Devotions By Jan


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Free Range

Scripture for Today: Psalm 119:45 “And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.”

I like the idea that chickens can roam freely to graze and forage for food.  The label, “Free Range” for poultry implies a freedom of movement in outdoor spaces.  It is said that if they do not have the opportunity to peck at the ground, they will often peck at their own feathers.  Of course, allowing them to freely graze outdoors does not mean they can run around where they like.  They are cage-free but for their own protection they are not barrier-free!

When I think of liberty and being free, I do not normally think of something or someone telling me what to do!  But in today’s verse, walking in liberty is equated with following God’s laws.  It seems a paradox.  How can I walk at liberty and be seeking His Law at the same time?

This liberty is not freedom to do whatever we please.  It is a liberty from the sin that enslaves and entangles us.  It is a liberty that allows us to follow Him.  Sin can have the power to keep us in chains, obligating us to do evil.  But because of what Christ did on the cross, I have a choice to follow His Law.

To be honest I do not always use my liberty like He intends.  The pull of the world, my old habits and just my ugly sin nature  all conspire to convince me that I have no choice!  But as a believer, I have the power of the Holy Spirit living within me.  And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (II Cor. 3:17).  His precepts are the arms that enclose and protect me for my good!

Thank you Lord, for making me free!

 

 

 

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Flying High

Scripture for Today: I John 4:18  “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

My grandson is flying high but his Nana has her heart in her throat even watching this scene!  There is absolute confidence here and no shred of fear.  My son-in-law is not about to let my little guy drop.  His arms are strong and he is ready to catch him no matter what.  My grandson has absolute confidence and trust, not only in his Daddy’s strength but also in his love.  I can just hear him calling out to go higher!

Today’s verse talks about a perfect love.  It is described as a love that drives out fear.  The one who struggles with fear of punishment does not have that complete and perfect love.  Because God showed His love by sending His Son to die in our place (verse 9-10) we can know and rely on the love God has for us (verse 16).  The punishment for sin has already taken place for those who place their faith in Christ.  Now, a loving relationship of absolute confidence is possible!

How awful it would be to try to love and serve the Lord out of fear of punishment!  That is not love at all but obligation and coercion.  But because He took the initiative and paid for my sin, I can enjoy a complete, undivided and sincere love for Him.  I am not weighed down with guilt and shame.  There is no doubt that He loves me and will catch me no matter what!  He has paid the price for my sin and guilt forever!  I am free to love Him completely with all of my being!

Thank you Lord, for love without fear.

 


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Immigrant Fruit

Scripture for Today:  Galatians 5:22-23a  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

I was surprised to learn that almost every food we eat is an “immigrant!”  The plant explorer or food spy, David Fairchild, introduced more than 200,000 exotic plants and crops to the USA over 37 years.  He traveled to over 50 countries bringing us apples from Kahzakstan, bananas from New Guinea, oranges and limes from China and new strains of avocados from Chili!

Today’s verse describes another kind of fruit which is not native or natural to us!  It is the fruit or evidence of the one who is filled with and walking by the Spirit of God.  The results of being in close communion with Him are evident in one’s behavior and attitude.  The fruit comes from Him and not from ourselves.  It is not natural to react to stress with calm confidence.  It is not even normal to respond with kindness to someone who intentionally hurts us!  To have deep seated joy in the midst of crisis is certainly other-worldly.

I have none of these qualities on my own, especially in tense stressed moments.  But as a believer the Spirit of God resides in me.  That means that I have the potential to respond with these beautiful characteristics when it does not seem natural.  When I see that they are lacking, it is not a matter of “self-help” but turning to Him for His help.  The more I confess my inadequacies and turn to Him, the more He responds with this beautiful fruit.  These qualities describe to perfection the One I serve.  He is slowly (some days very slowly) producing His character or image in me!

Lord, please show Your fruit in me today.


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“Tree of 40 Fruit”

Scripture for Today: Romans 11:18 “Do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: you do not support the root – but the root supports you.”

This tree looks completely mixed up!  Several different colors are blooming and in the summer it will bear several different kinds of fruit in sequence!  It is called the “Tree of 40 Fruit.”  Aken, an artist and professor at Syracuse University, put this strange tree together using a process called, “chip grafting.”  By doing this he has created a tree that bears forty different varieties of fruit with pits!

Today’s verse uses the imagery of grafting branches into an olive tree to describe how salvation was offered to the Gentile, or non-Jewish world.  Salvation was brought first to the Jewish race (Rom.1:16).  It was not until they rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah that the Gentiles as a group were included in God’s plan of salvation.  This is illustrated by some branches being cut off and others being grafted in.  In either case, all the branches are on the same footing as all of us are connected to the same Root.  Salvation does not depend on ourselves, our works, or our ethnicity.  It all depends on faith in Christ and His saving work on the cross.

Feeling superior to other races is a deplorable thing and yet, I will admit that I have had thoughts that are not too God-honoring.  Even though God’s love is constant and unconditional, I know that my pride saddens and disappoints Him.  How human it is to believe that one group is better and more deserving of God’s grace than another!  But grace is never deserved.  To be grafted in to the Source of life is an immense privilege and I am so grateful.

Thank you Lord, for including me!

 

 


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Table Runners

Scripture for Today: I Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

No one would know.  The damage to my table top and buffet is extensive as it dates back to the 1920’s.  I keep meaning to get it refinished but I know that each new move will add new nicks and scratches.  My solution is to cover over all the imperfections with table runners or table scarves.  I have quite a collection from all over the world and for every season.  The only way to see the problems would be to uncover the furniture to the light of day.

Today’s verse encourages the believer to love his brothers and sisters in Christ with a deep love.  Love covers over a multitude of sins.  And a deep love will require extending forgiveness.  This is a love that covers all wrongs suffered (Prov. 10:12).  Fostering this kind of love covers over an offense done to us, but repeating a matter can separate even close friends (Prov. 17:9).  This is no light-hearted superficial love.  For this, one has to dig down deep!  The hurt is still there and we bear the marks.  But we cover it with love and forgiveness. And in loving deeply, a relationship can be restored.

The only possible way to love in spite of hurts done to me is to look at what Christ did.  My sin hurt Him to the point of death.  He has the scars on His hands and side to prove it!  There is no deeper love than His for me.  If He could cover me with grace and forgiveness, than I need to do the same.  Surely, what has been done to me cannot compare to my sin and rebellion against Him.

Lord, help me to love others deeply and with forgiveness.

 


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Water Filters

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:9 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

I am not usually a fan of drinking tap water.  It’s not that I am a “water snob” but I can often detect a funny taste and odor to it.  Some locations are worse than others and the difference lies in how the water is treated and how much chlorine is left after disinfecting it.  I am fairly confident of the bacteria, viruses or parasites having been killed by the chlorine.  But I sure do not like to taste it.  These charcoal filters do a pretty good job of filtering out that funny taste.

In today’s verse we are to filter out what is evil and only allow in what is good.  In that way our love for others is sincere.  Calling something “love” that is tainted with self-interest is an insincere love, allowing evil to cloud it.  Recognizing sincere love can only happen when I filter out what the world defines as love.  The love portrayed in novels and films can parade as real but when evil and disobedience to God’s standard are mixed in, it falls short and often leads to hurt and disappointment.

A love that is sincere and without evil is described in I Corinthians 13:4-7.  This picture of sincere love has little resemblance to what is around me.  I need to filter out impatience, selfishness, pride, envy and an unforgiving spirit.  For my love to be sincere, I want to cling to faithfulness, speaking truth and showing honor.  God’s Word tells me how to view love.  God’s Word tells me when love is sincere.  Without His Word, I would not be able to discern what is truly good and sincere.

Lord, make my love sincere and good today.


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Recliners

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

When I think of a recliner, this is the image that usually comes to my mind!  Clearly, this particular one is well past its prime!  I realize that there are sleek modern versions now.  One of the selling points is often that it doesn’t look like a recliner, as if the look is somehow less than appealing!

Today’s verses were illustrated using a recliner in one of  Billy Graham’s sermons.  He recounted the story of a Bible translator who had trouble finding an equivalent for the word, “faith” in a tribal language.  For months he struggled until he saw a tribesman relaxing in a hammock.  He asked him what he was doing and the man answered that he was reclining.  The man was resting his whole weight on the hammock, trusting that it would hold him up.  In the same way, faith means putting all your trust and confidence in something (or Someone) outside of one’s self.

There is nothing I can do to save myself.  No amount of good works can qualify me to enter Heaven.  It is only because of His free gift of grace that I am saved.  Placing my faith in Him and His grace means that I no longer feel the burden of being “good enough.”  Reclining on His grace erases doubt forever as salvation does not depend on me.  Reclining on His grace gives me the soul rest I so desperately need.  He wants me to recline or rest on His finished work on the cross.  What a gift!  What grace!

Lord, “keep me ever trusting, resting.”