Devotions By Jan


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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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My Carrot

Scripture for Today: Colossians 3:23-24  “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

I am not sure this little one can handle such a challenging food!  But perhaps it is never too soon to introduce carrots with their sweet taste, crunchiness and health benefits.  The mule is certainly motivated to reach that “carrot on a stick.”  Dangling the carrot just out of reach keeps that mule moving forward.  This expression has come to mean being motivated to persevere, knowing that eventually there will be a reward.

Today’s verse is quite clear about linking reward to our motivation to work hard.  It is for Him that we  work and not for the approval and recognition of men.  It is always nice, of course, to have that pat on the back from men too.  But it does not always come.  The Lord understands our need for recognition and reward and how they help to motivate us.  But there is a reluctance to talk about rewards.  It is like we are embarrassed that we need them.  There is the idea that somehow working for reward is a motive that is suspect.  And yet, the teaching of rewards is found throughout Scripture.

There are many times that others do not see what I do, or in seeing, say nothing in the way of thanks or appreciation.  Those words of approval are important to keep me going.  I am just made that way.  I need to be reminded of God’s rewards.  He sees.  He knows.  He is pleased with my service to Him and His rewards can keep me going.

Please Lord, may I one day hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”


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Pizza Box

Scripture for Today: Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I loved this story on the news the other day of a man in New York who was the recipient of an anonymously donated pizza.  Inside the cover were written the words, “Stay strong,” the very words his wife daily said to him while dying of cancer.  He told the pizzeria manager that this simple message “turned his life around” and pulled him out of a deep depression.

Today’s verse is an encouragement from the Lord to Joshua that inspired him be strong.  Joshua had just taken over the enormous task of leading the Israelites after the death of Moses.  Joshua needed this assurance that the Lord’s presence would give him strength and courage.  There is a subtle difference between the words,”stay strong ” and “be strong.”  The first implies that strength is already there in some measure and should continue.  For Joshua at the death of his friend and leader, he had no strength or courage.  Not only was the charge overwhelming, but he must have felt alone and sad with Moses gone.

I absolutely have no strength without the Lord.  Whatever strength I have comes from Him.  Paul recognized this when he said to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Eph. 6:10).  I need His strength especially when losing a family member or friend.  I need this same reassurance that He will be with me and give me all the courage and strength to face the future.  Of course there is sadness, but I do not need to feel discouraged.  He is there and will get me through.

Thank you Lord, for the strength You give.


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The Sting of the Scorpion

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 15:55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

I hope I am never stung by this disgusting creature!  The Indian Red Scorpion is said to have the most lethal sting.  One could die if not treated within 72 hours of being stung.  They are quite hardy and can live up to a year without food or water.  Because they are very sensitive to light, they stay hidden during the day and only come out at night.  One good thing about them is that they can glow in the dark!

Today’s verse describes death as a “sting.”  Death will no longer have the victory when the mortal is changed into immortality (verse 54) and the perishable becomes imperishable.  Death seems to have the victory for now, but in fact, Christ’s empty grave means that death has been swallowed up in victory!  The venom of that heart-rendering grief is no longer lethal as we look to the life to come.  We share in Christ’s victory over death.  We have hope that death is not the end as we look to the One who conquered and defeated death forever!

The news is disturbing as I hear of senseless and violent death.  I can feel overwhelmed with news of terminal cancer in friends and loved ones.  Yet, as much as I grieve, I can grieve with hope, knowing that for the believer, He has promised that the very best is ahead of me.  Because of what Christ did on the cross, death and evil do not win.  No despair can erase this truth.  No tragedy nullifies my hope.  In Christ alone, there is “No guilt in life, no fear in death; This is the power of Christ in me.”

Thank you Lord, that death no longer stings.


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Happy Spring!

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 35:1-2a “The desert and the parched land will be glad. The wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom. It will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.”

Happy first day of Spring!  I do not see too many signs of the season in Cape Cod where we are expecting more snow today.  But this gallant purple crocus peeking out through that white stuff tells me that things are changing!  The trees here are still bare and the grass is not so green.  But this tiny burst of color gives me hope that the landscape will not always be so barren.

Today’s verse uses the image of the crocus to picture the joy of God’s redeemed people.  The desert of their distress and persecution will be transformed into joyful springs of water.  There will be a day when God will move on their behalf, coming with vengeance and salvation (verse 4).  Every wrong will be made right.  There will be singing, shouting, gladness and everlasting joy for the redeemed.  There will be complete healing and protection.  Sorrow and sighing will be no more!

What an incredible future awaits me!  I can choose to live with joy as I look forward to that day.  I do not have to be bowed down with sorrow over the struggles I face.  A different season is coming.  There is a promise of so much more to come.  All will be transformed in the blink of an eye.  At that point, there will be no containing my bursting joy!  It is so easy to look around at everything sad and negative in my life and become discouraged.  But instead, I am going to look for that small crocus flower today!

Thank you Lord, that incredible joy IS my future!


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Broken Bisque

Scripture for Today: Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

These broken pieces of bisque look pretty pathetic.  For whatever reason they did not survive their first firing during the process of becoming beautiful pottery.  The first firing is to strengthen the clay.  Their glazing, unique colors and design can only be applied after this important step.  When touring a Polish pottery factory I remember seeing a huge bin full of broken bisque pieces.  Our guide explained that rather than throw them out, they would melt them all down to start again.

When hearing this explanation, I could not help but think of today’s verse.  Paul is confident that God will continue His work in the hearts of believers.  He has a goal for each of us to grow more and more like His Son.  And even though the process is life-long, what He starts, He promises to finish.

Just as pottery needs firing to be strengthened, so our faith is built up by the “fiery trials” we experience (I Peter 4:12).  When life heats up with impossible situations or insurmountable obstacles, it becomes clear just where we are weak. With each testing of our faith, we ideally become more confident of His control and goodness.

I wish it were always true that I come through those trials without cracking or breaking.  But I certainly cannot say that.  Thankfully, my failures do not change the plan or the eventual outcome.  I can be confident too that the Lord will use it all and He knows what He is doing with me.  One day, I will be like Him! (I John 3:2)

Lord, keep me trusting You, especially in the hard times.


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Widow’s Walk

Scripture for Today: Mark 13:35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.”

While visiting our daughter in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts, I have seen a number of these widow’s walks perched on the top of older homes, facing the water.  These structures are also called widow’s watch, roofwalk, or Captain’s walk.  In former times the men would leave for years at a time working aboard ships at sea.  The wives would use this viewing platform to scan the horizon, waiting for their mens’ return.  Unfortunately, some men lost their lives at sea and never came home.

Today’s verse comes from a parable recounted by Jesus.  We are like the servants of a house, not knowing when the owner will return.  But there is no question that he will return.  We are told to be alert and to be watching (verse 33) and not to fall asleep (verse 37).  The Lord Jesus will one day return and those who belong to Him are to be expecting Him.  No one knows the hour except the Father, not even His angels (verse 32).

To be honest, I do not often think about Jesus returning.  But when I do, it makes a difference to how I live.  I shudder to think of Him returning at a moment of disobedience on my  part.  When He returns I want to be ready.  That readiness is not found in trying to figure out the timing or in being the first to spot Him.  Being ready is a daily decision to please Him in all I do.

Lord, help me be that good and faithful servant, looking for Your return.