Devotions By Jan

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Shearing Sheep

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 12:11 “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

This silly sheep disliked shearing so much that he hid in a cave for six consecutive seasons to avoid the ordeal.  With the sixty extra pounds of wool he could barely move!  Life was getting a bit difficult and it was probably with a sense of relief that he finally gave up and allowed himself to be sheared.  Without shearing, that wool fleece becomes heavy, soiled and unhealthy.

In today’s verse there is a harvest, not of wool but of righteousness and peace.  This harvest requires a process that can be as uncomfortable as shearing.  The Lord’s discipline is unpleasant and painful.  But for the believer it is not a question of punishment.  Jesus took on Himself that punishment on the cross. Discipline is love in action and a sure sign of belonging to Him. (verse 8)  Just as a father lovingly disciplines his son, so the Lord corrects and trains through discipline. (verse 9)

When I am experiencing something negative in my life, I can sometimes wonder if it is a “trial” or “discipline.”  But usually it is clear.  I am like that three year old who looks sideways at the parent to see if he is watching.  There is rebellion in my heart when I refuse to acknowledge that something is wrong.  When I stubbornly continue my behavior the Lord lovingly corrects me for my good.  When I finally give up what I know is wrong, that heavy weight on my back is lifted!  Like the newly shorn sheep, I can run and jump and move with ease!  Peace and righteousness feel good!

Thank you Lord, for Your loving correction.

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

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All Directions

Scripture for Today: Joshua 1:7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law My servant Moses gave you.; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”

These signs are common in France.  Apparently, everywhere I want to go is to the left!  “All Directions” is actually a helpful indication when trying to change course.  It helps to know how to change direction when confused.  Details come later.  This sign at least points toward major streets from which one can exit the area.  By following it, one can avoid going around in circles and getting tied up with one-way streets.

Today’s verse calls for strength and courage.  This is the charge the Lord gave directly to Joshua as he took over as leader of the Israelites.  The law came through Moses but was not to be considered invalid at his death.  Obedience to the law was to continue.  And following it would bring blessing and success.  But there was plenty of temptation to turn away from it.  A few steps to the left or to the right would be detrimental.  The verse warns us to be careful not to turn away from what God had said.

There are signs everywhere encouraging me to turn off with promises of an easier route.  The sign, “All Directions” is everywhere.  Surely, there is more than one way.  Try this route, or maybe that one is just as valid with less trouble.  There are roads that are narrow that lead to life or there are roads that are wide that lead to destruction (Matt 7:13-14).  How important it is for me to choose well!

Give me strength and courage Lord, to carefully follow Your way!

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

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Fashion Glasses

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 21:2 “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.”

I am trying to like these fashion glasses, but they just make me smile.  I am sure that is not the desired reaction.  Wearing something so big and bold on the face takes lots of confidence.  The style must be considered right and accepted as fashionable or one could not pull it off.  But like beauty, good style is in the eye of the beholder!

Today’s verse points out how subjective each of us are in evaluating our own behavior.  We are masters at rationalizing it to sound good.  It is right in our own eyes or we could not sleep at night.  It is right because it feels good.  It is right because there is a good result.  Perhaps it is right because it is convenient.  Usually, we feel that something is right because everyone else seems to think so.

How does one really evaluate what is right?  The real reasons for our behavior are not found in logical thinking.  We can know that something is not right or good for us and still stubbornly do it.  When trying to correct a social ill, the accepted method is to educate.  Surely, if people understand the health risks, or see the negative consequences possible, the behavior will stop.

Knowing what is right and doing it are heart issues.  The Lord sees my heart and I am very thankful no one else does.  He weighs it and sees the rebellion and stubbornness.  It is only His power that can clean it up and keep it clean.  He convicts and convinces through His Word to show me what is true and right.

Change my heart Lord, to know and do what is right today!

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

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Scripture for Today: Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This horse seems to have a mind of his own!  Without a rider or other horses nearby, he walks alone.  Perhaps he is a maverick who enjoys his independence.  The meaning of the word, “maverick,” has changed from its original meaning of being an unbranded animal separated from the herd.  Now the word has come to mean a person who is unconventional and an independent thinker.  Depending on the context, a maverick can denote something negative or positive.

Today’s verse encourages the believer to resist conforming to the world’s way of thinking.  Rather than following the latest ideas or fads, the Christ-follower is to think differently.  His goal is to find and follow what God wants.  It is always something good, pleasing and perfect.  With a mind renewed by God’s Word, we can evaluate and test our thinking to know when we are following what He wants.  His plans are perfect.  He wants only what is good for us.  And as our Creator, He knows better than anyone else what will in the long run be pleasing.

I am sometimes confused as to what God wants in a particular situation.  I know that trusting my own desires and emotions can be deceiving.  Sometimes the Lord gives me exactly what I want, but not until I submit all of it to Him first!  Being a “living sacrifice” is all about that submission (verse 1).  But what I find is that His plan is a whole lot better than mine!

Lord, change my thinking to want only what You want.

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

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Good Taste

Scripture for Today: Job 34:3-4 “For the ear tests words as the tongue tests food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.”

This cat is enjoying ice cream almost as much as I do!  Our Tiger never tasted the stuff because I was always unwilling to share.  However, I have given him as taste of yogurt and he was thrilled.  I imagine many cats enjoy foods that involve milk or cream.  But I still remember the veterinarian warning us that the digestive system of an adult cat does not take too well to drinking milk.  Although the taste is delicious, it is not so good for him.

Today’s verse records the advice of one of Job’s three friends.  Elihu was eager to help Job discover the reason for his troubles.  He had a lot to say but it was off the mark.  Certainly, we are to test what we hear and listen with discernment.  Just as we taste food to see if it has a pleasing flavor, so we “taste” what we hear to decide if it rings true.  The problem is that we all have differing taste buds.  What seems right and good to one can seem wrong and sour to another.  Our subjectivity gets in the way of finding absolute truth.

Thankfully, we do not have to discern for ourselves what is right.  It is not up to us to come to some sort of consensus.  God’s Law goes beyond individual opinion or cultural norms.  God’s Law does not change with the times.  Surveys and votes do not change what God has put in place.  And not only does it taste good, but it is good for us!

Help me Lord, to discern what You call good and right.

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

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Vintage Scale

Scripture for Today: I John 1:10 “If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.”

This scale reminds me of the one from my youth.  One can now buy them with the label, “Vintage” or “Retro!”  Today, ours is not so ancient as it is digital.  It is probably accurate enough, but I do not like what it says!  No matter what I do with my eating habits it always says exactly the same thing.  Perhaps it is stuck.  Perhaps I am stuck.  In any case, I would rather think that it is incorrect.  Ideally, there should exist a scale that says exactly what I want it to say!

Today’s verse is about someone who is in denial about their sin.  The one who claims that there is no problem with sin is not dealing with reality.  Rather than continue to feel the discomfort of conviction, this individual would close their eyes to truth.  But in doing so, God is made out to be a liar.  His Word and truth do not reside in those who claim to be just fine.

The first step in dealing with my sin is to recognize its ugly existence.  There is no sugar-coating it.  And trying to make it small and of no consequence. just does not work.  Like the scale that tells the truth, so is God’s Word that can make me uncomfortable.  And just as I do not throw away the scale because of what it says, so I do not exchange His truth for something I like better.  He promises and is faithful to forgive and cleanse me from every sin (verse 9).  I just need to find the courage to admit to it!

Lord, help me to be honest with myself and admit when I am wrong.

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

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Lunar Eclipse

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 60:19 “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.”

How strange it was to see the “super moon” slowly being darkened by the shadow of the earth.  It does not happen too often and it was spectacular to see!  It was called a “super moon” because of its fullness and because of its position at the closest point of its orbit with the earth.  A news agency called it, “a glorious view of the heavens,” and “a glorious heavenly event.”  It was certainly rare as the next time this happens will not be until 2033.

This eclipse was a partial one so we were not left totally in the dark.  As beautiful as an eclipse or sunset can be, it leaves us with less light and increasing darkness.  But one day there will no longer be any darkness at all.  The Lord will be our light and it will be everlasting.  His glory will shine as bright as day.  There will no longer be any need of the sun or the moon.

That everlasting light is not just in our future, but He has promised to place some of that light in our hearts today! (II Cor. 4:6)  It shines in our hearts to give us an inkling of His overwhelming glory.  And it is displayed in the face and presence of Christ.  The more I approach Him the brighter that light becomes!  I can “walk in the light” (I John 1:7) and experience sweet fellowship.  I want to bask in the warmth of His loving light and not obscure it with the shadows of my sin.

Lord, help me to walk in the light of Your presence today.

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