can be indifferent to Him.  I can be gasping for breath when I immerse myself in the world and its values.  But when I turn back to Him, He breathes into me renewed love and forgiveness.  “This is the air I breathe, Your holy presence living in me.”

Come Holy Spirit and breathe on me today.


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Shamefaced!

Scripture for Today: Psalm 34:5 “Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

Can dogs feel shame or guilt?  Looking at this image one would think so.  But a number of studies have found that dogs do not feel or display guilt.  I am positive that a number of dog owners would disagree.  However, scientists believe it is too complex a reaction and it is just not how their brains work.  What seems to be a guilty look happens with scolding or questioning from an angry owner.  The dog is simply reacting to the owner’s behavior, tone of voice and gestures.

Today’s verse describes a face that is not covered with shame.  In fact, there is radiance in place of shame.  When looking to a righteous, perfect God, it would be natural to feel shame for our sin.  One’s first reaction would be to cover one’s face in the blinding light of His holiness!  But for those who fear the Lord and belong to Him, there is no more shame.  In His grace, He has paid for all our sin and shame with the sacrifice of His Son.  No one who trusts in Him will be condemned or held guilty (verse 22).

Because He has erased my sin and shame, I can look to Him and be radiant!  No longer will I blush for my past sins.  He has removed my sin and guilt as far as the east is from the west! (Psalm 103:12)  He has said that my sin He will remember no more (Heb. 10:17).  Any shame felt with my memories is not from Him.  I am in Christ (Romans 8:1) and no longer condemned.  The Lord not only took away my sin, but the shame of it all as well.

Thank you, Lord, that my face can be radiant with Your forgiveness!


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The Sea Cucumber

Scripture for Today: Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

They really do look like cucumbers!  And in Asia, some species are farmed and enjoyed as a delicacy.  But what is really amazing about these funny ocean creatures is their ability to regenerate their own organs!  When in a tight spot they will mutilate their own bodies as a defense mechanism.  They will violently contract their muscles and jettison out of their anus some of their internal organs!  Fortunately, the missing body parts are quickly regenerated!

Today’s verse talks about the washing of regeneration.  Being in Christ makes us a “new creature” (II Cor. 5:17)  The old has passed away and is replaced by the new!  It is due to the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit.  It is all His work in us and has nothing to do with our own good works.  He saw our predicament, desperately needing to be saved from the judgement our sins warranted.  Rather than giving us what we rightly deserve, the Lord acted out of His infinite mercy.  He changes the heart and makes us new.

Self help and good intentions will not make me new.  Strong resolve or publicly-made resolutions will not change my heart.  I may succeed in changing my behavior for a time but I am still the same inside.  On my own, real heart change is not possible and I only end up frustrated.  I need His power to work in me.  His supernatural regeneration is the only way I can truly be made new.

I am tired of the old me.  Thank you Lord, for making me new!