Devotions By Jan

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Scripture for Today: Psalm 104:9 “You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.”

We know all about the tides and their timetables.  We know all about how the moon can affect those tides.  But what we do not know is why the ocean stops at a particular beach and goes no further.  I often think of this fact as I walk along a shore.  With all our knowledge and scientific discoveries, there is so much we do not know.  The immense expanse of the ocean just seems to “know” to what point it should flow.  We do not give it a thought but build beautiful homes close by in total confidence that the ocean will go so far and no further.

Today’s verse is not just poetry.  God Himself sets the boundaries the oceans are not to cross.  The ocean is His creation and He is sovereign over it.  There is nothing that is out of His ultimate control.  As this verse says, the ocean waters have in the past covered the earth.  Perhaps this is referring to the time of creation (Genesis 1:9).  Or it may be referring to the time of worldwide flood in the days of Noah (Genesis 7:11).  In either case, God sets boundaries.

The Lord sets boundaries in my life as well.  He has promised that I will not be tested above and beyond what I can handle (I Cor. 10:13).  He will always provide a way.  Those waves coming at me will not engulf me.  Just as the Lord placed limits on Satan in his temptation of Job (Job 1:12), so my God is faithful to me.  I can trust Him.  The water may look dangerously close, but my powerful Creator is closer still!

Thank you Lord, for Your loving control of today!

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

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Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 1:8 “For we would not brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired of life.”

I can still remember seeing my Mother seated at a mangle just like this one.  She would feed the wrinkled clothes into the heated roller and they would magically come out the other side smooth and wrinkle free.  Sometimes she would allow me to feed it easy items like handkerchiefs and pillow cases.  But the dress shirts were a challenge that was better left to her.  I was surprised to learn that one can still buy a rotary iron!  Perhaps the newer models do not run the risk of mangling a clothing item or inattentive fingers!

Today’s verse describes the trouble that Paul and Timothy experienced as something that pressed on them.  They faced such great pressure that they did not think they would survive.  But Paul realized that the crushing pressure of their pressing circumstances had a purpose.  That purpose was to rely on God’s power and not on themselves (verse 9).  They understood that there would be no deliverance without God’s power.  Recognizing this, Paul asked for prayer.

My husband often says that life is made up of one crisis after another.  No one is spared trouble, although we try to avoid it where we can.  But for the believer, it is a comfort to know that those pressing circumstances are not happening by chance.  The Lord is using them to encourage a greater dependence on Him, on His power and on the prayers of His people.  Every pressing trouble is a reminder that I need Him.  I cannot do life without Him.

Lord, help me to rely completely on You and Your power.

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

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Scripture for Today: Psalm 40:17 “But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; You are my God, do not delay.”

This happened.  Actually, experiencing flight delays happens pretty regularly.  I try to stay calm, but when a connecting flight is affected I tend to panic.  No one likes running frantically to a gate.  Being delayed because of my own lack of organization is one thing, but when the airlines delay me for whatever reason, I feel intense frustration.  I have no control and that is an uncomfortable feeling!

David was concerned about delays for a much better reason.  He was waiting for the Lord to act on his behalf in the face of enemies!  Today’s verse is a cry for help and deliverance.  David saw that he had no control in the situation.  In fact, he was humble enough to see his poor and needy state.  He was totally dependent on God’s response.  How odd that a king would say that he is poor and needy.  Yet David felt that way when overwhelmed with his troubles and sin, as well as his enemies (verse 12).

When I am feeling rich and confident in my own resources I am less likely to call out to the Lord for help.  I am tempted to feel smug and complacent when all is going well.  It is when I am surrounded by troubles, feeling the weight of my sin and feeling opposed by unbelievers that I realize just how poor and needy I am!  Perhaps, that is why God sometimes delays.  He waits for humility.  He opposes the proud but gives so much timely grace to the humble.

Thank you Lord, that Your help is never too late when I cry out to You.

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

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Feeling Down

Scripture for Today: Psalm 126:6 “Those who go out weeping carrying seeds to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.”

In all my years living in Europe, I had never seen a European Weeping Beech tree.  But recently in Rhode Island, on the grounds of the Château sur Mer in Newport I saw this incredible sight!  The drooping branches were so thick, the trunk was not even visible.  The English call it the “upside down tree!”  I am familiar with the Weeping Willow, but apparently there are several species of trees that are called, “Weeping,” if they grow pendulous branches.  That sad weepy look is so strange looking.  I am not sure I would want such a sad looking tree in my yard.

Today’s verse describes a weeping that ends in joy!  What an amazing reversal promised to the Israelites!  The Lord would bring back their captives and restore their fortunes causing all the neighboring nations to sit up and take notice.  The Lord will be known as having done great things for them.  All those tears are replaced with laughter and songs of joy!

This promise has many layers as we too can look forward to a time when our weeping and sorrow will be transformed!  Laughter and joy will echo in the halls of Heaven as I enjoy a hope that is realized forever!  Weeping will be a distant memory.  Everything sad and awful will seem light compared to the weight of glory that I will one day enjoy! (II Cor. 4:17)

So much sadness in this life now, but before long, “One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase!”  Better than anything I can dream, His joy and recompense will exceed every expectation!

Thank you Lord, for the songs of joy yet to be sung!

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

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Salt Water Taffy

Scripture for Today: II Cor. 4:8-9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

What a strange process it is to make taffy!  I remember my Mother pulling taffy with my siblings and me in the kitchen.  It was a slimy sticky ordeal with lots of pulling until we thought our arms would drop off!  Everyone would take a turn until the taffy turned a lighter color.  All that pulling and stretching aerated the taffy with little air bubbles, making it lighter and chewier.  Of course, using a machine may be more efficient, but where is the fun in that?

In today’s verse, Paul is recounting some of the hardships he and Timothy had faced.  At the beginning of the chapter and at the end, he says, “We do not lose heart.”  It would have been completely understandable if they had!  Paul had been shipwrecked, beaten, stoned and imprisoned for his faith.  Being perplexed, he perhaps did not always understand the “why” behind what was happening.  Yet, he remained confident that the pulling and stretching was producing something of value in him; the life of Jesus (verse 10).

Feeling perplexed is not uncommon when I am faced with hard times.  I usually cannot explain why the Lord allows certain difficulties in my life.  But He promises that all the pulling and stretching will be producing a “weight of glory” one day (II Cor. 4:17).  All that is painful is only a “light affliction” compared to what lies ahead.  Even when panicked and confused, my Father reassures me  that He is in control and His control is good.

Thank you Lord, that You use it all to make me more like You.  Help me not to lose heart.

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

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Scripture for Today: Hebrews 10:36 “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”

My impression of grits is that it is bland and heavy.  But in fact, this ground-corn dish, popular in the Southern States, has many mouth-watering variations.  I have enjoyed them with shrimp and with cheese as a main dish.  But grits are often thought of as a breakfast side dish.  In any case, the word “grit” has another meaning, associated with the idea of courage, resolve and strength of will.

Today’s verse also alludes to “strength of will” but curiously, not our own.  Believers are encouraged to continue living out God’s will.  These early Christians endured “great conflict full of suffering” (verse 32).  When they were not being persecuted themselves, they were standing side by side with those who were.  They were publicly humiliated and insulted, even suffering the indignities of prison and confiscation of property.

It takes perseverance to follow God’s desires ahead of our own.  We mistakenly believe that the goal of life is the pursuit of happiness.  But God’s will is much grander than our own little lives.  He is about building His Kingdom and believers are privileged to participate in something that is eternal.  My confidence and obedience will one day be richly rewarded.  Knowing that helps me persevere in doing His will.  I enjoy His blessings now but they pale in comparison to all He has prepared for me!

I frankly do not always understand His will.  It is often at odds with my own selfish desires or what I believe are “my rights.”  But I do know that whatever it takes, He is worth following!

Thank you Lord, for giving me what it takes to persevere.

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

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Holding Hands

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

They died holding hands.  After sixty-two years of marriage, this couple fell ill at the same time and were placed in a nursing home.  The staff pushed their beds together as he wanted to hold her hand.  Hand-holding began their life together and ended it.  He died while still grasping her hand.  She held on to life and his hand for another ninety minutes before dying as well.  How beautiful is this expression of love!  Holding hands can give courage, help and support.

Today’s verse is a beautiful assurance of God’s power and control.  The hand of God is a place of salvation, refuge and protection.  It is also a hand of healing and deliverance.  By taking our hand He assures us of His help.  His hand takes our right hand but not our left.  That is because the right hand is the one in Scripture that is used in battle.  He hold us by the right hand so that we allow Him to fight our battles!

I need Him to do the fighting.  My hands are weak and my grip is loose with discouragement on that “sword of the Spirit,” which is God’s Word (Eph. 6:17).  But He promises His help.  He takes a hold of my right hand and infuses me with strength and courage.  His help means that my enemies will be “as nothing.” (verse 11-12).  That impossible relationship that looms so large is no problem for Him.  He is in the business of righting wrongs and changing hearts.  He has my back and has promised to always be with me (Psalm 73:23).

Thank you Lord, for the warmth and comfort of Your hand holding mine.