Devotions By Jan


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Bitter Melon

Scripture for Today: Psalm 71:20 “Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up.”

Bitter melon looks nothing like a melon!  It looks more like a cucumber and it is not only its taste which can discourage a try but also its bumpy warty skin!  This very bitter fruit is grown in tropical areas of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and South America.  It is also known as balsam pear, bitter squash, karela and goya.  The bitter melon is believed to aid digestion and improve overall health.  It is even believed to help in treating diabetes and cancer, although the research is not conclusive.

Today’s verse talks about many bitter troubles.  David has had his share with his enemies seeking to kill him.  He has also lived with some very unhappy family relationships.  Yet he remains confident that his troubles will be short-lived.  He looks to the future with hope that God, though allowing the bitter trouble, will restore and lift him up once again.  David can say this as he has already seen the Lord do just that for him.  This psalm is full of testimony to God’s wonderful faithful care.

Although I enjoy God’s blessings, I am not spared “many and bitter troubles.”  And Peter tells me not to think it strange to experience fiery trials (I Peter 4:12).  But like David, I do not want to allow something difficult and even bitter to make me bitter!  He is there through all of it and is ready to restore and lift me up from the depths of disappointment, dashed hopes and depression!  In fact, He is the only One able to do it!

Thank you Lord, that You are my hope and comfort!


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Looking Through the Kaleidoscope

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 43:19  “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

This beautiful image was taken through an iPhone lens fitted to the eye hole of a kaleidoscope.  I used to look through them as a child, fascinated with the different colors, shapes and patterns.  The kaleidoscope was originally invented in 1815 as part of a scientific experiment on light polarization before becoming a popular toy.  It is amazing how those mirrors inside can change loose pieces of glass, beads and pebbles into amazing vibrant patterns!

Today’s verse is an encouragement to look at life differently.  Rather than focus exclusively on the past and what God has done, we are to rotate that kaleidoscope and see the new image the Lord wants to produce.  We can miss the new thing He wants to create in our lives.  To us it may not look like much.  Our lives can seem like random bits and pieces.  Our lives can even resemble a wilderness or wasteland.  But He has a purpose in bringing it all together in a new and exciting pattern!

He makes a way.  The Lord is a Master at taking the broken pieces of my life and fashioning them into something beautiful.  Sometimes, all I see are the ups and downs of the past.  So often I miss seeing how they are fitting together.  I do not always see the new thing He is creating.  But He is faithful to His promise to work all things for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28).  He is continually creating His character in me.

Thank you, Lord, that no detail of my life is beyond Your reach to produce something beautiful!


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The Amen

Scripture for Today: II Timothy 4:18 “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever . Amen.

How unusual!  A teenage couple from Jacksonville, Florida, were swept out to sea as a riptide pulled them 1.5 miles from shore.  No matter which way they swam they kept getting further and further out!  Exhausted, they floated on their backs, fearing the end was near.  They called out to God for help and shortly after were spotted and rescued by a passing boat.  Ironically, the boat was named, “Amen.”

We normally tack on an “amen” at the end of prayers without much thought to its meaning.  But in Scripture the “so be it” is used as a statement of confirmation.  In today’s verse, it follows a burst of praise from Paul.  He glorifies and praises God for His deliverance from evil and His promise to eventually bring him safely into His kingdom.  Paul had been beaten, shipwrecked and persecuted.  Although his life was not free of hardship, Paul remained confident that his future was secure and that nothing could touch his soul.  Evil would never win.

I have the same confidence and my whole life can be an “amen.”  Evil will not win in my life either as He has saved me completely (Heb.7:25).  I have been rescued from the power of evil and no attack can touch my soul.  Nothing can snatch me from His hand (John 10:29) and nothing can separate me from His love (Romans 8:38-39).  He has promised and what He says is true and sure.  No matter how many promises He has made they are all “Yes” in Christ (II Cor. 1:20) so I can continually say, “Amen.”

Thank you Lord, for the confidence You give!


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The Lily of the Valley

Scripture for Today:  Psalms 56:8  “You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle.  Are they not in Your book?”

Today in France,  bouquets of lily of the valley are offered to friends to wish them luck and happiness.  This day (their Labor Day) is called “Fête du Travail” or “Fête du Muguet” meaning lily of the valley.  I love their delicacy and sweet smell.  Legend has it that these are the tears of Eve as she was banished from the Garden of Eden.

Today’s verse tells us there is a bottle belonging to the Lord that holds our tears.  With this beautiful imagery we understand that God knows about every deception and every sorrow. The Lord is aware of every wandering and every tear drop.

King David had plenty of occasions to shed tears.  When he wrote this Psalm he was on the run for his life.  His enemies were constantly after him.  Apparently, real men DO cry.  But he was confident the Lord knew of his circumstances and his feelings.  When David cried out, he was reassured that God was with him and for him.

He sees my tears too.  Although this is poetic imagery, I like to think of Him saving every drop.  It shows me that I am precious to Him.  He even sees the unshed tears.  God’s awareness of my circumstances and emotions would be meaningless if He did not also care.  But He not only cares, He has the power to do something about it!  He consoles like no other.  He comforts.  He sees and understands.  He reassures me that He is on my side.  No other one can dry my tears like He can.

Lord, thank you that one day there will be no more tears.


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Take A Number!

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

I see fewer and fewer of those machines where one takes a number.  But when they are in use I am not sure it makes the waiting any easier.  But then, the purpose is more about keeping people from cutting in line than my ease.  It does  make sense when the waiting area is small and having any kind of line would crowd everyone.  But what is really annoying is not seeing the machine until after having waited some!

Today’s verse is all about waiting.  David is waiting to see God’s goodness.  He is seeking His face for mercy and help.  David knows that there can be no courage or bravery on his part without that wait.  He waits with expectation that God will come through for him.  His hope is based on God’s character and God’s promises to him.  Despite his circumstances, David remains confident that he will see the goodness of the Lord (verse 13).

When I wait to see God’s goodness I want to wait the way David did.  I do not want to focus on that problem.  Instead, I want to think about who God is; my Light, my Salvation, my Refuge.  Like David I want to remember God’s promises to me (verse 8).  But some waits are so long and difficult.  When there seems to be no evidence of change or when a solution seems impossible, waiting for God’s plan to unfold is a stretch.  But He gives me strength even for the wait.  His promises and reassurances give me confidence.  And when I look back on this wait, I will say that God showed me His goodness.

Keep my heart strong, Lord, while I wait for You.

 


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Make a Name for Yourself

Scripture for Today: Revelation 3:5b “I will never blot out the name of that person from the Book of Life but will acknowledge that name before my Father and His angels.” 

This REO Speed Wagon from 1941 was the inspiration for a family name!  My friend’s husband was named after Uncle Reo, the 13th child in his family.  The father was not allowed to take his newborn home until he had a name.  So, looking out the hospital window he saw his neighbor go by in a REO truck and took the name from its side!  (REO actually stands for Ransom E. Olds, founder of Oldsmobile).  This name continues in the family as the daughter’s name!

Today’s verse tells us that unlike names on earth that may eventually die out, there will one day be names that will never be blotted out.  These are names that remain in the Book of Life.  The ones who are victorious are the ones whose names will remain.  Not only that, Jesus will acknowledged those names before God the Father and the angels.  The victorious ones are those who will be dressed in white, like those from the Church of Sardis who remained faithful.  Those who have placed their faith in Jesus are the victorious ones! (I John 5:4)  God gives us this victory through His Son (I Cor. 15:57).

My name is only in the Book of Life because of Him.  Because of His unmerited favor towards me, He has written it there.  Nothing and no one has the authority to blot out my name except Him and He has promised to never blot it out.  Nothing will ever separate me from His undeserved love (Rom. 8:37-39).  My name is written in permanent ink because of His victory over sin and death!

Thank you Lord, for the victory I have in You!

 

 


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Inside a Whale!

Scripture for Today: Psalm 69:15 “Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me.”

Described as a modern-day Jonah, life for this wildlife photographer looked as if it might be cut short!  Filming a sardine run off the coast of South Africa, the water began to churn and before he knew it, Rainer Schimpf was swallowed up into total darkness.  But unlike the fish that swallowed Jonah for three days and three nights, this Bryde’s whale has an esophagus too small to completely swallow him.  He was spat out and lived to tell the tale!

Today’s verse expresses the sentiments perhaps felt  by this man and certainly by Jonah inside that fish.  But it is a cry for help from David as he was scared and depressed by the continual attacks of his enemies.  What he was experiencing did not last for just a moment or for three days.  What David endured continued for years.  It felt to David as if the depths of his despair would swallow him up.

Today marks the beginning of three long days of total despair as Jesus dies on the cross.  The whole land went dark as the Light of the world hung there for you and me.  But death could not swallow Him up for long.  Instead, “He will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8).  These three days until the resurrection represent all the waiting I do.  But I wait with hope for that time when all tears, sadness and death will be swallowed up in victory.  I wait with hope because I will one day be resurrected as well!  He is MY resurrection and MY life!

Help me Lord, to wait with joyful expectation and hope.