Devotions By Jan

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Chimney Swifts

Scripture for Today: Job 12:7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;”

It was a real show!  In my sister’s yard in Portland, we arranged our chairs to watch as hundreds of small swifts circled in the air.  They would gather in small groups, adding new members as they swooped around the rooftops.  After about twenty minutes of this confusing ballet, someone in the group deemed it time to drop, fluttering, into the chimney.  All it took was one to begin a mass entrance!  How did they know when to begin?  How did they choose their leader?  Somehow, they were communicating with each other to orchestrate this orderly nightly processional.

Today’s verse points out that animals and birds can teach us!  If these birds could speak, what would they tell us?  Each one of them knows that, “In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (verse 10)  They are not at all confused about where they came from and Who it is that gives life and breath.  Their existence depends entirely on their Creator.  Perhaps that is the meaning of their high-pitched chattering calls!

These birds can testify to truth that escapes many people!  He is not far from any of us as, “in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)  Not one sparrow is forgotten by God (Luke 12:6) and the swallow nests in the shelter of God’s presence (Psalm 84:3).  In God’s sight we are worth so much more than these tiny flying creatures.  His care is so obvious in my life.  How silly of me to doubt!  Regardless of my circumstances, He is there and He is faithful.

Thank you Lord, for your constant unfailing love.

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

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Holding a Grudge

Scripture for Today: Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

They say that cats do not hold grudges.  There is supposed to be some other reasonable explanation for their behavior.  However, when returning from a trip, it would always take our Tiger a bit of time to warm back up to us.  He would hold himself aloof and look at us sideways as if to say, “Where have you been and how dare you leave me?”  After a few rebuffed overtures he would eventually be his loving self again.

Today’s verse can be convicting.  It is repeated throughout Scripture that we are not to take revenge (Romans 12:19).  That job is done much better by the Lord who sees hearts and is righteous.  However, holding a grudge is something that we feel entitled to do, reminding ourselves that it is not OK what was done to us.  Holding a grudge keeps the memory alive and keeps the offender at arm’s length.  But love is impossible without true forgiveness.

So often, the guilty one is unaware of that unforgiving spirit I harbor.  It certainly does nothing to him.  The pain I continue to feel becomes self-inflicted and can become more important than the original offense.  Still, it is hard to let it go.  To forgive and forget seems as if I am letting that person get away with something.  The closer the offender is to me the deeper the wound.  It is impossible to forgive and let go without the Lord.  Because He forgives me and does not hold a grudge, He empowers me to do the same.  It can only happen as I continually give it to Him.

Lord, help me to forgive like You do.

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

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Scripture for Today: Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This horse seems to have a mind of his own!  Without a rider or other horses nearby, he walks alone.  Perhaps he is a maverick who enjoys his independence.  The meaning of the word, “maverick,” has changed from its original meaning of being an unbranded animal separated from the herd.  Now the word has come to mean a person who is unconventional and an independent thinker.  Depending on the context, a maverick can denote something negative or positive.

Today’s verse encourages the believer to resist conforming to the world’s way of thinking.  Rather than following the latest ideas or fads, the Christ-follower is to think differently.  His goal is to find and follow what God wants.  It is always something good, pleasing and perfect.  With a mind renewed by God’s Word, we can evaluate and test our thinking to know when we are following what He wants.  His plans are perfect.  He wants only what is good for us.  And as our Creator, He knows better than anyone else what will in the long run be pleasing.

I am sometimes confused as to what God wants in a particular situation.  I know that trusting my own desires and emotions can be deceiving.  Sometimes the Lord gives me exactly what I want, but not until I submit all of it to Him first!  Being a “living sacrifice” is all about that submission (verse 1).  But what I find is that His plan is a whole lot better than mine!

Lord, change my thinking to want only what You want.

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

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Scripture for Today: James 1:5 “But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.”

I can ask Google anything.  Apparently, there are no questions too stupid that it will not answer.  In fact, when asking something very obvious that everyone should know, it does not make fun of me or roll its eyes!  I get no attitude from Google.  Imagine it saying, “What?  You don’t know that?” or, “I answered that yesterday!  Can’t you remember anything?” In the privacy of my own home I can ask it anything without fear of disdain for my stupidity!

Asking questions from people can be humbling.  It is difficult to put aside one’s pride and admit not knowing.  My motto is often, “Fake it ’til you make it.”  How often I have continued a phone conversation despite not knowing which Kathy or Jim is on the line!  My pride prevents me from asking for a last name.  No one likes to admit not knowing.

Today’s verse encourages the believer to ask for wisdom from the Lord.  He does not reprimand us for not knowing.  There is no exasperation on His part.  He is patient and understanding.  But we do not receive this wisdom until two things happen: we recognize our lack and we humble ourselves enough to ask Him.

Google is not infallible and it is limited to just the facts.  Google cannot help me to live my life with skill and godliness.  However, God invites me to approach Him with faith, anywhere and anytime for help with any area.  He is the limitless and infallible source of every answer I need!

Help me Lord, to turn to You today for every answer!

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

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Scripture for Today: Psalm 104:9 “You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.”

We know all about the tides and their timetables.  We know all about how the moon can affect those tides.  But what we do not know is why the ocean stops at a particular beach and goes no further.  I often think of this fact as I walk along a shore.  With all our knowledge and scientific discoveries, there is so much we do not know.  The immense expanse of the ocean just seems to “know” to what point it should flow.  We do not give it a thought but build beautiful homes close by in total confidence that the ocean will go so far and no further.

Today’s verse is not just poetry.  God Himself sets the boundaries the oceans are not to cross.  The ocean is His creation and He is sovereign over it.  There is nothing that is out of His ultimate control.  As this verse says, the ocean waters have in the past covered the earth.  Perhaps this is referring to the time of creation (Genesis 1:9).  Or it may be referring to the time of worldwide flood in the days of Noah (Genesis 7:11).  In either case, God sets boundaries.

The Lord sets boundaries in my life as well.  He has promised that I will not be tested above and beyond what I can handle (I Cor. 10:13).  He will always provide a way.  Those waves coming at me will not engulf me.  Just as the Lord placed limits on Satan in his temptation of Job (Job 1:12), so my God is faithful to me.  I can trust Him.  The water may look dangerously close, but my powerful Creator is closer still!

Thank you Lord, for Your loving control of today!

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

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Good Taste

Scripture for Today: Job 34:3-4 “For the ear tests words as the tongue tests food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.”

This cat is enjoying ice cream almost as much as I do!  Our Tiger never tasted the stuff because I was always unwilling to share.  However, I have given him as taste of yogurt and he was thrilled.  I imagine many cats enjoy foods that involve milk or cream.  But I still remember the veterinarian warning us that the digestive system of an adult cat does not take too well to drinking milk.  Although the taste is delicious, it is not so good for him.

Today’s verse records the advice of one of Job’s three friends.  Elihu was eager to help Job discover the reason for his troubles.  He had a lot to say but it was off the mark.  Certainly, we are to test what we hear and listen with discernment.  Just as we taste food to see if it has a pleasing flavor, so we “taste” what we hear to decide if it rings true.  The problem is that we all have differing taste buds.  What seems right and good to one can seem wrong and sour to another.  Our subjectivity gets in the way of finding absolute truth.

Thankfully, we do not have to discern for ourselves what is right.  It is not up to us to come to some sort of consensus.  God’s Law goes beyond individual opinion or cultural norms.  God’s Law does not change with the times.  Surveys and votes do not change what God has put in place.  And not only does it taste good, but it is good for us!

Help me Lord, to discern what You call good and right.

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

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Storm Chasers

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 4:6 “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”

Why would anyone chase a storm?  To risk everything and knowingly put one’s self in the path of danger seems insane!  Storm chasers include locals with cell phone cameras, news crews, researchers, photographers, university field trips and van loads of storm tour groups!  Whether they are motivated by adventure or science, those who drive hundreds if not thousands of miles to chase a storm are passionate!  I can understand the thrill and the awe of nature but my sense of self-preservation is too strong to join them.  After all, it is just chasing after wind.

Solomon in Ecclesiastes often repeats the phrase, “chasing after the wind.”   Today’s verse notes just one of the activities he lists as futile.  Chasing after more and more wealth may fill two hands rather than just one but it does not give us peace.  The more we have, the more we seem to want.  There is always more to acquire with the promise of peace, security and satisfaction.  But when we arrive, we find that the promise was false.

Just as one cannot catch wind, one cannot find meaning in the material world.  We were created with “eternity in our hearts.” (Eccl. 3:11)  Everything else is not only temporal but in the end, unsatisfying.  Having more handfuls does not insure having peace.  More often than not, having more creates its own worries and headaches and robs us of peace!  Some of the most contented and peaceful people I know have surprisingly little in their hands.  But how easily I forget that fact.  The truth is, I want heart peace more than any material benefit that exists.

Thank you Lord, for the peace and rest I find in You.

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