Devotions By Jan


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Butting Heads

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

Perhaps it is not so serious when humans butt heads. However, for goats with protruding horns, there is a definite risk of injury. An older goat may butt his head against the leg of his owner just to get more attention and affection! But between goats, butting heads can indicate stress or illness. The most common cause however is to show dominance. Goats, like chickens, have their own pecking order and will butt heads, kick or bite in order to show who’s boss!

Today’s verse was addressed to believers in the church. These early Christians struggled with the very same thing we do today. We are selfish and we want our own way. 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, keep me from butting heads over selfish desires.


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“Flocking”

Scripture for Today: I Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

I have often heard the phrase, “flock of sheep.” But I never considered the word, “flock” as a verb. But in fact, this is an instinctive behavior for sheep. Normally, sheep will graze in loose bunches but they will form a tight flock when they feel threatened. Flocking is their main defense and they will form that tight group very quickly. This makes a predator’s chance of singling out and nabbing a sheep much more difficult.

Today’s verse speaks of a predator in our lives who looks to nab and devour the believer. The devil is described as a stealthy and hungry lion who is on the prowl for that isolated sheep. When distanced from the rest of the flock, this believer is vulnerable to attack. We are told to be alert to this danger and sober minded to recognize the risk. We are not to give up meeting together as believers as is the habit of some. (Heb. 10:24-25) Instead, we are to be together, encouraging one another, loving on each other and motivating each other to a life of service to God.

I need to be flocking. I need to feel the warmth and closeness of other believers. I need to draw strength and encouragement from the faith of others as others do from me. No man can be an island and expect to escape the notice of the one one who looks to destroy with doubts and discouragement. I am fooling myself to think I can go indefinitely without the physical presence of my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is together that we fight off the enemy and stay strong in our faith.

Lord, keep me in Your flock.


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Mistletoe

Scripture for Today: Romans 16:16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.”

Today is our 42nd wedding anniversary and no one needs to remind us to kiss today! But this mistletoe has long been associated with kissing. It seems strange as it is just a parasitic plant feeding off its host tree. But kissing under mistletoe has been part of Christmas tradition since the 18th century. In fact, it goes much further back having supposed magical powers to fend off evil spirits! I prefer the idea of love and romance!

Today’s verse tells us that believers are to warmly greet one another. The custom then was to greet with a chaste kiss. This custom continues today around the world. After more than three decades in France, I am accustomed to greeting others with a kiss on the cheek. It could be twice, three times or four depending on the region. But the idea is to acknowledge one another’s presence and make the other feel loved and important in whatever way is socially acceptable. In these days of hyper-sensitivity to germs, the elbow tap or fist bump has become another way to greet.

That warm greeting is so important. I love it when churches actually have folks at the entrance who officially greet you with that smile and handshake. We need to affirm one another and show genuine interest. We are all members of the same “body” of Christ and we need each other. My problem is that I am so centered on myself and my own needs. I forget that we all have the same need to be encouraged. It takes such little effort to greet as we should, but how much it can do to lift one’s spirit!

Thank you Lord, for mutual encouragement!


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Silkworms

Scripture for Today: Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

We had the privilege of visiting a silk-making factory in Taiwan and seeing all those larvae in their cocoons.  The process has been around for almost 5 thousand years in China.  The resulting silk is not only beautiful but soft and silky to the touch.  But how strange to think it all starts with worm spit!  The unwrapping of each cocoon supplies one long strand of 1000 feet, three of which are needed for a single thread.  In fact, it takes 2,500 cocoons to make one pound of silk.  No wonder silk is thought to be such a luxury.

Today’s verse points out that believers, though being many, form one body.  Christ is our head and as the Church we are the body (I Cor. 12:12-13).  Just as there are many cocoons and strands of thread to make up silk, so we as Christ-followers form together just one entity.  This does not happen outside of the supernatural peace Christ gives.  When we allow that peace to rule and govern attitudes and actions, we can enjoy not only our unity but the beautiful results!

My little strand I add to the whole may not seem like anything.  On my own I do not amount to much.  But added together with all the other strands I become part of that one beautiful body giving glory to Jesus!  I am called to peace by the very One who provides it.  And that peace is a direct result of loving and forgiving others (verse 13-14).  Loving and forgiving can sometimes seem impossible, but “how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” (Ps. 133:1)

Lord, help me live this peace.

(Look familiar?  Summer reposing while reposting!)


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Bougainvillea

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.

(Look familiar?  Summer reposing while reposting!)