Devotions By Jan


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Giant Sequoia

Scripture for Today:Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

The “General Sherman” sequoia is by volume the largest known living single-stem tree on earth.  It stands proudly at 275 feet tall and is 36 feet in diameter.  Those standing at its base must feel completely awed by its grandeur.  One would think this giant of a tree impervious to the footsteps of us mere mortals.  But in fact, a fence is built around the base.  It is there to protect its shallow roots from being stepped on and trampled!  Damage to its roots could have serious consequences!

Today’s verse talks about where we place our roots.  We have a choice.  We put down roots in the nourishing soil of Christ’s love and so be built up and strengthened (Eph. 3:17).  Or we can plant ourselves in the toxic soil of hollow and deceptive philosophies, based on human tradition (verse 8).  Strong deep roots in Him will take no account of human foot traffic!  Faith remains strong and vibrant when Christ is the object of that faith.

I will not grow strong and firmly planted when I read, see or listen to prevailing thought that discounts God and His Word.  I am surrounded by godless philosophy and it is a struggle to be intentional about what I allow to influence me.  The more I compromise, the more shallow and vulnerable my convictions become.  Shallow roots mean I am swaying with the next wind storm of trial.  I want to stay strong and continue growing deep roots in Him.

Lord, keep me in You and in Your Word.

 

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Cherry Picking

Scripture for Today: Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely through His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Two cherry laden trees sat untouched half way through my vineyard walk.  Every day I would check on their progress.  Today the cherries were not only at their peak but some were even rotting on the branches.  It seemed the most natural thing to do to help myself to a few hand fulls.  The sweet juice dripped all over my fingers, staining them red and purple.  Although I was sure the owner would not mind, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could be caught “red-handed” as technically I had taken something not belonging to me!

Today’s verse explains that we are all red-handed.  “Sin had left a crimson stain” on all of our hands as we are all guilty of breaking God’s perfect law.  There is no way to remove that stain on our own.  But thankfully, one pair of hands are not red but nail-scarred.  Because of His amazing grace we are justified or declared righteous through what Christ did on that cross.  He sacrificed Himself freely out of love for us and not because we deserved it.

I want clean hands and a pure heart.  It is only then that I can enjoy Him, receive blessing and vindication from Him (Ps. 24;3-5).  But there is no cleansing without the humility to admit guilt and come clean with the Lord.  Rather than hiding my hands behind my back, He invites me to discover grace and forgiveness.  He is faithful and just to always forgive and give me a clean start. (I John 1:9)

Thank you Lord, that I can always come clean with You.


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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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The Fig Tree

Scripture for Today: James 3:12 “My brother and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Growing up, the fig tree in our back year was my Dad’s pride and joy!  The whole family enjoyed those green figs and the abundant shade the large leaves provided.  In fact, my Dad built a round bench encircling the large trunk.  Every year, he would lay out those figs for drying and we could enjoy the dried fruit all year long.  In all those years, that tree faithfully bore its figs.  Never once did it surprise us with olives!

Today’s verse describes a ludicrous scenario.  How ever could a fig tree produce olives, a grapevine produce figs or a salt spring produce fresh water?  It is impossible, of course.  These images teach us that what comes out of the mouth reveals what is in the heart.  What comes out of the mouth is consistent with what is thought and felt inside.  Eventually, our hidden nature is revealed by the words we speak.

No one can tame the tongue nor can anyone make themselves new inside.  It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit that we can hope to change.  When cursing and praise both come out of my mouth, it is a clear signal that I need to do business with the Lord.  “…This should not be.” (verse 10) but unfortunately, it is.  I can blame my words on stress or fatigue  but what I really need to do is just confess it.  I do not want to disappoint or grieve the Holy Spirit.  And He graciously offers His self-control so that my life consistently bears fruit that honors Him.

Lord, control my tongue today to consistently honor You.

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


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Eucalyptus Tree Roots

Scripture for Today: Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

It seems that with every report of strong winds in our area, we hear of eucalyptus trees falling and causing damage.  These beautiful trees can shoot up to as much as ten feet in a year and can grow to the height of a six story building!  Their root system is strong to support all that growth, if they have enough soil.  Their taproots need to have at least six feet of soil to be well anchored.  Without that depth they are vulnerable to wind damage.

Today’s verse talks about being rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened by our faith and characterized by thankfulness.  Extending our roots into the deep soil of His strength makes us able to stand firm in any wind storm.  Standing tall in the world’s eyes can be deceptive if roots are shallow.  The philosophies of this world and human tradition (verse 8) make up that shallow soil.  Roots have no opportunity to grow there and a strong gust of wind reveals that weakness.  In contrast, the one who is strengthened by His power is rooted and established in His love (Eph. 3:17).

My root health is something no one sees but Him.  I can seem strong, pray beautiful prayers and say all the right things.  But when that huge gust of wind comes, I can so easily topple over.  I need to be nourished by His Word and strengthened by His promises before the winds arrive.  He will help me withstand them.

Lord, strengthen my roots by the power of Your Word.

 

 


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Snow Covered Palms

Scripture for Today: Psalms 92:12  “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree.  He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”

This is not normally how I think of a palm tree!  Palm trees are usually associated with warm balmy climates.  Seeing a palm tree often brings to mind vacation spots where life is relaxed.  These palm trees in Saudi Arabia were likely surprised to find themselves covered in snow!  But they weathered the cold wet stuff with no problem.

Today’s verse describes the righteous as flourishing like a palm tree.  And flourish is a great description of what these stately trees do as some species grow to 60 meters high.!  Their leaves are said to be the largest of any plant at 25 meters long and 3 meters wide.  And some of their species have the largest seeds of any plant weighing 15-30 kilos each.

The righteous one when planted in the house of the Lord, can expect this kind of growth, flourishing in the courts of our God (verse 13).  But we do not grow like the palm tree when we are planted in the world.  The soil there is toxic.  We need to be rooted and grounded in His love and grace because we are not righteous on our own.  Our righteousness comes from faith in Christ.

That crisis in my life can feel just like a cold shock.  My body stiffens and my eyes grow wide with it.  But even when that unexpected cold front dumps snow on me I can still flourish because of Him.  He keeps me strong and rooted.  I am in His courts and there is no better place to be!  Better is one day there than a thousand elsewhere! (Psalm 84:10)

Keep me flourishing, Lord.  Keep me near You.


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Leaning Christmas Tree

tree-downScripture for Today: Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

This happened to me although our cat had nothing to do with it!  The tree my husband brought back had a hidden flaw and leaned to one side.  The bottom of the trunk was straight and well anchored in the tree stand, yet it leaned.  No matter how careful I was to balance the heavier ornaments on the unaffected side, it leaned.  Not only did it crash to the ground but I lost so many ornaments, and lost my cool!

Today’s verse cautions us against leaning on one’s own understanding.  When a believer counts on his own reasoning rather than trusting in God’s unveiled plans, he leans as precariously as that Christmas tree.  Our own understanding is flawed and limited.  We never see the big picture.  Leaning and trusting in only what we can understand makes us lean away from the sure foundation that He is!  In limiting ourselves to what we can surmise or figure out, we become unstable.  We teeter and sway rather than standing firm with a wholehearted trust in His direction.  He has promised to lead the way and make our paths straight.

My own understanding sure gets me in trouble.  I assume the wrong thing.  I read a situation incorrectly without even knowing it.  I think I know, and I do not.  There is only One who knows the future, who knows what is best for me.  The Lord not only knows, but He has the power to bring it about!  If I lean at all, I want to lean into Him and His strong arms.

Lord, keep me trusting in You with all my heart.