Devotions By Jan


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Chimney Swifts

Scripture for Today: Job 12:7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;”

It was a real show!  In my sister’s yard in Portland, we arranged our chairs to watch as hundreds of small swifts circled in the air.  They would gather in small groups, adding new members as they swooped around the rooftops.  After about twenty minutes of this confusing ballet, someone in the group deemed it time to drop, fluttering, into the chimney.  All it took was one to begin a mass entrance!  How did they know when to begin?  How did they choose their leader?  Somehow, they were communicating with each other to orchestrate this orderly nightly processional.

Today’s verse points out that animals and birds can teach us!  If these birds could speak, what would they tell us?  Each one of them knows that, “In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (verse 10)  They are not at all confused about where they came from and Who it is that gives life and breath.  Their existence depends entirely on their Creator.  Perhaps that is the meaning of their high-pitched chattering calls!

These birds can testify to truth that escapes many people!  He is not far from any of us as, “in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)  Not one sparrow is forgotten by God (Luke 12:6) and the swallow nests in the shelter of God’s presence (Psalm 84:3).  In God’s sight we are worth so much more than these tiny flying creatures.  His care is so obvious in my life.  How silly of me to doubt!  Regardless of my circumstances, He is there and He is faithful.

Thank you Lord, for your constant unfailing love.

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


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The Woodpecker

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 10:12 “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”

I had never seen a woodpecker until living in France.  There was one who frequently visited our yard and with his red markings he was easy to spot.  There was one fruit tree that he especially liked to peck for insects.  I was always happy to see him, not realizing what he was doing to that tree.  One night we had an huge windstorm and with an impressive crack, that tree came down, snapping at exactly the very place that woodpecker had been working!  I feel differently about woodpeckers now.  I missed that mirabelle plum tree!

Today’s verse is a loving warning.  After describing the failures of the Israelites in the wilderness, Paul cautions that falling is a real possibility.  We can think that we are standing firm while at the same time being slowly weakened by compromise.  Like the small attacks by the beak of  a woodpecker, our resolve can slowly erode leaving us vulnerable.  A strong wind of temptation can come along and knock us flat.  We fall to the ground and we no longer bear fruit.

No one wakes up in the morning and decides to give in to temptation.  Being drawn away from Him is usually a slow sneaky process.  And it can come from something normally beautiful or agreeable.  The next verse is such a comforting promise.  God will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I can bear.  He provides a way out.  I have a choice.  That enticement to sin is never so strong that with His help I cannot resist!

Don’t let me fall, Lord.  Keep me firmly standing and bearing fruit.

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

 


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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.