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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Silkworms

Scripture for Today: Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

We had the privilege of visiting a silk-making factory in Taiwan and seeing all those larvae in their cocoons.  The process has been around for almost 5 thousand years in China.  The resulting silk is not only beautiful but soft and silky to the touch.  But how strange to think it all starts with worm spit!  The unwrapping of each cocoon supplies one long strand of 1000 feet, three of which are needed for a single thread.  In fact, it takes 2,500 cocoons to make one pound of silk.  No wonder silk is thought to be such a luxury.

Today’s verse points out that believers, though being many, form one body.  Christ is our head and as the Church we are the body (I Cor. 12:12-13).  Just as there are many cocoons and strands of thread to make up silk, so we as Christ-followers form together just one entity.  This does not happen outside of the supernatural peace Christ gives.  When we allow that peace to rule and govern attitudes and actions, we can enjoy not only our unity but the beautiful results!

My little strand I add to the whole may not seem like anything.  On my own I do not amount to much.  But added together with all the other strands I become part of that one beautiful body giving glory to Jesus!  I am called to peace by the very One who provides it.  And that peace is a direct result of loving and forgiving others (verse 13-14).  Loving and forgiving can sometimes seem impossible, but “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” (Ps. 133:1)

Lord, help me live this peace.


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Sticky!

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:16 “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.”

There is nothing that annoys more quickly than stepping on a piece of gum.  It stubbornly sticks to the shoe and resists most efforts at cleaning.  There is lots of advice out there on how to remove that nasty gum, including ice cubes, WD 40 motor oil, peanut butter, and freezing the shoe in a plastic bag.  But those methods do not help when I am out and about.  I end up walking on that foot gingerly, smelling like mint until I can get back home!

Insults can stick like gum to the shoe.  We remember every harsh or unkind word.  The more publicly it is uttered, the more it sticks to our memories.  But showing annoyance at the time it is said puts us at a disadvantage.  We are called, “foolish,” when we show that the insult of another annoys us.  However, we are viewed as prudent when we can immediately overlook that insult.  When we can manage to overlook it, it will not stick to us.  Not only will others not remember it, but we ourselves have a better chance of forgetting it as well.

It is such a wonderful quality to be able to shrug off an insult.  It is even “to our glory” to overlook an offense (Prov. 19:11).  We are viewed as the better person for taking this high road.  But quite frankly, I find it very difficult to do.  It helps me to look to the model of Jesus who was insulted, reviled, mocked and misunderstood.  Yet, He did not reply in kind or hold a grudge.  He responded with an offer of forgiveness.  It did not stick!

Lord, give me the wisdom and prudence to overlook insults.

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


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Holding a Grudge

Scripture for Today: Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

They say that cats do not hold grudges.  There is supposed to be some other reasonable explanation for their behavior.  However, when returning from a trip, it would always take our Tiger a bit of time to warm back up to us.  He would hold himself aloof and look at us sideways as if to say, “Where have you been and how dare you leave me?”  After a few rebuffed overtures he would eventually be his loving self again.

Today’s verse can be convicting.  It is repeated throughout Scripture that we are not to take revenge (Romans 12:19).  That job is done much better by the Lord who sees hearts and is righteous.  However, holding a grudge is something that we feel entitled to do, reminding ourselves that it is not OK what was done to us.  Holding a grudge keeps the memory alive and keeps the offender at arm’s length.  But love is impossible without true forgiveness.

So often, the guilty one is unaware of that unforgiving spirit I harbor.  It certainly does nothing to him.  The pain I continue to feel becomes self-inflicted and can become more important than the original offense.  Still, it is hard to let it go.  To forgive and forget seems as if I am letting that person get away with something.  The closer the offender is to me the deeper the wound.  It is impossible to forgive and let go without the Lord.  Because He forgives me and does not hold a grudge, He empowers me to do the same.  It can only happen as I continually give it to Him.

Lord, help me to forgive like You do.

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


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Pregnant Male

Scripture for Today: Galatians 6:2  “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

This couple is unlike any other in nature.  It is the male sea-horse who carries the eggs for the female!  The female will deposit her eggs in a special pouch he carries.  There, he fertilizes the eggs with his sperm, and carries them for two to four weeks until he gives birth.  Their babies are called “fry” and there can be as many as 1000 at a time  The female has it easy.  Her part is to swim up to the male each morning during gestation  and give him a special greeting!

Today’s verse talks about helping each other to carry their burdens.  Doing so fulfills the law of Christ which is to love one another.  These burdens are the unfortunate result of our sin (verse 1).  They are different from His  burden which is light (Matt.11:30).  Rather than look askance at the one fallen in sin thinking we would never do that, we are to do all we can to lift him up and lighten his burden.  We all carry around the memories of past failures.  Understanding how the Lord has forgiven us helps us extend that same grace.  In love, we want to help with words of encouragement and affirmation.

It costs me something to help carry the burden of another.  It means that I take time out to pray, give godly counsel and practical help.  It might mean hours on the phone.  Sin can complicate a life.  The consequences can be very burdensome with broken relationships and poor self-image.  But that burden can be lighter when I come along side.  It is one of the best ways to show love!

Lord, help me be willing to carry another’s burden.


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Indebted

debt-collectionsScripture for Today: Matthew 6:11-12 “Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.”

Only 12 percent of Americans believe they will die in debt (according to a phone interview done by Princeton).  This is actually down from 21 percent a year ago!  Perhaps we are less concerned about “keeping up with the Joneses.”  It is great we are feeling more optimistic but the Federal Reserve tells another story.  According to them, credit card debt has been steadily rising over the last five years and is now close to one trillion!

Today’s verse is a familiar one being part of the Lord’s Prayer.  We are all indebted to the Lord for forgiving our sins and erasing the payment for them.  He forgave sin at great cost to Himself on that cross.  He took on Himself the awful payment sin deserves.  We could never pay it ourselves and if not for Him, would still carry the heavy burden of guilt.  Because the debt of our sin has been paid, we are to show that same forgiveness towards others who have wronged us.

If God were really to forgive me only as much as I forgive others, I would be in big trouble!  Thankfully, His forgiveness is based on His unconditional love.  The payment for my sins comes from His mercy and His grace.  But when I refuse to forgive the one who wronged me, I conveniently forget how much of a debt the Lord paid in my case!  Somehow, pride is at the root of my failure to forgive when thinking I deserve forgiveness, but they do not!

“Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe.”  Surely the price He paid for me was so much higher than any price I pay in forgiving others.

Lord, help me to forgive.


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Pot and Kettle

aroma-awk-115s-hot-h20-x-press-cordless-water-kettle2Scripture for Today: Matthew 7:3-4  “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own?

The black pot can be seen in the reflection of this shiny kettle.  The expression about the pot calling the kettle back is an old one, thought to be Spanish in origin and dating back to the 17th century.  The most common interpretation is that both the pot and the kettle are blackened by the sooty fire.  The pot has no business accusing the kettle when both are in the same predicament.  But another meaning is possible.  Only the pot is black and sooty from the fire.  The kettle, being placed only on the coals, remains bright and shiny.  What the pot is really seeing is a refection of itself!

Today’s verse shows us how ludicrous it is to reprimand someone while ignoring the same problem in ourselves and on a much larger scale.  It is silly to be overly concerned with a small fault in a fellow believer while unaware of one’s own bigger problem.  It is not that these verses discourage helping a brother see a weakness in a spirit of love.  But the passage goes on to say how important that self-examination is before the attempt.  Otherwise, one is rightly viewed as a hypocrite.

What is so convicting about this is that I am more sensitive to the very faults in others that I myself share.  I project on to others the problems with which I myself struggle!  What an uncomfortable thought!  I am so thankful for the clarity God brings and also His forgiveness!

Search my heart today. Lord.