Devotions By Jan

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Scripture for Today: Isaiah 55:7 “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

There is nothing new about offering someone flowers as an apology! Perhaps the bigger the bouquet, the more heartfelt the apology. But if it were just one flower to say it all, then this Daylily may be the best choice! That is because its name is, Pardon Me! This cranberry-colored lily with a yellow center and ruffled edges is incredibly hardy. It can survive harsh conditions that other plants cannot and will tend to rebloom!

Today’s verse tells us that God will have mercy on the wicked and on the unrighteous. He promises to show mercy to those that forsake their ways and their thoughts, turning to Him for forgiveness. God does not just pardon but freely pardons! This is a gracious invitation to turn away from wicked ways and thoughts, and to turn towards a full and complete pardon He offers! There is no wrongdoing so grevious that He will not forgive! There is no thought so shockingly awful that He cannot freely pardon it.

What a comfort this verse is! No one is beyond the reach of His pardon. And this pardon covers my secret sinful thoughts that no one else knows about. The fact that some sins are hidden can sometimes keep me from realizing my guilt. Frankly, I would not want anyone to know my thoughts! But it is no problem that God sees it all because He pardons it all when I turn to Him! What an amazing gracious God we serve! Would that I pardon others as freely as He pardons me!

Thank You Lord, for Your pardon so freely given me!

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Strong or Weak?

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.'”

I get a whole lot done in a day when I am happy. There is something about being joyful that energizes a person. Even when muscling through a long difficult task, I can be exhausted but it is a “happy tired.” The reverse is also true. When I am feeling down and discouraged, I am also demotivated to do much of anything.

Today’s verse is an encouragement to the Israelites not to grieve. This group of returned exiles from Babylonian captivity should have been ecstatic as their walls were now rebuilt and gates were in place. But instead of joy, they were weeping. The Book of the Law of Moses was being read to them from dawn to noon. Their response was intense grief as they understood how far they had strayed from God’s laws. Sorrow over sin is necessary in asking forgiveness, but joy and celebration are to follow! New strength is found in that joy!

When I completely blow it, sadness over letting the Lord down dominates my thinking. But feeling that sorrow is not such a bad thing. It tells me my heart is still soft enough to be broken over my failures. What is so wonderful is that the Lord promises to be near those that are brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18) He is so good to restore that joy with the forgiveness He so freely gives! There is new energy in my step when rising from my knees! His joy gives me the motivation to persevere in living for Him!

Thank you Lord, for giving me strength in joy.

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The Cooper Hawk

Scripture for Today: Acts 13:39 “Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.

He looked almost as surprised to see me as I was to see him! This Cooper Hawk or Chicken Hawk watched me on my morning walk from the fence of my neighbor’s yard. I recognized this hawk from a television story I had just seen about one that had inadvertently trapped himself in a huge skating rink in Canada. A team of wildlife rescuers were called in after two days. They spent hours with their nets trying to get the tired, hungry and frightened bird to fly into their nets. He was finally captured and released into the wild.

Today’s verse comes from Paul’s sermon explaining how Jesus was the promised Savior of the Old Testament. He explained the good news that Jesus was resurrected (verse 32-33) and that it is through Him that sins are forgiven. (verse 38) It is this forgiveness that sets us free from the power of every sin to ensnare and imprison. What the law could not do, Jesus accomplished by fulfilling it and setting us free!

Just like that trapped hawk, I could easily live in the confines of rules, regulations, and trappings of self-righteousness. But there is no set of rules that can make me righteous before God. The walls of my own prison are made up of unforgiven sin. Jesus is the only One who can free me. My own feeble attempts at fixing myself can be exhausting. Thankfully, His forgiveness offers true freedom from guilt and condemnation. He has captured me with His sacrificial love and has set me free in the wilds of His incredible grace!

Thank you Lord, for setting me free!

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Play Money

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 1:7-8a  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”

This Monopoly player seems to be doing pretty well!  There must be some smug satisfaction in seeing those piles of money grow.  I can imagine that he feels fairly protected from unexpected debts other players may try to saddle him with.  Winning the game looks like a goal he can reach.  But imagine if this same player tried to pocket those bills and spend them at a local store!  These “riches” are only good in a limited context of play.

Today’s verse speaks of riches; the riches of God’s grace.  And while the play money is only good for the game, these riches are eternal.  And these riches are incomparable to anything else. This grace is expressed in God’s kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:7) We cannot pay for the forgiveness of sin.  Trying to earn the riches of God’s grace is like trying to use Monopoly money!  The riches of God’s grace have only been lavished on those who stop trying to pay for it themselves.

How rich I am to have experienced this incredible grace!  I cannot earn it.  I cannot pay for it.  My debt of sin was too large but He paid for it all out of His unfathomable kindness to me.  He saved me by His grace but it does not stop there!  The riches of His grace continue on to make living for Him possible.  His grace gives me the desire to love and serve Him.  It is in realizing and appreciating the riches of His grace that I am motivated to live a life worthy of it!

Lord, thank you for the true riches You have lavished on me!

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True or False Morel?

Scripture for Today: Matthew 23:28 “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

This mushroom can fool people.  There is a false and a true variety and knowing the difference can save one from dizziness and sickness.  There are some minor differences to look for on the exterior but the most telling difference is the inside.  If you slice a true morel mushroom from top to bottom it will be hollow inside.  The false morel will be full of cotton-like fibers and chucks of tissue.

Today’s verse is part of the seven woes spoken by Jesus to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees.  These strong words point out their hypocrisy.  They had a form of external righteousness but their insides were full of wickedness.  As religious leaders their hypocrisy not only kept them out of Heaven but kept others from entering as well!  Their lives resemble cups and dishes carefully cleaned on the outside but filthy inside with greed and self-indulgence. (verse 25)  These men were like white-washed tombs, so beautiful on the outside but the filthy inside was full of dead bones. (verse 27)

These verses are sobering as today there are false believers as well.  Their outsides are beautifully religious.  But the inside is well hidden to all except the Lord’s eyes who sees it all.  However, these verses are also a challenge to me to be authentic in my faith.  My secret hidden sins are not seen by others and I can easily pretend to be in right relationship with Him when my heart has wandered.  He waits for me to agree with Him about my sin so He can continually cleanse me. (I John 1:9)

Lord, keep me from hypocrisy by being honest with You.