Devotions By Jan


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“I Have a Dream…”

Scripture for Today: Romans 8:24-25 “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 that Martin Luther King Junior spoke words of hope in his “I Have a Dream” speech.  Six times he repeated the words, “I have a dream that one day…”  King dreamed of racial equality, brotherhood, freedom and justice, not being judged by the color of one’s skin, and the joining of hands as brothers and sisters.  The world has changed since those days, and although there has been some progress, much of what he dreamed remains unfulfilled.

Today’s verse talks about hope.  But unlike the hopes and dreams of King, this is a hope that saves.  It is a hope that has to do with full and complete redemption (verse 23).  It is a hope that is sure because the object of that hope is Christ Himself.  What He has promised is something that is sure.  The word, “hope,” in Scripture denotes confident expectation of what is sure to come.  And hope means waiting patiently for the fulfillment of His promises.

There are many promises in my life that are yet to come.  The Lord wants to shower His goodness on me when I wait quietly and with confidence.  The Lord is especially good to me as I earnestly seek His face in those hard times of waiting (Lamentations 3:25-26).  My hope in Him is never disappointed as He can be counted on to be true to His Word.

Lord, thank you for the sure hope I have in You!  Help me to wait patiently for all the good that You have promised.


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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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A French Medal

Scripture for Today:  Romans 15:4  “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

This French medal is awarded by the “Société Nationale d’Encouragement Au Bien.”  The goal of this group, founded in 1862, is to encourage acts of dedication and courage to society.  Their premise is that we all need encouragement and hope.  And because society needs good examples, recognizing an individual’s acts of service will be an encouragement for others.

Today’s verse gives us another source of encouragement; Scripture.  We need its encouragement to hold on to our hope.  We need the encouragement of Scripture to endure.  His Word teaches us of His faithfulness and love.  In reading of how He has come through for others, we ourselves can take heart.  His promises reassure and His intimate knowledge of our struggles calms our doubts and fears.  His Word gives us hope in what is certain, true and unchangeable.  His Word motivates us to persevere when we are tempted to give up.

My spirit sometimes lags.  I get discouraged waiting for that answer to prayer or His promise to be fulfilled.  But God’s Word is so much more than a pep talk.  His Word is a love letter where the Lord reveals His heart as well as His plan for me.  He so often points me to just the right passage to encourage me when I am down.  He speaks to me through His Word when I am tired and weighed down.  He knows just what I am feeling.  Nothing in this world can give me the same kind of encouragement to hope that God’s Word does.

Thank you Lord, that Your Word lifts my heart with hope.

 


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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.