Devotions By Jan


Holocaust Remembrance Day

Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast.”

What a sobering experience it was to tour the Dachau concentration camp. This gate, like the one at Auschwitz, screams the absurdity that “Work Sets You Free.” The horrifying truth was that the only freedom for those prisoners was found in death. The saying comes from the title of a novel by a German author. In that story, thieves and gamblers discovered their redemption through labor.

Today’s verse teaches a truth that for some is counter-intuitive. Very clearly it states that salvation does not come through our work or efforts. We want to think that somehow, something we did contributed to being saved. But no matter how hard one works to earn Heaven, man will always fall short of the perfect standard of God’s holiness. We cannot free ourselves from the damning chains of sin without God taking the initiative. His grace or unmerited favor, is what frees us. Salvation itself is free and a gift from God. Because this is true, none of us can boast about having anything to do with it!

My gratitude towards God grows by leaps and bounds when I grasp this truth. It is all grace and it is amazing! There is tremendous freedom in my spirit to be assured that my salvation depends on Him and not my efforts. Without this truth, I would always be in a state of fear and worry about my eternal destination. Putting my faith and trust in what HE did on that cross rather than in what I can do makes me free indeed!

Thank you Lord, that Your gift of grace saves me and makes me truly free!

(Look familiar? This is a post from 2018 to honor this day)

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Lamb or Lion?

Scripture for Today: John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.'”

The lamb walking up to the cross does not seem threatening at all! He is small, white and vulnerable. The lion, however, gives pause. He is near the cross but has stopped short of it. That ferocious ruling lion is sitting, seemingly to wait. As we commemorate Good Friday or Holy Friday today, we are seeing only the lamb. For some who do not see the lion, today may not mean much. But the lion is one and the same as that weak sacrificial lamb.

Today’s verse was spoken by John the Baptist who recognized the One who was to be the Lamb of God. This Jesus would be led like a lamb to the slaughter for our sins, taking on our punishment (Is. 53:7). But the sacrificial lamb becomes the lion as He rules over and conquers death three days later! Jesus is called the “Lion of Judah” who has triumphed! (Rev. 5:5) Jesus will one day return, not as a humble baby but a triumphant eternal King of Kings.

What looks like defeat on this solemn day is actually the precursor to amazing triumph! Jesus would emerge from that grave a victor over death. He is revealed as a strong, ruling lion who is to be feared. When He returns He will right all wrongs and establish justice. I am so grateful to be forgiven but that does not mean that I will not tremble in His holy presence! Yes, Jesus is approachable as the Lamb, but He is also awe inspiring as the Lion.

Thank you Lord, for being the Lamb of God today, and also a Lion to be feared.

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The Takahe

Scripture for Today: John 11:25-26 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this.'”

How wonderful to have the takahe be part of our world! This beautiful flightless bird of New Zealand was thought to be extinct in the late 1800’s. But it was rediscovered in 1948 in some remote valleys on South Island. The takahe is one of the over 100 species that have been declared extinct but have later resurfaced. This phenomena has a name, the “Lazarus effect.”

Today’s verse comes from the scene of Lazarus’ resurrection. Lazarus had died four days earlier and now Jesus arrives. He is speaking to the sister, Martha, declaring Himself the resurrection and the life. She answers, Yes, to that very important question he poses. Jesus then asks her to demonstrate her belief by rolling back the stone covering the tomb of Lazarus. What happens next is jaw dropping as Jesus prays and Lazarus emerges from the tomb! Unfortunately, Lazarus would again experience death. But because he believed in the One who is the resurrection and the life, his soul would live on and never die.

What hope I have! Death is never the end. Jesus proved that He is the resurrection and the life when He raised Himself up from His grave. Death could not defeat Him and it will not defeat me either. He has promised. Not only do I have a resurrection to look forward to but He has given me life that is worth living in the here and now! When I live with eternity in view it makes sense of my life.

Thank you Lord, that You are my resurrection and my life!

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Butterfly Bushes

Scripture for Today:  John 3:3  Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

We used to have several Butterfly Bushes (Buddléia) in our yard producing white and purple flowers. I loved watching the butterflies come and drink the nectar from its flowers in the Spring. And to think that those remarkable butterflies were once unremarkable caterpillars! Their transformation is a beautiful image of our spiritual rebirth! Every Spring is a time of renewed expectations and hope. What one thought was dead and gone suddenly shows signs of growth! Spring is especially a season of rebirth.

In today’s verse, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he will not see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again or born from above. It must have been a shock to hear. Nicodemus was a respected Pharisee and ruler. He probably thought that if anyone could enter the Kingdom, he would be a likely candidate. He did not realize that in fact, he needed “wings” and as a caterpillar, he did not have them. Being born again is a work of God’s Spirit and a complete transformation is what is needed. And this is what Jesus offers to those who come to Him in faith.

So many refuse this offer of new life. They cannot see beyond their caterpillar stage and seem content to crawl along the ground rather than fly! But every Spring I am reminded of the new life He has given me. My old life is dead and buried. I have been changed forever! I am not at all tempted to return to the form of that caterpillar. He has given me wings, color, sweet nectar and new life! And it was all accomplished by His Spirit and not at all by my own efforts.

Thank you Lord, for Spring and new life in You!

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Golf Carts Only

Scripture for Today: Romans 2:15 “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”

The morning beckoned and the path through the golf course was deserted. What a perfect place to take my walk! It did not occur to me that I might be hit by a golf ball or that I might be run over by an approaching golf cart. But apparently, that was the concern behind the rule I was inadvertently breaking! In my defense, there were no signs posted, but I was still breaking the rule and was escorted off that path.

Today’s verse teaches that no such excuse works for mankind when faced with God’s Law. Even when ignorant of that Law, we instinctively do the things of the Law. It is universally written on the hearts of men. That is why so many judicial systems reflect it, at least in part. Stealing, murder and child abuse are considered wrong and are illegal. For the most part, we respect honesty in business, fidelity to a spouse, care for children and generosity to the poor. And God’s Law lets us know what sin is and how guilty we all are (Romans 7:7).

Had I ignored that golf cart rule after being called on it, I could continue walking. But looking over my shoulder, my conscience would be working on overdrive! That’s what law does; makes us aware of our utter inability to perfectly keep it! How thankful I am that there was One who fulfilled God’s Law completely on my behalf! Christ met the perfect standards of God’s Law and saved me from my sinful self. When God sees me, He sees Christ’s gift of righteousness (Romans 10:4).

Thank you, Lord, for the grace You made possible.