Devotions By Jan


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The Cardinal

Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

It is not fair.  The male cardinal gets all the attention with its bright red plumage whereas the female is largely overlooked.  And yet,  although the colors are more subtle, she is beautiful too.  Normally among songbirds, the male is the only one to sing.  He will sing to defend his territory and during courtship.  However, the female cardinal also sings.  She sings mainly during the spring, during courtship and while sitting on her nest.  Her song is a bit longer and more complex than the male’s song.

Today’s verse downplays the differences between races, social status and between the sexes.  These words describe a coming together that is not so natural.  Believers can achieve oneness in Jesus Christ.  Regardless of our differences, followers of the Lord can have a unity that is remarkable!  Unlike the “birds of a feather who flock together,” the body of Christ is incredibly diverse.  People that would not normally come together find themselves sharing a deep bond in our shared love of Jesus!

What a beautiful testimony to find this unity in a world that is so divided!  Love that reaches across generation, gender and race is the mark of a Christian (Mark 13:35).  It is not natural.  I want that mark on my life, but it can only happen with the fruit of the Spirit in me.  It helps to remember that down deep, my soul is exactly the same as my neighbor’s.  I see differences but the Lord looks on the heart (I Sam 16:7).

Lord, thank you that You can bring together what the world does not!

 

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Coconut Worm Larvae

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” 

Perhaps they taste like chicken.  But is it really necessary to eat them alive?  The coconut worm larvae has a sweet coconut taste and are especially creamy when eaten raw!  This dish is considered a delicacy as street food for the Vietnamese.  I do not feel sorry for these small creatures as they easily bring down a mighty palm tree with their voracious appetite.  With their powerful jaws, they burrow holes up to a meter long in the trunk of a palm, eventually killing their host.

Today’s verse describes sin as “deceitful.”  It can slowly excavate holes in our faith and if left unchecked, can bring down the believer, leading him to a place of unbelief.  The sneaky nature of sin does its work inside where no one sees.  It can eventually hardened a heart.  That is why believers need one another to daily encourage each other to right living.  To delay even a day can put our hearts at risk.

Sometimes my sin can seem so puny and harmless.  There may even be some temporary sweetness that comes from it.  And that’s the deceitful part.  But I know how weak I am and that I am not above participating in any sin, especially in my thought life.  It does help me to be around other believers who can encourage me to stay the course.  And having the opportunity to build up someone else’s resolve serves to bolster my own faith as well.  More than anything, I want my heart to stay soft towards His Spirit.  And I want to stand firm to the very end!

Lord, I need to be encouraged today!

 

 

 


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“Tree of 40 Fruit”

Scripture for Today: Romans 11:18 “Do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: you do not support the root – but the root supports you.”

This tree looks completely mixed up!  Several different colors are blooming and in the summer it will bear several different kinds of fruit in sequence!  It is called the “Tree of 40 Fruit.”  Aken, an artist and professor at Syracuse University, put this strange tree together using a process called, “chip grafting.”  By doing this he has created a tree that bears forty different varieties of fruit with pits!

Today’s verse uses the imagery of grafting branches into an olive tree to describe how salvation was offered to the Gentile, or non-Jewish world.  Salvation was brought first to the Jewish race (Rom.1:16).  It was not until they rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah that the Gentiles as a group were included in God’s plan of salvation.  This is illustrated by some branches being cut off and others being grafted in.  In either case, all the branches are on the same footing as all of us are connected to the same Root.  Salvation does not depend on ourselves, our works, or our ethnicity.  It all depends on faith in Christ and His saving work on the cross.

Feeling superior to other races is a deplorable thing and yet, I will admit that I have had thoughts that are not too God-honoring.  Even though God’s love is constant and unconditional, I know that my pride saddens and disappoints Him.  How human it is to believe that one group is better and more deserving of God’s grace than another!  But grace is never deserved.  To be grafted in to the Source of life is an immense privilege and I am so grateful.

Thank you Lord, for including me!

 

 


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Table Runners

Scripture for Today: I Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

No one would know.  The damage to my table top and buffet is extensive as it dates back to the 1920’s.  I keep meaning to get it refinished but I know that each new move will add new nicks and scratches.  My solution is to cover over all the imperfections with table runners or table scarves.  I have quite a collection from all over the world and for every season.  The only way to see the problems would be to uncover the furniture to the light of day.

Today’s verse encourages the believer to love his brothers and sisters in Christ with a deep love.  Love covers over a multitude of sins.  And a deep love will require extending forgiveness.  This is a love that covers all wrongs suffered (Prov. 10:12).  Fostering this kind of love covers over an offense done to us, but repeating a matter can separate even close friends (Prov. 17:9).  This is no light-hearted superficial love.  For this, one has to dig down deep!  The hurt is still there and we bear the marks.  But we cover it with love and forgiveness. And in loving deeply, a relationship can be restored.

The only possible way to love in spite of hurts done to me is to look at what Christ did.  My sin hurt Him to the point of death.  He has the scars on His hands and side to prove it!  There is no deeper love than His for me.  If He could cover me with grace and forgiveness, than I need to do the same.  Surely, what has been done to me cannot compare to my sin and rebellion against Him.

Lord, help me to love others deeply and with forgiveness.

 


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Ruby Red

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 20:15. “Gold there is and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.”

This is called the “Carmen Lucia ruby” and has been on display at the Smithsonian Museum since 2004.  It was mined in 1930 in Burma, known for the most vibrant rubies in the world.  This 23 carat-faceted stone was in the collection of Carmen Lucia, purchased for her by her loving husband in anticipation of her recovery from cancer.  Sadly, she died and her husband donated it to the museum to honor her memory.  Of course this ruby is valuable but what makes it stand out even more is the story behind it.

As beautiful and rare as some rubies are, there is something that is described in today’s verse as a “rare jewel;” lips that speak knowledge.  We value gold and rubies for their beauty, rarity and worth.  Yet, lips that speak knowledge are even more rare and beautiful.  Knowing what to say and when to say it is invaluable!  It is the Lord that gives wisdom and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding (Prov. 2:6)  He is the source and it is when we fear, respect and show the awe due Him that we can possess this rare jewel. (Prov. 1:7)

I enjoy beautiful gems and jewelry, especially when the light catches them just right.  But there is nothing so off-putting as a woman bedecked in gold and rubies that opens her mouth and spoils the effect!  Knowledge, wisdom and understanding attract others.  More than a recitation of factual information, the knowledge and wisdom He gives allows me to use the right words to build up others (Eph. 4:29) benefitting those who listen.  His knowledge and wisdom coming out of my mouth will point others to Him.

Lord, make my lips a rare jewel today!

 


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Chinese Stamp

Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 3:14-15 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

The Chinese characters that make up my name define me as a forest, as successful and intelligent, and as a precious rare gem!  My husband had this Chinese stamp made for me during our tour of China at the start of our marriage.  It seemed appropriate as I was marrying into a family giving me a Chinese mother-in-law.  I am not sure how accurate it is or why a forest has anything to do with me.  But it is fun to think about the meaning of our names.

Today’s verse points out a commonality in all of our names.  Because God is the Father who created each and every family and its members, we all derive our name from Him.  God is “Jehovah-Ab” the Lord our Father (Isaiah 64:8).  We are all the work of His hands.  But to become a child of God, redeemed and inhabited by his Spirit, takes a step of faith and repentance (Eph. 3:16-17).  At that point there is no separation but only unity as His family.  Whether those already in heaven or those on earth, His children are part of one family.  There is no more Jew or Gentile, slave or free, or even male or female (Gal. 3:28).

Only the God of the universe could succeed in making such diverse people one family.  But because He can and does, I have brothers and sisters not only worldwide but across time!  That strong desire to belong is completely satisfied.  Every time I worship with others so different than myself, I get a small inkling of this incredible truth!  And like Paul, I kneel before the Father in gratitude!

Thank you Lord, for making me part of Your family!

 


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“Minister of Loneliness”

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 10:25 “not giving up meting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

In England, more than nine million people in 2017 admitted to feeling lonely some or all the time.  In response, the British government recently appointed a “Minister of Loneliness.”  Loneliness can put people at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression and anxiety.  Loneliness is said to be worse for health than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day!  One lonely woman  explained that what she lacked in her loneliness was a motivational support network that gives you direction on how to cope with problems.

Todays’s verse is certainly an answer for those who are lonely and lacking motivational support.  Meeting together with other believers spurs us on toward showing love and towards doing good works (verse 24).  Discouragement can so easily overtake us when we give up meeting together.  We need to be stimulated and strengthened in our faith.  We need to lift one another up and give one another support.  The Lord knows we need to be together regularly with other believers.

A quick fix for my loneliness is to surround myself with other people.  But sometimes it is not enough.  What I need is that deeper connection that comes from being with people of like mind.  It is only with other believers that I can have the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind (Phil. 2:2).  By meeting together I am encouraged that I am not alone in my struggles and can draw strength from others.  My faith is strengthened too when I can be the one doing the encouraging!  He knows I do better in community than alone.

Thank you Lord, for Your encouragement through Your people!