Devotions By Jan


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The Flame Lily

Scripture for Today: Song of Songs 8:6 “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”

This national flower of Zimbabwe looks just like a tongue of fire and is widespread in tropical and southern Africa. It thrives in sparse woodlands, sand dunes and grasslands. It rambles and climbs all over neighboring plants using those tendrils at the end of its leaves. The Flame Lily is also called the Fire Lily and it can climb to a height of three meters. It can be fatal if eaten and to even touch it can result in skin irritation.

Today’s verse is part of a poetic and image-laden passage describing love. It is as strong as death and can evoke a jealousy as fierce as the grave. Being sealed with this kind of love over the heart and arm sets one apart as beloved with a strong flame of emotion. This is an image of the love of the Lord, poured in our hearts by His Spirit (Rom. 5:5). This is the same Spirit who appeared as tongues of fire at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-3). And we are sealed with His Spirit when we place our faith in Jesus (Eph. 1:13). In love, He set His seal of ownership on us (II Cor. 1:22)!

How incredible to be sealed and marked as His with such an ardent love! That flame of love is so strong that many waters cannot quench it (verse 7). His love for me is so fierce that nothing in all creation can separate me from it (Rom. 8:38-39)! Our little puny human loves cannot even compare. “What wondrous love is this?”

Lord, I am grateful for Your overwhelming love!



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Worn Out Welcome

Scripture for Today: II Peter 1:11 “…and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

My welcome mat is looking a bit sad. The welcome seems worn out with time although it is not that old. There is an old truism written by Benjamin Franklin and found in his Poor Richard’s Almanack. It says that fish and visitors stink after three days! If that is true I have stunk plenty of times. The idea is that after three days, a fish left out will smell and the welcome of a visitor may wear out.

Today’s verse is about crossing over the threshold from an earthly life into the eternal kingdom of God. I am not so sure there is a mat needed to mark that entrance! However, there will be a “rich welcome” for those who have placed their faith in the saving work of Jesus. And there is no other entrance except through Him (John 14:6). A rich welcome must mean that no one enters quietly or unnoticed. Each arrival will be a celebrated home-coming and marked with a warm welcome. Perhaps the believer will experience the same kind of welcome as the Prodigal Son. When he returned to his Father’s house, his Father ran out to greet him.  He welcomes him with the best robe, a ring and sandals. And there is a feast and celebration all done to welcome him!

I wonder what is done to welcome believers into that eternal kingdom. No way do we slip in unnoticed. I imagine one’s “rich welcome” means being greeted by family and friends who arrived before us. But the richest welcome of all would be to be greeted and held in the warm embrace of the Savior! And this welcome will never wear out!

Thank you Lord, for the rich welcome in my future!


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Cow Escape!

Scripture for Today: Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

This is the only kind of cow I would want to see on the street! But recently, the residents of Pico Rivera, California were surprised to see 41 escaped cows running wild in their neighborhoods! A gate at the local slaughterhouse was left open and the cows made a run for it! There was understandably some property damage and injuries in the chaos, but eventually most were corralled and returned to captivity and their unhappy fate.

Today’s verse talks about a different kind of captivity. It is one that captivates our thinking. Paul warns that we can be deceived by fine-sounding arguments (verse 4). As believers, we have freedom in Christ. His cross has disarmed every legalistic power and authority coming from human rules (verse 15). Because we no longer belong to the world we are no longer captive to rules such as, “Do not handle. Do not touch. Do not taste” (verse 21). The god of this world uses the pride in following such rules to keep us from true holiness.

How thankful I am not to be captive to a set of rules or a list of do’s and dont’s! Because of the cross, Christ has broken the power of sin in my life! Following His way is not a matter of rules, but of a changed heart that seeks to please Him. He is not impressed with my outward superficial show of religiosity. Instead, He wants all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I am free to follow Him and experience a fulness to my life, found only in Christ (verse 10)!

Thank you Lord, for freedom in You!


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Napoleon’s Banner

Scripture for Today: Psalm 60:4 “But for those who fear You, You have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.”

This elaborate banner was a flag proudly carried by Napoleon Bonaparte’s Imperial Guard foot soldiers in 1813.  It is either an original or a very early reproduction.  Banners like these were normally carried on staffs capped with a  gilt bronze eagle to symbolize divine authority.  Unfortunately, the eagle finial for this one was stolen in 1990 from the museum housing it.  So much for divine authority!  The foot soldier appointed to carry this banner had to be someone recognized for their bravery as he was an obvious target for the enemy.

Today’s verse has a banner that has been raised by our God and does indeed denote divine authority!  It is raised for those that fear and obey Him.  Unlike those who were experiencing discipline in this psalm, God’s  faithful ones could depend on Him to save and help with His powerful right hand (verse 5).  Those who fear, respect and obey the Lord are in a battle for His cause; the cause of truth, justice and righteousness.

God has raised this banner for me.  How amazing for this puny foot soldier to be part of His plan!  Because He has raised it for me,  I know I will be victorious over enemies!  But I do need to unfurl it.  It is my identifying mark.  I want to unfurl His banner with confidence, standing for the truth of who Jesus is and the veracity and authority of His Word.  Regardless of possible negative attention, I never want to be ashamed of my Lord (II Tim. 1:8).  After all, He is not ashamed of me as His banner over me is love (Song of Songs 2:4).

Thank you Lord, for the privilege of standing up for You!

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2018)


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Independence Day

Scripture for Today: Psalm 25:17-18 “Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sin.”

How wonderful to put aside differences and nationally celebrate our independence as a country! Parades, picnics and fireworks mark this special day. Flags make their appearance on lawns and often neighborhoods will celebrate collectively. It looks as if this little girl is celebrating her independence from parental control! Those toddler years are full of struggle for independence, as any parent in the trenches knows.

Today’s verse shows us the results of independence from our Creator. This is man’s natural inclination, to be autonomous and govern his own life his own way. The problem comes from the anguish, affliction and distress that sinful choices can produce. David so acutely feels the troubles of his heart that he pleads with the Lord to free him. When in our independence we choose our own way rather than His, we risk following a path of destruction, even when it looks oh so right (Prov. 14:12). The Lord never intended man to be independent from Him.

My desire to live without any constraints is normal. No one likes anyone telling them what to do or what behaviors to avoid. But every one of His commandments are meant to give me freedom! (Psalm 119:45) They free me from the heart trouble and the anguish of being separated from the Lover of my soul! Being dependent on Him gives me true freedom to live in the light of His love and favor! But like the stubborn toddler who thinks they know better than the parent, I pull away. How good He is to bring me back to Himself with powerful loving arms!

Thank you Lord, for the freedom that comes with dependence on You!