Devotions By Jan

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The Takahe

Scripture for Today: John 11:25-26 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this.'”

How wonderful to have the takahe be part of our world! This beautiful flightless bird of New Zealand was thought to be extinct in the late 1800’s. But it was rediscovered in 1948 in some remote valleys on South Island. The takahe is one of the over 100 species that have been declared extinct but have later resurfaced. This phenomena has a name, the “Lazarus effect.”

Today’s verse comes from the scene of Lazarus’ resurrection. Lazarus had died four days earlier and now Jesus arrives. He is speaking to the sister, Martha, declaring Himself the resurrection and the life. She answers, Yes, to that very important question he poses. Jesus then asks her to demonstrate her belief by rolling back the stone covering the tomb of Lazarus. What happens next is jaw dropping as Jesus prays and Lazarus emerges from the tomb! Unfortunately, Lazarus would again experience death. But because he believed in the One who is the resurrection and the life, his soul would live on and never die.

What hope I have! Death is never the end. Jesus proved that He is the resurrection and the life when He raised Himself up from His grave. Death could not defeat Him and it will not defeat me either. He has promised. Not only do I have a resurrection to look forward to but He has given me life that is worth living in the here and now! When I live with eternity in view it makes sense of my life.

Thank you Lord, that You are my resurrection and my life!

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Butting Heads

Scripture for Today: James 4:1 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

Perhaps it is not so serious when humans butt heads. However, for goats with protruding horns, there is a definite risk of injury. An older goat may butt his head against the leg of his owner just to get more attention and affection! But between goats, butting heads can indicate stress or illness. The most common cause however is to show dominance. Goats, like chickens, have their own pecking order and will butt heads, kick or bite in order to show who’s boss!

Today’s verse was addressed to believers in the church. These early Christians struggled with the very same thing we do today. We are selfish and we want our own way. Desires battling within eventually show themselves in tensions and quarrels without. The desires mentioned here are probably the result of “friendship with the world” (verse 4). They desired what they did not have. Praying for their desires would not have resolved the situation. That is because they were asking with wrong motives and would spend what they received on themselves (verses 2-3).  There is only one solution and that is for our desires to change.

Most of my desires would probably fall into this same category. I wish I could say differently. The pull of the world is strong and so is envying what others have. In my heart of hearts I know that possessions do not bring me true joy but it sure is easy to be distracted! And when my selfish desires get in the way of a relationship I know it has gone too far. I want those secret desires in my heart to be God-honoring and to be centered on Him.

Lord, keep me from butting heads over selfish desires.

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Palm Branches

Scripture for Today: John 13:13 “They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna.’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ‘ Blessed is the king of Israel.'”

I can just imagine the scene when the people, in their enthusiasm for Jesus, waved palm branches at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The branches they waved may have come from the Judean Date Palm. The only example is found at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel. It was brought back from extinction in 2005 from a 2,000 year old seed from Masada! Waving these large long palm leaves would have taken some effort!

Today’s verse comes from a surprising scene that was prophesied in the Psalms (Psalm, 118:25-26). The people were hailing Jesus as a political liberator. This great crowd shouted their praise of “Hosanna” meaning “Save!” They wanted a king. They wanted to break away from Roman rule. They did not realize that before He returns as King of Kings, He would suffer as their sacrificial Lamb, taking on the punishment of their sin and ours. When He did not do as they expected, this same crowd would later that week turn on Jesus.

Jesus will one day return as King of King and Lord of Lords. And although He is all powerful, He continues to do things differently from what I expect of Him. I want Him to establish His kingdom now, but he waits. He gives more opportunity for people to come to Him. He is just and I want to see Him punish the wicked now but He has His own timetable. I do not want to be fickle in my worship of Him. Whether I understand what He is doing or not, I want to trust His heart and plan in every circumstance!

Thank you Lord, that You are always worthy of praise!

Photo Credit: DA Sonnenfeld at

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National Spinach Day

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 3:16 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, “

Vegans and vegetarians rejoice! Today is National Spinach Day! It is not one of my favorite vegetables, but sprinkled on a cheese pizza or hidden in a fruit smoothie, I will enjoy it! At odds with this day is the saying, “If it’s green it’s trouble, if it’s fried get double!!” Growing up, I was promised that spinach would make me strong as it did for the cartoon character, Popeye.

Today’s verse describes another kind of strength; that of the inner person. It is a strength unseen and given by the Spirit of God. It is His strength that He shares out of His limitless supply. And it is a strength that helps us stand firm in our faith. I have always wondered why “strength” or “power” is not listed among the fruit or evidence of His Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23. However, it is available through prayer as seen by this prayer of Paul’s for the Ephesians. We can pray for strength for ourselves as well as for others.

When I pray for His strength to be developed in me, He is gracious. He grants it because He is merciful, not because I deserve it. He gives me strength to stand firm in my faith when circumstances want to weaken it. He gives me strength to say “no” to temptation. He gives me strength to say and do the right things when it would be so much easier to compromise. I know it comes from Him as I am very aware of my weaknesses. Thankfully, God can even use my weaknesses to showcase His strength! (II Cor. 12:9) But He does want me to realize my need and ask Him. 

Lord, how I need Your strength today!

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Fanning The Flame

Scripture for Today: II Timothy 1:6 “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

In former times this antique bellow was a common sight in starting and maintaining a fire. The flexible bag would expand with air entering through a valve. The air would then be expelled through a tube. As a result the fire would burn more brightly with that supply of air. The bellows is thought to have been invented in China in the 5th century. Many styles exist today but they all have one thing in common. They all have that important flow of air to help the fire burn.

Today’s verse is an encouragement from Paul to Timothy. Paul took special interest in Timothy, considering him as a son. As his mentor, Paul urged him to fan into flame the gift he had received from God through the Holy Spirit. Each believer is given a spiritual gift (I Cor. 12:7) to be used in service to Him. In using our gift for His service, He breathes power, love and self-discipline on those coals, making us bold in our testimony and service (verse 7).

How good He is to give me what is needed to serve Him! But that flame of ability and desire can wane. That gift can be reduced to smoldering coals through neglect. Life can seem so full and busy that the flame sometimes needs fanning. The Holy Spirit wants to breathe on me through His Word, and through intimate communion with Him. It is God’s Spirit that works in me to give me that desire and ability to please Him (Phil. 2:13). And with His breath comes renewed purpose and motivation!

Lord, breathe on me. Keep me burning brightly today.