Devotions By Jan


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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.


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The Praying Mantis

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

This mantis looks to have been interrupted in his prayers!  These alien-looking insects got their name from their prayer-like stance.  These strange creatures are the only insects that can turn their heads 180 degrees!  They may look like they are praying but in fact they are very alert and highly visual, noticing any disturbance in their environment.  Even when flying at night some are able to avoid bats, detecting their echolocation sounds.

Today’s verse encourages the believer to pray on any and every occasion.  This verse closes out the passage talking about how to fight the spiritual war.  The battle we wage is not fought individually but in concert with others.  Of course we pray for ourselves.  We want strength, protection, and greater faith.  But we are also to be praying for all of the Lord’s people facing the same challenges we do.

We are told to be alert.  We need to have our “antennae” up and sensitive to needs around us.  All it takes is to turn our head in a half circle to see someone who needs prayer.  Our prayers lift up and encourage a fallen soldier.  Praying for another encourages them to get back in the battle and to persevere.

I sometimes feel that praying for others is not as important as some of the other ways we serve Him.  How often I have heard, (or said) “Well, I guess all I can really do is pray for her.”  Are not our prayers the most important thing we can do?

Lord, make me a faithful prayer warrior today!

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


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Locked Antlers

Scripture for Today: James 4:1 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

The bull moose antlers are impressive with a spread of up to 6 feet!  They can weigh as much as 40 pounds.  Each year they are shed and grown anew until old age.  Their size shows their status and strength, especially during mating season.  They are made of bone and are one single structure.  Two bull moose with similar sized antlers will face off and lock antlers over a female.  It is really sad when two moose get their antlers so entangled that they are unable to free themselves and they die!

Today’s verse was addressed to believers in the church.  These early Christians struggled with the very same thing we do today.  Desires battling within eventually show themselves in tensions and quarrels without.  The desires mentioned here are probably the result of “friendship with the world” (verse 4).  They desired what they did not have.  Praying for their desires would not have resolved the situation.  That is because they were asking with wrong motives and would spend what they received on themselves (verses 2-3).  There is only one solution and that is for our desires to change.

Most of my desires would probably fall into this same category.  I wish I could say differently.  The pull of the world is strong and so is envying what others have.  In my heart of hearts I know that possessions do not bring me true joy but it sure is easy to be distracted!  And when my selfish desires get in the way of a relationship I know it has gone too far.  I want those secret desires in my heart to be God-honoring and to be centered on Him.

Lord, help me to keep my desires in check.

 


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Caring Dolphins

Scripture for Today: Galatians 6:1-2  “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Awhile back I took my daughter whale watching but all we saw were dolphins.  Neither of us were disappointed though.  They are so much fun to watch, jumping, frolicking and following our boat.  Dolphins are such intelligent mammals and often will “bow-ride,” swimming alongside a ship to conserve energy.  But what is really surprising is their altruism!  A dolphin will stay by another ill or injured dolphin, even helping them to the surface to breathe!

Today’s verse is addressed to those who are living and walking by the Spirit.  Restoring a fellow believer who is broken with sin is more than just altruism but a command. This act of love and caring is done with kindness, tenderness and a gentle spirit.  When we restore someone to a close relationship with the Lord, we listen, we cry, we share, we pray together and we encourage confession.  How amazing it is to see God’s forgiveness make one whole again!

There are really two prerequisites to restoring a believer caught in sin.  The first is to be in right relationship with the Lord myself.  The second is to care, to care and love so much that I am willing to be involved, even long term.  To care that much means being a servant with my time.  It also means caring enough to risk misunderstanding and perhaps a broken relationship as a result of speaking truth.  But what a privilege to be used by Him to bring someone back!

Lord, make me willing to care that much!


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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!