Devotions By Jan


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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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Blooming Joshua Tree

Scripture for Today:  Psalms 28:2 “Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your Most holy Place.”

Looking like hands reaching up to the sky, the Joshua tree appears as if it praying!  This strange looking plant is native to the dry southwestern states but grows mostly in the Mojave Desert.  I have seen these odd looking trees but have never seen one in bloom.  They do not grow these white clusters every year as their appearance depends on the amount of rainfall.  Not only is rain a factor, but these flowers need a winter freeze before they will bloom!

Today’s verse is David’s cry for help in dealing with the wicked who surround him.  He lifts his hands for mercy, pleading with God not to turn a deaf ear or be silent (verse 1).  Like so many of the psalms written by David, it starts out with discouragement and even despair, but then finishes with praise!  What starts out as worry over God being silent, ends with recognition of His strength and salvation (verse 8).  David renews his trust and his heart even leaps for joy! (verse 7)

That beautiful cluster of blooms on the Joshua tree can only come after being frozen and seemingly dormant.  Many times, I feel as if life has stopped, waiting for that answer to prayer.  When the Lord answers, “wait,” to the cry of my heart, it seems as if He has turned a deaf ear.  But He is working.  I can trust that He has a plan even though I do not see it.  He wants me to remain quiet and calm as I anticipate His solution.  He can do so much more than I can ask or even imagine! (Eph. 3:20)

Lord, help me trust that You hear my cry.


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Willow Leaves

Scripture for Today: Colossians 1:11 “being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”

Patience is a virtue that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe likened to the willow leaf.  This 17th century German writer and statesman said, “A leaf that is destined to grow large is full of grooves and wrinkles at the start.  Now if one has no patience and wants it smooth offhand like a willow leaf, there is trouble ahead.”  These leaves are shiny, thin and 2-4 inches long.  But of course, they do not start off so large and smooth.  It will take lots of sunshine, water and time to get to this stage.

Today’s verse is an encouragement.  That elusive quality of patience is something that comes, not from ourselves, but from His power.  The believer is strengthened with power from His glorious might to have great endurance and patience.  It is not something we can naturally muster up on our own.  Over time, He develops it in us as we become more like Him.  It is part of the work He does in us (Phil. 1:6).  And more often than not, this quality of patience grows out of living through difficulties.

In the space of three days, I had ample opportunity to show patience.  After experiencing jet lag, toilet emergencies, roof leaks, and a power outage, it was almost comical….almost.  My leaves are still not so large and smooth.  There are still plenty of rough edges!  But God’s reassurance of His control calmed me down.  I am thankful that being in His Word has encouraged me and helped me stay in that place of quiet confidence (Rom. 15:4).  Things may fall apart around me, but I don’t want to fall apart too!

Lord, thank you for Your strength and patience!


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Silk Floss Tree

Scripture for Today:  Col. 3:12-13  “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else.  Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.”

We have one of these silk floss trees growing right down the street from us.  Their blooms are beautiful and inviting, resembling the hibiscus.  And their pods are full of a cotton-like fiber that some use in making upholstery.  But their trunks and branches are covered with these thorn-like growths.  Some tree owners even put a barrier up so the passerby does not inadvertently knock into it.

Today’s verse reminded me of this tree.  A believer can seem pleasant and inviting by wearing mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and even patience.  But without the grace to bear with each other’s faults we become harsh.  Without forgiveness, we are like those prickly thorns and people keep their distance.  Our motivation to forgive others is the realization of how much the Lord has forgiven us.

Forgiveness has got to be one of the hardest things the Lord asks of me.  When I have been wronged, I feel it is my right to harbor ill will, at least until that person shows some remorse.  But letting go of the hurt seems nearly impossible until I am able to forgive the one who caused it.  True healing can only happen when I let that person off the hook, regardless of their attitude about it.  Jesus died for my sins while I was still His enemy (Romans 5:6-8).  If I am to forgive like He forgave, then I need to extend forgiveness whether deserved or not!

Lord, I need Your help to forgive.

 

 


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Nurse Log

Scripture for Today: John 12:24 “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

How strange to see a tree growing out of the remains of another!  This tree grows in the Cathedral Grove of Vancouver Island.  But throughout our Pacific Northwest, nurse logs can be seen.  When a whole row of trees are growing in a perfectly straight line , they are probably marking the place where an old tree fell.  These chunks of dead wood become cradles for new life!  That is because they give a head start to young seedlings as they decay, providing water, moss, leaf litter, disease protection and nutrients.

Today’s verse includes the same principle of having more impact dying in the service of others than living for one’s self.  The next verse explains that those who love their lives, lose them.  But the one who hates his life will keep it.  The nurse log has literally died as has the kernel of wheat in our verse.  However, our dying as believers has more to do with giving up rights and privileges in serving others.   Picking up our cross and following Jesus involves the daily denying of ourselves in the interest of others (Mark 8:34).

This is just as hard as it sounds and for me, proves to be a daily struggle.  My needs, my wants, my preferences…. I am not to hold on to them too tightly.  If by putting myself second I can encourage someone else, than I am being a “nurse log.”  Enough of these selfless acts will add up to creating a legacy that lives on even after my actual death!

Lord, make me a servant today!

 


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Giant Sequoia

Scripture for Today:Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

The “General Sherman” sequoia is by volume the largest known living single-stem tree on earth.  It stands proudly at 275 feet tall and is 36 feet in diameter.  Those standing at its base must feel completely awed by its grandeur.  One would think this giant of a tree impervious to the footsteps of us mere mortals.  But in fact, a fence is built around the base.  It is there to protect its shallow roots from being stepped on and trampled!  Damage to its roots could have serious consequences!

Today’s verse talks about where we place our roots.  We have a choice.  We put down roots in the nourishing soil of Christ’s love and so be built up and strengthened (Eph. 3:17).  Or we can plant ourselves in the toxic soil of hollow and deceptive philosophies, based on human tradition (verse 8).  Strong deep roots in Him will take no account of human foot traffic!  Faith remains strong and vibrant when Christ is the object of that faith.

I will not grow strong and firmly planted when I read, see or listen to prevailing thought that discounts God and His Word.  I am surrounded by godless philosophy and it is a struggle to be intentional about what I allow to influence me.  The more I compromise, the more shallow and vulnerable my convictions become.  Shallow roots mean I am swaying with the next wind storm of trial.  I want to stay strong and continue growing deep roots in Him.

Lord, keep me in You and in Your Word.

 


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Cherry Picking

Scripture for Today: Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely through His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Two cherry laden trees sat untouched half way through my vineyard walk.  Every day I would check on their progress.  Today the cherries were not only at their peak but some were even rotting on the branches.  It seemed the most natural thing to do to help myself to a few hand fulls.  The sweet juice dripped all over my fingers, staining them red and purple.  Although I was sure the owner would not mind, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could be caught “red-handed” as technically I had taken something not belonging to me!

Today’s verse explains that we are all red-handed.  “Sin had left a crimson stain” on all of our hands as we are all guilty of breaking God’s perfect law.  There is no way to remove that stain on our own.  But thankfully, one pair of hands are not red but nail-scarred.  Because of His amazing grace we are justified or declared righteous through what Christ did on that cross.  He sacrificed Himself freely out of love for us and not because we deserved it.

I want clean hands and a pure heart.  It is only then that I can enjoy Him, receive blessing and vindication from Him (Ps. 24;3-5).  But there is no cleansing without the humility to admit guilt and come clean with the Lord.  Rather than hiding my hands behind my back, He invites me to discover grace and forgiveness.  He is faithful and just to always forgive and give me a clean start. (I John 1:9)

Thank you Lord, that I can always come clean with You.