Devotions By Jan



Scripture for Today: Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye. You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

The beams pictured here are from the oldest home in a village in Germany. They date back to 1357 and they are just beautiful! They add such warmth and coziness as well as stability to the ceiling. I see lots of these beamed ceilings in Europe. I shudder to think what the termites in southern California would try to do to them!

The beams or planks spoken of in today’s verses are not seen in such a positive light. In fact, they are not seen at all! They represent our own failings and weaknesses. We do not like to see them nor do we want to see them. It is much more gratifying to be in the business of “speck removal” for our brothers. These verses certainly do not discourage helping our brother see his weaknesses in a spirit of love. However, what we mean to be helpful can actually hurt our brother when we have not in humility examined ourselves first.

This image of a beam and its relative size to a speck is ludicrous! It is just as silly for me to be overly concerned with minutia in my brother’s life. I ought to be more concerned with my own beam removal. As uncomfortable as it is to examine myself, I risk becoming a hypocrite without it! I sure do not want my own ignored specks to gradually converge and become a beam! 

Lord, keep me speck and beam free!

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The Capybara

Scripture for Today: II Peter 1:3 “His divine 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.”

Meet the largest rodent in the world! He looks to be a cross between a pig and a beaver but with no snout or tail. He can stay submerged like the hippo with eyes, ears and nostrils near the top of his head. With his webbed feet he can stay underwater five minutes at a time to hide from predators. Water is a source of life for the capybara. He uses it for his dry skin, for plant foods and to escape danger.

Today’s verse talks about God’s divine power being the source of a godly life for the believer. Everything that is needed to live a godly life has already been given to us. Knowing Him is knowing the Source of divine power. On our own, we are unable to do what He asks of us. But through knowing Him we can participate in His divine nature. He is the Source of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, affection and love. (verses 4-7)

What an amazing description of what is godly or like God! And when reading these I see how little they describe what I can come up with on my own! I so need His power to exhibit any of these characteristics. Thankfully, He has made His power available to me through His Spirit. Living a life that is godly is possible through Him. My problem comes when I think I can generate anything godly without Him. (John 15:5) How good of Him to have already given me everything I need to live for Him!

Thank you Lord, for being the Source of anything godly in me.

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Strong or Weak?

Scripture for Today: Nehemiah 8:10 “Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”

I get a whole lot done in a day when I am happy. There is something about being joyful that energizes a person. Even when muscling through a long difficult task, I can be exhausted but it is a “happy tired.” The reverse is also true. When I am feeling down and discouraged, I am also demotivated to do much of anything.

Today’s verse is an encouragement to the Israelites not to grieve. This group of returned exiles from Babylonian captivity should have been ecstatic as their walls were now rebuilt and gates were in place. But instead of joy, they were weeping. The Book of the Law of Moses was being read to them from dawn to noon. Their response was intense grief as they understood how far they had strayed from God’s laws. Sorrow over sin is necessary in asking forgiveness, but joy and celebration are to follow! New strength is found in that joy!

When I completely blow it, sadness over letting the Lord down dominates my thinking. But feeling that sorrow is not such a bad thing. It tells me my heart is still soft enough to be broken over my failures. What is so wonderful is that the Lord promises to be near those that are brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18) He is so good to restore that joy with the forgiveness He so freely gives! There is new energy in my step when rising from my knees! His joy gives me the motivation to persevere in living for Him!

Thank you Lord, for giving me strength in joy.

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The 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.

(Look familiar? This is a repost from earlier this year)

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Rocky Road Ice Cream

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 4:26-27 “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or to the left; keep your foot from evil.”

It was 1929 and the country was in the midst of the Great Depression when this ice cream was invented. This innovative flavor was thought to have originated with William Dryer. One day he used his wife’s sewing scissors to cut up walnuts and marshmallows to add to his chocolate ice cream. He gave it the name , “Rocky Road,” as the financial landscape was so bleak.

Today’s verse tells us to be thoughtful about what path we choose. We do this by being steadfast and resolute to follow a path of righteousness. We are warned not to turn off this path to the right or to the left. It may be tempting to turn off our narrow path on to a wider one. We may feel that another path has fewer rocks or obstacles. It would be tempting to change paths to one that goes downhill rather than uphill. But the way of the wicked leads only to destruction. (Psalm 1:6)

It is more effort to follow a rocky road. Living a life following God’s commandments will not always be smooth. It is challenging and requires steadfast commitment to Him as the other path choices can seem easier. But His way leads to life. He knows when to lead me to still waters and green pastures. He knows when to restore my soul so I can keep going. His presence and help keep me from falling into a trap of compromise. I would rather have a rocky road with Him than a smooth easy road without Him!

Lord, keep me steadfast and determined to obey.