Devotions By Jan

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No Way!!

Scripture for Today: Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

What a shock to find yourself 49 billion dollars in debt! But that was the nasty surprise that awaited a young woman recently on returning home after a night out. I can just imagine the chaotic scene that followed after checking her bank balance on her phone at 2 am. Of course it could be nothing but a technical glitch by the bank. And in fact, the whole matter was cleared up in the morning. At least, it made for a good story!

There is a much more important debt in today’s verse. It can never be completely paid and it is the debt of love. It is a continuing debt as no one can say they have paid it in full. Perfectly loving others completely fulfills the Law. This is because all of the Law is summed up in loving one’s neighbor as one’s self (verse 9). Adultery, murder, theft or covetousness would never be a part of showing love as love will never do harm to a neighbor (verse 10). There is only One who has been able to fulfill the Law with a perfect love; Jesus.

Perfect love would not describe me. It is not so much what I do not do to my neighbor as in these obvious sins. It is rather the good I fail to do for my neighbor. Being selfish and self-centered keeps me from loving and serving like Christ did. Thankfully, Jesus has made His love available to me in the person of His Spirit. His filling and control can change my heart from self-centered to others-centered..

Lord, fill my heart with Your love today.

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The Flea Market

Scripture for Today: I John 2:7 “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old commandment is the message you have heard.”

I love a good flea market where someone’s castoffs become someone else’s treasure. The biggest flea market in Europe takes place in Lille, France every September. And it dates back to the 12th century! It is comprised of 10,000 sellers who man 62 miles of roadside stalls. It runs continuously for thirty six hours and welcomes two and a half million visitors! Everyone is sure to find something old that pleases!

Today’s verse is a reminder that what is old can very well hold its value. John is repeating an old commandment that continues to be valid: to love one another. From the beginning we are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deut.6:5) and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev. 19:18). Jesus teaches that all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matt.22:40). But what was old became new when Jesus added, “as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

What was impossible to obey is now possible through Christ’s Spirit and His fruit in me. And anytime I am confused about what that love looks like, I can examine the life of Jesus, as “its truth is seen in Him” (I John 2:8). My problem is that I do not always choose to obey it. Loving others has a way of disrupting my day! I know I am incredibly selfish, and unlike the Lord, prefer to be served rather than serve. But loving one another is a concrete and measurable way I can love my Lord. More than anything, this thought spurs me to action!

Lord, help me love like You do.

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National Decency Day

Scripture for Today: Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

How unfortunate to have to remind people to be decent! The National Decency Day was established to encourage a basic standard of civility. It is meant to be non partisan, a grassroots movement to inspire decency in everyday life. Decency was certainly the theme in this scene as an elderly gentlemen had trouble getting to his bus stop. He was kindly helped by this couple while a passerby smiles. He was then helped up the steps to that bus and I am sure the decency of strangers made his day!

Today’s verse would be the perfect verse for showing decency. Many who are not familiar with the Bible are aware of this verse, calling it, “The Golden Rule.” Its logical simplicity can lull one into thinking it is an easy principle to practice. But in fact, this verse is especially difficult when one realizes that this behavior is to be shown to enemies! We are to do good not just to strangers but to those who hate us (verse 27)! We are to bless those who curse us and pray for those that mistreat us (verse 28)! Common decency and basic civility seem like a slam dunk compared to this standard!

As with all commandments, precepts and statutes of God, my obedience is not what I would like. I feel as if I fail Him often. Thankfully, His forgiveness is consistent and faithful (I John 1:9). When with the help of His Spirit I can treat enemies the way He wants, He is glorified! Loving my enemies is not natural for me and when I can do it, I know it is another evidence of His work in me.

Thank you Lord, for Your Spirit who enables me to treat others well!

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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.”

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.


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.