Devotions By Jan


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Counting Jelly Beans

Scripture for Today: Matthew 18: 21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”

It was pure guess work.  I tried being methodical as a prize would be awarded for this baby shower-party-game.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered trying to count the jelly beans in this jar.  But in fact, my counting left something to be desired as my total was way off.  Someone else walked away with the coveted prize.  I would have been happy to walk away with the jelly beans!

Today’s verse is about something we are not to count; how many times to forgive someone.  Peter perhaps felt he was being generous to suggest forgiving seven times as the current thinking among the Pharisees was three times.  That makes Jesus’ answer all the more surprising.  The idea was not to forgive seventy-seven times or even seventy times seven.  The idea is that forgiveness is not to be counted at all.  Forgiveness is to be immeasurable.

My memory is so faulty on some subjects but somehow, the memories of when and how I have been wronged are very clear.  Forgiving someone more than once for the same offense is also too easy to remember.  I have had to say to my husband, “I am sorry, forgive me,” countless times over almost 40 years of marriage.  And I have had to forgive him too, many times without number.  It is so difficult to “forgive from the heart” (verse 35) over and over again.  And yet, I cannot think of a better way to show true love.  This is exactly what the Lord has done in forgiving me countless times.

Thank you Lord, that You do not count.

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Giant Clam

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 15:2 “By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the Word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

It is called a “giant clam” for good reason.  This is the largest of the mollusks on earth.  It can grow up to 500 pounds and can measure up to four feet!  Just think of all the clam chowder it could produce! The giant clam is not endangered although it is classified as vulnerable as it has been over harvested for food and decoration.  What struck me is that the giant clam has only one chance to chose its home.  Once it has fastened itself to a spot on a reef, it will sit there for life.

Today’s verse encourages the believer to hold firmly to God’s Word.  By the Gospel or “good news” of salvation we are saved from the punishment our sins deserve.  It is on the truth of God’s Word that we take our stand (verse 1).  When we commit our lives, our future and our eternal destiny to what God says, we flourish and grow.  There is no reason to attach ourselves to some other philosophy or system of thought.  His Word gives hope, encouragement and all the nourishment our faith needs to grow and thrive.

Trusting in my own ideas and reasoning gets me in trouble.  The waves of the sea or the blowing winds can toss me about making me unstable (James 1:6).  But when I put my entire confidence in what the Lord says about a matter, I know I am on firm footing.  The decrees of the Lord are firm (Psalm 19:9) and make me firm as well.  I want to attach myself to Him and make His truth my home!

Lord, keep me in Your Word and remembering Your truth today.

 


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Holes in My Bucket

Scripture for Today: II Peter 1:3 “His power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”  

I remember the song, “There’s a Hole in the Bucket,” growing up.  This song is a dialogue between Henry and Liza about the sorry state of their bucket, no longer useful for drawing water from the well.  I would always laugh at the ultimate solution which brings them back to the original problem!  The song in its original version dates back to 1700!  I am sure the bucket pictured has its uses, but carrying water would not be one of them!

Today’s verse reassures the believer that through God’s power we have everything we need to live a godly life.  It is through our knowledge of Him and not our own efforts that this godly life is possible.  He gives to us faith, goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love (verses 5-7).  Those beautiful qualities make us more like Him, but they only become visible as we grow in our knowledge of Him.

Yes, He’s given me all I need but the problem is all the holes in my bucket!  I go to draw from Him as my unending Source, but my sinful pride and self-sufficiency keep me from staying full.  Instead of drawing from Him I make the mistake of drawing away from the Source and depending on myself.  Before long I can feel completely drained.  There is no way to be filled with His godly Spirit when I try to go it alone!  I need Him for absolutely everything.  His power is there, ready to draw from.  And I want to know Him more and more.

Lord, keep me from relying on myself.  Fill me with Yourself!


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Toward the Light

Scripture for Today: Psalm 97:11 “Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.”

How often I have read novels or seen movies where at the end of  life, one moves toward a light!  In these stories the light represents eternity and the presence of God.  The light is bright and welcoming.  We associate light with warmth and goodness, whereas darkness can represent something cold and evil.  Even just a small pinpoint of light is powerful, dispelling darkness and chasing away shadows.  The light has a direct affect on our sense of well-being.  Without enough light, we can easily become depressed and negative.  Light has a way of lifting our spirits and giving us hope.

Today’s verse describes another blessing for the believer.  Light and joy shine on those whose heart is in right standing with God.  There may be darkness all around but “even in darkness, light dawns for the upright.” (Psalm 112:4)  When our hearts are right with the Source of light and joy, then it stands to reason that we can experience that light and joy ourselves, regardless of our circumstances.

I cannot drum up light and joy on my own for any length of time.  It is too easy to allow negative guilty thoughts darken my mind, robbing me of joy.  Light and joy are directly linked to my relationship to Him.  They are a natural outgrowth of a close relationship with my Creator.  He has made His righteousness mine through His Son, and with that clean heart comes the light and joy I so need!  How wonderful the benefits of forgiveness and grace!  In a world of pessimism and darkness, I can share that light and joy with others!

Thank you Lord, for being my light and my joy today!

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


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Butterfly Collection

Scripture for Today: Psalm 104:24 “How many living things You have made, O Lord! You have exhibited great skill in making all of them; the earth is full of the living things You have made.”

The closet was full of at least thirty display boxes like the one pictured here.  Each one was filled with an amazing variety of butterflies.  The colors of the differently-sized butterflies were brilliant and each had a different pattern.  My elderly friend’s husband had died many years before.  But his butterfly collection remained.  I imagine it will soon be split up among her children and grandchildren.  I was struck with the same wonder this gentleman must have felt in gazing at their detailed beauty.

Today’s verse extols the creativity of our God.  The living things that He has made far outshine man’s creativity.  The most impressive man-made work of art pales in comparison to His creation.  The tallest building or newest technology does not even come close to the amazing skill God exhibited in making a single short-lived butterfly.  Every wonderful thing that man has made is but a poor shadow of what God has fashioned.

We understand just how powerful God is by contemplating what He has created (Romans 1:20).  It is obvious that there is intelligent and thoughtful design by Someone when we see the intricacies of a single butterfly wing.  Seeking to attribute the wonder of His works to lucky chance cheapens all of life and creation.  How does anyone really appreciate the beauty of creation without acknowledging the beauty of the Creator?!  I am humbled to think that this same powerful Creator loves me and wants a close intimate relationship with me!  What a privilege to know and love the Creator!

Lord, may the wonder of Your creation bring me closer to You!

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


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Sea Salt

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 3:7-8 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”

How odd to see this pile of salt on the shores of the Dead Sea!  Sea salt has enjoyed much popularity with its different taste and texture.  Depending on the water source there are different levels of trace minerals and elements left behind in the processing, changing the flavor and color.  It is thought by some to restore one’s skin, fight aging and support one’s health in general.

Today’s verse has a different notion entirely for what brings health to the body and nourishment to the bones.  Pride in our own wisdom is not part of this prescription.  But when one fears the Lord and turns their back on evil then there is a positive physical result!  So much of poor health can be the result of poor life choices.  And flirting with sin can have some dire consequences.  But it is always a good choice to fear and obey the Lord and stay away from all that is evil.

I love that the Lord shows concern for our whole being.  He is not only interested in the spiritual but in the physical too.  He cares when I run down my body with too little sleep.  He is not indifferent to the problems I face with weight gain.  He desires that I live a healthy lifestyle as a believer as my body is His temple (I Cor. 6:19).  Fearing and obeying His commands can keep me out of a world of danger as well.  His warnings against evil are not to spoil my fun but because He wants the very best for me.

Thank you Lord, for loving all of me!


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Kintsugi

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 119:49-50 “Remember Your word to Your servant, for You have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”

This bowl went from broken to beautiful!  The art of golden joinery is the definition of the Japanese word, “kintsugi.”  Fragmented and broken pottery or ceramics are repaired in this process by filling the holes and cracks with a resin mixed with gold, silver or platinum.  What used to be broken pieces thought to be worthless become a thing of beauty!  The very brokenness makes the item become more precious and valuable!

Today’s verse is a comfort and reassurance when going through suffering.  There is hope.  The author of this psalm was experiencing ridicule (vs. 51).  There was intense pressure from the wicked and perhaps he felt himself cracking from it. He vows to stay faithful to the Lord through it all.  In the night he reminds himself of who God is (vs. 55) and he resolves to stay the course.  Through all the pain he remains hopeful because of God’s promises.

It is hope that brings me through the darkest times of my life.  I can feel forgotten, rotten and dead inside just like David did when he described himself as “broken pottery” (Ps. 31:12).  But then, there are the promises of God.  Whatever feels broken He can repair.  More than that, He transforms our very brokenness into something useful and a thing of beauty.  Nothing is too hard for Him or beyond the skill of His capable hands.  He works in the good where everything went bad.  That stupid decision, that utter failure or that shame at letting Him down is all part of a pattern that He redeems and makes beautiful.  This is my hope.

Thank you Lord, that Your promises give me hope.