Devotions By Jan


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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.)


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Play Doh

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 29:16 “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me’? Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing’?”

There is nothing better than a brand new set of play doh!  At least that is how my grandsons think.  It must feel good to start fresh with unmixed colors and clay that has not dried out to be rock hard.  The shapes my young grandsons form take some imagination to identify.  But in their funny creative minds they see a masterpiece worthy of the Louvre.  Grandma is obliged to ooh and ahh!

Today’s verse reminds us that there is a Potter who has formed and fashioned us, His clay, for His purposes.  God, as our Creator, has the right to form and mold us as He desires.  His reasons for how He has made us are well beyond our understanding.  But His creation has no right to challenge Him as if He did not have absolute knowledge and authority.  That is upside down thinking!

What a ludicrous scenario to imagine clay talking back to the potter!  But that is just what happens when a nonbeliever denies God’s existence.  He shakes his fist and declares that God did not create him and that he knows better than the omniscient One.  What a display of ridiculous pride!

It takes humility to submit to the Potter’s hand and become all that I am meant to be.  Pride makes me dry and hard in His hands.  Thankfully, He is patient and continually works in me with creative hands, making me like His Son.

Lord, while I am waiting yielded and still, mold me to be like You.

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


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Obedient Ant

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 6:6 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise.”

This ant is carrying quite a load.  That is normal as they are created to carry twenty times their body weight.  But there is one ant who inexplicably carried away a lost contact lens.  Its owner was mountain climbing when she lost it.  She turned to the One who sees all and pleaded with Him for help.  On descending the mountain with her friends, another group of climbers at the bottom shouted up the question, “Did anyone lose a contact lens?”  They only noticed it because an ant was carrying it on his back!  I can just imagine the ant’s confusion as to why he was carrying such a cumbersome inedible object!

Today’s verse is in the context of working hard and preparing for one’s future.  The ant stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest in order to be prepared for the coming lean times.  We are encouraged to look to the ant’s ways and be wise.  However, there is also wisdom in fearing and obeying the Lord as that ant did in this woman’s true story (Prov. 9:10).  Something (or Someone) prompted that small ant to lug around a very heavy load to what seemed to be no purpose.

I do not always understand the why’s behind what God asks me to do.  But then my obedience should not depend on seeing the whole picture.  He sees what is ahead and His plans for me are good because He is.  I want to trust Him for the reasons behind His commands.  This whole faith adventure is by faith and not by sight.

Lord, help me to be faithful to You, even when I don’t understand.


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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.