Devotions By Jan

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Precious Jewels

Scripture for Today: Zechariah 9:16 “The Lord their God will save his people on that day, as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.”

In a long-ago Sunday School class, I learned that I was a precious jewel. The children’s hymn, “When He Cometh” told me so. “When He cometh, when He cometh, to make up His jewels, All His jewels, precious jewels, His loved and His own.” This is one of 300 hymns written by William Cushing in 1856. There are only four gems in the world that are categorized as “precious:” diamond, sapphire, ruby and emerald. As a child I remember feeling confused that I could sparkle and be precious to the Lord!

Today’s verse was surely the origin of this long-ago hymn. Although the context is specific to the people of Judah, we know that believers today in His Church are precious in His sight, seen as His beautiful bride (Eph. 5:25-27), and His treasure (Matt. 13:44) and even His inheritance! (Ps. 33:12) God values us so much that He bought us as His own at a huge cost to Himself, the sacrifice of His Son! It is His love and grace that makes us so precious in His eyes.

These beautiful precious gems become this way after some pretty intense cutting and polishing. It is over a long course of troubles and difficulties that God is refining me to sparkle and shine like He intends. It helps to know that He thinks I am worth the trouble. I don’t always see progress in His work on me. But I do know that one day, His work on me will be finished. The Lord sees the final product and it will be worth it all!

How amazing it is to know that I am PRECIOUS in Your sight!

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Roller Coaster Regret!

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

What could possibly have motivated us to get in that roller coaster? Perhaps it was our daughter’s reassurance that it was a “mild one.” Maybe it was wanting to appear younger to our grandson. But it had been decades since our last ride and we had forgotten what that heart-stopping motion was like! We are all smiles here in the “before” shot, but the “after” picture would have captured us pale, wide-eyed and stumbling out!

Today’s verse describes the exact opposite of that “moving experience.” Paul is encouraging the believers in Corinth to let nothing move them. They are to stand firm and resolute in their desire to live their lives in service to the Lord. For these early Christians, persecution and the threat of death could easily dissuade them. They are reassured that even death would have no sting (verse 55) and their labor for the Lord would be worth it as they looked forward to ultimate victory.

Very difficult circumstances can threaten to move me. My faith can be shaken to its core by unanswered prayer, devastating news or physical challenges. But the Lord asks me to stand firm in my faith without knowing the “why” behind what is happening. Unmet expectations have the potential of making me cynical about faithfulness to Him. But when I look ahead to the reward He promises, then I know that living for Him will never be in vain.

Lord, keep me standing firm.

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What a Drip!

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:15-16 “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.”

Last night at my desk, I kept hearing a constant drip. I looked up. Nothing. It took me a moment to realize that rain was leaking into the fireplace. After verifying on hands and knees with a strong flashlight, I saw that I was right. I didn’t want to be right! After extensive work on our roof we were confident that this recent rainstorm would pose no problem! There is probably nothing more maddening than continual repair addressing the same issue!

Today’s verse describes a quarrelsome wife like a constant drip. Each complaint from her lips and each nagging session can be as annoying as those continual drips of water. Because the verse is speaking of a wife, the description may very well come from the husband. In contrast to the Proverbs 31 wife who speaks with wisdom (Prov. 31:26), this wife provokes argument with what comes out of her mouth. She speaks her mind without any self-restraint or filters. Any attempt at correcting her is as futile as restraining wind. Those attempts to calm her down are like trying to grasp slippery oil.

It can seem quite reasonable and even expected to be quarrelsome after a hard day. When I am surprised by very negative circumstances beyond my control, a bit of nasty temper seems just the thing to blow off steam. But when pressure builds, it is often on those closest to me that I get ugly. The danger for me is that being contentious can too easily become a habit. I would much rather be characterized by a quiet gentle spirit than being a big drip!

Lord, keep me sweet and peaceable despite my circumstances.

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Hurricane-Force Winds

Scripture for Today: Job 8:2-3 “How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind. Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right?”

The images of hurricane damage are impressive! Ian, the most recent, wreaked havoc in Florida with maximum wind gusts over land reaching as high as 140 mph! To put that number in perspective, wind gusts are considered severe beginning at 58 mph. So many interviewed described that wind like the noise of an approaching train. Roofs were sheered off and boats lifted in the air. Trees were flattened and power lines were downed in an instant.

Today’s verse describes words spoken like a blustering or mighty wind. And just as hurricane-force winds can do so much damage, so our words can be damaging to others. Job is struggling with what was happening to him. Despite the suggestions of his three friends, Job was not aware of any obvious sin for which God was punishing him. Understandably, it did not seem fair. Job’s questions came from the anguish of his spirit and the bitterness of his soul (7:11). But Job’s words could be damaging if they questioned the justice of God.

So many times I do not have a clue as to what God is doing or why. In my life or in the lives of others it can seem that God is not dealing fairly. If I were to widely and publicly put into question God’s justice and fairness, my words could wreak havoc to the faith of someone else. If I express to others that He is unjust, then my words can cause untold damage around me. My response needs to be absolute trust in His righteousness, justice and control, whether I understand or not.

I may wonder what You are doing, Lord. But may I always cling to the truth of Your justice!

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“Stay Grounded”

Scripture for Today: Colossians 3:1-2 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

There is a worldwide movement today called, “Stay Grounded.” The idea is to swear off flying, making that commitment for a year at a time. Normally, 2% of all carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed to this form of travel. Some intend to remain flight free forever in an attempt to be eco-conscious. For these folks, slow travel is the way to go, preferring boat or train for long distances. For me personally, it would be quite a sacrifice to be grounded as my perspective often changes while up in those clouds!

Today’s verse encourages the believer to change perspective from the earthly to the eternal. Our thinking and our feelings are to be changed by an eternal perspective. What we see on earth does not match up with spiritual realities. What we see, touch and feel around us is not eternal. These things are real but they will not last. When we set our minds and hearts on the realities of Heaven, it changes how we view that difficulty. It is reduced it to only “light and momentary trouble.” (II Cor. 4:17) 

I need to see the hard things in my life as smaller than they appear. I do not want my thoughts and feelings to be grounded and restricted to the temporal. My perspective needs to change to what is eternal and lasting in order to see past the problems I face today. What is above is far more worthy of my heart and mind! He is there.

Change my perspective, Lord. Help me see You today instead of my problems.