Devotions By Jan

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Two Plants

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Recently, a popular Swedish furniture chain used a clever marketing ploy to promote an anti-bullying campaign.  They conducted a (non-scientific) experiment of two identical plants given the same care over thirty days.  However, one plant was played a pre-recorded loop of negative, bullying comments while the other was played a loop of positive encouraging words.  These messages were recorded by school children and the results were nothing short of amazing!  One plant wilted and the other thrived!  Although the experiment perhaps lacked scientific controls, I can certainly get behind the message!

Today’s verse tells us that what comes out of our mouths matters.  Unwholesome talk is talk that is also rotten and useless.  Not only do these words fail to build someone up, but they have no benefit at all.  However, our words can have tremendous value in helping another to grow and thrive.  Our words have the potential to meet the need we all have for encouragement and affirmation.  Even just one word spoken at the time of greatest need can lift someone up and keep them falling into a pit of depression.

How much does it really cost me to compliment or encourage?  I want my words to be gracious, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Prov. 16:24).  I want my words to be like His; kind, compassionate and forgiving (verse 32).  But that cannot happen without a heart that is changed by Him.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45b).  My words will always reflect what is in my heart!

Lord, change my heart and so change my words!



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Light and Dark

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 11:7 “Light is sweet and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.”

It is amazing how sunlight, or the lack of it, can affect my mood.  I enjoy living in an area known for its sunshine.  In fact I am a bit spoiled in that I often take it for granted.  I hardly notice the sunlight after a string of sunny days.  But as soon as the clouds or a marine layer obscure the sun, I realize how good I had it.  Having that contrast with the darkness makes me more appreciative.

Today’s verse is written by Solomon in a book filled with references to the sun.  The phrase, “under the sun” is often used when speaking of the futility of life.  All of life is said to be meaningless and vain if not lived in right relationship to God.  Even sweet light and the pleasure of seeing the sun has no real meaning without knowing its Creator.  But one thing that enhances our enjoyment of the sun is remembering the darkness (verse 8).

Today is a dark day.  Who knows but that tomorrow could be another dark day.  But I have hope that the sunlight of His presence will get me through whatever hard times I face.  And even when I am in a season of sunlight, remembering those darks days helps me appreciate every ray of sunshine He gives me.  I am so thankful that He is a loving personal God who gives me just the right amount of darkness and sunlight.  I can trust Him as He gives to each day what He knows is best.  He allows pain and pleasure, and “mingles toil with peace and rest.” (Day By Day)

Thank you Lord, for the sweet light of Your presence.

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Meghan Markle’s Purse

Scripture for Today: Luke 12:33 “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in Heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”

Being the fiancée of Prince Harry, there is a lot of interest in anything Meghan Markle wears or carries.  The purse Meghan carried at their first official royal event following their engagement sold for 675$.  People were so taken with her look that this same purse sold out on the company’s web site in eleven minutes!  But as with any purse, it will eventually show wear and tear or fall out of fashion.  Before long, it will be passed down to someone else or find its way to a thrift shop.

Today’s verse makes reference to a purse that will never wear out.  Jesus uses this image to illustrate our treasure in Heaven.  This treasure is eternal and will never fail or disappoint.  There is no chance of it being stolen or eaten by moths.  Because this is true, we can freely give to the poor from our earthly treasures.  Jesus reminds His disciples that they have already been given the Kingdom of God.  Because He has taken care of our every need, we are not fearful and can be generous in our giving (verse 32).

How I spend my money is a true litmus test of where my heart is and what I value.  I do not want my purse stuffed with what is inconsequential or with what the world says is important.  I want to use my money and influence to grow His Kingdom and please Him.  I already know that I cannot “out-give” the Lord as He provides everything I need.

Lord, may You be the true Treasure of my heart.

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Playing Checkers

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

The game of Checkers has been around a lot longer than this 1937 scene pictured here.  Checkers is thought to be the oldest game in the world dating back over 4,000 years!  According to inscriptions found in the temple of Thebes, Egyptian kings took time out from overseeing the construction of the pyramids to play checkers!  Lots of famous people have since had a fondness for the game including past presidents, noted scientists and popular sport heroes.  Whoever the player may be however, it is certain that they have a “checkered past.”

Today’s verse is a wonderful reassurance for all of us who regret those black squares that mark our past.   No one is immune from having that checkered past as all have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23).  But the Lord has promised a forgiveness and pardon that is complete.  He blots out every sin and chooses to not remember them.  He no longer holds against us all of our failures and disobedience.  Jesus took on Himself the punishment for each of those sins.

I would love to be able to “remember my sins no longer.”  But the memories remain.  And Satan loves to whisper in my ears his accusations.  Thankfully, God’s Word is full of reassurances of unconditional love and complete pardon.  The Lord graciously softens and blurs memories of past failures.  If guilty memories occasionally do reappear, He is there to build me back up.  If nothing else, those memories remind me that I am not perfect, but His forgiveness is!  When I remember a checkered past I can also remember that His grace is greater than all my sin!

Thank you Lord, for wiping out and forgetting my sin forever!

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Playing Solitaire

Scripture for Today:  Mark 1:35  “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”

Among the many pastimes possible when one finds oneself alone is the game, “Solitaire.”  Any tabletop game played alone qualifies.  The term can refer to games played with tiles, pegs, stones or cards.  I am most familiar with the card version.  It is a game of luck and the probability of winning is low.  The British call this game, “Patience,” for good reason!  I admit that I get impatient with the cards and to end the game will rearrange the cards to win!  My reasoning is that there are usually better things to do with my “alone time.”

During the short three years of Christ’s ministry, alone times were rare and precious.  The context of today’s verse describes a time when Jesus was surrounded by people needing healing.  In fact, the whole town gathered at the door of Peter’s home well into the evening.  The next morning, when one would think about sleeping in after such a busy day, Jesus got up early to be alone and to pray.

It is when I am alone and the house is quiet that I am most likely to hear His voice.  When there are no distractions I can open my heart to Him.  Sometimes that time of precious communion has no words but is rather a time of being still.  Other times my prayers are a torrent of worries and questions.  In any case, He meets me where I am and reassures me of His presence.  If Jesus needed alone time with the Father, how much more do I!

Help me Lord, to find that sweet solitary place with You.

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Chess Strategy

Scripture for Today:  James 4:15 “Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

If nothing else, chess is a game of strategy.  My Father had a heavy chess set made of beautifully carved onyx.  My grandson at 5 years old is already playing a simple version of the game.  But as for me, long periods of silent staring at the board does not appeal!  The strategy escapes me but I do know enough to recognize that “check” is not what one wants to hear, and “checkmate” even less, signaling that the game is over.

Today’s verse talks about making plans for the future.  Of course it is important in reaching any goal to carefully plan a strategy.  A building is not begun without considering the estimated cost (Luke 14:28).  But this passage is speaking to the arrogance of making plans without thought to the plans the Lord may have.  We do not know what tomorrow will hold or whether we will have life and breath to carry out our future plans (verse 14).  The unexpected can always “check” or “checkmate” our progress.

When I make plans I need to always recognize that the Lord may have something different in mind.  Recognizing this keeps me humble and it keeps me in an attitude of submission.  Recognizing His control also keeps me asking and listening to Him.  As wonderful as I think my plan is, I do not want to miss out on something better!  He knows what tomorrow holds.  He knows what health issues I may be facing later.  Being overconfident about my plans is seen as “boasting” in the Lord’s eyes (verse 16).  I like having all my ducks lined up in a row, but that means I do not have to trust!

Lord, keep me following Your plan.

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Scripture fro Today: I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can bear it.”

Having visited the pottery  factories in Poland has given me a true appreciation for their products.  It was fascinating to see each artist bent over their work, hand painting or stamping their pieces with intense concentration.  Each piece is signed by the artist as well as stamped with the Polish word for “unique.”  It is true that each piece is unique.  But all the pottery went through the same process of being fired in the kiln.

Today’s verse recognizes that each believer faces the same kinds of trials and tests.  The details may vary.  The timing and even the intensity may differ.  But there is a commonality to all of the trials God allows us to face.  They are never intended to weaken us but to strengthen our faith.  In each trial we see God’s hand and His faithfulness.  And we have His promise that it will never be more than we can bear.

What I am facing is never unique.  Somewhere, someone in the world has faced nearly the same thing.  Knowing that helps me to not feel so alone.  Not only can I draw strength from the stories of others, but I can be encouraged knowing what Christ faced.  He experienced every kind of temptation and yet did not sin. (Heb. 4:15)  And because He Himself suffered when tempted, He is there to help (Heb. 2:18)  He Himself is my “way out.”  Depending on His strength and help makes all the difference.

Thank you Lord, that I do not need to do this alone.