Devotions By Jan


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Fallen Leaf Art

Scripture for Today: Psalm 1:3 “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Have you ever walked by a leaf on the ground that had such vibrant color that you had trouble leaving it behind?  The Japanese use these beautiful leaves in what they call, “ochiba art.”  What would normally be swept up and left to decompose is instead arranged in beautiful designs.   Of course, the beauty is temporary.  But at least they go out in a burst of glory before they wither and die.

Today’s verse describes a seasonal cycle unknown in our world.  There is no Autumn as leaves do not wither, die and fall from the branches.  This unique season enjoys continual growth and greenery.  There is seasonal fruit and a steady supply of water for this tree planted by streams of water.  What a beautiful image of the one who delights in the law of the Lord and does not walk, stand or sit with the wicked. (verses 1- 2)

The wicked are pictured as chaff that dries up and blows away (verse 4).  What a contrast!  Rather than being vibrant and living, it is utterly useless and is carried away with the slightest breeze.  But the Lord will not allow me to be dried up and useless.  There may be differing seasons of fruitfulness, but my leaves will never wither.  I may not always see how He is using me, but He does produce fruit.  His life continues within and He never stops working in me!  Because of being planted in Him, I will stay green and vibrant and beautiful.  Because of Him my shade is inviting and my limbs provide protection.

Thank you Lord, that You can and do use me in spite of myself!

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Crocodile

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.”

How would you like to have someone follow you around and constantly tell you how great you are?  That was the role of Steve “Crocodile” Fitch for Mike Tyson, the heavy weight fighter, at the peak of his popularity.  He was a self-described master motivator or personal cheerleader.  Perhaps why he referred to himself as a crocodile had something to do with his big mouth!  He was a professional screamer and a very loud mouthpiece, given the task of dealing with the public and the press.

Today’s verse describes a better source of encouragement; Scripture.  We need its encouragement to hold on to our hope.  We need the encouragement of Scripture to endure.  Our spirits sometimes lag.  We 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 reassures us of His faithfulness and the worth He sees in us.

The Lord 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 feel like giving up.  He knows just what I am feeling.  Although I appreciate the kind words of others, nothing can give me the same kind of encouragement to hope that God’s Word does.  His Word cheers me on! And I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering me on as well! (Heb. 12:1)  He is on my side and He wants me to succeed.

Thank you Lord, for Your Word that keep me keeping on!

 


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Shade Trees

Scripture for Today: Psalm 121:5 “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand.”

These sheep are taking advantage of the only shade available on Cleeve Hill in Gloucestershire, England.  This beautiful spot overlooks Winchcombe in the valley below.  As the sun makes its trek across the sky, the bench sits in that lovely shade, providing welcome relief from the sun’s rays.  Sheep are often portrayed as dumb, but at least they know enough to move out of the sun and find comfort in the shade of that tree!

Today’s verse describes God’s care, protection and presence as shade.  His shade is at our right hand as that is the side used for battle.  The unrelenting heat of battle is lessened with assurances of His presence and power.  We are not dealing with an enemy that we can see (Eph. 6:12).  Putting on all that spiritual armor is essential for the conflict, but even more important is His divine protection.  The light of the sun or the moon will not harm us (verse 6).  Day or night He is watching over His own.  Nothing can touch our souls as He has already assured the outcome.  We are on the winning side.

What a comfort to have Him always with me!  I am so often unaware, not only of the raging battle around me but of His presence.  He is protecting me twenty-four seven from dangers I unknowingly encounter.  He is my shade and protection from any and all evil in the world.  If any of it should touch me, it is only with His permission and for His higher purposes.  He is always watching and nothing gets past Him.  He is my Deliverer and I can trust HIm.

Thank you Lord, for being my shade today.


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Restless Dogs

Scripture for today: I John 3:19 “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence.”

This poor pug looks grumpy and sleep-deprived!  Have you ever seen a dog circle and circle his bed before finally laying down?  Or there’s the dog that paces back and forth.  The restless dog will repeatedly adjust his sleep position, unable to lie still.  The reason for this behavior could be the pain of arthritis or a sign of doggy anxiety.  But this restlessness is not just a problem for dogs!  Everything can be positive in life and yet one can still have a restless spirit.

Today’s verse talks about a heart that is at rest.  When we know and are convinced that we belong to the truth, there is a resting settled feeling in our hearts.  In His presence, we feel His peace, knowing that we belong to Him.  No longer are our hearts restless, wandering or searching.  When we belong to Him, our hearts can no longer condemn us as He is greater than our hearts (verse 20).  We can have confidence before God as He knows everything and He knows our hearts better than we do ourselves!  When we believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our hearts are finally at rest (verse 23).

When my heart is at rest, there is a confident peace.  He does not want my heart to be restless or troubled (John 14:27).  His Spirit testifies with my spirit that I am God’s own (Rom.8:16) and reassures my heart.  How good He is to give me that heart at rest!  And how much I want that for friends and family members who live restless lives without Him.

Lord, may I feel that heart rest today.

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The Morning Glory

Scripture for Today: Psalm 143:8 “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life.”

This beautiful flower is  just like its name.  At night it closes, perhaps to keep in the moisture, perhaps to keep out damaging insects.  Then with the light of dawn, it opens its petals and appears in all its glory!  The name Morning Glory actually refers to over 1000 species of flowers that do this same thing.  The species pictured has blossoms shaped like funnels and come in purple, pink or white.  They grow on vines that climb all over a fence or trellis.

Today’s verse looks to the morning, not only as the start to a new day, but also to the hope of God’s unfailing love.  It is a hope that is never disappointed as God is faithful to all HIs promises.  Our trust is well placed in His unfailing love.  No other love is so constant.  No other love is so wide, long, high or deep as His love (Eph. 3:18).  And He demonstrates His unfailing love for us by showing us the way we should go.  His love guides and protects in that brand new day.

The word of his unfailing love may not always be found in my circumstances.  The word of His unfailing love may not always be found in my feelings.  The word of His unfailing love is most consistently found in the Bible.  Starting my day with the reminders of His love reassures me that He is there.  He is waiting for me to wake up so He can show me again.  Because I can trust His love, I can entrust to Him my life!

Thank you Lord, that Your love never fails me.

 

 


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Say Yes to the Dress

Scripture for Today:  Lamentations 3:22-23 “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

I guess I am a traditionalist.  My opinions are usually very different than the preferences shown by the soon-to-be-brides on the television show, “Say Yes to the Dress.”  I always prefer a white wedding dress to any other color.  It is not that the bride needs to have been lily white in her past.  It just seems that this solemn occasion marks a new and exciting beginning.  The commitment at the altar before God and witnesses can be viewed like clean slate.

Today’s verse gives hope that each day can be a new start.  The Lord’s compassion is renewed for His own every morning.  Regardless of what happened the day before, He is faithful to His commitment towards us.  Because of His unfailing love, we receive from Him His amazing grace.  We do not deserve forgiveness, but He continues to offer it to those who come clean with Him.

His renewed compassion gives me that new start every morning.  He washes me whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7).  He continually clothes me in dazzling white with each pardon.  Each morning I can start again.  That is what His forgiveness does for me.  I do not have to put on dirty clothes.  My past mistakes and failures are never an issue with Him.  He promises to not even remember them (Heb. 10:17).  How wonderful to begin each day with a clean slate!  Because of what Jesus did for me on that cross I can count on His continued faithfulness each and every morning.  He thinks I look good in white!

Thank you Lord, for Your pure perfect pardon.

 


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Case Closed

Scripture for Today:  Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

“Case Closed” is the English title given to this ongoing Japanese detective manga series where an amateur detective is transformed into a child and helps solve crime.  But in a larger sense the phrase, “case closed,” is said after any question, debate or mystery has been solved or answered.  It is meant to be final and not able to be amended or varied in any way.  It puts a stop to any more discussion.

Today’s verse could be viewed as a case closed.  It is a wonderful assurance for the one who has placed their faith in Jesus.  There is no fear of this case being reopened.  The believer is justified, or declared righteous, not because of his own deeds but because of being credited with Christ’s righteousness (Romans 4:22-25).  The just punishment that we deserve has been fully met by His death on the cross.  The righteousness Jesus achieved has been laid to our account!

It has been decided.  I do not have to live in fear and doubt.  He declared, “It is finished,” on that cross.  How amazing that I can stand before Him, declared righteous!  Satan tries his best to try and pry open a case that is eternally closed by making accusations.  But it is to no avail.  God’s mighty hand has closed the affair and I have peace with God, now and forever.  My heart is not troubled because of my guilt and sin.  His forgiveness and declaration has established heartfelt peace, relief, and the joy and hope of heaven!  What God has declared is a case closed and His Word is final.

Thank you Lord, for Your precious assurance!