Devotions By Jan

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Penguin Cries

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 3:7-8a  “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.'”

The courtship rituals of the Emperor penguin are fascinating!  I find it sweet that they bow to one another before mating.  But what is really interesting is their cries.  In large nesting colonies, the male will call out to his female partner from the previous year.  If she is there at the same time they will find each other in this huge sea of black and white.  They are able to reunite as each cry is distinctive and recognizable.

Today’s verse speaks of a voice that is also distinctive and recognizable.  It was a voice heard and ignored by the Israelites in the wilderness, wandering for forty years.  They rebelled against that voice and their hearts became hardened with sin (verse 13).  It is not that they could not hear His voice or recognize it.  It was that they did not want to obey it.

Hearing His voice is not always a comfortable experience.  His voice sometimes nudges believers when we are disobedient.  His voice calls for deeper commitment and faith.  But His voice also speaks words of love and encouragement, hope and reassurance of His control.

I want my heart to stay soft and responsive towards Him.  And I want to be able to recognize which voice is His.  There are so many conflicting voices vying for my attention.  But I know it is His voice when He speaks to me through prayer and the reading of His Word.  His voice spurs me on to greater trust and obedience.  Condemnation is not heard but rather forgiveness and love.  That is a voice I want to hear.  That is a voice I need to hear!

I want to hear Your voice today, Lord.

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Ducks in a Row

ducks-in-a-row-webScripture for Today: I Corinthians 1:12 “….One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.'” 

These ducks seem to have it figured out who the leader is and who will bring up the rear.  No one seems to be jostling for position.  None of the followers look as if they are trying to redirect the line.  When flying in a formation or swimming in a line, I can understand that progress forward is easier with the lead doing all the work.  But by waddling on the ground there does not seem to be an advantage to being in a line.

Today’s verse was written by the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth.  The believers there were dividing themselves into factions.  Each group followed a different church leader.  Paul turns their thoughts and loyalties to the One who could bring them together in unity.  After all, it was not Paul crucified.  They were not baptized in his name but in the name of Jesus (verse 13).  When we all have our eyes fixed on Jesus, following Him, we will remain united.

Splitting up into separate groups seems like the natural thing to do.  Somehow, my pride gets in the way of unity.  It is too easy for me to major on differences rather than celebrating common ground with other believers.  But I do want my allegiance to be to Christ first.  I find that in following Jesus Christ above all else, I bond with others who do the same, regardless of church affiliation, regardless of race, age or locale.  Lines of division disappear and we are united in the same line.

Thank you Lord, that following You above anyone else brings sweet unity with others!

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Renewed Like the Eagle

eagle-e4dd244b91f716095851caa602dc1b7dScripture for Today: Psalm 103:5 “who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

This baby eaglet peeking out of the nest is completely dependent on its parents to protect and care for him.  He will fledge or fly away from its nest at ten to fourteen weeks.  But this eaglet will still hang around the nest, honing flight skills and constantly begging food for the next one to two months.  Finally, he will venture forth for a good year before returning to visit.  The soaring on those thermal air currents make the flight of the eagle seem effortless.  Even an old bird can seem young and vibrant when soaring majestically through the skies.

Today’s verse is a call to praise the Lord for all of His benefits.  David then lists several, ending with this amazing declaration.  God satisfies our desires so that even our youth is renewed like the eagle’s!  Rather than constantly flapping our wings, we ride that thermal air current, soaring in His power.  To be like the eagle means gaining new heights and flying long distances with minimal effort.

Looking to the Lord to take care of each desire is an exercise in renewal.  No longer is there an energy drain fussing about what I do not have or pining away for what I wish I had.  I am freed from discontent when I hand over my desires to Him.  He knows what I really want.  He knows what it is I truly need.  He sees what complications can come from some of my wants.  He only gives to me what is good.  I want to relinquish every desire to Him and not be dragged down from the heights where I can be soaring!

Thank you Lord, for the renewal You offer me today.

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The Sparrow

female-sparrows-fight-over-the-nest-build-by-a-male-sparrowScripture for Today: Matthew 10:29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.”

These sparrows look as if they are about to fall!  The two females are fighting over the nest that the male has just built.  The male with the yellow markings is vainly trying to break up the fight.  It does not look as if he is succeeding!  These small gregarious birds are especially aggressive when protecting their nests from other birds and even from other sparrows.  The sparrow is one of the more familiar birds as they prefer nesting close to humans. They are a common sight as they are partial to man-made structures for their nest-building.

Today’s verse uses the example of a sparrow to illustrate just how minute and detailed is God’s knowledge and care of His creation.  Jesus uses something common and inconsequential to explain that nothing escapes His notice.  At fifty cents each, two sparrows are not worth much in the grand scheme of things.  And yet, the Lord is aware of the movements, needs, birth and death of each one.  If He cares that much about something so small and insignificant, we can be assured that He sees and cares so much more for His own children.  We are worth more than these two little birds (verse 31).

I know that I have value to the Lord because He died for me.  Because this is true, there is no reason to fear (verse 31).  I will not fear what man can do to me (verse 28).  I will not fear bad news (Psalm 112:7).  I will not fear any evil (Ps. 23;4) nor will I fear sudden disaster (Prov. 3:25).

Thank you Lord, that I can stand firm, steadfast, and confident in You!


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Wake Up Call

IMG_0517roostertttttttttttttScripture for Today: Luke 22:34 “Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know Me.'”

When I see a rooster, I think of denial; denial of sleep!  We recently spent some time out in the countryside of the Bas Rhin of Alsace.  The rolling green hills were beautiful and I even enjoyed the baaing of the sheep next door.  But what I did not appreciate was the noisy roosters!  It was barely light out before they would start their sleep-denying racket.  There was certainly no need for an alarm clock!

Our verse for today also associates the rooster with denial.  Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Him.  I am sure Peter was shocked to hear this, especially after confidently declaring his commitment to Jesus.  But the Lord knew as well that Peter would turn back to Him (verse 32) and because of this experience, he would be able to strengthen his brothers in Christ.

God’s grace is so surprising!  Jesus, after His resurrection, gave Peter three opportunities to again declare his love for Him (John 21:17).  The Lord did not need to hear it so much as Peter needed to say it!  The guilt from that denial could have destroyed Peter and the chance to serve Him.  As it is, God’s grace covered that denial as it does for all repented sin.  Peter goes on to become a force for God’s Kingdom!

I am so grateful that Jesus uses imperfect people!  If not, where would we be?  After failing the Lord, Peter could move on.  After David’s sin with Bathsheba, he could move on.  After being responsible for the death of Christians, Paul could move on.  After my sin, I can move on!

There is no denying it; His grace is amazing!  Thank you, Lord.

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


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Swallow’s Nest

Capistrano-Swallows-DayScripture for Today:  Psalm 84:3-4 “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, My King and My God.”

There is a city ordinance in San Juan Capistrano, California, that prohibits knocking down a swallow’s nest!  Their bird droppings may be annoying, but they are protected.  The return of the swallows in March is celebrated every year with a parade and their likeness is sold in the town’s souvenir shop.  These swallows build their mud nests clinging to the ruins of the Great Stone Church of the Mission.  The arches of the vaulted ruins are bare and exposed, making it the perfect place for their nests.

Our verse for today speaks of another perfect place for a nest.  The swallow builds her nest near God’s altar.  When one thinks of a nest, there is the thought of comfort, care and protection.  A nest represents home and hearth.  The altar of God represents His presence.  It is a place of adoration and worship.  The psalmist cannot even mention the word “altar” without praising His name!  The context of this verse goes on to say that there is happiness when dwelling in His presence.

A nest may be built of all sorts of bits and pieces.  It could include mud, feathers, twigs and leaves.  But the most important factor is its proximity to God’s altar.  My nest could be feathered well with all kinds of creature comforts, but does it include God’s presence?  Dwelling in His presence means there is happiness and praise for Him (verse 4).

I want my nest to be His dwelling place.  Lord, may my home be marked by happiness, satisfaction and praise to You!

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

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The Nightingale

Nightingale (common)Scripture for Today: Psalm 42:8 “By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.”

The nightingale is not much to look at being a plain and uninteresting brown.  He is shy and likes to hide in dense thickets and bushes.  But he has been the subject of songs, fairy tales, operas, books and poetry over the centuries.  His song is exceptional for its variety, range and power.  While the female is strangely quiet, the male regales his listeners with whistles, trills and gurgles.  Although he sings during the day, his song is especially noticeable at night without any other noises to distract.

Today’s verse describes another song that occurs during the night.  This song can be just as beautiful and there is only an audience of One.  This song is a prayer of gratitude and praise to the Lord.  Without audible notes, it rises up within our souls to be heard by our Creator.  Because He loves us, He listens intently to our impromptu concert, and we feel His pleasure.  There are no other noises or distractions in those dark quiet hours.

All day long I feel His love directed towards me.  I am aware of His presence throughout the day.  But in the mundane tasks, the hurried schedule and all the distractions, I forget to respond with praise.  But at night, when the house is finally quiet I can turn my thoughts to Him.  Instead of being frustrated at being awake, I can use those moments to compose a song only He will hear.  Regardless of words or notes, He is honored by the melody of praise in my heart.

Thank you Lord, for putting a song in my heart tonight!