Devotions By Jan


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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Albatross Around the Neck

Scripture for Today: Psalm 38:4 “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.”

The albatross looks nice enough but I would not want to wear him around my neck!  The old expression comes from a 19th century poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”  The narrator flippantly shoots the albatross, a bird thought to be a sign of good luck.  The sailors are so incensed that they oblige him to wear the dead bird around his neck as penance.  The expression today means having a heavy burden one cannot escape, and being kept from doing what one wants to do.

Today’s verse describes the guilt David felt as being a burden too heavy to bear.  He describes it as a searing pain in his back, making him feeble and crushing him (verse 7-8)  He recognizes his sin and that he is experiencing the rebuke and discipline of the Lord.  He groans in “anguish of heart” and confesses his sin (verse 18).  Not only does David experience God’s wonderful forgiveness but even the guilt is lifted off of him.  It was because David acknowledged his sin that God forgave even the guilt of his sin (Psalm 32:5).

The guilt of sin is never something I have to feel around my neck weighing me down.  When I agree with God about my sin in repentance, He is there to lift that burden from me.  His forgiveness means that sin is removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  Memories of past failures do not have to influence me and any reminder of them does not come from Him!  His forgiveness is liberating and freeing.  He never brings up the matter again and He gives me a light heart, reassuring me of His constant, unconditional love.

What a gift!  Thank you, Lord.

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Scripture for Today: Matthew 8:3 “Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.”

There seems to be plenty of new-to-me phrases and words during this time of pandemic.  Fomite is one.  It refers to any inanimate object that can harbor germs and spread illness.  A fomite can be anything: a toy, an electronic device, a counter, a door handle or an elevator button, to name a few.  The fomite harbors the germs for a time, transmitting disease when we touch that object.  There are many creative but impractical ways to avoid directly touching anything.  Or one could just be diligent about hand-washing.

There is touch in  today’s verse.  And although what is touched is not inanimate, it was definitely unclean.  Leprosy was thought to be highly contagious and it was required of those who suffered from it to shout out, “unclean” so others would stay away and not get infected.  This man knelt in front of Jesus and affirmed his belief that the Lord could make him clean if He were willing.  Without any thought of contagion, Jesus reaches out His hand and gives him his healing touch.

I could not live without human touch.  And I could not have any kind of spiritual life without His touch.  Thankfully, God does not wait for me to “clean up my act” before I approach Him on bended knee.  If Jesus were unwilling to touch an unclean heart with His forgiveness, I would be lost.  He is pure and holy and yet He was willing to touch this unclean sinner.  By His touch He quickened to life what was spiritually dead in me.

Lord, how grateful I am for the power of Your cleansing healing touch!


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Rosa Carte Blanche

Scripture for Today: Titus 2:12 “It (grace) teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

This beautiful rose did not grace our earth until its creation in 1982.  The rose begins as a dark pink bud, opening as a pale pink bloom and then fading to near white.  Its name, “Carte blanche” (blank page) was an idiom attributed to King Charles II of France.  He gave his workers a blank page with his signature, allowing them freedom as to how a task was completed.

Some may believe that grace gives us “carte blanche” to do what we please.  But today’s verse gives insight into the role grace plays in the life of a believer.  At the start, grace, or God’s unmerited favor, is how we are saved (Eph. 2:8-9).  But it does not stop there.  Grace continues to impact our lives, teaching us to say no to what is ungodly and worldly.  Grace, rather than give us carte blanche to do whatever we like, teaches us to be self-controlled.  Grace motivates believers to lead godly upright lives.  It is God’s favor that provides a way out of temptation (I Cor. 10:13).

His grace is greater than all my sin.  There is not a single sin that He is not willing to forgive!  But rather than presume on His grace, I want to live up to it.  I do not want His grace for me to be in vain.  He knows I blew it yesterday.  He knows I will blow it today.  His grace means that my relationship with Him continues.  I want to grow in grace (II Peter 3:18) and understand God’s grace (Col. 1:6) but I know it will be a life-long process.

Thank you Lord, that You show grace to me.

Photo Credit: Anna reg/CC BY-SA






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The Great Cross

Scripture for Today:  I Corinthians 1:18  “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

The Great Cross stands proudly in St. Augustine, Florida at 208 feet high.  It is certainly tall, but is only the sixth tallest in the world (the tallest being the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen in Spain).  What makes it so unusual is the fact that it is so slim.  They had to fill the bottom half with concrete to keep it from falling to hurricane force winds.  Built in 1966 it commemorates the start of Christianity in this land and the city’s founding four hundred years prior.

There is another cross whose greatness exceeds any architectural triumph.  Today on Good Friday, we celebrate a cross where death led to life everlasting.  On that cross was made the ultimate loving sacrifice of the Son of God.  Jesus took on Himself every one of our awful sins and healed those who trust Him from its terrible consequences.  The cross for some people is foolishness.  For others it signifies indignity and failure.  But for those who believe, it is the power by which we are saved.

The cross is polarizing.  There is no middle ground.  Like the two thieves crucified with Jesus, there are only two responses.  I either place my trust in Christ as my substitute, or I remain in my sin.  What power in this cross of Jesus!  His power  snatched me from darkness and placed me in His wonderful light! (I Peter 2:9)  Because of the cross I have hope.  I have life, forgiveness, and healing!  The power of the cross is that it cancels the power of my guilt and shame!

Lord, “simply to Thy cross I cling.”