Devotions By Jan


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Forced Perspective

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

The Leaning Tower of Piza is not the only place in Europe where tourists practice their “forced perspective” photography!  This booted giant woman looks as if she is crushing the Louvre Pyramid.  This technique manipulates our human visual perception with the use of optical illusion.  The result is often surprising, making an object appear larger, smaller, closer or farther away than it really is.

Today’s verse is all about perspective.  Paul tells believers to set their minds on things above.  Our minds and our hearts 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 affects how we see our problems.  What can loom so large in our perspective is only “light and momentary trouble.” (II Cor. 4:17)  All the hard things in this life are, “achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

This perspective is not forced but it sure makes Heaven seem a little bit closer.  The things of this earth can seem much smaller with a heart set on what is above.  And sometimes, I need to see the hard things as smaller than they appear.  I need to change my perspective to what is eternal and lasting to see past the problems I face today.

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

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The Woodworking Plane

planer-usesScripture for Today: Philippians 2:13 “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”

Wood shop in high school was for the boys.  Perhaps it was just as well that I stayed away from those power tools and sharp instruments!  How the wood got to be so smooth, flat and level remained a mystery, only because I was too disinterested to find out.  But when my Dad took up woodworking as a hobby, he taught me to appreciate those smooth flawless surfaces and the effort it took to achieve.  The planer shaves off those high places in the wood, making the surface level.

Today’s verse reveals that God is continually working in us.  His goal is to mold our desires and actions to mirror His.  He has a purpose for this work and we can trust that it is a good purpose because He is good.  He is working to make us smooth and level by taking out the high places in us.  He is opposed to the proud (James 4:6) and will work to flatten those thoughts of superiority and self sufficiency.  The result is something beautiful that He can use!

Having my pride worked on hurts!  That blade is shaving off what does not belong.  It is humbling to be brought down to the right size.  He may use the reprimand of others.  He may use a miserable failure and allow me to fall flat on my face!  He often uses His Word to convict and point out areas that need flattening.  Whatever the case, it is not a comfortable experience.  But when it is all over, He gives favor to the one He has humbled.

Oh how I need Your favor today!  Lord, keep me smooth and humble.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Unexpected!

cigarette2Scripture for Today: Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Looking closely at this image, one sees discarded cigarettes doing something very unexpected.  They are sprouting!  Something as dirty and off-putting as litter is actually transforming itself into something positive.  These cigarettes were invented by a creative British man, tired of ugly litter.  He decided to make biodegradable filters that contain wild flower seeds and called them, “Cigg Seeds.”  What a clever idea!  Who would have thought that something thrown away and trampled on could turn into something beautiful!

Today’s often quoted verse came to mind.  I have heard it said so many times it tends to lose its impact.  But this is a beautiful truth that gives the believer hope.  We are not spared the ugliness and heartaches in life.  Despite the fact that the wicked seem to prosper (Jer. 12:1) they are not spared either as their final destiny is destruction (Ps. 73:17).  Even so, following the Lord never insures a trouble-free life. However, there is a difference.  God takes those awful negative circumstances and miraculously brings about something worthwhile.

Because of this promise, I have hope.  I may feel cast aside, dirty, and trampled on but God is not done yet.  He can and He does transform me and cause new and beautiful growth in my soul.  He is good and everything He does is right and good.  I can trust that His purpose for me is good as well, even and especially when I cannot see it.  The good He is producing is something that lasts into eternity; becoming like His Son.  There is nothing more beautiful or worthwhile.

Thank you Lord, for the unexpected ways You create the good in my life!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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The Hope Chest

chest-open_0Scripture for Today:Romans 5:5 “And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

I never owned a hope chest, although I hoped!  It was a tradition that was already obsolete by the 1950’s.  The practice of filling a hope chest with items useful in setting up house came from Europe around the 18th century.  A young girl’s “trousseau” consisted of handmade bed linens, table linens and embroidered items.  I often wondered what happened to that hope chest and its contents when it was clear that marriage had passed one by.  Perhaps giving it away signaled the end of hope.

Today speaks of a hope that never puts us to shame.  Unlike unfulfilled hope in a human love, our hope is placed in a love that has already been poured into the heart of a believer.  The Holy Spirit is our seal of ownership, guaranteeing what is to come! (II Cor. 1:22).  Hope in this sense is a sure thing with no possibility of disappointment or shame.  This hope grows stronger and stronger as we see the Lord come through for us when experiencing suffering (verse 3).  Hope grows by persevering through that impossible situation.  Our hope is obvious to everyone through the strength of character that comes from hanging in there (verse 4).

Hope that is based on the wrong thing can be wishful thinking that makes the heart sick when unfulfilled (Prov. 13:12).  My hope is sure being based on God’s faithful promises.  My longing for love is absolutely fulfilled in my relationship with my Creator.  He never disappoints and I am never put to shame.  He always comes through and someday I will see the glory of God up close and personal!

My hope will forever be in You, Lord.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Saying Thank You

Scripture for Today: I Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Somehow, that small addition of “thank you” at the bottom of this sign makes the message more tolerable and a little softer.  There have actually been studies on the effect “thank you” has on relationships.  Using the “find-remind-bind” idea, gratitude helps find new contacts, remind old contacts of friendship and binds active friendships.  An attitude of gratitude can go a long way in making one happier and positive, generous and compassionate, as well as healthier with a lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system!

Today’s verse is more than a suggestion.  It is a command to give thanks in any and all circumstances.  Our thanks in this passage are directed to the Lord in prayer (verse 17).  Quite clearly, it is what God wants from His children.  And when we withhold our thanks, we are somehow quenching His Spirit in us (verse 19).  Thanking God for what just happened is a recognition of His control over the situation.  It is a reminder that He has a plan that is good in allowing that circumstance, good or bad.

When I thank Him, I am reaffirming my faith that He knows what He is doing.  Even when I am pleading with Him for action or change, I am told to include thanksgiving in my prayer as an expression of trust (Phil. 4:6).  Just as thanking others can improve a friendship, so thanking the Lord brings me closer to Him.  As I thank Him, I can feel the tension in me dissipate.  He knows and He cares.  Whatever I am facing He has a plan in it and He is using it.  A heart-felt “thank you” completely changes my attitude.

Lord, remind me to thank You today.

 


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Pack Your Patience

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

Today we leave for France.  With long lines, security hassles, and tired feet the thrill of travel is definitely lacking!  I cannot think of a better training ground for practicing patience than when flying.  I am so careful in my packing but I am not sure I always pack patience!  Flight delays and missed connections strain my patience to the very limit.  And showing patience is especially difficult when fatigue is added to the mix.  I easily take offense at the slightest provocation, whether it be someone knocking into me or cutting in line.

Today’s verse tells us from where patience comes.  It comes from wisdom.  Showing patience is always the wiser course.  Blowing up or throwing a tantrum never changes anything.  Wisdom determines when to grin and bear it when nothing else can be done.  Overlooking that rude remark or crying baby not only is the wiser more patient response but it makes one a better person.  Any other reaction risks being “inglorious.”  Wisdom is the source of patience and the fear of the Lord is the source and beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10).

I have been told (tongue in cheek) never to actually pray for patience as it always seems to come as a result of testing (James 1:3).  But I am encouraged to learn that patience can be a by-product of wisdom as well.  Fearing and respecting God’s power and control of my circumstances calms me down and helps me keep my emotional balance.  So whether I am waiting in long lines or learning that my suitcase did not make it, I can be confident that He knows and He has my back.

Lord, make me wise today especially!


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Sea Glass

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 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.”

I feel as if I have found treasure when I see that gleaming colorful piece of glass nestled in the sand!  The beaches of California are especially good for their discovery.  In their original form, I would not look at them twice.  After all, they are just shards of glass bottles or tableware.  But after years and years of being broken up and tumbled by the waves, they lose their rough edges and become smooth.  Gone is the normal sheen of glass as it is replaced by a frosty appearance.  Now they are worthy of being a piece of art or jewelry!

Today’s verse describes the life of Paul.  He was persecuted, thrown in jail, shipwrecked, and beaten.  Through all of this he was never crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed.  He calls his experiences, “light momentary troubles” (verse 17).  He does not lose heart because he believes they are achieving for him “an eternal glory.”  Rather than focusing on what he is going through, he sees what God is producing in him.

Whoever said that life was easy has not lived very long!  Being a follower of Christ does not guarantee me a smooth ride.  I am tossed around and pounded by the waves just as much as everyone else.  My sure hope is that He is producing something meaningful and beautiful through all the negative.  Knowing He is in control and that His control is good, keeps me from despair.  There will be no punishing pounding waves in Heaven.  All my rough edges will be gone and I will be complete!

Thank you Lord, that I can trust what You are doing in my life.