Devotions By Jan


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The Tapir

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 9:10 “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”

https://www.flickr.com/photos/briangratwicke/2639595421

Meet Baird’s Tapir, one of three kinds found in the forests of South America. These animals are related to the horse and the rhino and are recognizable by their “mini trunk.” This flexible snout is really their nose and upper lip combined. It is used to grab branches, pluck fruit and as a snorkel in water! The tapir is called, “the gardener of the forest,” as they spread seeds everywhere in their scat!

Today’s verse tells us that God is the Source of our seed as well as of our bread. We, as believers, are to sow seed that will result in a harvest of righteousness. The Source of our store of seed promises to increase it when we give to others generously. His blessing means having what is needed in order to “abound in every good work.” (verse 8) We are encouraged to sow generously so as to reap generously a harvest that is spiritual. (verse 6) God blesses with spiritual fruit those seeds of time, talent and money sown for Him!

Over the years I have seen the truth of this principle. I cannot explain God’s blessings in my life. They are totally undeserved. But whether I have a lot or a little, my focus is not to be on how much is in the storerooms but how much I am giving out. Somehow, when my attention is on His kingdom and giving to see it advanced, I see my own needs met and feel no lack. Seeing His blessing reassures me of His care and keeps me focused on HIs priorities!

Lord, make me generous and not overly concerned with the storehouse.


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Birds of a Feather

Scripture for Today: Deuteronomy 10:18 “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and He loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.

In seeing this image of a black and white stork I initially thought him quite disciplined to follow the rules of the road. But of course storks do not normally use a crosswalk. What a thought! Then I wondered if he were drawn to those black and white colors. After all, those are the same as his colors. And isn’t it true that we are drawn to and more comfortable with those who are like ourselves?

Today’s verse gives us another glimpse into the heart of God. He is especially attentive to the needs of orphans and widows. But He has a special place in His affections for the foreigner. God understands how easy it is for us humans to shun the one who is different from ourselves. But God’s perspective sees what is on the inside of man. And there, there are no differences when it comes to our need for love and significance. The Lord shows special love to the lost, lonely and displaced person. 

Having been a foreigner for many years myself, I know what it is to depend on the kindness of others in a host country. I could only get by because of those willing to reach out to others unlike themselves. Having been on the receiving end gives me a special empathy to extend love and help as He asks me to do (verse 19). Even so, it is an effort to leave my comfort zone and reach out to those different from myself.

Help me Lord, to have the same heart for the foreigner as You do.


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Snow Monkey

Scripture for Today: Revelation 3:15 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other.”

This Japanese macaque or snow monkey looks almost asleep as she enjoys the warmth of the hot springs. These volcanic pools or “onsens” can reach 100 degrees fahrenheit at Hell’s Valley or Honshu, Japan. This boiling water bubbles up from frozen snow-covered ground due to volcanic activity underneath. What a contrast with the bitter cold of this alpine environment! No other primate is more northern living nor lives in a colder climate!

Believers were neither hot nor cold in today’s verse. The Lord is rebuking the church of Laodicea out of love. (verse 19) These believers were doing good deeds. But something was wrong. They were not done with any kind of passion. Perhaps they were showing kindness and giving to others out of habit or a sense of obligation. However, the Lord sees the heart and the motivation. And like the good works that prove to be wood, hay and straw rather than gold, silver and costly stones, there is a marked difference (I Cor. 3:12-13) The Lord asks them to repent and be earnest.

The difficult question I ask myself is whether I am being earnest. No one else can know the answer as it is a matter of the heart. Frankly, the good I may do for someone else may be tainted with thoughts of self aggrandizement or reciprocal expectations. When my thoughts of “I should help” outweigh my thoughts of “I want to help” than perhaps I am being lukewarm. The only way I know to be passionate in serving Him is to continually connect to the Vine and have that fruit naturally flow from my relationship with Him!

Lord, keep me earnest today.


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Fanning The Flame

Scripture for Today: II Timothy 1:6 “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

In former times this antique bellow was a common sight in starting and maintaining a fire. The flexible bag would expand with air entering through a valve. The air would then be expelled through a tube. As a result the fire would burn more brightly with that supply of air. The bellows is thought to have been invented in China in the 5th century. Many styles exist today but they all have one thing in common. They all have that important flow of air to help the fire burn.

Today’s verse is an encouragement from Paul to Timothy. Paul took special interest in Timothy, considering him as a son. As his mentor, Paul urged him to fan into flame the gift he had received from God through the Holy Spirit. Each believer is given a spiritual gift (I Cor. 12:7) to be used in service to Him. In using our gift for His service, He breathes power, love and self-discipline on those coals, making us bold in our testimony and service (verse 7).

How good He is to give me what is needed to serve Him! But that flame of ability and desire can wane. That gift can be reduced to smoldering coals through neglect. Life can seem so full and busy that the flame sometimes needs fanning. The Holy Spirit wants to breathe on me through His Word, and through intimate communion with Him. It is God’s Spirit that works in me to give me that desire and ability to please Him (Phil. 2:13). And with His breath comes renewed purpose and motivation!

Lord, breathe on me. Keep me burning brightly today.


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Mistletoe

Scripture for Today: Romans 16:16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.”

Today is our 42nd wedding anniversary and no one needs to remind us to kiss today! But this mistletoe has long been associated with kissing. It seems strange as it is just a parasitic plant feeding off its host tree. But kissing under mistletoe has been part of Christmas tradition since the 18th century. In fact, it goes much further back having supposed magical powers to fend off evil spirits! I prefer the idea of love and romance!

Today’s verse tells us that believers are to warmly greet one another. The custom then was to greet with a chaste kiss. This custom continues today around the world. After more than three decades in France, I am accustomed to greeting others with a kiss on the cheek. It could be twice, three times or four depending on the region. But the idea is to acknowledge one another’s presence and make the other feel loved and important in whatever way is socially acceptable. In these days of hyper-sensitivity to germs, the elbow tap or fist bump has become another way to greet.

That warm greeting is so important. I love it when churches actually have folks at the entrance who officially greet you with that smile and handshake. We need to affirm one another and show genuine interest. We are all members of the same “body” of Christ and we need each other. My problem is that I am so centered on myself and my own needs. I forget that we all have the same need to be encouraged. It takes such little effort to greet as we should, but how much it can do to lift one’s spirit!

Thank you Lord, for mutual encouragement!