Devotions By Jan


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A Little Kindness

Scripture for Today: Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Did you know that kindness has side effects?  Dr. David Hamilton describes five: Kindness can make us happier.  Kindness can be good for the heart.  Acts of kindness are many times accompanied by emotional warmth.  Kindness also slows aging.  And kindness improves relationships.  Finally, kindness is contagious.  But I especially like the idea that showing kindness slows down the aging process!  I know some very kind folk that are advanced in years but I had never thought the two connected!

Today’s verse describes those that belong to the Lord as being holy and set apart.  The believer is dearly loved.  Knowing this, we are to clothe ourselves with the qualities that He has.  The Lord is full of compassion (Ex. 34:6).  He is the embodiment of kindness (Is. 63:7).  He is humble of heart and gentle (Matt. 11:29).  And He is patient (II Peter 3:9).  Each of these beautiful qualities can be ours because of Him and His Spirit in us (Gal. 5:22-23).  Acts of kindness to family, friends and strangers ought to be second nature to the believer.

Showing kindness takes time and effort.  It means putting the needs of someone else ahead of my own and sometimes I am just too selfish and prideful to show kindness.  Waving in that driver ahead of me means slowing down.  When someone forgot again and puts me out, it can be an effort to be kind.  When someone is struggling to balance their load and open a door, kindness lends a helping hand.  But what motivates me is more than experiencing these five positive side effects.  My deepest desire is that others will see the Source of kindness in me!

Lord, give me opportunities to show kindness today!

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Boxing Day

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 28:27 “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.”

Today is Boxing Day, celebrated every December 26th by the British and the Canadians.  And no, it has nothing to do with actual boxing!  These days it has lots to do with shopping and finding the best deals, much like the American Black Friday.

There are many ideas about its origins but most agree that it began as St. Stephen’s Day when gifts were given to the poor.  Its name could have something to do with the Alms Box at the back of churches, emptied and distributed on this day.  The carol, Good King Wenceslas, was written by John Mason Neale in 1853 about a King in the 10th century who gives food to a poor family on St. Stephen’s Day.  The song concludes with, “Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.”

This same idea is found in today’s verse.  Those who are generous find themselves lacking nothing.  Conversely, those who are stingy and do not share their wealth with the poor can find themselves in need.  Not only before the holidays begin but also the day after Christmas is an opportune moment to be thinking about those who are less fortunate.  After opening the huge pile of presents, there is often the problem of where to put it all!  We find that cupboards, closets, and garages are already full.

There is so much joy in giving!  And what I have experienced over the years is that God always provides for my needs.  The more I give to others, the more I experience His blessing!  The Lord continually surprises me!

Thank you Lord, that there is no “outgiving” You!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post from December 2016)


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Nurse Log

Scripture for Today: John 12:24 “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

How strange to see a tree growing out of the remains of another!  This tree grows in the Cathedral Grove of Vancouver Island.  But throughout our Pacific Northwest, nurse logs can be seen.  When a whole row of trees are growing in a perfectly straight line , they are probably marking the place where an old tree fell.  These chunks of dead wood become cradles for new life!  That is because they give a head start to young seedlings as they decay, providing water, moss, leaf litter, disease protection and nutrients.

Today’s verse includes the same principle of having more impact dying in the service of others than living for one’s self.  The next verse explains that those who love their lives, lose them.  But the one who hates his life will keep it.  The nurse log has literally died as has the kernel of wheat in our verse.  However, our dying as believers has more to do with giving up rights and privileges in serving others.   Picking up our cross and following Jesus involves the daily denying of ourselves in the interest of others (Mark 8:34).

This is just as hard as it sounds and for me, proves to be a daily struggle.  My needs, my wants, my preferences…. I am not to hold on to them too tightly.  If by putting myself second I can encourage someone else, than I am being a “nurse log.”  Enough of these selfless acts will add up to creating a legacy that lives on even after my actual death!

Lord, make me a servant today!

 


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Floundering

Scripture for Today: “II Corinthians 5:15 “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”

This fish continued his valiant fight for life even after being pulled from the water.  I enjoy seafood so much but I hate thinking about how it got to be on my plate!  In the end, this fish flopping and floundering did him no good.  The word “floundering” was perhaps influenced in the 1590’s by the Dutch word, “flodderen” meaning to flop about.  Later this verb referred to being completely unable to decide what to do or say.

Today’s verse gives a goal and direction to life.  Rather than flounder through life following different visions and dreams, there is a sense of purpose.  This goal in life does not change with the times or fashions of the day.  It is not a goal that disappoints but a purpose that is deep and lasting.  There is no ambiguity.  We are to live our lives for the Lord Jesus who died and was raised again for us.  Living to please ourselves leaves us empty and unfulfilled.  Solomon found that living for any desire or pleasure was meaningless and like chasing after wind. (Eccl. 2:10-11)

It breaks my heart to see family and friends floundering, living for the next relationship, the next adventure or the next big purchase.  A whole life can be spent on the dubious goal of pleasing one’s self.  But living for the Lord is always an adventure of faith!  He gives that sense of purpose to my life.  Living for His purposes gives a satisfaction and a significance like nothing else can.

Thank you Lord, that in sacrificing Your own life, You have made mine worth living!

 

 


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Giving Up

Scripture for Today: Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

I can relate to the frustration this man must be feeling.  I can guess at the pressure he is feeling to meet a deadline.  Perhaps he is irritated at a failed communication or the lack of any response at all.  I wonder if he feels that his work will never produce the desired effect.  In any case, this image suggests a discouragement and weariness we all sometimes feel.

Today’s verse lets us know that though we do not see an immediate result to our good works, there will be a future time when we will see the fruit of our labor.  The “proper time” for seeing results may not be the present.  But eventually, God brings about results.  The harvest we reap is in His timing and control.  Our part is to keep on keeping on, regardless of the results.

It is easy for me to feel weary and wonder if God is really using me.  I do not want to give up serving Him, but it can be discouraging to wonder if I am making a difference.  Is He hearing my prayers for my loved ones?  Is He using my story to draw others to Himself?  God’s work of changing hearts is often initially unseen.  But the promise of reaping a harvest is only for those who do not give up!  I have to trust that His Word does not return void but accomplishes what He intends (Isaiah 55:11).  Yes, there are moments of weariness, but in His grace He gives strength and motivation to continue!

Help me Lord, to never give up serving You!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule.)


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Stairs

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 2:22 “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?”

I almost passed right by this picture without seeing it.  Yes, it’s artsy but there is a little detail easy to miss.  The stairs lead nowhere!  Perhaps, there was once a door at the top, but no longer.  I think I would be plenty irritated to expend that energy climbing for no good reason.  How awful to finally get to the top of a long flight of stairs, only to find that there is nothing there!

It must have been with this same sentiment that Solomon wrote today’s verse.  What ever is the point of all the striving, working and toil man goes through all of his life?  If at the end of the climb one finds no satisfaction in reaching the goal, than life can seem a cruel joke.  But that is exactly the case if the Lord is left out of the picture.  Everything, even the most admirable success, is meaningless.  Climbing the ladder to wealth, prestige and security means nothing in the end.  At the end of life, a hard-earned fortune gets passed down until it dwindles away to nothing (verse 21).

I cannot imagine saying on my death bed, “I wish I had worked more.”  I would hope that I would say, “I wish I had loved and served Him more.”  Living for my Creator is the only life that makes sense to me.  My strife, toil and work when done for Him gives it eternal value.  Anxious striving for my own selfish desires proves empty in the end.  “Only one life, ’twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Lord, keep me focused on living and working for You!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule.)


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Cranberry Bog

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 44:3 “For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.”

It about took my breath away!  We were driving the back roads near Plymouth, MA when we rounded the corner and saw a shimmering field of red!  The cranberry bog was being flooded with water and the brilliant October sun was hitting it just right.  The farmers flood the area with up to eighteen inches of water to free the cranberries from the vine.  Then because of the small pocket of air contained in the cranberries, they float to the surface, ready to be harvested.

Water is of course essential to growing most anything but with “wet harvesting” it also plays an important role in getting access to the fruit.  Today’s verse pictures God’s Spirit like that water so important to fruit production.  Without His work we remain a thirsty land.  Without His blessing we continue life as dry ground.  But oh how it all changes when the Holy Spirit moves and works in people’s hearts.

When I try producing fruit and good works in my own strength, I am using thirsty land and dry ground.  I need the Holy Spirit to flood my efforts with His life-producing water and power.  I can do nothing in my own strength.  It is not how busy I am doing things for others.  It is not how many Bible verses I know.  It is allowing Him to work through me as I depend on Him.  It is getting my ego out of the way and being about His glory.

Lord, please pour out today the blessing of Your Spirit.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule.)