Devotions By Jan


Protecting Vines

Scripture for Today: John 15:1-2 “I (Jesus) am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is frozen_vineyard_in_luxembourg.jpeg
Mya, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

France is experiencing record lows late in the season. Drastic action is being taken to keep those vines from freezing. This includes lighting fires and “crop candles” in an effort to raise the temperature. Some vinedressers even concoct a special herb tea infusion for the vines! Giant fans and helicopters are used to pull warmer air from higher up, pushing it toward the ground.

Today’s verses describes some drastic action as well. God is the gardener or vinedresser for His true vine; His Son, Jesus. Believers are the branches that need special care to be fruitful. Not only do we as the branches need to stay connected to our Vine but we are worked on by our Vinedresser to be fruitful. Some branches are cut off because they produce absolutely no fruit, completely missing their reason to be! Others produce fruit but need His pruning and cleaning to produce more and better fruit for Him.

I would rather have His care, even if it involves drastic measures, than to completely miss my purpose! Being pruned is not a comfortable experience. But I know my Father’s discipline is not a punishment as my sins are paid for on the cross. His discipline is a teaching moment and always done with love and for my benefit. He turns around the freezing temperatures of indifference or pride in my life. With His care, I can look forward to my service becoming more and better fruit!

Lord, thank you for Your loving care.

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National Spinach Day

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 3:16 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, “

Vegans and vegetarians rejoice! Today is National Spinach Day! It is not one of my favorite vegetables, but sprinkled on a cheese pizza or hidden in a fruit smoothie, I will enjoy it! At odds with this day is the saying, “If it’s green it’s trouble, if it’s fried get double!!” Growing up, I was promised that spinach would make me strong as it did for the cartoon character, Popeye.

Today’s verse describes another kind of strength; that of the inner person. It is a strength unseen and given by the Spirit of God. It is His strength that He shares out of His limitless supply. And it is a strength that helps us stand firm in our faith. I have always wondered why “strength” or “power” is not listed among the fruit or evidence of His Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23. However, it is available through prayer as seen by this prayer of Paul’s for the Ephesians. We can pray for strength for ourselves as well as for others.

When I pray for His strength to be developed in me, He is gracious. He grants it because He is merciful, not because I deserve it. He gives me strength to stand firm in my faith when circumstances want to weaken it. He gives me strength to say “no” to temptation. He gives me strength to say and do the right things when it would be so much easier to compromise. I know it comes from Him as I am very aware of my weaknesses. Thankfully, God can even use my weaknesses to showcase His strength! (II Cor. 12:9) But He does want me to realize my need and ask Him. 

Lord, how I need Your strength today!


Dishwasher Confusion

Scripture for Today: Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

I am sure I am not the only one! There have to be more out there who have mistakenly emptied the dishwasher’s contents back into the cupboards and belatedly realized they were not clean! It is my own fault because I rinse too well before loading them into the dishwasher. How frustrating and time consuming to then have to determine which items are clean and which need to be reloaded! The confusion can be avoided with a simple system of magnets on the dishwasher.

In today’s verse, Jesus is calling out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. They were careful to follow ceremonial law without the harder work of confession and true change of heart. Their public image was more important than what what was going on privately. They could look clean on the outside by following accepted standards of religious tradition, all the while concealing the greed and self-indulgence inside. But no matter what rules we follow, it is only Christ who can make us truly clean.  

It is what comes out of me that reveals the true state of my heart (Mark 7:15). I am distracted by working hard on the outward show of religiosity but sooner or later, my words and actions reveal what is really on the inside. Despite the correct moral upbringing, environmental and financial advantages, and advances in technology, evil continues to exist in my heart. The Lord is in the business of true and lasting change. Cleansing me from the inside out is something only He can do.

Lord, keep me from being so distracted by the outside! Change my heart with Your cleansing.

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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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Dandelion Bouquets

Scripture for Today: Psalm 103:17 “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him and his righteousness with their children’s children.”

How sweet it is  when a child painstakingly picks those dandelions and offers them as a bouquet! There is pride on his face for thinking of it. There is hope there too, that you will recognize the effort and be grateful for his gesture of love. The problem comes almost immediately as those flowers begin to wilt in his hot little hand. One hates to disappoint a child and so we put them in water in hopes they will last a little longer.

Today’s verse is a contrast between what will last and what will not last. Mortals are pictured as grass and like the flower in the field (verse 15). We flourish for a short time and then are no more. Like the dandelion, our lives can be full of beauty but oh so short. How incredible is the contrast with God’s love for His own! His love is from everlasting to everlasting. It does not wilt. His love is evident now and continues without interruption into eternity. And it is so much more beautiful than the lowly dandelion!

I need to know His love for me will not waver. As fickle as I am, He never changes. I do not know this because I always feel it. I know it because He has promised and He is always faithful to His promises. If I am not feeling particularly loved, the problem is not with Him but with me! The eyes of my heart sometimes close and I do not feel His nearness. But nothing separates me from His love, not even my feelings (Romans 8:35, 38-39). When I remind myself of this truth, an amazing thing happens; feelings follow!

Thank you Lord, that Your love is everlasting!

(Look familiar? This is based on my previous post from 2014)