Devotions By Jan


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Locked Antlers

Scripture for Today: James 4:1 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

The bull moose antlers are impressive with a spread of up to 6 feet!  They can weigh as much as 40 pounds.  Each year they are shed and grown anew until old age.  Their size shows their status and strength, especially during mating season.  They are made of bone and are one single structure.  Two bull moose with similar sized antlers will face off and lock antlers over a female.  It is really sad when two moose get their antlers so entangled that they are unable to free themselves and they die!

Today’s verse was addressed to believers in the church.  These early Christians struggled with the very same thing we do today.  Desires battling within eventually show themselves in tensions and quarrels without.  The desires mentioned here are probably the result of “friendship with the world” (verse 4).  They desired what they did not have.  Praying for their desires would not have resolved the situation.  That is because they were asking with wrong motives and would spend what they received on themselves (verses 2-3).  There is only one solution and that is for our desires to change.

Most of my desires would probably fall into this same category.  I wish I could say differently.  The pull of the world is strong and so is envying what others have.  In my heart of hearts I know that possessions do not bring me true joy but it sure is easy to be distracted!  And when my selfish desires get in the way of a relationship I know it has gone too far.  I want those secret desires in my heart to be God-honoring and to be centered on Him.

Lord, help me to keep my desires in check.

 

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Caring Dolphins

Scripture for Today: Galatians 6:1-2  “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Awhile back I took my daughter whale watching but all we saw were dolphins.  Neither of us were disappointed though.  They are so much fun to watch, jumping, frolicking and following our boat.  Dolphins are such intelligent mammals and often will “bow-ride,” swimming alongside a ship to conserve energy.  But what is really surprising is their altruism!  A dolphin will stay by another ill or injured dolphin, even helping them to the surface to breathe!

Today’s verse is addressed to those who are living and walking by the Spirit.  Restoring a fellow believer who is broken with sin is more than just altruism but a command. This act of love and caring is done with kindness, tenderness and a gentle spirit.  When we restore someone to a close relationship with the Lord, we listen, we cry, we share, we pray together and we encourage confession.  How amazing it is to see God’s forgiveness make one whole again!

There are really two prerequisites to restoring a believer caught in sin.  The first is to be in right relationship with the Lord myself.  The second is to care, to care and love so much that I am willing to be involved, even long term.  To care that much means being a servant with my time.  It also means caring enough to risk misunderstanding and perhaps a broken relationship as a result of speaking truth.  But what a privilege to be used by Him to bring someone back!

Lord, make me willing to care that much!


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Walking the Dogs

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 17:24  “A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.”

In walking our daughter’s dogs, there are two different lengths for the leashes.  Both dogs are fairly obedient but Paco, the smaller black one, needs the shorter leash.  He was an abandoned stray and we are not sure what he lived through before becoming part of the family.  But whatever it was, he thinks he can take on any other dog he sees and lets them know it!  He also is very distracted by any and every smell he encounters, which makes for lots of pulling on that leash.  His cooperation does not come easily!

Today’s verse describes a fool whose eyes wander away from what is wise.  Wisdom is like that shorter leash that keeps the discerning person from wandering.  The fool is easily distracted away from wisdom.  Wandering aimlessly is how the adulteress is described and she does not even know it. (Prov. 5:6)  Some wander away from the faith because of their love of money (I Tim. 6:10).  Without the shorter leash of wisdom we wander all over the mountains and hills, following the wrong shepherds and forgetting where our resting place is (Jer. 50:6).

Christ is the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:24).  I know that connecting to Him is wise.  He is the One who keeps me on the right path.  The problem is that I am “prone to wander…prone to leave the God I love.”  I am so easily distracted.  I pull on that leash to go check something out and end up going in the wrong direction.  When I trust in my own understanding or ideas, I am out of step with Him.  His direction and His pace are always the best.

Lord, make me wise by following You.


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Bald Eagle’s Nest

Scripture for Today: Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

The nest or aerie of a bald eagle is the largest of any North American bird.  They can measure up to 13 feet deep and 8 feet wide!  Along with sticks the eagle uses moss, grass, plant stalks, lichens, seaweed and sod.  The bole area for their young is lined with softer material and down feathers.  Recently, the public was reminded to keep the areas in their vicinity clear of trash.  Apparently, the eagles will sometimes make use of the trash on the ground to build up their nests.

Today’s verse is part of a charge Joshua gave the Israelites just before his death.  He admonished the people to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully by throwing out the gods of their ancestors.  Joshua challenged them to choose!  Then comes the often quoted declaration that he and his household choose to serve the Lord.  There will be no compromise by allowing the trash of false gods to cross his threshold.

I want to have that same resolve as Joshua.  One would think that false gods would not really be an issue.  But a “god” can be anything I prioritize and value more than my Savior.  In allowing other things to take His place, my nest or house might grow larger and more impressive to some.  But it is foolish to be building my house on what is essentially sand (Matt.7:26).  It is by wisdom that a house is built (Prov. 24:3).  And when I am fearing and obeying Him I am being wise (Psalm 111:10).  May all who enter my house see exactly who we choose to serve!

Lord, I choose You.

 


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The Chuck Wagon

Scripture for Today:  Job 23:12 “I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread.”

The “chuck wagon” was essential to the life of a cowboy driving cattle overland out of Texas.  These hardy men would be out in the open for months and the entire crew needed to be fed daily.  The chuck wagon was invented by a Texas rancher named Charles Goodnight in 1866 to meet this need.  The wagon carried a dutch oven to bake the sourdough biscuits that were served with beans.  The menu may not have varied much but it kept body and soul together.

In today’s verse, Job values God’s Word more than he does his daily bread.  Job was an upright man who carefully obeyed and feared God.  But even more than that Job hung on God’s every word.  To Job, the words of God’s mouth were not only a daily necessity like bread, but a treasure!  Job had the same regard for God’s decrees as David had years later when he said they were more precious than gold (Psalm 19:10).

I want to esteem God’s Word as just this precious and valuable!  I want His Word to be just as essential to me as the food I eat.  His Word is a treasure because in keeping it, “there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:11)  And It feeds my soul and nourishes my relationship with Him.  No other book on earth can do that!  And His Word will never pass away as it is eternal (Matt. 24:35).  What other book could ever make that claim?  I can skip a meal and feel hunger, but do I feel just as much of a lack when I neglect reading God’s Word?

Lord, keep me hungry for every word that comes from You.


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A Panda-Sized Meal

Scripture for Today: James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Who does not enjoy watching these cute cuddly-looking pandas!  They can look especially adorable when romping around playing.  But more likely, they are seen doing what they spend the majority of their day doing; eating!  They eat 30-45 pounds of bamboo per day.  Their back molars are very strong for tearing this fibrous plant.  And they even have a sixth digit for holding those long stalks.  But because the bamboo is low in nutrition and pandas digest a very low percentage of what they eat, they must consume huge quantities.  They are constantly eating.

Today’s verse talks about two ways one can feed on God’s Word.  One can merely listen to it and be deceived into thinking that is sufficient.  Or one can not only listen to God’s Word but actually apply it and put it into practice.  In obeying God’s Word, there is change, growth and good spiritual health.  However, merely listening is much easier to do.  There can be momentary feel-good reactions to a poetic passage or a challenging story of faith.  But it is when we respond to His commands with submission and obedience that we truly grow.

I can get quite prideful about how well I know Scripture.  I can recite verses with the best of them.  But large quantities of head knowledge is not what makes for true heart change.  It is only in doing what God’s Word says that I can grow and become what He wants me to be.  It really is not how much I know or how much I listen to that makes a difference.  The difference lies in how much I do what it says!

Lord, don’t let me be deceived.  Show me where I need to obey.

 


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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.