Devotions By Jan


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The Horn of Plenty

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:15 “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”

The cornucopia or horn of plenty has long been a symbol of overflowing harvest especially on Thanksgiving.  The original idea was to have an abundance of flowers, fruit and corn overflowing from a goat’s horn.  Today, we are happy with just a basket in the shape of a horn!  But the symbolism is lost if the contents are not spilling out beyond the confines of the horn.  When it overflows we know we are blessed!

Today’s verse speaks of a thanksgiving that overflows!  The circumstances Paul was facing would normally not call for thanksgiving as he was repeatedly imprisoned and persecuted.  Yet, he understood that through his faithfulness, the grace of Christ was reaching more and more people.  It was that grace which was producing an overflow of thanksgiving.  Paul could see the undeserved favor and blessing that is grace, even in the middle of hard times.  Realizing God’s grace created in him a thankfulness that overflowed and gave glory to God.

It is easy to give thanks to God when everything is going smoothly and life is good.  It is quite another thing to be overflowing with thanksgiving when life is tough and there is hurt and disappointment.  And yet, when I look to the unseen (verse 17) I can overflow with thanksgiving!  I do not deserve even one tiny blessing from Him.  How amazing He is to have given me new birth, a living hope and an eternal inheritance! (I Peter 1:3-6)  Regardless of life’s ups and downs, I can always overflow with thanksgiving for His incredible grace to me!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers!


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Litter Bug

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 10:35-36 “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”

What a shame to see trash spoiling this beautiful scene!  I still remember that old slogan, “Every litter bit hurts.”  It was part of the campaign begun in the early 50’s called, “Keep America Beautiful.”  Its aim was to end littering and to beautify our environment.  And they did raise awareness through education, public service advertising, mapping of “litter hotspots” and organized cleanup activities.  Much of these values are seen today in other efforts such as Earth Day and “plogging” or picking up litter while jogging.

Today’s verse tells us about something believers should never throw away; our confidence!  That confidence allows us to persevere in doing what God wants.  The believers addressed had suffered through being thrown in prison and through having property confiscated.  Their treatment was unfair but they were told to stay confident that God would richly reward them for their sacrifice and perseverance.  Those who have thrown away their confidence are those who no longer believe the suffering is worth it.  Abandoning the faith for an easier life, they forgo the reward that would have been theirs.

I can respond in one of two ways to a life-changing crisis.  I can either blame God and run away from Him, or I can run to Him for the comfort and encouragement that only He can give.  My faith and confidence, rather than being thrown away, grows and strengthens when I choose that second response.  I do not know what hard thing may await me.  But I pray that I will never throw away my confidence.

Lord, help me to persevere no matter what!

 


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Teddy Bears

Scripture for Today: Psalm 42:5 “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

The teddy bear got its name from President Theodore Roosevelt as a result of a bear hunting trip in 1902.  The resulting political cartoon inspired the creation of the first teddy bear.  Originally made to look similar to a real bear, it has evolved to be a comforting presence for many children.  In fact, a program called “Teddy Bear Cops” was created to distribute teddy bears to children in the midst of crisis.  It was found that the teddy bear would calm them down.

In today’s verse David is speaking to his own soul in an attempt to calm down from the despair he feels.  He had plenty of reason to have a soul disturbed within him.  He was under constant attack from his enemies.  Rather than focusing on his circumstances or giving in to despair, the psalmist reminds himself of the hope he has in God.  Because of that hope, he could look forward to a future where praise for God would come again to his lips.

It is true that God’s promises tend to calm me down.  I can get so worked up and panicky in the middle of a problem.  I need the quieting influence of God’s voice through His Word.  He reminds me that He is in control.  He reassures me of His presence.  He upholds me with declarations of His love.   He calms and quiets me much like the teddy bear does for the child.  A calm and quiet spirit is not natural in the middle of crisis.  Thankfully, I have Someone who does the supernatural for me.

Thank you Lord, for Your calming presence.


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The Manatee

Scripture for Today:Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

Who would ever want to harm this gentle creature?  The Florida manatee, or sea cow, measures up to 13 feet and 1,300 pounds.  Their slow lolling nature make this large marine mammal a favorite of tourists.  But there are Manatee Zone signs saying “Slow Speed” and “Minimal Wake” in an effort to protect them.  Even so, the manatee is classed as “vulnerable.”  Their greatest threat is human as they are hunted, drown in fishing nets, face habitat degradation or collide with fishing boats.

Today’s verse reminds us that our greatest enemy is not human.  Our biggest threat is spiritual against our souls.  We protect ourselves from evil by the different pieces of God’s armor: truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God. (verses 10-19)  We can stand firm against evil with the protection He provides.  We can stand with confidence as well, knowing that He not only has determined the outcome of this war, but He fights with and for us!

My courage is so non-existent that I need to enlist my husband when in combat with a spider!  There is nothing in me to inspire fear in those dark forces of evil.  Yet, the Devil will flee from me when I am wholly submitted to God (James 4:7).  I can face the dark and stand strong, never with  my puny efforts but in the power of His might!  Although this is a subject that can illicit fear, God reassures my heart.  If God is for me, who can be against me? (Romans 8:31)

Thank you Lord, that my heart, mind and soul belong to You.


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OMG!!!

Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:18 “The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.”

If ferrets could talk this one might be saying what I hear all the time from surprised people; “Oh my God!” Shortened to OMG, we all know this expression as part of widespread internet chat.  One of the earlier appearances of the term was in a letter to Winston Churchill from Lord Fisher in 1917.  But more recently the rise of “Valley Speak” in the pop culture of the eighties made the expression popular.  Of course, its use usually does not include any thought of God.

Today’s verse is a wonderful promise for those who are crying out to God.  Whether a person uses the words, “oh my God,” or some other expression, the Lord sees the intent of the heart.  He knows who is calling on Him in sincerity and in truth.  He promises to be near.  He especially makes His presence felt for the one who cries out to Him in desperation.  It is especially when we are in distress that He hears our cry for help (Psalm 18:6).  He promises that His ears are attentive to the cry of the righteous (Psalm 34:15).

Those casually using the expression, “Oh my God,” may one day be using it sincerely and in truth.  When they do, the Lord will be there as He was for me.  Just recently, at a time of great distress, it was all I could say in my heart.  Over and over these were the only words that could come.  He made His presence keenly felt and with that realization I felt hope.  How good and attentive He is to His children!

Oh my God, I am so thankful that You are mine and I am Yours.


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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.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministries.


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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.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministries.