Devotions By Jan


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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.”


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Autographed

Scripture for Today: Revelation 22:3-4 “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face and His name will be written on their foreheads.”

What devotion!  This girl has the names of thirteen celebrities written on her body!  She asks her idols to sign somewhere on her arms or on her back in marker.  She then goes to her local tattooist to make her souvenir permanent.  Apparently she is choosy, allowing only those who she deems an icon to have this privilege.  The autographs she wears include Angelina Jolie, Celine Dion and Lionel Richie!

Today’s verse describes a time in eternity when those who belong to the Lord will wear His name.  And the privilege will be all ours!  We, as His servants, will have a closeness to His throne and will daily see His face.  His name will be on our foreheads, figuratively or literally.  More than an autograph, His name will mark us for all eternity as His very own.  And our service to Him will include forever reigning with Him (verse 5).

I may not have His name on my forehead now.  But hopefully, I am so closely identified with Him that I and others know that I belong to Him and He is mine!  His is a name that is above every other name (Phil. 2:9).  So exalted is this name that one day every knee will bow at even the sound of it!  He is the One who lifts my head high with His forgiveness (Ps 3:3).  When I look to Him I can be “radiant” and my face is not covered with shame (Ps. 34:5).

Lord, how unworthy I am.  Thank you for the incredible privilege of bearing Your name!

 


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Sandcastles

Scripture for Today: Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

I doubt that this sandcastle was built by a small child.  It seems too involved and complicated, perhaps needing some special molds and skills.  Sandcastle-building has become quite the art form with annual competitions all over Southern California.  Corona Del Mar is celebrating its 56th annual competition this October.  The entries are elaborate and take painstaking precision.  The results are impressive but no longer there.  These fantasy castles and kingdoms are eventually reclaimed by the ocean.  What a shame to see all that creative work washed away!

Today’s verse speaks of a kingdom that is eternal.  It does not erode with time.  What effort is invested in this kingdom will endure.  We are promised that when spending our lives living for God’s kingdom, we will be able to live our lives without worrying about tomorrow (verse 34).  The  mundane pursuits of food and clothing become less important.   Life is more than food and the body more than clothes (verse 25).  Seeking His kingdom means living for Him and for values that are eternal.

The most important component of any kingdom is its king.  Seeking God’s kingdom is to live as His subject and submit to His rule.  When I live for Him and His purposes, this gracious King takes care of the details.  But I sometimes get distracted by building my own little sandcastles.  I want my own kingdom, however small, in the hopes of having some say and control.  I want to be the one in charge!  But my pathetic kingdom is never as good as His.  And I do not want to waste my time on what will not last!

Lord, keep me focused on living for You.