Devotions By Jan


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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.

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Caribou

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 11:13 “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”

Caribou seem to always be on the move.  They are called the “Nomads of the North” for good reason.  The caribou lay claim to the longest terrestrial migration on the planet!  Some of these beautiful animals, also called reindeer, travel up to 2,737 miles per year!  Different factors affect the timing of their movements but the migrations in general follow the seasons.  Perhaps the reason the caribou have survived tough conditions for so many thousands of years is the fact that they keep moving.

Today’s verse is in a chapter that lists the great men and women of faith.  What is true of all of them is that they were looking for a country of their own.  They were not comfortable where they were.  In a sense they were nomads.  Rather than becoming too comfortable where they were, they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God (verse 16).

As believers our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil.3:20) and we are not to feel too comfortable in whatever country we live.  I am not home yet.  But there are times when I am so steeped in this world and its values that I forget that this is not my home.  As much as I want to live comfortably here, I can become too complacent and forget to have that eternal perspective.  By living like a stranger or foreigner here, I can keep my eyes on my forever home!

Lord, keep me looking forward to my true home.


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Meteor Sighting

Scripture for Today: Psalm 43:3 “Send me Your light and Your faithful care, let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell.”

Our friends in Tallahassee were treated to an incredible sight a few days ago.  A meteor crashed through earth’s atmosphere lighting up the sky.  The five seconds it took to streak across the night turned the whole area into daylight.  One witness said it was if someone had turned on stadium lights!  This chunk of space rock is called a “meteoroid” when floating in space.  But as soon as it hits earth’s atmosphere it is called a “meteor.”  And should it strike the surface it becomes a “meteorite.”  In any case, the light it generates is impressive!

Today’s verse is a prayer for light.  We need His light to guide us back to the altar, back to His presence.  When we wander away it is easy to lose the way back to Him.  Our souls become downcast and disturbed (verse 5).  Without His light, everything seems somber, confusing, and even despairing.  Disquieting thoughts and doubts keep us feeling alienated.  But His light and His care brings us back into His comforting presence.  It is at His altar that we find what we need.  He is our joy and delight (verse 4).

How quickly it can get dark!  But it does not have to stay that way.  I have but to move back to His light-giving presence.  His Word is that light to my feet, leading me back to Him (Psalm 119:105).  Knowing Him better and better allows that light to grow inside (II Cor. 4:6).  And with that light comes confidence and courage.  Hope is reborn in His light!  Darkness will not win.

Thank you Lord, that Your light brings me back to You!


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First Day of 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.”

For many parts of the world, the small crocus poking out its little head through cold hard ground is the first indication of spring!  For years in the north of France that was true for us.  My heart was always encouraged with that unexpected burst of color appearing.  There was still plenty of brown landscape and barren trees, but at least I knew that change was in the air!

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 coming 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 barren 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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A Squirrel and His Nut

Scripture for Today: Psalm 77:11-12 “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will consider Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.”

I am not the only one who forgets where I have put things!  The University of Richmond did a study and found that squirrels fail to recover up to 74% of the nuts they bury!  Even so, they do have a strategy.  They do what’s called, “spatial chunking” sorting their nuts by size, type and taste and then burying them in groups.  Even more surprising are the grey squirrels who frequently dig up and then rebury the same nut, a behavior perhaps to refresh their memories!

Today’s verse comes from a psalm of Asaph, King David’s music director.  In his depression he is wondering if God is going to keep His promises.  He wonders if God’s love for him has vanished (verse 8).  He doubts and wonders but then he answers his own questions with these two verses.  He resolves to remember all of what the Lord has done in the past for him and his people.  He replaces his troubling thoughts with memories of God’s miracles and mighty deeds.

I have seen the Lord do so many miracles in my life!  He has provided and proved Himself faithful.  But those memories are so often buried.  I easily forget when I am struggling with a new difficulty.  I need to go back and dig it up to refresh my memory of His faithfulness!  Thoughts of His “mighty deeds” in the past restore my confidence and trust in Him!  Not only my memories do this but the testimony of others do too!  He has done it in the past and He will do it again!

Thank you Lord, for Your incredible faithfulness.


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Cricket Shelter

Scripture for Today: Psalm 31:20 “In the shelter of Your presence You hide them from all human intrigues; You keep them safe in Your dwelling from accusing tongues.”

This spiky plastic pod looks positively alien!  But in fact, it is a shelter, creating a modular farm.  And it is built just for crickets and for raising them.  These insects are harvested, dried and ground up for the production of flour.  As disgusting as it sounds, they provide three times as much protein as steak!  In areas that are impoverished, they can be another source to combat potential starvation.  The spikes help capture the wind and provide ventilation.  They can be used individually or stacked in sequence forming a line of shelters.

Today’s verse is a wonderful assurance for those who are under some serious verbal attack.  God’s presence is a shelter from accusing tongues.  He hides His own from the plots and conspiracies of men.  David is often under physical attack from his enemies.  But the damage inflicted this time is to his name and his reputation.  To combat this kind of slanderous attack he turns to God to still those lying lips (verse 18).  David ends the psalm testifying to the reader that all those who hope in the Lord can be strong and take heart (verse 24).

False accusations cause a very different kind of pain and it is often unexpected.  It is an effective attack as even the accusation standing on its own can ruin a reputation.  But God knows and He hates lying.  He promises vindication and protection by His very presence.  He stores up good things for those who trust Him to act.  Not only that, He gives to us those good things, “in the sight of all,” validating us publicly.

Thank you Lord, that trust placed in You is well placed.

 


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The Ice Queen

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 12:28 “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”

This 77 year old grandmother from Texas looks secure in this photo, perched upon an “ice throne” on her vacation in Iceland.  However, seconds later a wave washed in and dislodged this chunk of ice on the shore.  She knew she was in trouble when her “throne” began to rock back and forth.  Before she could react, the wave swept her out to sea and she had to be rescued!  Thankfully, although she was shaken, she was unharmed!

Today’s verse talks about receiving a Kingdom that thankfully cannot be shaken.  The Israelites had already experienced the earth shaking at Mount Sinai when God warned them.  And one day God will again shake the earth and even the heavens with warning and judgement (Rev. 6:12-14).  Only God’s Kingdom will remain, a Kingdom that will be immovable and eternal.  This Kingdom will include a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1-2).  It is with this perspective that we can worship the God of the universe as He should be worshipped, with reverence and awe.

It is sobering for me to think of the instability and temporary nature of every created thing around me.  But what awaits in God’s Kingdom is infinitely better and more beautiful!  What’s more, there will be no more shaking, sinking or waves of trouble that overwhelm and destabilize.  I want to build my life on what is eternal and not swept out to sea!  Seeking His Kingdom and rule first gives my life a stability not dependent on the swirling circumstances around me.

Lord, I am so thankful that because of Your grace, You have made me part of Your Kingdom!