Devotions By Jan


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Blooming Joshua Tree

Scripture for Today:  Psalms 28:2 “Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your Most holy Place.”

Looking like hands reaching up to the sky, the Joshua tree appears as if it praying!  This strange looking plant is native to the dry southwestern states but grows mostly in the Mojave Desert.  I have seen these odd looking trees but have never seen one in bloom.  They do not grow these white clusters every year as their appearance depends on the amount of rainfall.  Not only is rain a factor, but these flowers need a winter freeze before they will bloom!

Today’s verse is David’s cry for help in dealing with the wicked who surround him.  He lifts his hands for mercy, pleading with God not to turn a deaf ear or be silent (verse 1).  Like so many of the psalms written by David, it starts out with discouragement and even despair, but then finishes with praise!  What starts out as worry over God being silent, ends with recognition of His strength and salvation (verse 8).  David renews his trust and his heart even leaps for joy! (verse 7)

That beautiful cluster of blooms on the Joshua tree can only come after being frozen and seemingly dormant.  Many times, I feel as if life has stopped, waiting for that answer to prayer.  When the Lord answers, “wait,” to the cry of my heart, it seems as if He has turned a deaf ear.  But He is working.  I can trust that He has a plan even though I do not see it.  He wants me to remain quiet and calm as I anticipate His solution.  He can do so much more than I can ask or even imagine! (Eph. 3:20)

Lord, help me trust that You hear my cry.

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A Heart in Pieces

Scripture for Today: Psalm 86:11 “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.”

I am not a “puzzle person” but even I can put this simple one together!  Hearts of every kind flood the store aisles for Valentine’s Day.  But I am not too interested in them unless chocolate is somehow involved.  I do like the romantic idea of a heart being in pieces with only one individual able to put it all together.

Today’s verse is a prayer for an undivided heart, one that is made up of just one piece.  The idea is that the heart needs to be whole and wholly committed.   When our hearts are completely His, we can fear and worship His name and all He represents.  When our hearts are undivided we are teachable, walking the way He chooses and in His truth.

God’s love is described as a “great love” (verse 13).  There is no greater love on earth!  Giving Him all of my heart poses no risk whatsoever.  I can trust Him with the deepest part of myself.  He does not hurt.  He does not disappoint.  But my tendency is to keep parts of my heart separate.  I sometimes fear what He may ask of me.  What if He asks me to give up something or someone?  My goals, my desires, my hopes and dreams are that piece of the heart I want to hold back.  It makes no sense.  He has already proved His great love for me by dying in my place and giving me an eternity with Him.  What more could He do?  And what am I afraid of?

Keep my heart undivided, Lord.  Take all of it and make it Yours today.


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Body Language

Scripture for Today: Deuteronomy 33:3 “Surely it is You who love the people; all the holy ones are in Your hand. At Your feet they all bow down, and from You receive instruction.”

The body language of this woman seems to indicate respect for the killer whale as she bows to it.  My body language when encountering a killer whale was not so much respect as fear!  Years ago I was volunteered to be kissed by one of these amazing creatures.  I was carefully held by a park employee over the end of a plank jetting out above the water.  I think I was as stiff as that board as I closed my eyes in fear!

Today’s verse describes a bow to One who is so much more worthy than any creation of His.  This bow is done in worship and does not stop at the waist.  Those reverencing the God of the universe bow all the way down to His feet in abject humility.  Our posture before His majesty is one that is self-abasing and glorifying to Him.  He is worthy of this worship for many reasons but in this verse He is bowed to for His love.  He loves and holds His own in His mighty and powerful hand!

One day I will physically bow to Him in His presence.  One day everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will do the same (Phil. 2:10).  For some it will be under compulsion.  But for believers it will be a continuation of our worship here on earth.  The challenge for me here and now is whether I can bow my will to His in humble submission.  He is my King and my Lord.

Lord, may Your will  be done in my life today.


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Current of Air!

Scripture for Today: Galatians 5:25 “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Scarves are worn everywhere and throughout every season in France.  There are heavy winter ones and smaller indoor ones to dress up an outfit.  Men wear them almost as much as women.  When the sun is strong, vendors are even on the beaches selling them.  The scarves in summer are lightweight and keep the sun off the neck and shoulders.  Scarves are worn regardless of the temperature and are especially worn when there might be a current of air.  Most of my French friends are convinced that a cold could be caught as the result of that breeze coming in the window!

Today’s verse talks about living by the Spirit of God.  The Greek word used for Spirit is “pneuma” and means to breathe or blow.  The Spirit is like the wind (John 3:8) being invisible and powerful.  But that wind can also be light and gentle, like a soft current of air.  It can be easy to miss if we are not paying attention.  Living by the Spirit is being sensitive to the Spirit’s leading.  He gives us the wisdom and understanding to know and follow what God wants (Col. 1:9).

Sometimes, the leading of His Spirit is unmistakeable as He steers me clear of compromising situations or obvious sin.  But other times I can easily miss what He wants and be “out of step.”  My own will is awfully strong and frankly, I do not always want to ask for His.  However, keeping in step with Him is far better as He makes my path straight when I acknowledge and submit to Him (Prov. 3:5-6).  His way is always better.

Lord, help me follow Your Spirit today.

 


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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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The Pomegranate

Scripture for Today:  Colossians 1:11 “being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”

As a child I tired quickly, trying to pop out those pomegranate seeds one by one!  I would get more of the staining juice on my hands than in my mouth!  Unlike other fruits, it is the seeds or “arils” that are eaten.  But de-seeding a pomegranate takes either some know-how, some patience, or both.  However it is done, this sweet red fruit is well worth the effort.  I love them sprinkled on a salad or made into a glaze over roasted duck!

Today’s verse indicates from where patience comes.  It is through the strength and power of the Lord that we can live with a patient attitude.  It is His “glorious might” that makes it possible to have great endurance and patience.  To live a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way (verse 10) will take patience and endurance.  But thankfully, we do not muster it up on our own.  It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us (Gal. 5: 22).  It is also the result of having our faith tested and seeing the Lord come through for us. (James 1:3)

For me, the biggest test of patience is waiting for the Lord to answer my prayers, my way.  His timing is rarely my own.  And I tend to treat my prayers as “unanswered” if I don’t receive the answer desired!  How many times I have worried, full of anxiety while awaiting His response!  But being impatient serves no purpose and certainly does not obligate Him to hurry!  I know He is pleased when I wait for His answers and promises with a patient calm heart.

Lord, help me to patiently trust You more.


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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.)