Devotions By Jan


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Nurse Log

Scripture for Today: John 12:24 “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

How strange to see a tree growing out of the remains of another!  This tree grows in the Cathedral Grove of Vancouver Island.  But throughout our Pacific Northwest, nurse logs can be seen.  When a whole row of trees are growing in a perfectly straight line , they are probably marking the place where an old tree fell.  These chunks of dead wood become cradles for new life!  That is because they give a head start to young seedlings as they decay, providing water, moss, leaf litter, disease protection and nutrients.

Today’s verse includes the same principle of having more impact dying in the service of others than living for one’s self.  The next verse explains that those who love their lives, lose them.  But the one who hates his life will keep it.  The nurse log has literally died as has the kernel of wheat in our verse.  However, our dying as believers has more to do with giving up rights and privileges in serving others.   Picking up our cross and following Jesus involves the daily denying of ourselves in the interest of others (Mark 8:34).

This is just as hard as it sounds and for me, proves to be a daily struggle.  My needs, my wants, my preferences…. I am not to hold on to them too tightly.  If by putting myself second I can encourage someone else, than I am being a “nurse log.”  Enough of these selfless acts will add up to creating a legacy that lives on even after my actual death!

Lord, make me a servant today!

 

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Floundering

Scripture for Today: “II Corinthians 5:15 “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”

This fish continued his valiant fight for life even after being pulled from the water.  I enjoy seafood so much but I hate thinking about how it got to be on my plate!  In the end, this fish flopping and floundering did him no good.  The word “floundering” was perhaps influenced in the 1590’s by the Dutch word, “flodderen” meaning to flop about.  Later this verb referred to being completely unable to decide what to do or say.

Today’s verse gives a goal and direction to life.  Rather than flounder through life following different visions and dreams, there is a sense of purpose.  This goal in life does not change with the times or fashions of the day.  It is not a goal that disappoints but a purpose that is deep and lasting.  There is no ambiguity.  We are to live our lives for the Lord Jesus who died and was raised again for us.  Living to please ourselves leaves us empty and unfulfilled.  Solomon found that living for any desire or pleasure was meaningless and like chasing after wind. (Eccl. 2:10-11)

It breaks my heart to see family and friends floundering, living for the next relationship, the next adventure or the next big purchase.  A whole life can be spent on the dubious goal of pleasing one’s self.  But living for the Lord is always an adventure of faith!  He gives that sense of purpose to my life.  Living for His purposes gives a satisfaction and a significance like nothing else can.

Thank you Lord, that in sacrificing Your own life, You have made mine worth living!

 

 


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Giving Up

Scripture for Today: Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

I can relate to the frustration this man must be feeling.  I can guess at the pressure he is feeling to meet a deadline.  Perhaps he is irritated at a failed communication or the lack of any response at all.  I wonder if he feels that his work will never produce the desired effect.  In any case, this image suggests a discouragement and weariness we all sometimes feel.

Today’s verse lets us know that though we do not see an immediate result to our good works, there will be a future time when we will see the fruit of our labor.  The “proper time” for seeing results may not be the present.  But eventually, God brings about results.  The harvest we reap is in His timing and control.  Our part is to keep on keeping on, regardless of the results.

It is easy for me to feel weary and wonder if God is really using me.  I do not want to give up serving Him, but it can be discouraging to wonder if I am making a difference.  Is He hearing my prayers for my loved ones?  Is He using my story to draw others to Himself?  God’s work of changing hearts is often initially unseen.  But the promise of reaping a harvest is only for those who do not give up!  I have to trust that His Word does not return void but accomplishes what He intends (Isaiah 55:11).  Yes, there are moments of weariness, but in His grace He gives strength and motivation to continue!

Help me Lord, to never give up serving You!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule.)


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Stairs

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 2:22 “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?”

I almost passed right by this picture without seeing it.  Yes, it’s artsy but there is a little detail easy to miss.  The stairs lead nowhere!  Perhaps, there was once a door at the top, but no longer.  I think I would be plenty irritated to expend that energy climbing for no good reason.  How awful to finally get to the top of a long flight of stairs, only to find that there is nothing there!

It must have been with this same sentiment that Solomon wrote today’s verse.  What ever is the point of all the striving, working and toil man goes through all of his life?  If at the end of the climb one finds no satisfaction in reaching the goal, than life can seem a cruel joke.  But that is exactly the case if the Lord is left out of the picture.  Everything, even the most admirable success, is meaningless.  Climbing the ladder to wealth, prestige and security means nothing in the end.  At the end of life, a hard-earned fortune gets passed down until it dwindles away to nothing (verse 21).

I cannot imagine saying on my death bed, “I wish I had worked more.”  I would hope that I would say, “I wish I had loved and served Him more.”  Living for my Creator is the only life that makes sense to me.  My strife, toil and work when done for Him gives it eternal value.  Anxious striving for my own selfish desires proves empty in the end.  “Only one life, ’twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Lord, keep me focused on living and working for You!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule.)


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Cranberry Bog

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 44:3 “For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.”

It about took my breath away!  We were driving the back roads near Plymouth, MA when we rounded the corner and saw a shimmering field of red!  The cranberry bog was being flooded with water and the brilliant October sun was hitting it just right.  The farmers flood the area with up to eighteen inches of water to free the cranberries from the vine.  Then because of the small pocket of air contained in the cranberries, they float to the surface, ready to be harvested.

Water is of course essential to growing most anything but with “wet harvesting” it also plays an important role in getting access to the fruit.  Today’s verse pictures God’s Spirit like that water so important to fruit production.  Without His work we remain a thirsty land.  Without His blessing we continue life as dry ground.  But oh how it all changes when the Holy Spirit moves and works in people’s hearts.

When I try producing fruit and good works in my own strength, I am using thirsty land and dry ground.  I need the Holy Spirit to flood my efforts with His life-producing water and power.  I can do nothing in my own strength.  It is not how busy I am doing things for others.  It is not how many Bible verses I know.  It is allowing Him to work through me as I depend on Him.  It is getting my ego out of the way and being about His glory.

Lord, please pour out today the blessing of Your Spirit.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule.)


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Mommy-isms

Scripture for Today: Psalm 86:16 “Turn to me and have mercy on me; show Your strength on behalf of Your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did.”

It is practically inevitable!  Those “mommy-isms” uttered by Mom so many years ago come back mysteriously to my own lips in raising my children.  And now I hear my children repeating them to their children!  “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”  “Who said life was fair?”  “How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it yet?”  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  And my personal favorite; “Go ask your Father.”

Today’s verse is part of David’s prayer for deliverance from attacking enemies.  He appeals to God’s mercy, compassion, love and faithfulness (verse 15).  David acknowledges his need for God’s strength as His servant and begs God to save him.  At this dangerous time of personal peril, David remembers his mother.  It is her example of service to God that David follows.  Because he serves God as his own mother did, David feels confident that God will answer his prayer and deliver him.  We do not know her name, but whoever she was, she had an amazing influence on David.

I am very different from my Mother, and yet I sometimes feel as though I sound just like her!  Her imprint on me is deep and lasting.  I remember her words of advice but more importantly, she is an example.  Her biggest influence is the way she lives her life.  Like David’s mother, she too serves the Lord.  She models that service to me.  My deepest desire is that I can somehow model that same service to my children and grandchildren!

Thank you Lord, that despite my failings You can use a mother’s influence!

 


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My Carrot

Scripture for Today: Colossians 3:23-24  “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

I am not sure this little one can handle such a challenging food!  But perhaps it is never too soon to introduce carrots with their sweet taste, crunchiness and health benefits.  The mule is certainly motivated to reach that “carrot on a stick.”  Dangling the carrot just out of reach keeps that mule moving forward.  This expression has come to mean being motivated to persevere, knowing that eventually there will be a reward.

Today’s verse is quite clear about linking reward to our motivation to work hard.  It is for Him that we  work and not for the approval and recognition of men.  It is always nice, of course, to have that pat on the back from men too.  But it does not always come.  The Lord understands our need for recognition and reward and how they help to motivate us.  But there is a reluctance to talk about rewards.  It is like we are embarrassed that we need them.  There is the idea that somehow working for reward is a motive that is suspect.  And yet, the teaching of rewards is found throughout Scripture.

There are many times that others do not see what I do, or in seeing, say nothing in the way of thanks or appreciation.  Those words of approval are important to keep me going.  I am just made that way.  I need to be reminded of God’s rewards.  He sees.  He knows.  He is pleased with my service to Him and His rewards can keep me going.

Please Lord, may I one day hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”