Devotions By Jan


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Green Gold

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.”

No wonder the pistachio is referred to by the name, “green gold.”  This nut is prized not only for its taste but appreciated for all the intensive labor needed to harvest it!  It is true that the partially-opened shells are hard and sometimes uncooperative, but at harvest time there is also a hull that needs to be removed from the seed.  Some small growers put the pistachios in a sack and roll it around with their feet to loosen that hull!

Today’s verse speaks of the fruit of righteousness and peace.  It comes as a result of painful discipline.  Every believer goes through it from time to time.  The Lord disciplines those He loves.  And He does it for our good so that we can share in His holiness (Heb. 12:6 &10).  We can be sure that He is not exacting punishment as He took that on Himself at the cross.  But discipline is proof that He loves us and that we belong to Him (Heb. 12:8).  Out of love He uses it to correct and teach.  Nevertheless, it hurts.

Tumbling around in that sack, I can trust Him that He knows what it will take for me to have this fruit.  It is such a long process of removing that “hull” of sin.   And I do not want to prolong it further by not responding the way He intends.  I want to be “trained by it” and see the good result.  When He uses the hard times to mature me and produce fruit, He also graciously reassures me of His love.

Thank you Lord, that You love me enough to discipline me.

 


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Reflected Color

Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 5:18-20  “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our area of Alsace, France is known worldwide for its white wine.  We lived in the middle of extensive vineyards and our landlords had their own winery.  Not only are the white wines renown but they have their own special wine glasses.  Because the whites are so light in color, the wine glasses have green stems to add reflected color.  Without the green color of those stems, the glass looks as if it contains only water.

Today’s verse speaks of the danger of drunkenness and of the loss of control.  Rather than being filled with wine, we are to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit.  Rather than losing control with wine, we are to be controlled by His Spirit.  The evidence of being filled is the “green stem.”  That reflected color of being filled is the joy, the singing and the praise to God.  Praise for God’s blessings are shared with others and expressed to the Lord with a heart overflowing with thankfulness.  Gratitude is the attitude of the one who is filled.

Sometimes, I am colorless.  He is there but I am not filled with Him as my discontent is taking up so much space.  It is easy to compare my situation with others and focus on what I do not have.  On those days there is no joyful color.  I certainly do not feel like singing or praising Him.  But it all can change the minute I confess my ungrateful heart.

Lord, fill me with Yourself and make my heart sing!

 


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Tasmanian Devil

Scripture for Today: Galatians 5:15 “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Despite his name I would hate for the Tasmanian Devil to become extinct.  His only natural habitat is the Australian island-state of Tasmania.  Because of his husky snarl and bad temper, he often has what is called a “devilish expression.”  Since 2008 he has been on the endangered list.  The reason?  A cancer called, “devil facial tumor disease,”  which results in grotesque tumors around the head and mouth.  It is thought to be transmitted when they bite each other!

Today’s verse teaches that the words from our mouths can inflict pain and even destroy another.  Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).  So much of what displeases the Lord comes from the mouth, whether it be gossiping, lying, mocking, arguing, criticizing, ….the list goes on.  And each of these has such a devastating effect on the one to whom it is directed.  What is more, the “tit for tat” reciprocity only escalates the problem until both parties are destroyed.

It is only by His Spirit that I can love and forgive the one who has inadvertently or intentionally hurt me.  My memory is long when it comes to hurtful words.  But I have definitely taken things a step further when I want to retaliate.  There might be a momentary feeling of satisfaction but the relationship remains tense and broken.  Forgiveness is so difficult but without it, the relationship is “endangered” and at risk of extinction.  Realizing God’s forgiveness for me helps me get a better perspective on the whole mess.  And His love and His power are there to make forgiveness and restoration possible.  It is just not possible on my own.

Thank you Lord, that You heal those difficult relationships.

 

 


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Old or New?

Scripture for Today:  Colossians 3:9-10  “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

I loved living in France and seeing the old next to the new.  Side by side the old looks older and the new looks newer.  Pictured here is the beautiful Louvre in Paris, built in the late 12th century.  The pyramid looks much more modern and new having been built in 1989.  For me the contrast is striking!  But in fact, the pyramid has started to show signs of aging as well and the French government has had to do some renovations to keep it looking new.

Today’s verse talks about the old and the new for the believer.  We have both going on at the same time.  Although we are a new creature in Christ (II Cor. 5:17) the old self is still hanging around.  As long as we live on this earth in the flesh, we will always need the reminder in these verses to “lay aside” or “put off” that old self.  And as for our new self, we can count on a continual renewal.  Our new spiritual selves are continually being renewed by Christ Himself though His Word.

As I look towards this new year, I can be confident that my new self is being restored and renewed by Him.  Every time I lay aside that old self, I am cooperating with Christ’s renewal in me.  Every time I choose to obey Him rather than having my own way, He is bringing me closer to His image.  Slowly, He is renewing and transforming me to be more like Him!

Thank you Lord, for Your patient steady work in me!


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O Christmas Tree

Scripture for Today:Revelation 22:14b “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

Our sweet artificial Christmas tree has been all over the world and is the worst for wear.  Not only has our tree traveled everywhere in its now beat-up box but it is thirty-two years old!  Each Christmas I think will be its last with its frayed and missing branches.  But each year I end up squeezing one more year out of it!  There are so many memories attached to this tree that I cannot bear to part with it.  But someday it will be too ratty and will be thrown away.

Its ironic that there is so much attention given to the Christmas tree.  The description of Heaven in Revelation talks about an eternal tree that stands in the streets of the New Jerusalem.  This is a tree of life that spans a river of life flowing from the throne of God.  Its leaves are for the healing of the nations (verse 2).  The only ones who can enjoy this tree are those whose robes are washed.  This is what the Lord does for the believer, clothing us with a robe of HIS righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).

My Christmas tree is soon put away for hopefully another year.  And for those putting up a live tree, it will eventually droop, dry up and lose its needles.  But the eternal tree of life represents a beauty and joy that will last forever!  The joy and peace I experience over holidays will one day be the every-day-normal!  The curse will be lifted and because I belong to Him, I will enjoy Eden restored!

Thank you Lord, that the birth of Your Son gives me life now and eternally!

 

 


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Level Ground

Scripture for Today: Psalm 143:10 “Teach me to do Your will for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”

This traveler can see for miles and miles.  Because there are no hills, mountains, turns or trees she can see far ahead. But not only that, she herself can be seen from a distance.  I enjoy walking when there are no ups and downs to change my pace.  But because of this level ground I would be vulnerable and open to scrutiny.

Today’s verse is David’s prayer to do what pleases God.  He prays that God’s Spirit will lead him to level ground.  This is the path of righteousness or as some versions say, “the land of uprightness.”  This level path was walked by Jesus.  The rough ground was made level for Him when every valley was raised up and every mountain and hill were made low (Isaiah 40:4)  The reason for the level ground was not for ease of walking.  It was rather for His glory to be revealed and for all people to see it (verse 5).  There was nothing on that level ground to obstruct the view of His glory.

The way I walk is open to scrutiny and like David, I need His Spirit to teach me.  People are watching how I walk whether I realize it or not.  He is my God and His glory is at stake.  When I walk to please Him, He is lifted up and glorified.  When I follow what I know He wants, than those watching can be helped to faith.  Level ground does not necessarily mean that my way is easy.  Far from it.  But that level ground does makes me visible.

Lord, lead me to level ground and may nothing obstruct the view of Your glory in my life!


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Soft Candlelight

Scripture for Today:  Psalms 90:8  “You have placed our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence.”

I love candlelight.  I love the way it adds ambiance to a special dinner.  One of the reasons I like candlelight so well is that it softens hard realities.  I just look better in the low light.  One does not see my wrinkles, my blemishes or the bags under my eyes.  All the defects are hidden in the soft flattering light.  My husband even looks better!

Today’s verse talks about another kind of light; the light of His countenance.  This light is brighter and much more revealing.  It does not soften anything but brings to light some hard realities.  I do not look so good in this light as it exposes the truth.  The light of His face exposes all the sins I have ever tried to cover up, even from myself.  But those secret sins that no one else knows about are not hidden from Him.  His light reveals what I am hiding even from myself.

I may feel more comfortable in low candlelight, but He will have none of it!  His light exposes the problem out of love for me, so that it can be confessed and forgiven.  I need to agree with God about my secret sin so that He can deal with it.  In doing so, I can actually enjoy His light.  This same Psalm ends with a prayer, “and let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us…”  When I am honest with Him about those secret sins and confess them, I become more beautiful as I reflect His beauty!  No more need for candlelight!

Thank you Lord, for Your beautiful light and the forgiveness You offer.