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 more than 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.

(Look familiar?  Summer reposing while reposting!)


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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.

(Look familiar?  Summer reposing while reposting!)


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Thick Skinned?

Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

When I think of thick skinned animals I think of the pachyderms: the rhinoceros, hippopotamus and the elephant.  But the giraffe has thick skin too, up to 7 inches!  They need that thick tight skin on their lower extremities to maintain high extravascular pressure on their weight-bearing blood vessels.  The pressure of that thick skin works just like a pilot’s g suit!

Today’s verse commands us to be tender-hearted.  This seems like the exact opposite of being thick skinned! If we are tender towards others than we can be kind and we can be compassionate.  But if our hearts are tender for this purpose, than our hearts may also be vulnerable to attack.  Having a tender heart means we could be hurt, which is why the next words are about forgiveness.  But whether or not we are hurt, it is a tender heart that can offer forgiveness.

When I have a tender heart towards others than I feel their hurts.  But then I feel my own as well.  It would be so much more comfortable to be thick skinned and avoid emotional hurts.  Those insults, name calling and gossip do not feel so good.  But the wonderful part about having a tender heart is that I can realize Christ’s forgiveness for me!  Not only can my tender heart experience His complete pardon,  but I can extend that forgiveness to others.  When I close my heart against the one who hurt me, developing “thick skin,” I am less able to feel God’s unconditional love for me.  Having a tender heart has a price but not as high as the cost of thick skin!

Lord, keep me tender-hearted!

 

 


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Tasmanian Devil

Scripture for Today: Galatians 5:15 “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Despite his name I would hate for the Tasmanian Devil to become extinct.  His only natural habitat is the Australian island-state of Tasmania.  Because of his husky snarl and bad temper, he often has what is called a “devilish expression.”  Since 2008 he has been on the endangered list.  The reason?  A cancer called, “devil facial tumor disease,”  which results in grotesque tumors around the head and mouth.  It is thought to be transmitted when they bite each other!

Today’s verse teaches that the words from our mouths can inflict pain and even destroy another.  Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).  So much of what displeases the Lord comes from the mouth, whether it be gossiping, lying, mocking, arguing, criticizing, ….the list goes on.  And each of these has such a devastating effect on the one to whom it is directed.  What is more, the “tit for tat” reciprocity only escalates the problem until both parties are destroyed.

It is only by His Spirit that I can love and forgive the one who has inadvertently or intentionally hurt me.  My memory is long when it comes to hurtful words.  But I have definitely taken things a step further when I want to retaliate.  There might be a momentary feeling of satisfaction but the relationship remains tense and broken.  Forgiveness is so difficult but without it, the relationship is “endangered” and at risk of extinction.  Realizing God’s forgiveness for me helps me get a better perspective on the whole mess.  And His love and His power are there to make forgiveness and restoration possible.  It is just not possible on my own.

Thank you Lord, that You heal those difficult relationships.

 

 


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Baring Teeth

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

This normally sweet fluffy Pomeranian bares his teeth to warn off any advance.  Baring teeth is a clear indication that attack is imminent.  Teeth have long been a symbol of aggression.  That must be the idea behind the old expression, “fighting tooth and nail.”  In French, “to have a tooth against someone” is their way of expressing the idea of holding a grudge.

Today’s verse teaches that it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense rather than hold a grudge.  To overlook an offense takes patience and it is a sign of one’s wisdom.  But to overlook something hurtful does not mean having no memory of it.  Sometimes, the memory stays.  But rather than it being at the forefront of our minds, we let it go and show grace.  It is a gracious behavior and one that is to our glory.  Holding a grudge makes us small and petty.  There is no glory in that!

I am so grateful for the people in my life that have overlooked my offenses.  They have been many, some intentional and some not.  When I realize the grace extended to me, than I can more easily extend that same grace to others.  And the supreme model of total and complete forgiveness is the Lord who does not treat me as my sins deserve (Psalm 103:10).  I am forever grateful that Christ does not hold a grudge or where would I be?  Even so, I do have trouble letting go and it is inglorious!  I need the help of His Spirit to truly forgive from the heart.

Lord, make me wise enough to show patience and not hold grudges!