Devotions By Jan


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A Champion

Scripture For Today: Matthew 22:17b & 21b …Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? …give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

Joe Louis has been called the greatest prize fighter of all time and for good reason.  He reigned as heavyweight champion from 1937-1949, the longest span of any titleholder.  When asked by a reporter who hit him the hardest Joe Louis replied, “Uncle Sam’s taxes.”  He had raised $90,000 by charitable fights, personally seeing none of it.  The IRS later credited these amounts as taxable income.  Although most proceeds went directly to his handlers, he owed over one million in taxes and interest by 1950.  Hit hard indeed!

Today’s verse is appropriate on the deadline for filing taxes.  The Pharisees were looking to trap Jesus with His words.  As the Romans were an occupying force, they asked if it was right to pay taxes to them.  These self-righteous religious leaders called Jesus a “man of integrity” but Jesus understood the evil intent of their hearts.  He asked whose image was on the coin and when they answered Caesar’s, Jesus responded with this familiar verse.

The question for me is never if I agree with the government’s policies.  If I only paid taxes to a government I agreed with then my bill would be significantly reduced!  But my obligation to the government pales in comparison to what I owe the Lord.  His image is not on my coin but on my heart.  I bear His image as His child and I owe Him everything; my whole heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27).  I cannot ever repay Him for what He did for me on that cross.  He bought me with an incredible price (I Cor. 6:20).  I owe Him everything.

Thank you Lord, for paying the price I could not.

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The Border Collie

Scripture for Today:  John 16:8   “When He  comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement……”

This beautiful border collie has everyone’s rapt attention!  Unlike the “heeler” dogs who nip at heels, this breed is called a “header.”  He goes to the front of the animal to turn or stop its movement.  It is common for a border collie to stand in front of a large group and use what is called a “strong eye” to stare them down into submission!

Today’s verse talks about the role of the Holy Spirit.  Like the header dog that nudges the sheep in the right direction, so we need Him to direct and lead.  We are like sheep and left to ourselves would go astray (Is. 53:6).  We all need the Shepherd’s rod and staff for correction and for getting us out of danger!  His Spirit brings the conviction of what is wrong, what is right and the consequences a behavior brings.  The Spirit incites the positive godly guilt that leads to repentance (II Cor. 7:9.)

The Lord is my Shepherd but the Holy Spirit is like that border collie.  I love that the indwelling Holy Spirit brings comfort, power and His fruit in my life (Gal. 5:22-23).  However, the guilt and conviction from Him is not a comfortable experience.  The quicker I listen and obey, changing direction, the sooner the experience is over.  But that temporary discomfort is well worth avoiding that fall over a cliff!  His desire is always for my good.  As my Shepherd He leads me in the paths of righteousness where I can find quiet waters to refresh my soul (Psalm 23).  That is why His conviction as a rod and staff can actually bring me comfort!

Lord, help me see Your correction as proof of Your love..


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Air Bag Fail?

Scripture for Today: Psalm 5:11 “But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.”

No, my Mother-in-law’s air bag did not deploy.  Her 1991 car had only frontal air bags in any case and none on the sides.  But we do what we can to protect ourselves in the event of a crash.  We wear our seat belts and obey the rules.  We often depend on those air bags even though there have been recalls and even though there are counterfeits out there that malfunction.  And not every airbag is even supposed to deploy in some circumstances.  But we do try to take every precaution.

Today’s verse tells us that God’s protection belongs to those who love His name.  We can rejoice because He is all-knowing and all-powerful.  Knowing that He is in control means that we can have a light heart and even sing for joy.  His love and protection is always trustworthy as He has a plan for what He allows to happen.

I wish belonging to the Lord meant that I or my loved ones are never touched by evil, sickness or accident.  We live in a fallen world and it is not Paradise!  But God’s Word reassures me that He is in control.  The pain and suffering He allows is always used for His higher purposes.  None of it is “bad luck” or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I am fragile.  Life is fragile.  But I belong to the God of the universe and that calms me down.  He has already taken care of my eternity.  I can trust Him for every detail of this life.

Thank you Lord, that Your loving kindness protects me.

 


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“Great Rock”

Scripture for Today:  Isaiah 28:16 “So this is what the Sovereign Lord says; ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.”

This strange structure sits on an even stranger landscape; Burren, on the west coast of Ireland.  The name, Burren, means “great rock.”  Dry limestone rock covers this flat barren area making it resemble a moonscape.  This structure is called Poulnabrone, a portal tomb that has stood the test of time.  Originally covered with soil, it served as a collective burial site as well as a territorial marker.  All that remains today is its “stone skeleton.”

Today’s verse describes the only true and firm foundation.  The people were deluding themselves thinking that they could mock God’s words, live how they pleased and not be touched by calamity.  They were taking refuge in lies and falsehoods (verse 15&17).  They relied on themselves and their own righteousness and justice rather the foundation of God’s truth.  The “stone” we are to build our lives on is a tested precious cornerstone.  That Cornerstone is Jesus Christ (Eph.2:20) and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame (I Peter 2:6).

My whole life is like a building that is based on the Rock.  Jesus is not just an afterthought but the cornerstone from which everything else is fitted.  He is my point of reference for all truth.  Relying on my own rationale or reasoning is like building on sand (Matt. 7:24-27).  When the storms of life whirl around me, I want to be remain stable.  I will not panic at whatever life throws at me because I am founded on His unshakeable and eternal truth.

Lord, keep me stable today.

 

 


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The North Star

Scripture for Today:  Exodus 15:13 “In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling.”

For centuries the North Star, or Polaris, has been helping travelers get their bearings.  Whether traversing a dry uncharted desert or sailing through waters without a horizon in sight, the North Star has kept travelers from losing themselves.  Because it is located nearly at the north celestial pole, it marks the way due north.  It is bright but only the 50th brightest star above us.  The North Star is famous for holding nearly still while the entire northern sky turns around it.

Today’s verse reminds us of the fact that the God of this universe is willing to lead and guide His people.  He shows us the way because of His amazing unfailing love.  He uses His incredible strength to lift us up out of the deep slimy pit of mud and mire and to set our feet back on firm solid ground (Psalm 40:2).  His love for us never falters, even when we ignore His leading and fall away.  We may step out of His will but we never step out of His care.  His correction and instruction light the way back to His presence (Prov. 6:23).

What a precious thought that He cares enough to see every wayward step.  He does not want me to go through life unclear and confused about my direction.  He has redeemed me and I am HIs.  His love will never fail me, even when I am not looking up for His direction.  In my pride I may think I have it all together when in fact I may be inadvertently putting distance between us.  His guidance keeps me warm and close.

Lord, keep me looking to You for each step.


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Honeycomb

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:24 “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

The honeycomb is honey in its purest form.  Those chunks of comb are wonderfully chewy and sweet.  Cutting off a chunk and smearing it over baked goods is always a good idea.  The lighter the color of the comb the sweeter it is.  The darker colored comb has an earthier flavor.  The problem of course, is getting past those pesky bees to get to their sweet work.  Their perfectly joined hexagons are so painstakingly constructed.  Bees for good reason have been called, “heaven-instructed mathematicians.”

Today’s verse likens gracious words to the sweetness of the honeycomb.  Gracious words are words that touch the soul of a person and bring healing where there is hurt.  They are spoken with the intent of building up the other person.  In a world where so many use words to criticize, demean and gain power, the gracious word is about reaffirming someone’s worth.  Our conversation is to always be full of grace, just like a seasoning (Col. 4:6).  We are told to avoid unwholesome talk and say only what is helpful and encouraging (Eph. 4:29).

Words like that are all too rare.  But one place I always find words that are sweet is in God’s love letter to me (Psalm 19:10)  His words are sweet because they tell me I am important to Him.  His words touch my soul and heal those damaged secret places inside.  And He wants my speech to be just as gracious to those around me.  Encouraging words have made such a difference for me.  Why do I hesitate?  It costs me nothing to be gracious but makes my words so much more valuable.

Lord, I need Your help today to make my words sweet and gracious.


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Fear of Holes

Scripture for Today: Haggai 1:6 “You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put clothes on, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

These lotus seed pods do not mean to be frightening.  But for those who suffer from “trypophobia” or a fear of holes, the sight of them can trigger all kinds of symptoms including: discomfort, goosebumps, eye strain, distress, crawling skin, panic attacks, sweats, nausea, and body shakes.  This is not a phobia that is officially recognized.  But as with other phobias, the preferred treatment is exposure therapy in an attempt to change one’s response.

There was a response that needed changing in today’s verse.  The  returned exiles were to rebuild their temple.  But instead of making this a priority, they concentrated on building up their own homes.  Somehow, the time was never right to work on God’s house (verse 2).  There was always something more to do for themselves.  The prophet, Haggai, spoke to them God’s word; “Give careful thought to your ways.”  Because of their selfish living, they were not experiencing God’s blessing!  They could never have their fill.  There were holes in their purses.

I can fall into this same way of thinking.  How easy it is to put myself and my own comfort and convenience first!  But when I do, that elusive contentment with what I have is no where to be found!  “Holes in my purse” drain away any sense of fulfillment.  The Lord calls me to put Him first (Matt. 6:33).  Living for Him brings such blessing that everything He gives me can be enough.  I want Him and His incredible love to be my “enough.”

Lord, help me to put You first today.