Devotions By Jan

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Scripture for Today: Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

I tried growing Impatiens in our long narrow yard while living in Grenoble, France.  They seemed to really thrive in the climate and soil.  But I eventually gave up as our rabbit kept thinking they were his lunch!  This flower is said to be a symbol of motherly love as they easily release and scatter their seed at the slightest touch.  It certainly is not indicative of motherly love with its other names; “touch-me-not” and “snapweed.”

Today’s verse would be great on the wall of every family room!  Somehow, the standards in this verse are especially difficult to live out with those closest to us.  Within those four walls we feel free to speak our mind without any filters.  We allow ourselves to snap at others or use our words to distance ourselves from those around us.  However, the standard for our words is that they be helpful and beneficial to those listening.  And we are to build up and encourage others in a way that speaks to their needs.

More often than not, my words are expressed according to my need to say them.  I often am unaware or uncaring as to the needs of the listener.  But with that attitude the conversation is usually cut short.  If my words are not building up they are perhaps subtly tearing down.  How much does it really cost me to compliment or encourage?  I want my words to be gracious,  sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Prov. 16:24).  I want my words to be like His; kind, compassionate and forgiving (verse 32).

Lord, make my words as gracious as Yours.


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Scripture for Today: Psalm 86:16 “Turn to me and have mercy on me; show Your strength on behalf of Your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did.”

It is practically inevitable!  Those “mommy-isms” uttered by Mom so many years ago come back mysteriously to my own lips in raising my children.  And now I hear my children repeating them to their children!  “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”  “Who said life was fair?”  “How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it yet?”  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  And my personal favorite; “Go ask your Father.”

Today’s verse is part of David’s prayer for deliverance from attacking enemies.  He appeals to God’s mercy, compassion, love and faithfulness (verse 15).  David acknowledges his need for God’s strength as His servant and begs God to save him.  At this dangerous time of personal peril, David remembers his mother.  It is her example of service to God that David follows.  Because he serves God as his own mother did, David feels confident that God will answer his prayer and deliver him.  We do not know her name, but whoever she was, she had an amazing influence on David.

I am very different from my Mother, and yet I sometimes feel as though I sound just like her!  Her imprint on me is deep and lasting.  I remember her words of advice but more importantly, she is an example.  Her biggest influence is the way she lives her life.  Like David’s mother, she too serves the Lord.  She models that service to me.  My deepest desire is that I can somehow model that same service to my children and grandchildren!

Thank you Lord, that despite my failings You can use a mother’s influence!


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Give Peas a Chance!

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

As a little girl, I got away with hiding those detested peas in my napkin.  When excused from the table, I would take the napkin with me and flush those peas down the toilet!  As the youngest of four, my poor Mother was none the wiser.  Thankfully I got over my distaste as peas are such a great healthy food!  To give peace a chance however, is a much more important idea!  John Lennon of the Beatles popularized this phrase with his first solo single hit released in 1969, “Give Peace a Chance.”

Today’s verse encourages the believer to live at peace with everyone.  Paul includes some qualifying conditions; if it is possible and as far as it depends on you.  Sometimes peace just is not possible if both parties are not willing to work at it.  But there is plenty that can depend on our own responses.  Being able to live peacefully with those intent on provoking us seems nearly impossible.  But when we remind ourselves that God is just and He will repay and avenge (verse 19) then we can at least find that peace of mind for ourselves.

I wish I could say that all my relationships are always peaceful.  But even the best of them occasionally go through turbulent times.  However, I know when I am making things worse.  And the first step in making peace usually starts with a humble apology for the part I played in the drama.  That first step requires me to put aside my pride.  That is the part that depends on me.  I can then trust the Lord to work through the rest.

Help me Lord, to do all I can to live peaceably.


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Scripture for Today: Romans 15:5-6 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our bougainvillea is climbing all over our back fence and its vibrant red color is a gorgeous!  There are equally vibrant colors of orange, fuchsia, pink and yellow, but my favorite has always been the red.  There are over 300 varieties worldwide and they can grow from 3 to 40 feet tall.  But what is surprising is that the actual flower is a small white blossom one sees in the center.  The bright colors actually come from the surrounding bracts, which are modified or specialized leaves.  Because they are positioned below the flower, I mistake it for the actual flower.

Today’s verse talks about collectively glorifying God.  The point of the believer’s life is not to draw attention to one’s self but to Him.  We are that small insignificant white flower.  But because of pointing people to Him, there is vibrant color in our lives.  He makes us beautiful because He is beautiful.  And together with other believers we can be united with one mind and one voice in this purpose of glorifying and praising Him.

Drawing attention to myself, taking credit for what God has done in my life or wanting to take center stage keeps me like that small insignificant white flower.  It takes a humble heart to be more about His glory and His name.  But I can have that same attitude Christ did (Phil. 2:5).  Along with encouragement and endurance, He gives me the desire to give all praise and glory to Him.  He is worthy!

Lord, may today be all about giving You the glory You deserve.

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Bent Out Of Shape!

Scripture for Today: Philippians 2:14-15a “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure , ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation…'”

It is a mystery!  No one knows why this grove of about 100 pines in Poland became so bent and crooked!  Each tree sharply bends towards the North for three to nine feet before curving back upright.  They were planted in 1930 and no one is around to explain.  As nearby trees grow normally, the best explanation is that it was done by man to ready the wood for curved ship-building parts.  Although, I personally like the alien explanation!

Today’s verse describes a whole generation as being warped and crooked.  Being “bent out of shape” is the natural state of those who follow their own way rather than God’s way.  The works of the Lord are perfect and He is perfectly upright (Deut. 32: 4-5)  Those who belong to Him have His righteousness and stand upright as well, just as those surrounding straight trees.  One of the most telling differences between the children of God and the surrounding crooked generation is doing everything without grumbling or arguing.

We all grumble, complain and argue.  I find it difficult to imagine never indulging in doing this.  But the idea is that a believer is not to be characterized by this behavior.  If I really believe that the Lord is in control of my life, then it stands to reason that He allows those complaint-inducing circumstances!!  I can complain about being stuck in traffic or I can trust God’s timing for my day.  I can pine away about what I do not have, or I can thank Him for all He does give me.

Lord, You are so good to me.  Keep me from complaining today.

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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!

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The Elephant Seal

elephant-sealScripture 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