Devotions By Jan


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The Elf Owl

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 14:2  “The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.”

I was drawn to the Elf Owl thinking its name had something to do with Christmas.  But of course, the name has to do with its tiny size.  It is the smallest owl in the world, no bigger than a sparrow.  Many people in seeing it mistaken this owl as just a young one.   And because of his size he only eats small insects.  He is not an aggressive bird and will fly away rather than stay and fight.  Perhaps that has something to do with his size as well.  The Elf Owl will play dead when captured until the danger is passed.  This owl’s reputation as being wise is certainly seen in his behavior!

Today’s verse equates seeking after God with wisdom.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10)  Those who are actively seeking the God of the Bible are showing that wisdom.  Wisdom is seeing just how tiny we are when compared to His grandeur!  Like the owl, our reputation of being wise is seen in our behavior.  And wisdom can be evaluated by our righteous and godly living.  In contrast, Psalm 14:1 describes the fool as the one who says in his heart that there is no God.

The more I seek Him the more I am showing wisdom.  Seeking after God is always rewarded as He wants me to find Him.  He has promised that those who earnestly seek Him will find Him (Hebrews 11:6).  It is worth the effort as He is the One who not only created me but loves me and has only the best in mind for me!

Lord, may I never stop seeking after You.


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Noël Bleu

Scripture for Today: I John 2:10 “Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.”

Our home town of Guebwiller in France transforms itself every Christmas into a sea of blue!  The normally unremarkable downtown streets dress themselves in blue light and the result is magical!  The light is soft enough to enchant but bright enough to walk confidently in the darkness.  That blue light shines just enough to light the way while at the same time beautifying what in the daytime can be  mundane.  It is truly a Nöel Bleu or Blue Christmas!

Today’s verse talks about how to live in beautiful  light.  Jesus calls Himself the Light of the World ( John 8:12).  He illuminates the path of obedience we are to walk.  By obeying Him we remain within the beam of that light.  It is easier to talk about obedience in general terms, but here the verse is very specific about one particular commandment; loving our brother and sister in Christ.  Loving other believers keeps me in His light and on the right path.

I never realized before how closely love and light are linked.  The amount of light I live with is dependent on how much I love my brother.  Quite frankly, I get used to my way being dimly lit.  My eyes adjust to the lack of light due to my lack of love.  I do not think to do anything about it…….until I stumble.  I trip on my lack of love.  How much better it is to make the effort to love!  My walk is so much more pleasant in the light.  Thankfully, I do not have to muster up that love on my own.  His Spirit’s indwelling provides that love.

Lord, fill me with Your love and light today!


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Lactose Intolerant

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 5:13-14 “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

 

Arne Hendriks

Can anyone be truly happy without dairy?  According to these sign-toting young people in Beijing the answer is Yes!  My half Chinese husband has this problem and is much more pleasant to be around when he uses the lactose free milk and sticks to sorbet.  Like many Asians (up to 90%) he lacks that all important enzyme, lactase, which is needed to break down and absorb the lactose, which is a sugar found in milk.  All I know is that I am very thankful not to have this problem as I enjoy my ice cream!

Today’s verse in no way discounts “milk.”  It is necessary and foundational for the new christian.  There are times for the mature christian as well to review the basics.  The problem comes when one has only milk and does not progress to “solid food.”  Being satisfied with just milk will result in a failure to distinguish good from evil.  Scripture is to be actually used in making decisions.  The more we rely on its wisdom and principles, the more we can recognize evil, hate it and cling to the good! (Romans 12:9)

There are times in approaching God’s Word that I just want something basic or familiar.   Maybe I feel rushed.  Or maybe I am feeling pretty good about myself.  No conviction today, please.  A promise would make me feel good.  Nothing wrong with that.  But to really distinguish between what masquerades as good and what truly is good, I need to spend more than a little time in His Word.

Lord, make me hungry for solid food!

 


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The Redwood Tree

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.”

How could anyone not be impressed with the mighty Coast Redwoods with their amazing height and longevity!  One would think that in the earthquake country where the Redwood grows they would be at risk to fall.  But they have developed a survival strategy when forced to lean due to shifting ground.  They are able to accelerate their growth on their downhill sides and so buttress themselves and remain standing!

Today’s verse talks about how we can grow and be strengthened in our faith.  We can accelerate our growth by being rooted and built up in HIm.  When we feel ourselves leaning because of shifting ground, we can shore ourselves up by being firmly planted in Him.  In a world that is constantly changing and shifting its norms and values, we can be built up by His unchanging Word.  Being rooted in the soil of fine-sounding arguments (verse 4) and deceptive philosophies (verse 8) will stunt our growth and make us unstable.

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. When I feel myself start to lean with shifting ground I want to grow my roots deeper.  I want to stand tall and firm.  I cannot do that without being buttressed by His truth in His Word.  He is my strength and if I lean at all I want to lean into Him!

Thank you Lord, that You strengthen my faith.


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Sticking My Neck Out

Scripture for Today: Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”

It is obvious how this Eastern Snake-Necked turtle got its name.  The neck on this common Australian turtle can be as long as his body!  When it feels threatened it can emit a strong musky liquid from the armpits and groin area.  Of course, its best protection is his shell.  But for this species, to fit that long neck into his carapace he has to bend his head sideways and make it go in sideways.  Retreating into his shell may take some extra maneuvering but worth the protection it gives.

Today’s verse talks about the Lord being our refuge in times of trouble.  He is good and He cares when we have stuck our necks out too far!  The refuge He offers is His presence and is always available.  There is no situation that is too difficult for Him regardless of how vulnerable and exposed we feel.  By hiding in Him we can wait out whatever is making us feel threatened.  He is our refuge, our fortress and our hiding place.  In His loving and protecting presence we can patiently wait out any pressure, stress or assault.  It is God who gives perseverance and encouragement (Rom.15:5).

I do not know what tomorrow may bring.  But I do know that He is already there and He will give me what I need to persevere.  At the first sign of trouble, He wants me to hide myself in Him.  He cares for me because I trust in Him.  He responds to my trust by being exactly what I need when the hard times come.  What a comfort that He is good and ready to hide me!

Thank you Lord, that You care.

 


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Countdown!

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 90:12  “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

It has been a tradition in our home over the years to count down to Christmas.  Whether it is done with an image, a chocolate or a small toy, the excitement builds as the days are counted down until Christmas day.  Of course, the age-old tradition of the Advent wreath and all its symbolism is a much more significant way to mark the days until the birth of our Savior.  With each lit candle and Scripture reading we celebrate His first arrival and anticipate His second.

Today’s verse talks about numbering our days.  Knowing that our days have an end is not a new concept.  But for all of us, we need to be reminded to live with the end in sight.  As this prayer of Moses says, numbering our days makes us wise as they so quickly pass (verse 10).  More important than their number, we can live those days with joy and gladness, satisfied with His love (verse 14).   And looking toward the end makes us wise and helps us decide what is important today.

Regardless of the number of days the Lord allows me, I am to be counting down, making the most of every one of them.  That last little window of my life’s calendar waits to be opened.  What lies behind it is beyond my feeble attempts to even imagine!  I can look forward to that last window with joyful anticipation even though I know it means being finished with counting.  In the meantime I want to be intentional by making my days count and by living my days for Him, enjoying His love and presence each day.

Lord, make my heart wise as I count down to Heaven’s window!


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Black Friday Season

Scripture for Today: Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the Law.”

Today is call, “Black Friday,” although the term now encompasses a whole season!  It signals the unofficial start of Christmas shopping. The term in the 1950’s referred to all the workers calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving.  In the 1960’s it was used by policemen in Philadelphia to describe the mass of shoppers and the resulting congestion.  The term has now come to mean retailers finally pulling out of the red ink and into the black on their balance sheets.

Today’s verse talks about a debt that belongs to every believer.  Unlike retailers on Black Friday, we will never pull out of the red ink and into the black on this debt.  The debt of love is never completely paid.  Perfectly loving others completely fulfills the Law.  This is because all of the Law is summed up in loving one’s neighbor as one’s self (verse 9).  But there is only One who has been able to fulfill the Law with a perfect love and that is Jesus.

I cannot drum up love for some people, even during the feel-good holidays.  There are times I feel like a hypocrite celebrating peace and love when harboring an unforgiving spirit.  He knows and He sees my heart.  And He also offers His love, made available to me by His Spirit.  His filling and control helps me to show love even to that hard-to-love person.  I may not feel warm and fuzzy but showing love is not simply a feeling.  It is serving and giving and honestly wanting the best for him.

Lord, fill my heart with Your love today.