Devotions By Jan


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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.


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Echo Chamber

Scripture for Today: Luke 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.”

Meet Echo.  According to Greek folklore, she was a mountain nymph whose speech was cursed.  She could only repeat the last words anyone spoke to her.  Unfortunately, when she fell in love with Narcissus, she was forced to watch him fall in love with himself!  Today, the words, “echo chamber,” refer to being surrounded only with people who agree with you and can parrot back your own ideas.

Today’s verse demonstrates this idea of loving only those who love and perhaps agree with you.  It is easy to love those who have exactly the same ideas and values we have.  It is easy to love those whose political views coincide with our own.  It is easy to love those who will not disagree or challenge anything we think or say.  As this verse points out, one does not need to have Christ’s love to show this kind of self-centered and self-gratifying love.  In contrast, the believer is to show love even to his enemies (verse 35).  This love is shown by doing good to them and lending without thought of return.

I absolutely need Christ’s love in me to love those who are diametrically opposed to my beliefs and my values.  It is not natural for me and it is difficult.  But loving them is not about warm fuzzies.  Loving others so different than myself is demonstrated through the good I show them.  I may be opposed to a whole group of people and what they may stand for.  But I am called to love the individual just as Christ does.  His Spirit’s filling makes possible the impossible!

Lord, make me loving like You.


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Following the Recipe

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 119:137-138 “You are righteous, Lord, and Your laws are right. The statues You have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.”

I love following a good recipe that is tried and true.  And if I want a German dish to be authentic I would go to the trouble of translating those instructions (as well as converting the measurements).  I would not worry about all the verbs being in the command form.  It is a recipe after all.  I do not expect it to say, “please beat the eggs.”  Or “would you mind chopping the nuts.”  But I am not offended.  The directives are there to obtain a good, tasty result!

Today’s verse describes God’s directives.  Sometimes they can seem very blunt.  There is no softening of what God requires of us.  But His commands are always with a good goal.  They are always for our good and for our protection.  We know that because HE is good.  What He commands is fully trustworthy and an expression of His love and care.  This is why David could say that they are a joy to the heart and light to the eyes, sweeter than honey and more precious than gold! (Psalm 19)

If God’s commandments are really for my good, then why am I always trying to change the recipe?  Because that is in fact what I sometimes try to do.  I think I know better or that somehow I am an exception to the rule.  Maybe I can “sort of” follow the instructions but introduce a variation which makes it easier on me.  The result is never as good.  His way is always the best and I am the one who benefits when I carefully follow what He wants.

Lord, thank you for Your love expressed through your commands.