Devotions By Jan


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Puppet Strings

Scripture for Today: Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

I was surprised to learn that Punch and Judy have been around since the 1600’s!  These marionettes  as part of British culture were originally intended for adult entertainment.  It was not until the Victorian era that the stories were changed for children.  Each story had common themes including: Punch’s bad behavior, struggles with Judy, his wife and the baby, victory over run-ins with the law, and plenty of songs and jokes mixed in.  Of course, Punch and Judy had no say in the story line!

Today’s verse is part of a charge Joshua gave the Israelites just before his death.  He admonished the people to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully by throwing out the gods of their ancestors.  Joshua challenged them to choose!  Then comes the often-quoted declaration that he and his household choose to serve the Lord.  Our Creator has given us choice.  How it works with His sovereignty is a mystery but true nonetheless.  There are no puppet strings however.  God wants our love and service to be sincere and come from our hearts.

Every day there lies before me a choice in how I will spend those next 24 hours.  I can choose to live them for my own selfish pleasure or I can choose to find my pleasure in service to Him!  When I choose my own interests over His, it is as if I am choosing the same false gods of those Israelites.  But when I choose to serve Him, I feel His pleasure and experience His gracious blessing!

Lord, today I choose You!

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The Backhoe

Scripture for Today: I Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Life comes to a complete stand-still for my young grandsons when one of these earth moving machines rolls into view.  I am not sure why the fascination but at least it’s free entertainment!  It took some “digging” to learn the difference between these different machines.  I learned that the backhoe pictured here is different than the excavator as it digs by pulling the earth backwards towards itself, rather than lifting the earth.

Today’s verse reminds the believers in the Thessalonian church to continue building up and encouraging each other.  They were told to encourage one another with the truth of our hope in Jesus Christ.  Regardless of pain and suffering, persecution and even death, they could look forward to living with Him eternally.  These were the words that would build up the one going through a hard time.  We are to be the “excavator,” lifting up that dirt.

I do not want to be that backhoe.  It is moving that dirt towards itself.  The “backhoe” wants all the attention on him.  Rather than being concerned for the other, the self-centered believer takes and takes without reciprocating.  My focus is to be on the one who needs lifting up.

A friend asked this morning how I was doing and I shared a few struggles.  She grabbed my hand right there and prayed for me.  I was so touched.  It was only right that I turn the question around and ask her what she was facing.  And it seemed the most natural thing in the world to also pray for her!  We were both lifted up and encouraged.

Thank you Lord, for the encouragement we can give and receive!

 


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Caring Dolphins

Scripture for Today: Galatians 6:1-2  “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Awhile back I took my daughter whale watching but all we saw were dolphins.  Neither of us were disappointed though.  They are so much fun to watch, jumping, frolicking and following our boat.  Dolphins are such intelligent mammals and often will “bow-ride,” swimming alongside a ship to conserve energy.  But what is really surprising is their altruism!  A dolphin will stay by another ill or injured dolphin, even helping them to the surface to breathe!

Today’s verse is addressed to those who are living and walking by the Spirit.  Restoring a fellow believer who is broken with sin is more than just altruism but a command. This act of love and caring is done with kindness, tenderness and a gentle spirit.  When we restore someone to a close relationship with the Lord, we listen, we cry, we share, we pray together and we encourage confession.  How amazing it is to see God’s forgiveness make one whole again!

There are really two prerequisites to restoring a believer caught in sin.  The first is to be in right relationship with the Lord myself.  The second is to care, to care and love so much that I am willing to be involved, even long term.  To care that much means being a servant with my time.  It also means caring enough to risk misunderstanding and perhaps a broken relationship as a result of speaking truth.  But what a privilege to be used by Him to bring someone back!

Lord, make me willing to care that much!


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Bald Eagle’s Nest

Scripture for Today: Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

The nest or aerie of a bald eagle is the largest of any North American bird.  They can measure up to 13 feet deep and 8 feet wide!  Along with sticks the eagle uses moss, grass, plant stalks, lichens, seaweed and sod.  The bole area for their young is lined with softer material and down feathers.  Recently, the public was reminded to keep the areas in their vicinity clear of trash.  Apparently, the eagles will sometimes make use of the trash on the ground to build up their nests.

Today’s verse is part of a charge Joshua gave the Israelites just before his death.  He admonished the people to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully by throwing out the gods of their ancestors.  Joshua challenged them to choose!  Then comes the often quoted declaration that he and his household choose to serve the Lord.  There will be no compromise by allowing the trash of false gods to cross his threshold.

I want to have that same resolve as Joshua.  One would think that false gods would not really be an issue.  But a “god” can be anything I prioritize and value more than my Savior.  In allowing other things to take His place, my nest or house might grow larger and more impressive to some.  But it is foolish to be building my house on what is essentially sand (Matt.7:26).  It is by wisdom that a house is built (Prov. 24:3).  And when I am fearing and obeying Him I am being wise (Psalm 111:10).  May all who enter my house see exactly who we choose to serve!

Lord, I choose You.

 


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Jacaranda Tree

Scripture for Today:  I Corinthians 15:52 “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed.”

I love this time of year when the Jacaranda tree is in bloom.  Their purple color is so vibrant it almost looks unreal, like something out of Dr. Seuss!  When several of these trees line a street, their blooms resemble a sea of lavender.  And when their blossoms drop to the ground, their beauty continues as a lilac carpet.  It seems appropriate that their flowers are in the shape of a trumpet, as they herald the coming of summer!

The trumpet in our verse today has a very special meaning.  Sounding it will signal the resurrection.  It does not say who will blow this trumpet, perhaps an angel, but it will be heard all over the world.  When it is blown, those believers who have died will receive their new incorruptible bodies.  Those believers still living at the time will also be changed.  Death will forever be swallowed up in victory! (verse 54)  What a day that will be!

One future day I will hear a trumpet sound that will announce the end of time.  Death will no longer sting and sin will be powerless.  My body will be changed to be imperishable.  Knowing this helps me to stay steadfast, immoveable and involved in what He wants me to do.  He has promised that my work for Him will never be futile or in vain (verse 58).  Thinking about what is to come keeps me motivated and encouraged!

Lord, keep me listening for that trumpet!

 

 


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Sacrifice

Scripture for Today: Matthew 16:25 “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.”

This watch survived a torpedo attack on the USS Pennsylvania on the arm of my Father.  Unlike so many we commemorate on Memorial Day, he emerged from WWII unscathed.  His ship, however, did not fare well.  On August 12, 1945 the hit from a Japanese torpedo opened up a 30 foot hole in the stern and the ship was eventually decommissioned without seeing further action.  Twenty men died that day, sacrificing their lives for our freedom.

Today’s verse presents a true paradox.  Those who are intent on saving their lives at any cost will end up paying in other ways.  Lives that are selfishly lived will in the end be lost.  Whereas, those who pour out and sacrifice their lives for others as a service to the Lord will have meaning and purpose.  They will in fact find their lives.

My Father did not lose his life on that fateful day, but he did lose his life in service to the Lord.  For 93 years he lost his life by living it for his Savior.  Yet he found life, one that was so rich and full and blessed!

Losing my life for the One I love is the best way I know to demonstrate my love.  I lose my life each time I choose to obey God’s way rather than my own.  I lose my life every time I put His agenda of good works ahead of my own.  When I desire Christ’s love above and beyond any human love then my life is spent serving Him.  In losing my life to Him, He fills it and makes it meaningful!

Thank you Lord, that in sacrificing myself to You I find life!


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Driftwood

Scripture for Today:  Philippians 3:12  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

There is no mystery at all to why driftwood is called driftwood.  It is simply wood that has drifted.  The wood comes to be in the water through flooding or storms breaking off tree branches.  Or it could be there as a result of logging.  In any case, the wood drifts aimlessly at the whim of the waves.  When and where it washes up on to shore seems completely arbitrary.  Just like for some people, circumstances push and prod to move a body from here to there with no clear goal in mind.

In today’s verse, Paul lives his life with a specific goal in mind.  He wants to gain Christ (verse 8) be found in Christ (verse 9) and to know Christ (verse 10).  Paul not only wanted to know Jesus and His power, he was ready to suffer for His sake.  He was willing to completely deny himself and take up his cross to follow Him (Luke 9:23).  His goals would last a lifetime and make his life significant.  There would be no aimless drifting through life for him!

What is my purpose?  Because I belong to Him, I want the goals in my life to match up with His for me.  Knowing Him is the most worthwhile purpose there is!  And God prepared in advance a whole plan of good works for me to accomplish. (Eph. 2:10)  I, like every believer, have a purpose.  I do not want to waste time and just drift through life!  And I am confident He will give me what it takes to “press on.”

Lord, keep me from drifting today.