Devotions By Jan


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Bedazzled!

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 61:10 “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Each year at the Oscars, the red carpet showcases women decked out in their finery and in their dazzling jewelry.  This particular necklace, worn by Nicole Kidman at the 2008 Oscars, is made up of 1,399 carats of rough diamonds!  The jewels worn this year have been valued at as much as 20 million dollars a person!  For the most part, these pieces are only borrowed luxury from their jewelers.

Today’s verse brings all kinds of images to mind.  As believers we are clothed in the Lord’s righteousness.  The material is pure dazzling white because of the forgiveness we receive by faith.  As the Church, we are the Bride of Christ.  We are purified and presented to Him without spot or wrinkle.  We are glorious, set apart in a love relationship with Him (Eph. 5:27).  As if that were not enough, it will be as if we are adorned with jewelry on that beautiful day that begins our eternity with Him!

I would love to wear dazzling show-stopping jewelry.  But the adornment I have to look forward to makes the finery on this earth look like cheap plastic imitations.  His righteousness makes me beautiful.  And the gentle and quiet spirit He makes possible is worth so much more in His sight (I Peter 3:4).  His garments of salvation are in such contrast to the “filthy rags” of my own efforts (Isaiah 64:6).  There is delight and joy at the thought of being adorned with His beauty!

Lord, may Your beauty be seen in me today!

 

 

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Singing Stress Away

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 4:4-5 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith and one baptism.”

Have you ever noticed how singing with others can lift a mood?  A study was recently done saying 96% of those participating in singing groups felt less stress in their lives.  Singing releases endorphins and oxytocin, relieving anxiety and stress.  And this wonderful effect is amplified in a group.  In fact, music vibrations can be felt by each member, moving through bodies simultaneously.  When this happens, everyone’s heart beats can even become synchronized!

Today’s verse stresses oneness and unity.  With all the possible divisions between believers, it is good to be reminded that our hope and faith make us one.  When we meet together for corporate worship rather than worshipping on our own, we can sense this unity through song.  Singing together brings us together, getting our minds off our differences and turning our thoughts toward the Savior we have in common.  Together, we are to hold unswervingly to that “one hope” we profess (Heb. 10:23).  Meeting together and singing together encourages our faith and spurs us on to love and good works (Heb. 10:25).

Discouragement can so easily overtake me when I give up meeting together.  I need to be stimulated and strengthened in my faith.  We all need to lift one another up and give one another support.  I need that deeper connection that comes from being with people of like mind.  Lifting my voice up in song with other believers makes, “having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind,” a reality! (Phil. 2:2)  Although every tongue and nation will sing with one voice in Heaven, I need those moments of “oneness” today.

Thank you Lord, for those precious moments of unity!

 

 


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Together

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 12:26 “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

How heart warming it is to see people come together in times of grief!  This picture however, is not of a funeral but a wedding.  There is joy for the newly married couple but also grief at the imminent passing of the bride’s father.  This group of believers may be very different from one another.  But what unites them is their shared joy and pain.  Not only is each individual helped but the one they are surrounding is uplifted by this show of oneness and support.

In today’s verse there is both suffering and joy.  Both emotions can be shared within Christ’s body, the Church even though we show and experience emotion in different ways.  The weight of emotion is not quite as heavy when it is shared.  That sharing brings us together and emphasizes our oneness.  We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).  Doing so makes our unity that much stronger.  And when we are one, people can see Christ in us (John 17:20-23).

There is nothing worse than feeling strong emotions and having no one with which to share them.  Both intense joy and grief can increase feelings of isolation when they are not shared.  But when I can relate in this way with other believers, I connect on another level.  My little part of the body feels more integrated.  And what is really amazing is that this connection between believers somehow glorifies Christ and He is seen more clearly in me and in all of us!

Thank you Lord, for the connection I can have with other believers.


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The Dung Beetle

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 6:10 “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” 

There is good reason why this is called a “dung beetle” as these little guys feed on feces!  They can be seen rolling balls of it bigger than themselves.  They will roll it long distances to bury them for the eggs they will hatch.  Seeing one of these struggling uphill reminds me of the Greek mythological figure, Sisyphus.  His punishment in Hades was to roll a large boulder uphill.  At the summit it would repeatedly roll back down so that the struggle begins again.

Today’s verse is an encouragement to keep on keeping on!  God sees and takes note of every work done to help other believers.  These good works are in response to the needs around us.  But they are done with a motivation that is pure and unsullied.  They are done to show the Lord how much we love Him.  Believers are to be diligent (verse 11) and not give in to the temptation of letting go (verse 12).  These verses remind us that there is reward for our diligence (verse 12).

It can be discouraging to feel that we are not seeing any result for our work.  It can feel like pushing that boulder uphill.  But God is not unjust.  He sees and remembers each and every act of service I do out of love for Him.  It may not be recognized or appreciated here.  Regardless of people’s response, my motivation is to please and honor Him out of my love for Him.  Meeting the needs of others is a concrete way I can show the Lord my love.

Thank you Lord that You see, You remember, and You reward.


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Remarkable Friendship!

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

How strange to see these turtles fearlessly climbing all over this alligator!  The alligator is a meat-eater and turtles certainly qualify as meat.  Could it be that the warmth of the sun has just made everyone too lazy to eat?  Sometimes a turtle will even hitch a ride on the back of an alligator.  This uneasy peace is the result of the shape of the turtle’s shell.  If it is too high the alligator’s jaws will not be able to snap shut!

Today’s verse talks about something as unnatural as turtles and alligators hanging out together; getting along, harmony, oneness, peace.  It is not in our natures to strive for this.  It is much easier to divide into factions or to stand up for one’s rights.  We want recognition and special treatment even at the cost of unity.  But thankfully, we have the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  He is our peace and because of Him we can feel a oneness with believers who are so different than ourselves.

Our differences do not need to separate us.  Our differing race, language, or social status do not have to be a barrier to oneness.  Even differing styles of worship do not have to divide us when we are walking by the Spirit.  I am thankful to experience this oneness with French believers.  It is truly a work of the Spirit that unites us.  We are so different from one another.  Yet it is our common love for Jesus that binds us together.  The bond of peace is so sweet and worth the effort to guard and keep!

Lord, help me to value unity and peace as much as You do.


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The Backhoe

Scripture for Today: I Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Life comes to a complete stand-still for my young grandsons when one of these earth moving machines rolls into view.  I am not sure why the fascination but at least it’s free entertainment!  It took some “digging” to learn the difference between these different machines.  I learned that the backhoe pictured here is different than the excavator as it digs by pulling the earth backwards towards itself, rather than lifting the earth.

Today’s verse reminds the believers in the Thessalonian church to continue building up and encouraging each other.  They were told to encourage one another with the truth of our hope in Jesus Christ.  Regardless of pain and suffering, persecution and even death, they could look forward to living with Him eternally.  These were the words that would build up the one going through a hard time.  We are to be the “excavator,” lifting up that dirt.

I do not want to be that backhoe.  It is moving that dirt towards itself.  The “backhoe” wants all the attention on him.  Rather than being concerned for the other, the self-centered believer takes and takes without reciprocating.  My focus is to be on the one who needs lifting up.

A friend asked this morning how I was doing and I shared a few struggles.  She grabbed my hand right there and prayed for me.  I was so touched.  It was only right that I turn the question around and ask her what she was facing.  And it seemed the most natural thing in the world to also pray for her!  We were both lifted up and encouraged.

Thank you Lord, for the encouragement we can give and receive!

 


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Mixed Up!

img_20161016_171121Scripture for Today: Ephesians 4:3 “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

While taking a power walk at the harbor I came across this car looking totally mixed up!  From one angle it looks white but from another perspective it looks black.  I am not sure what the point of painting it like this was but it did make me pause and think.  Maybe the wife wanted it white and the husband preferred black.  Perhaps the only way to keep the peace was to compromise and have it both ways!

Today’s verse says what we all realize.  Keeping any group of two or more unified takes effort.  What I like about this car image is that unity is preserved without being uniform.  Diversity does not negate unity.  And the unity through the Spirit of God encompasses all kinds of differences in color, custom, gender, social status, and education.  It is God’s peace through His Spirit that creates a supernatural bond that holds us together.

Maintaining this unity is sure not easy.  How easy it is to think that my way of living and doing things is the best way!  I cannot possibly keep any sort of unity unless I can “bear with one another in love.” (verse 2)  I know I am loving in the way that preserves unity when I am humble, gentle and patient towards the one who is different (verse 2).  So what if one side is white and one side is black?  It is still one car.  How boring it would be if we were all the same!  And what other group on this earth can be so diverse and at the same time be one?

Lord, keep me loving, patient, gentle and humble to preserve this precious unity in You.

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