Devotions By Jan


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Blessed Thistle

Scripture for Today: Luke 6:27-28 “But to you who are listening I say, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Being that this flower is surrounded by sharp pointy leaves and considered a bitter herb, how is this plant blessed?  As pretty as the flower is, the plant is a “blessing” for its medicinal properties.  Blessed Thistle contains tannins which might help with diarrhea, coughs and inflammation.  It was used to treat bubonic plague during the Middle Ages and as a tonic for monks.

In today’s verse Jesus is speaking specifically to all “who are listening.”  He was addressing a large crowd including His disciples.  But as in any audience there are those who are tracking and those who are distracted.  These words are for those whose intention is to be a blessing.  Being a blessing to enemies that curse, hate and mistreat you is done by showing love in two ways; doing good for them and praying for them.  Those willing to obey will experience great reward (verse 35).  And they will be recognizable as His children, being kind to the ungrateful and wicked, just as He is.

Being a blessing to enemies is not usually something very high on my to-do list!  I have a hard enough time being a blessing to those who love me!  But doing good to my enemies and praying for them is modeled by Jesus and He asks the same of me.  I cannot expect any accolades or return from obeying.  But there will be great reward one day for this hard thing He asks of me.  And behaving as one of His children brings glory and recognition to Him! (vs. 35)

Thank you Lord, that in being a blessing to enemies, I too am blessed!

 


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The Osprey

Scripture for Today: Matthew 4:19 “‘Come follow Me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.'”

I wondered what I was seeing standing so proudly at the top of a mast at the harbor.  The osprey is quite the accomplished “fisherman!”  Ninety-nine percent of his diet is fish.  He plunges feet first into the water from 30-50 feet up in the air and has a reversible outer toe!  It can be moved either to the front of the foot or moved to the back of the foot.  This gives him a two-toe formation forward or back for carrying off his fish.

In today’s verse Jesus invites two fisherman, Andrew and Simon-Peter, to join Him.  Two more were then called; James and John (verse 21-22).  All four responded immediately to the call.  Jesus spoke in terms to which these fishermen could relate.  Following Jesus would mean for them leaving their livelihood and putting people first.  And like the osprey, they would need that flexible reversible toe.  The disciples would be talking to people of all classes, races and religious backgrounds.  Like Paul would later say, it was important to become all things to all people in order to save some for the sake of the Gospel (I Cor. 9:22-23).

Putting people first is not always my natural inclination.  My own comfort or agenda often takes priority over God’s invitation.  But the message of God’s grace is to be shared, and I need to relate the Gospel in a way others can understand.  To become all things to all people means I need to find common ground.  It means I need to ask questions and listen intently to their thinking before I share.  Not only does this show respect but helps me know what they need to hear.

Lord, make me sensitive to the need of others.

 


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Foxfire

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”

This light show is put on by something surprising; mushrooms!  No, they are not magic mushrooms but they certainly seem to be.  Some species of fungi will emit this eerie green glow called, “foxfire” or “fairy fire.”  This happens when some kinds of mushrooms attach themselves to decaying wood.  Bioluminescence, the same chemical reaction that gives us the red tide and the firefly, will light up the darkness!

Today’s verse tells us that God who created light, also made light to shine within the heart of the follower of Christ.  As we learn more and more of the glory of His face and presence, we begin to reflect some of His light.  The light within the believer causes him to shine like stars in contrast to a “warped and crooked generation.” (Phil. 2:15)  As we follow that Giver of light, His light shines in and through us.

I cannot generate any of this light on my own.  If there is any light at all coming from me it is all a reflection of Him!  It can only happen as I follow Him and stay close.  But even a small chink of light can make a world of difference in finding my way or helping others find theirs.  Knowing Him is knowing light.  And the light of the knowledge of Him keeps me warm and loved in a world that can be so cold and dark.  How reassuring it is to live in the light of His wonderful presence!

Thank you Lord, for Your life-giving light!

 


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Scribbly Gum Tree

Scripture for Today: Acts 4:13 “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

This Scribbly Gum tree gets its name from the unusual markings all over its bark.  Each tree will have its own unique pattern of scribbles and they are put there by a small moth larvae.  Living in the bark throughout the winter, the moth will move around just under the surface, feeding on the tree’s tissue and leaving its distinctive marks.

Today’s verse describes two unschooled and ordinary men; Peter and John.  These men were ordered to give an account of themselves before the rulers and elders.   With boldness and clarity they declared the name of Jesus as being the only Source of their power and of salvation (verse 12).  They lived their lives in such a way as to leave a definite trace.  The time they had spent with Jesus showed in their lives.  There was not much to recommend them in the eyes of the world.  They were just ordinary men without even a higher education.  Yet, their time with Jesus had marked them.

I wonder how much my time with Jesus marks me.  Do people see traces of the Divine in me?  It cannot happen through my own efforts.  I know my heart and that there is nothing to recommend me.  But I have His Spirit living inside and with His movements to shape and mold me like Christ, He is slowly making changes.  They may just seem like little scribbles, but He sees the big picture of what He is producing in me!

Lord, may my time spent with You be evident in my life!

Photo credit: Ian Sutter https://www.flickr.com/photos/22616984@N07/3274188822/


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A Walking Stick Bug

Scripture for Today: Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes….”

My niece is a brave soul to put her hand next to this huge walking stick bug there in Costa Rica!  It is true that they do not bite, but the idea of it crawling over me does not appeal!  There are over three thousand species worldwide and all differ according to their habitat.  Each species has evolved to resemble the plant material in their area.  They escape notice so well that they can hide in plain sight and blend in perfectly.

Today’s verse is a bold statement of Paul’s that is the very opposite of blending in to one’s surroundings.  Paul wants to be detected.  He wants to be noticed and to stand out from the crowd.  And believing in the Gospel of Christ in the midst of a non-believing world will do just that!  But there is no shame in standing out for something so powerful.  There is no shame in being different from others when it can mean the salvation of a soul.  It is worth any discomfort to draw attention to the amazing power of the Gospel!

It is a strong inclination of mine to blend in and belong.  It is uncomfortable for me to draw the eye or incite the comments of others.  Worry over what others think can sometimes nullify my testimony.  But rather than the approval of men, my overriding desire is the approbation of the Lord.  He scorned the shame to hang naked on a cross for me (Heb. 12:2).  How could I possibly be ashamed of a few odd looks or comments?

Lord, may I scorn shame in any form.  Keep me bold with the Truth!