Devotions By Jan


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Martens in the House!

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 11:6 “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.”

The cute and furry martens in our area of France were a real problem.  Because we had a car port rather than a garage, they would burrow up into the car carriage for warmth and chew on the wires!  A devise with an electrical shock discouraged them.  But the parties they would have in our attic were quite another challenge!  The only solution was trapping them and letting them go as they were protected.  Thankfully, our landlord took care of them with boiled eggs luring them into cages.

Today’s verse talks about what will trap those who feel no allegiance to the Lord; their evil desires.  What looks innocuous and tasty turns out to be dangerous.  Their evil desires promise comfort and warmth but instead deliver a nasty shock.  Those who are in right standing with God are delivered from even wanting what is evil and wicked.  Their righteous living keeps them away from entrapment.  When the one who is righteous delights in the Lord, his desires change and are no longer evil, aligning with His desires (Psalm 37:4).

It is not always easy for me to determine if my desires are evil and self-serving.  My heart can deceive me and my rational can be flawed.  Sin can be sneaky and alluring and temptation can be very strong.  It is only in submitting my desires to Him that I can have any confidence that my desires are lining up with His.  He will shine the light of His Word and expose the thoughts and attitudes of my heart. (Heb. 4:12)  The discomfort of conviction is a whole lot better than becoming trapped!

Lord, change my desires to be like Yours.

Photo Credit: Thomas Broxton Jr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/133339206@N03/17344629244


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Stubborn as a Donkey

Scripture for Today: Nehemiah 9:17a “They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles You performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery.”

When a donkey refuses to budge, it might as well stick out his tongue at you!  Donkeys have the reputation of being strong willed and obstinate.  But in their donkey brains they are stubborn for a reason.  No matter how hard one pulls on a donkey, he will not move if he feels in danger or if he feels he is being overworked.  Sometimes a donkey just has to stop and think whether he wants to obey or not.  And if not, they will plant their hooves and refuse to move.

Today’s verse describes the Israelites as stubborn and stiff-necked.  God had made His commandments very clear, but they refused to listen to His voice.  They also chose not to remember all His miracles in leading them out of slavery in Egypt.  The result was a stubborn conviction that their way was best, even if it meant returning to that slavery!  They planted their feet and refused to go on.  Perhaps they felt it was just too hard to obey.  Thankfully, God did not give up on them (verse 17b).  Because He is gracious and compassionate, He forgave them.

It is easy to see their stubbornness but I tend to gloss over this trait in myself.  Any time I refuse to listen to God’s voice of conviction, I am at risk of stubbornly returning to sin’s slavery.  Any time I forget all of what He has done for me, I am likely to stubbornly do what seems best to me.

Thank you, Lord that You do not give up on me.  Help me to listen and remember today!


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On the Move

Scripture for Today:  Jeremiah 8:7  “Even the stork in the sky knows when it is time to move on.  The turtledove, swallow and the crane recognize the normal times for their migration.  But My people pay no attention to what I, the Lord, require of them.”

I am fortunate to have lived in an area known for its stork population.  I so enjoyed watching them fly past our windows.  The cranes around there were almost as big but do not have the same “wow” effect for me.  Every year I watched for them to return with the warmer weather.  They would spend the winter in Sub-Saharan Africa, something I wished I could do in the middle of those long cold months!  And they often returned to the exact same nest.

Today’s verse talks about four different kinds of birds but with one thing in common; they all migrate.  Their little bird brains know instinctively when it is time to move on so as to avoid the freezing temperatures.  Jeremiah mentions these birds as a contrast to the Israelites.  The people prided themselves in possessing the Law of God.  But they continually turned to their own individual course, rather than following God’s way.  The Law, instead of being written in their hearts, became a mere code or outward ceremony.

I wish obeying God was as instinctive for me as migration is for the birds.  But then it would not mean as much.  God wants my obedience to be an intentional choice.  Knowing what God expects of me is a good thing.  But I do not want to make the same mistake as the Israelites.  The point is not how many Bible verses I can recite by heart.  He is more interested in how many I obey!

Help me, Lord, to be obedient.


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Too Close?

Scripture for Today:  Phil. 2:3  “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”

I cannot imagine that these parakeets are too happy!  Hopefully, the crowding is only temporary at this bird market in South Jakarta.  Perhaps birds have a different perception of personal space.  But even among us, our comfort level in a crowded space can differ according to culture.  Some people are fine getting right up to your face to speak with you.  Most Americans would back up.  Two spaces free on a three-seat sofa?  It’s obvious to the American that the space in the middle should be empty.  Not so with other cultures.

Today’s verse has a direct effect on the rights to personal space that we feel are ours.  Whether the issue is space, right-of-way on the road, or living with a “morning person” when one is a “night owl” we are challenged to respond in a way that pleases the Lord.  Our world encourages us to insist on our rights.  Yet today’s verse talks about responding with humility and even seeing the other as more important than oneself!

It goes against my nature to give precedence to another.  I do not want to be viewed as a push-over.  I certainly do not want people walking all over me and ignoring my rights.  But I cannot be peaceable and considerate to all men (Titus 3:2) if I insist on my own way with others.  For me to obey this verse takes faith.  It means trusting the Lord to take care of my wants and needs.  Christ is more than able to take care of “rights” or to help me let them go if that is what He wants.

Lord, I need Your help to have this attitude.

Photo credit: Krotz at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wildlife_trade_-_crowded_birds.jpg


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Black Mamba Snake

Scripture for Today: Philippians 1:21 “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

It is said of Kobe Bryant that he was one of the most lethal guards ever to play basketball.  Perhaps this is why Kobe chose the black mamba snake as his alter ego.  It is Africa’s longest and the world’s fastest snake as well as being extremely venomous.  Nothing was going to get in the way or stop Kobe from reaching his goals.  He had a singular focus to attack those goals.  Ironically, Bryant’s words after his final NBA game were , “Mamba out.”  What a shame to have left this life so early.

Today’s verse describes the mindset of Paul.  He writes these words from house arrest, not knowing what his future may be.  He longs to be freed from not only his physical chains but the restraints of his earthly life, affirming that being with Christ is far better (verse 23).  For Paul, the issue was not life or death but the realization of his goal, that Christ would be exalted through him (verse 20).  He had a singular focus that marked his life and affected others, both in his day and currently.

I would love to have that kind of focus.  My eyes are not always fixed on my Sovereign Lord (Psalm 141:8).  I am so easily distracted by the mundane or the routine.  But when my focus is on living for Him, I not only feel His pleasure but my day takes on wonderful purpose!  There is not a worthier goal out there than to live the life my Creator has planned for me.  Living is Christ.  Dying is Christ.  I have in fact already died and my life is hidden in Him (Col. 3:3).

Lord, keep  my focus on You today!


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I Did It My Way

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 16:25 “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

The music of the famous song, “My Way,” was based on the French song, “Comme D’Habitude.”   But the lyrics were written by Paul Anka.  After dining with Frank Sinatra and hearing about his unhappiness that things were not going his way, Anka penned the now-famous lyrics.  They describe a man facing his own mortality and reflecting on a life done his own way.  It says, “For what is a man, what has he got?  If not himself, then he has naught.”

Today’s verse talks about how right and good our way can seem.  There is a rebel lurking in all of us and we would rather question God’s way than question our own.  But this verse is saying that even though our way may seem right, it can still be wrong.  Our subjective stamp of approval does not change the objective truth that certain choices will lead to death.  We all need to be taught and led in His way (Psalm  27:11) and led in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24).

How glad I am that I have more to live this life than the lyrics suggest!  I am not on my own.  My life has a plan and a purpose, created by the One who created me!  It is true that I do not always understand His way and His logic, but I am to walk His way in faith.  His way leads me on to level ground instead of the steep inclines of my ill-conceived short cuts! (Psalm 143:10).  His way leads me by still quiet waters instead of the turbulent waters my choices create (Psalm 23:2).

Lord, in looking back on my life, may I be able to say, ‘I did it YOUR way.'”

 


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Plane Trees

Scripture for Today:  John 15:2  “He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

These plane trees are a common sight in France, often lining a country road.  They do not look like much here, however when they leaf out they are beautiful and give welcomed shade.  But during the pruning season they are cut back so far they look as if they may not survive.  The knobby ends to those branches make the tree look so strange and forlorn.  Yet if they were not cut back so aggressively, they would become thin and scraggily with their old growth.

Today’s verse refers to the pruning of vine branches to produce more and better fruit.  But the idea is the same; that old growth needs to be removed before new growth can happen.  The one who does the pruning is the Father or the gardener.  He does not want me to be content with the fruit He has already produced.  He wants me to cooperate with His pruning shears in order to produce more fruit that is richer and more excellent.

Pruning does not feel so good.  It is a painful process.  Just after pruning the plant does not look so good either. But when the Lord allows the hard times in my life, He has in mind to produce new growth in me.  Every painful circumstance He can use.  There is new dependance on Him with every failure, with every disappointment.  I may not see the new growth for awhile, but He has promised a beautiful result; a fruitful life.

Help me, Lord, not to question your pruning shears.  Help me to trust what You are doing in my life.