Devotions By Jan


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Cliques

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household.”

I love seeing the joy on the faces of these Filipino children!  When being part of a circle of friends, there is a wonderful feeling of belonging!  We all need to feel accepted and valued by others.  It is even better when that happens with a group that shares some common bonds and interests.  And there is quite a bit of angst if we are not part of such a group.  The French word, “clique,” is one we use for a group that is closed to outsiders.  What heartache there can be when we are the one excluded!

In today’s verse there is quite a large group that is by far the most inclusive one.  In this group, no one is a foreigner as it is  made up of members of every tribe and nation!  Our allegiance to God transcends earthly divisions.  There are no strangers as we will have eternity to get to know one another.  Being part of God’s household means that we have the same Father and that we are brothers and sisters.  No believer will feel like an outsider.

I am part of God’s household but I can sometimes feel like an outsider.  I see so many different groups and divisions within God’s family.  I may not fit in because of the racial, economic or theological divisions we create.  I cannot help but think that this is not God’s intent.  He means for us to be one in Christ; no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female (Gal. 3:28).  Our oneness through our diversity is what glorifies Him!

Lord, help me to be lovingly inclusive with ALL my brothers and sisters.


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Heartfelt Worship

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 29:13 “The Lord says, ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.'”

Styles of worship vary so much, especially internationally.  Our French church would often begin the service with complete silence and the expectation was to spend time in prayer and reflection.  For other churches, the music is upbeat and loud to begin things, gradually toning down to the message.  There are churches that feel any instrument except the human voice is out of place.  And the volume, rhythm, and style can all be a subject of debate .

In today’s verse none of these considerations are addressed.  The essential component of true worship has nothing to do with style, traditions or even what is considered more spiritual.  What matters to the Lord is the attitude and intent of the heart.  One can mouth the right phrases and the right notes with a heart that is very far from Him.  Jesus taught that true worship will involve His Spirit and will use the truth of His Word (John 4:24).

I know the Lord wants my worship of Him to be sincere and from the heart.  The worship He desires not only comes from my mouth in song but also from my thoughts and daily actions.  When I read God’s Word it can be worship.  When I remember, meditate or share a verse it can be an act of worship.  When I praise Him to others in testimony it is worship.  Even when I am trying to hear and obey His voice, that is worship.

Lord, may my worship of You be daily and heartfelt.  You are worthy!


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Lion or Kitten?

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.”

The Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite characters from this 1939 film!  Even though he is the “King of the Forest” he does not think he is courageous.  He wants courage from the great Oz, not realizing that he already has it!  He mistakens his fear for lack of courage.  But courage can be defined as acting in the face of fear!

In today’s verse, Peter and John are showing courage.  They had been seized and thrown in prison by the rulers, elders and teachers of the law.  When appearing before them to give a defense, Peter, filled with the Spirit, stood fearlessly and preached Jesus.  Their accusers watching them were not only surprised but astonished that such unschooled and ordinary men would be showing such courage.  And they rightly concluded that these men had been with Jesus!  The Spirit God gives does not make us timid! (II Tim. 1:7)

I have not been called before the law to defend my faith in Christ.  But if it should ever happen, I believe God through His Spirit would give me the courage I need.  I may tremble inside but He would help me face my fears.  When I show courage in the face of any opposition, it is a sure sign that I have spent time with Jesus!  I am told to wait on the Lord and be of good courage (Psalm 27:14) because He is the One who will strengthen my heart!  Any courage I show would not come from me but from Him.

Thank you Lord, that you can make a lion out of this kitten!


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Dandelion Seed

Scripture for Today: Psalm 66:16 “Come and hear all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me.”

Pictured here is the bane of anyone trying to grow their lawn!  I am sure my parents were not too thrilled with me when as a child I would blow on the dandelion seedhead!  After the dandelion flowers, the head, petals and stamen dry up and fall off.  The bracts curve backwards and a parachute ball opens into a sphere.  The mature seeds attach to white fluffy “parachutes”.  A bit of wind or the breath of a child is all that is needed to send the seeds flying!

Today’s verse encourages using our breath to tell of all God has done for us!  Just as the dandelion spreads its seed, so the believer can influence others to praise and worship the Lord.  But also like the dandelion, dispersing that seed comes after dying.  The believer has died and his life is now hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).  We no longer live for self but for Him (II Cor. 5:15).  And it is often after a strong wind of adversity that our praise and faithfulness to Christ is clearly seen.

I want to make a difference.  I want to leave a legacy.  I want to have an influence in this world for the Lord.  But the dying to self is the part that is oh so difficult.  The accolades and recognition of man are often times too important.  And that wind can be plenty uncomfortable.  However, it is my faithfulness to Him in the hard times that validates my faith and makes it credible to others.  Regardless of very negative circumstances, I can always tell others of His love and goodness.

Thank you Lord, for all You have done for me!

 


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Candle in the Wind

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

The original lyrics of “Candle in the Wind” referred to Marilyn Monroe.  The song was written by Bernie Taupin who was inspired by the words of the title, referring to Janis Joplin.  He saw Marilyn as a metaphor for all those who enjoy fame but then die young.  More familiar is the later version by Elton John, done as a tribute to Princess Diana.  But both versions have the same concluding lines: “Your candle burned out long before your legend ever did.”

Today’s verse reminds the believer that residing in him is the Holy Spirit (verse 7).  He Himself is an undeserved gift as are His fruit and His spiritual gifts for service.  The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was likened to tongues of fire coming to rest on each of the believers (Acts 2:3).  Paul encourages Timothy to fan the flame of this gift of the Spirit.  We know this flame is being fanned when we are not timid about our faith.  We know this flame is burning brighter when we see power, love and self-disciple in our lives (verse 7).

These legendary icons will live on for a time but eventually burn out.  What an assurance to know that there is no such fate for the Spirit of God in me!  His flame is eternal and He has given me eternal life as well.  But while here, I want my light to shine, not for my own glory but for His!  I need His power to be bold for Him.  I need His love when loving is difficult.  And I need His help with self-discipline when I feel out of control!

Thank you Lord, for the flame of Your Spirit.


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Ducks in a Row

ducks-in-a-row-webScripture for Today: I Corinthians 1:12 “….One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.'” 

These ducks seem to have it figured out who the leader is and who will bring up the rear.  No one seems to be jostling for position.  None of the followers look as if they are trying to redirect the line.  When flying in a formation or swimming in a line, I can understand that progress forward is easier with the lead doing all the work.  But by waddling on the ground there does not seem to be an advantage to being in a line.

Today’s verse was written by the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth.  The believers there were dividing themselves into factions.  Each group followed a different church leader.  Paul turns their thoughts and loyalties to the One who could bring them together in unity.  After all, it was not Paul crucified.  They were not baptized in his name but in the name of Jesus (verse 13).  When we all have our eyes fixed on Jesus, following Him, we will remain united.

Splitting up into separate groups seems like the natural thing to do.  Somehow, my pride gets in the way of unity.  It is too easy for me to major on differences rather than celebrating common ground with other believers.  But I do want my allegiance to be to Christ first.  I find that in following Jesus Christ above all else, I bond with others who do the same, regardless of church affiliation, regardless of race, age or locale.  Lines of division disappear and we are united in the same line.

Thank you Lord, that following You above anyone else brings sweet unity with others!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministries.


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The Elephant Seal

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 8:1  “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up but love edifies.”

This seal looks as if he has an oblong balloon attached to his face!  He is called an “elephant seal” as his snout can inflate and resemble a trunk.  When putting on a mating display, the male will inflate his nose with lots of air and then compete with other males in a snorting contest!  For some northern species, the trunk can extend as much as a foot.  I am not too sure why snorting attracts the female!

Today’s verse describes a knowledge that can puff us up.  Knowledge can make us arrogant.  Knowledge can make us so prideful that we end up tearing others down.  Usually, knowledge in Scripture is presented in a positive light.  It is often mentioned with wisdom and understanding.  All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Jesus Christ (Col. 2:3).  But this knowledge is one without love.  That kind of knowledge makes us ugly.  Someone who is puffed up with knowledge always has to be right and everyone has to know about it.  The person puffed up with their knowledge makes others feel small and foolish.  It is a poisonous attitude that isolates us.

My own spiritual pride says that this is a real problem in OTHER people!  I never see myself as puffed up.  The following verse says, ” If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.”  No one has a corner on knowledge except God Himself.  Rather than focusing on how knowledgeable I am, my concern ought to be loving others.  If that is my focus, my size stays the same!

Lord, forgive my pride and make me loving.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministries.