Devotions By Jan


Blessed Thistle

Scripture for Today: Luke 6:27-28 “But to you who are listening I say, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Being that this flower is surrounded by sharp pointy leaves and considered a bitter herb, how is this plant blessed?  As pretty as the flower is, the plant is a “blessing” for its medicinal properties.  Blessed Thistle contains tannins which might help with diarrhea, coughs and inflammation.  It was used to treat bubonic plague during the Middle Ages and as a tonic for monks.

In today’s verse Jesus is speaking specifically to all “who are listening.”  He was addressing a large crowd including His disciples.  But as in any audience there are those who are tracking and those who are distracted.  These words are for those whose intention is to be a blessing.  Being a blessing to enemies that curse, hate and mistreat you is done by showing love in two ways; doing good for them and praying for them.  Those willing to obey will experience great reward (verse 35).  And they will be recognizable as His children, being kind to the ungrateful and wicked, just as He is.

Being a blessing to enemies is not usually something very high on my to-do list!  I have a hard enough time being a blessing to those who love me!  But doing good to my enemies and praying for them is modeled by Jesus and He asks the same of me.  I cannot expect any accolades or return from obeying.  But there will be great reward one day for this hard thing He asks of me.  And behaving as one of His children brings glory and recognition to Him! (vs. 35)

Thank you Lord, that in being a blessing to enemies, I too am blessed!


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Laughing Hyena

Scripture for Today: Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Hearing the spotted hyena laugh never fails to at least elicit a smile from me if not a laugh of my own!  Their maniacal “laugh” can be heard when hyenas are agitated or showing aggression.  One can especially hear it when there is a feeding frenzy.  As the hyena is not certain when they will eat next, they gorge themselves whenever they can.  No joy or happiness here.  This is no laughing matter!

Today’s verse speaks of a deep seated joy that is accompanied with peace.  Unlike happiness which depends on happenings, this joy comes from God through His Spirit (Gal. 5:22)  Because of its divine Source, the result of being filled with this joy is an overflowing hope.  However, it is through the conduit of trusting Him that believers experience this joy with peace.  As we trust Him we are filled with a joy and peace that has little to do with our circumstances.

Our world is daily changing and with it, our plans as well.  When things abruptly fall apart, so does my sense of well being.  Tears, disappointment and even anger are my immediate reaction.  But when I stop to consider God’s sovereignty in everything, I am reassured.  I continue to be disappointed but at the same time I can take heart.  The more I can manage to trust Him and His plan, the more I can experience this unexplainable joy.  When my heart trusts Him then my heart can “leap for joy.” (Ps. 28:7)  Circumstances do not need to defeat or define me.

Thank you Lord, that YOU are my hope.  YOU are my peace.  YOU are my joy.

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Inside Out Flower

Scripture for Today: Mark 7:15 “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

If one were to take a walk in the coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest right now, this delicate wildflower might be seen.  It is a wildflower with petal-like sepals that being swept back make it look as if the flower were inside out!  Its official name is, “Vancouveria Hexandra,” named after the British explorer, Captain George Vancouver.  But I prefer the more creative name of “Inside Out.”

Today’s verse has an inside and an outside.  The Lord is speaking to the Pharisees who challenged Him about following their ceremonial laws.  These religious leaders had burdened the people with a crippling weight of laws.  Jesus pointed out that laws and policies do not have the power to change what is on the inside.  What sullies and makes one dirty is not anything on the outside of man.  It is the evil that comes from inside (verse 23).  One can change laws, leaders or levels of education and privilege but none of this will change the core problem; an unclean heart.

In a troubled world where social injustice is on everyone’s mind, I do not want to be “inside out.”  The core problem is not on the outside but on the inside of all of us.  Lasting change is only possible when Christ makes us a “new creation” in Him (II Cor. 5:17).  My most loving unselfish response is to point others to the One who can change a heart for all eternity.  What an incredible shame if in addressing the outside of man I miss the inside!  What good would it be to gain the whole world but lose one’s soul? (Mark 8:36)

Thank you Lord, for changing me on the inside.    


Thick Skinned?

Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

When I think of thick skinned animals I think of the pachyderms: the rhinoceros, hippopotamus and the elephant.  But the giraffe has thick skin too, up to 7 inches!  They need that thick tight skin on their lower extremities to maintain high extravascular pressure on their weight-bearing blood vessels.  The pressure of that thick skin works just like a pilot’s g suit!

Today’s verse commands us to be tender-hearted.  This seems like the exact opposite of being thick skinned! If we are tender towards others than we can be kind and we can be compassionate.  But if our hearts are tender for this purpose, than our hearts may also be vulnerable to attack.  Having a tender heart means we could be hurt, which is why the next words are about forgiveness.  But whether or not we are hurt, it is a tender heart that can offer forgiveness.

When I have a tender heart towards others than I feel their hurts.  But then I feel my own as well.  It would be so much more comfortable to be thick skinned and avoid emotional hurts.  Those insults, name calling and gossip do not feel so good.  But the wonderful part about having a tender heart is that I can realize Christ’s forgiveness for me!  Not only can my tender heart experience His complete pardon,  but I can extend that forgiveness to others.  When I close my heart against the one who hurt me, developing “thick skin,” I am less able to feel God’s unconditional love for me.  Having a tender heart has a price but not as high as the cost of thick skin!

Lord, keep me tender-hearted!



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The Osprey

Scripture for Today: Matthew 4:19 “‘Come follow Me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.'”

I wondered what I was seeing standing so proudly at the top of a mast at the harbor.  The osprey is quite the accomplished “fisherman!”  Ninety-nine percent of his diet is fish.  He plunges feet first into the water from 30-50 feet up in the air and has a reversible outer toe!  It can be moved either to the front of the foot or moved to the back of the foot.  This gives him a two-toe formation forward or back for carrying off his fish.

In today’s verse Jesus invites two fisherman, Andrew and Simon-Peter, to join Him.  Two more were then called; James and John (verse 21-22).  All four responded immediately to the call.  Jesus spoke in terms to which these fishermen could relate.  Following Jesus would mean for them leaving their livelihood and putting people first.  And like the osprey, they would need that flexible reversible toe.  The disciples would be talking to people of all classes, races and religious backgrounds.  Like Paul would later say, it was important to become all things to all people in order to save some for the sake of the Gospel (I Cor. 9:22-23).

Putting people first is not always my natural inclination.  My own comfort or agenda often takes priority over God’s invitation.  But the message of God’s grace is to be shared, and I need to relate the Gospel in a way others can understand.  To become all things to all people means I need to find common ground.  It means I need to ask questions and listen intently to their thinking before I share.  Not only does this show respect but helps me know what they need to hear.

Lord, make me sensitive to the need of others.