Devotions By Jan


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Thorny Cactus

Scripture for Today:  II Corinthians 12:7 “….Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan, to torment me.”

These thorns look wicked!  And they seem so innocent surrounded by those delicate yellow flowers.  The spiny surface of a  cactus plant seems incongruent with the fragile beauty of a flower petal.  For the unsuspecting, those thorns could be overlooked when reaching for the flowers and could inflict some real pain.

In today’s verse, Paul is describing a thorn in the flesh.  It was sent by Satan in order to torment him.  But in God’s hands it was used for a good purpose; to keep Paul from becoming conceited.  Paul had received some incredible visions and revelations from the Lord and the temptation was to boast and feel that he was better than others.  Some believe his thorn was a physical ailment.  Others believe it could be a person as enemies and neighbors are described as thorns (Numbers 33:55 and Ezekiel 28:24)

A relationship that has gone sour, a conflict that goes unresolved, or a family member that has no interest in reconciliation can all be like a thorn in the flesh.  But whether it is a broken relationship or a broken body, the pain and discomfort from those thorns are a constant reminder that I am weak.  Thankfully, He uses the thorns for good in my life as well.   It is through thorns that I discover that His grace is all I need (verse 9).  For me those beautiful flowers are evidence of Christ’s power resting on me despite my weakness!

Thank you Lord, that I can delight in Your strength regardless of the “thorns” in my life!


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Chestnuts Roasting

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 45:3  “I will give you hidden treasure, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

The carol, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” was originally titled, “The Christmas Song.” It was written by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé on a hot summer day in 1945.  Wells drew from his childhood memory of vendors on the streets of Boston selling roasted chestnuts and serving them in paper cones.

In France we also enjoyed roasted chestnuts on the street, their warmth feeling so good on cold hands!  But the chestnut is also candied, boiled, steamed and grilled.  For Christmas and New Year’s the “marron glacé” is traditional fare, a chestnut that has been glazed in sugar syrup.  When they are still green and fresh, the chestnut is difficult to handle with its spiny bur.  But getting at that delicious treasure is worth all the effort!  There can be up to seven chestnuts in one bur.

Today’s verse talks about treasures that are hidden.  The riches that the Lord reveals are not so obvious.  Like the chestnut, they are sometimes stored in places difficult to see.  The outside of that hidden treasure makes it easy to miss.  Getting at that treasure inside may involved going through some tough prickly times.

It is through the hard times that I see God’s love and gentleness with me.  It is when life is difficult that He reveals the treasure of who He is.  His comfort and His grace are the unexpected surprise behind that negative experience.  Through a trial He becomes MY Lord, calling me by name.  Faith becomes very personal as He reveals to me the treasure of His power and presence.

Help me, Lord, to discover true riches and treasure this Christmas!

(Look familiar?  This is a repost from 2016!)


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Sticking My Neck Out

Scripture for Today: Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”

It is obvious how this Eastern Snake-Necked turtle got its name.  The neck on this common Australian turtle can be as long as his body!  When it feels threatened it can emit a strong musky liquid from the armpits and groin area.  Of course, its best protection is his shell.  But for this species, to fit that long neck into his carapace he has to bend his head sideways and make it go in sideways.  Retreating into his shell may take some extra maneuvering but worth the protection it gives.

Today’s verse talks about the Lord being our refuge in times of trouble.  He is good and He cares when we have stuck our necks out too far!  The refuge He offers is His presence and is always available.  There is no situation that is too difficult for Him regardless of how vulnerable and exposed we feel.  By hiding in Him we can wait out whatever is making us feel threatened.  He is our refuge, our fortress and our hiding place.  In His loving and protecting presence we can patiently wait out any pressure, stress or assault.  It is God who gives perseverance and encouragement (Rom.15:5).

I do not know what tomorrow may bring.  But I do know that He is already there and He will give me what I need to persevere.  At the first sign of trouble, He wants me to hide myself in Him.  He cares for me because I trust in Him.  He responds to my trust by being exactly what I need when the hard times come.  What a comfort that He is good and ready to hide me!

Thank you Lord, that You care.

 


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The Horn of Plenty

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:15 “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”

The cornucopia or horn of plenty has long been a symbol of overflowing harvest especially on Thanksgiving.  The original idea was to have an abundance of flowers, fruit and corn overflowing from a goat’s horn.  Today, we are happy with just a basket in the shape of a horn!  But the symbolism is lost if the contents are not spilling out beyond the confines of the horn.  When it overflows we know we are blessed!

Today’s verse speaks of a thanksgiving that overflows!  The circumstances Paul was facing would normally not call for thanksgiving as he was repeatedly imprisoned and persecuted.  Yet, he understood that through his faithfulness, the grace of Christ was reaching more and more people.  It was that grace which was producing an overflow of thanksgiving.  Paul could see the undeserved favor and blessing that is grace, even in the middle of hard times.  Realizing God’s grace created in him a thankfulness that overflowed and gave glory to God.

It is easy to give thanks to God when everything is going smoothly and life is good.  It is quite another thing to be overflowing with thanksgiving when life is tough and there is hurt and disappointment.  And yet, when I look to the unseen (verse 17) I can overflow with thanksgiving!  I do not deserve even one tiny blessing from Him.  How amazing He is to have given me new birth, a living hope and an eternal inheritance! (I Peter 1:3-6)  Regardless of life’s ups and downs, I can always overflow with thanksgiving for His incredible grace to me!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers!


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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.

 


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Litter Bug

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 10:35-36 “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”

What a shame to see trash spoiling this beautiful scene!  I still remember that old slogan, “Every litter bit hurts.”  It was part of the campaign begun in the early 50’s called, “Keep America Beautiful.”  Its aim was to end littering and to beautify our environment.  And they did raise awareness through education, public service advertising, mapping of “litter hotspots” and organized cleanup activities.  Much of these values are seen today in other efforts such as Earth Day and “plogging” or picking up litter while jogging.

Today’s verse tells us about something believers should never throw away; our confidence!  That confidence allows us to persevere in doing what God wants.  The believers addressed had suffered through being thrown in prison and through having property confiscated.  Their treatment was unfair but they were told to stay confident that God would richly reward them for their sacrifice and perseverance.  Those who have thrown away their confidence are those who no longer believe the suffering is worth it.  Abandoning the faith for an easier life, they forgo the reward that would have been theirs.

I can respond in one of two ways to a life-changing crisis.  I can either blame God and run away from Him, or I can run to Him for the comfort and encouragement that only He can give.  My faith and confidence, rather than being thrown away, grows and strengthens when I choose that second response.  I do not know what hard thing may await me.  But I pray that I will never throw away my confidence.

Lord, help me to persevere no matter what!

 


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Elvis at the Grand Ole Opry

Scripture for Today:  Romans 5:3-4  “…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope:”

I was surprised to hear about the time Elvis Presley bombed!  We do not often hear of the failures of the greats but only their successes.  A teenage Elvis performed only once at the Opry in 1954.  He vowed never to sing there again.  During that time only country music was featured.  With his rhythm, blues and body gyrations, the reaction of the audience was tepid at best!  The manager advised Elvis to return to his truck driving position in Memphis!  I am so glad he did not listen.

Today’s verse teaches that perseverance can be developed out of hard times and perhaps even failure.  Perseverance is not born out of wishful thinking but out of suffering.  It is the ability to stay the course regardless of the obstacles.  Remaining faithful, keeping that promise or shouldering on with the right choice rather than compromise; it all requires perseverance in the face of hardship.  Out of continuing on, character is built and our hope in eternal reward grows stronger.

I am a wimp when it comes to suffering in any form.  But I know that the Lord does not exempt me from it.  It is so often in the suffering that my faith deepens and my knowledge of His heart grows too.  It is good to know as well that perseverance , character and hope have a fighting chance to develop in me.  But it is all grace.  It is God who is giving me that endurance and encouragement I so need to keep on keeping on (Rom. 15:5).  He is the One who brings positive outcomes out of what can look so hopeless.

Lord, keep me faithful to You no matter what!