Devotions By Jan


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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!

 


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Standoff!

Scripture for Today: Matthew 5;13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”

This State Trooper in Western New York had quite the story to tell!  There on a snow covered road in a small town, this horse blocked his way and would not move!  He had wandered away yet again from his owners.  The trooper tried to lure him off the road with a hand full of alfalfa.  But the horse would not budge, preferring instead to lick the salt off the hood of the car!  Horses required two to four tablespoons of salt per day but that would normally come from a salt block.

Today’s verse tells us that as believers we are called the salt of the earth.  We are to have an influence on those around us.  Our tasty contribution to this world is to draw attention to the Father and His glory (verse 16).  We sprinkle our surroundings with acts of love and kindness that point to Him.  But we can lose that saltiness by living for our own comfort and pleasure.  We can become tasteless by taking credit for the good things we have done rather than giving Him the praise that is due Him.

For me to be salt and an influence for Christ, I need to be out there in the world.   Salt does no good sitting on the shelf with all the other salt shakers.  But there is always the risk of losing my saltiness.  Living to serve others is often not a comfortable way to live.  I am faced everyday with the temptation to live entirely for myself.

Lord, keep me salty for You.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/khq.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/80/48054c2a-5041-11ea-afad-fb2b43d6d280/5e486e97f1de1.image.png?resize=750%2C412


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Flying in Formation

Scripture for Today:  Philippians 2:1-2  “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and consolation, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

This image of perfect synchronized flying is amazing!  These birds must have the same destination in their little bird brains!  But more than that, they are flying at the same height and the same speed to get there!  No one is jostling for position or lagging behind the others.  Their united purpose brings them together and keeps them together.

In today’s verse, Paul seems to think that Christians can be united in spirit.  Not only that but he appears to be saying that believers can be in agreement, loving one another and intent on going in the same direction!  How does that happen?  When there is encouragement.  When there is consolation.  When there is fellowship and affection for one another.  We not only need the love and encouragement of other believers to keep going , but “flying together” brings honor to Christ!  It is what signals to the world that we are His disciples (John 13:35).

I am going in the same direction as so many other believers.  Like them, my desire is to grow in faith and be more like Jesus.  It is a long life-time purpose.  But going it alone is not what the Lord wants.  Just as I take notice of these three birds flying in perfect harmony, so the world sits up and takes notice of believers that are showing love and unity.  Being united and showing love to one another is something supernatural but He makes it possible!

Thank you Lord, that I do not have to do this alone!

 

Photo credit: David Joyce at https://www.flickr.com/photos/deapeajay/2694162918


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The Magic of Fireflies

Scripture for Today:  Matthew 5:16  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Fireflies are so intriguing!  When they light up a tree it is magical and looks like a fairyland.  The chemical reaction of these ugly winged beetles produces light but not heat.  They glow without wasting any energy.  All one hundred percent of their energy goes into making their light.  The purpose of their glow is to attract, either a mate or their prey.  Their light attracts me too although I do not fit either category!

Today’s verse talks about the attractive light of our good deeds.  When our kindness to others is done to give honor to the Heavenly Father, we shine as lights.  In a dark and selfish world our lives stand out and shine. The purpose of our light is not to attract people to ourselves, but to our Lord.  We are to be open about the reasons behind our giving to others.  It is not about me.  It is about Him.

I often feel that my acts of love and kindness towards others do not make much difference.  But even a pinpoint of light in the darkness is noticed.  When He is given the recognition He deserves than my little light has a huge purpose.  My focus should not be praise and recognition for myself but for Him!  My light is to pierce the darkness and point others to Jesus who Himself is the Light of the world!  And of course, when a group of flickering lights are together (as in the Church) the impact is that much more remarkable and beautiful!

Lord, show me how to shine for You today!


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Yuletide Log

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”

Christmas is not just about the pretty lights and decorations.  Just as important to that “Chrismassy” feeling are the aromas!  Whether it is hot cocoa, peppermint or gingerbread, the smells can make one feel the magic of the season.  As wonderful as the aromas of cooking can be, some of us use shortcuts!  One can now buy a yuletide log for the fire that gives off the odor of fried chicken!

Today’s verse brings to mind a victory march after a battle.  Christ is at the head of this processional and we are the spoils of war.  Being His captives means we are subjects of a new King.  He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son (Col.1:13).  No longer are we slaves to sin.  And one of our identifying marks is our “smell.”  Believers are to be an aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere we go.

For some, my aroma is not so pleasant.  In fact, I even stink to people who are rejecting the Savior.  But for the one being drawn to Him, I am a pleasing aroma (verses 15-16).  He has promised to use me to spread the aroma of Him.  When I praise Him to others, I smell good.  When I encourage someone to trust Him, I smell good. And when I stay faithful to Him even in the midst of horrible circumstances, I smell good.  Knowing Him is an aroma and influence that can go a long way.

Lord, may I smell good for You today!

 

 


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Bonded Leather

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 4:3 “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

I was horrified to pull back my couch cover and see how the bonded leather was “unbonding!”  After just two years the couch was showing signs of this kind of wear.  It was my own fault for not researching the meaning of “bonded leather” before buying it.  But because the price was hefty and it was from a reputable well-known brand, I did not think it through.  This kind of leather is made up of many small pieces bonded or glued together.  Those that sell it admit that it will only hold up three to five years.  What a disappointment!

Today’s verse talks about a supernatural bond of peace that is the work of the Holy Spirit in believers.  Those belonging to Jesus come in all shapes and sizes, different races and cultures, social standings, income and education.  We are little pieces bonded together making a whole.  We are part of one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father! (verses 4-6).  And this peace is something we are to strive to keep.

The Lord knows me.  He knows how easily I can nitpick and criticize.  I so easily focus on differences rather than recognize what unites me with my brothers and sisters.  The Lord has shown me incredible grace, and yet I am slow to show that same grace to others.  Our unity is more important than me being right, recognized or visible.  Our unity can be a powerful draw to the world.  And oh how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Ps. 133:1)

Thank you Lord, that You make possible this bond of peace.  Help me to keep it!