Devotions By Jan


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Muzzled Horse

Scripture for Today: Psalm 39:1 “I said, ‘I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.'”

I have never seen a muzzle on a horse but apparently, it is not all that uncommon. Two different muzzles are used for two very different problems. The grazing muzzle is used when there is a problem with overeating. It will restrict their grass intake while still allowing for pasture time. Then there is the cribbing muzzle to prevent the horse from biting. Their bite will not normally break the skin but those powerful jaws can leave a deep bruise!

Today’s verse talks about a voluntary muzzle needed for our mouths, especially in the presence of the wicked. David was feeling down and discouraged with what he felt was God’s rebuke and discipline (verse 11). He expressed anguish over the fact that life is short and seemingly vain (verse 6). But David did not want any of these feelings voiced in the presence of the wicked. Even when upset with God, David did not want to malign His name.

I need to muzzle my mouth as well, especially when I am questioning the Lord or discouraged in my walk. That does not mean I cannot share these feelings with a trusted believing friend. But when I am with those who do not know the Lord, I would not want my emotional outburst to keep them from faith. I would not want my words to be an obstacle to someone else. The tongue is described as a small spark that can set on fire an entire forest (James 3:6). The damage my tongue could do could have eternal consequences!

Lord, do not ever let me malign Your beautiful and holy Name.


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The Toucan

Scripture for Today: Psalm 71:15 “My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long – though I know not how to relate them all.”

Photo Credit: Michael Gwyther-Jones at https://www.flickr.com/photos/12587661@N06/8558971831

The Toco Toucan is a feast for the eyes with its large colorful beak! Its beak is so large it accounts for one third of its body. With that impressive beak he plucks and peels fruit and through it regulates his body temperature. A noisy creature, he makes croaking frog and rattling sounds and he will cluck with his bill. The Toco Toucan is said to be one of the noisiest birds in the world.

In today’s verse, David is using his mouth to praise God for His righteous deeds and for his saving acts. To speak of every one of them he would have to use his mouth all day long! They are without measure or too numerous to count. David’s mouth is filled with praise (verse 8) from his birth (verse 6) and since his youth (verse 17). Even when he is old and gray, David sees himself declaring God’s power to the next generation (verse 18). David is noisy with praise to God all through his life.

I can be just as noisy as this bird but perhaps not always with praise to God! I can easily be like the Israelites in the desert, grumbling and complaining about what I do not have. My noise can be all about the need for attention and recognition. I can get real noisy about “my rights” when I feel they are being ignored. But when my “noise” is about God’s goodness and grace, His power and glory, my noise becomes like a beautiful melody that gives Him praise!

Lord, make my life a litany of praise.


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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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Giant Japanese Spider Crab

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: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

Photo Credit: Choo Yut Shing https://www.flickr.com/photos/25802865@N08/6968078569

This interesting creature is most notable for its size. The Giant Japanese Spider Crab has the largest leg span of any arthropod in the world: he measures up to 12 feet, claw to claw! But despite his scary appearance he is said to have a gentle disposition. I am glad I don’t have to prove that with personal experience! Normally, something so large would have trouble escaping notice. But this guy is called a “decorator crab.” He picks up pieces of sponge and small anemones and cements them to the top of his shell, blending in with his surroundings.

Today’s verse is the very opposite of blending in with surroundings. Paul wants to be detected. He wants to stand out from the crowd. And believing in the Gospel of Christ in the midst of an unbelieving world will do just that. 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 a strong inclination for me to blend in and belong. I am uncomfortable drawing the eye or inciting the comments of others. Worrying too much over what others think can sometimes nullify my testimony. But more important than the approval of men, my overriding desire is to please my 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!


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National Decency Day

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

https://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/3386629036

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!