Devotions By Jan


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Inside Out Flower

Scripture for Today: Mark 7:15 “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

If one were to take a walk in the coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest right now, this delicate wildflower might be seen.  It is a wildflower with petal-like sepals that being swept back make it look as if the flower were inside out!  Its official name is, “Vancouveria Hexandra,” named after the British explorer, Captain George Vancouver.  But I prefer the more creative name of “Inside Out.”

Today’s verse has an inside and an outside.  The Lord is speaking to the Pharisees who challenged Him about following their ceremonial laws.  These religious leaders had burdened the people with a crippling weight of laws.  Jesus pointed out that laws and policies do not have the power to change what is on the inside.  What sullies and makes one dirty is not anything on the outside of man.  It is the evil that comes from inside (verse 23).  One can change laws, leaders or levels of education and privilege but none of this will change the core problem; an unclean heart.

In a troubled world where social injustice is on everyone’s mind, I do not want to be “inside out.”  The core problem is not on the outside but on the inside of all of us.  Lasting change is only possible when Christ makes us a “new creation” in Him (II Cor. 5:17).  My most loving unselfish response is to point others to the One who can change a heart for all eternity.  What an incredible shame if in addressing the outside of man I miss the inside!  What good would it be to gain the whole world but lose one’s soul? (Mark 8:36)

Thank you Lord, for changing me on the inside.    


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Thick Skinned?

Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

When I think of thick skinned animals I think of the pachyderms: the rhinoceros, hippopotamus and the elephant.  But the giraffe has thick skin too, up to 7 inches!  They need that thick tight skin on their lower extremities to maintain high extravascular pressure on their weight-bearing blood vessels.  The pressure of that thick skin works just like a pilot’s g suit!

Today’s verse commands us to be tender-hearted.  This seems like the exact opposite of being thick skinned! If we are tender towards others than we can be kind and we can be compassionate.  But if our hearts are tender for this purpose, than our hearts may also be vulnerable to attack.  Having a tender heart means we could be hurt, which is why the next words are about forgiveness.  But whether or not we are hurt, it is a tender heart that can offer forgiveness.

When I have a tender heart towards others than I feel their hurts.  But then I feel my own as well.  It would be so much more comfortable to be thick skinned and avoid emotional hurts.  Those insults, name calling and gossip do not feel so good.  But the wonderful part about having a tender heart is that I can realize Christ’s forgiveness for me!  Not only can my tender heart experience His complete pardon,  but I can extend that forgiveness to others.  When I close my heart against the one who hurt me, developing “thick skin,” I am less able to feel God’s unconditional love for me.  Having a tender heart has a price but not as high as the cost of thick skin!

Lord, keep me tender-hearted!

 

 


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The Osprey

Scripture for Today: Matthew 4:19 “‘Come follow Me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.'”

I wondered what I was seeing standing so proudly at the top of a mast at the harbor.  The osprey is quite the accomplished “fisherman!”  Ninety-nine percent of his diet is fish.  He plunges feet first into the water from 30-50 feet up in the air and has a reversible outer toe!  It can be moved either to the front of the foot or moved to the back of the foot.  This gives him a two-toe formation forward or back for carrying off his fish.

In today’s verse Jesus invites two fisherman, Andrew and Simon-Peter, to join Him.  Two more were then called; James and John (verse 21-22).  All four responded immediately to the call.  Jesus spoke in terms to which these fishermen could relate.  Following Jesus would mean for them leaving their livelihood and putting people first.  And like the osprey, they would need that flexible reversible toe.  The disciples would be talking to people of all classes, races and religious backgrounds.  Like Paul would later say, it was important to become all things to all people in order to save some for the sake of the Gospel (I Cor. 9:22-23).

Putting people first is not always my natural inclination.  My own comfort or agenda often takes priority over God’s invitation.  But the message of God’s grace is to be shared, and I need to relate the Gospel in a way others can understand.  To become all things to all people means I need to find common ground.  It means I need to ask questions and listen intently to their thinking before I share.  Not only does this show respect but helps me know what they need to hear.

Lord, make me sensitive to the need of others.

 


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The Peacock Butterfly

Scripture for Today: Psalm 54:7 “You have delivered me from all my troubles and  my eyes have looked in triumph over my foes.”

The peacock bird is not the only one who can boast about its “eyes.”  The peacock butterfly is recognizable for its four large eyespots, similar to the peacock bird.  But for the butterfly, these eyes are not just for looks.  They serve to confuse and startle its predators.  Their predators sense that the spots may belong to a potential enemy.  That moment of hesitation is often all that is need to save the life of this butterfly.

Today’s verse is from a psalm that cries out to God for help.  David is being pursued by Saul with the help of the Ziphites (I Sam. 23:19-29).  The situation was serious as they were intent on killing him.  David finds reassurance in proclaiming God as his help (verse 4).  Instead of allowing his predicament to overwhelm him, David remembers that God has delivered him in the past and his eyes have looked in triumph on his enemies.  And that is exactly what happens again!  Just as Saul and his men were closing in, a messenger arrives to bring Saul back to deal with the invading Philistines!

My eyes will one day look in triumph over my enemies as well.  The Lord is for me and though I encounter plenty of trouble, Christ has already overcome the world (John 16:33) and this is my encouragement.  My enemies are sometimes visible but many times are not as the battle is spiritual in nature (Eph. 6:12).  Regardless, He has given me spiritual eyes to see His presence and protection!  And His eyes are on me!  He is El Roi, the God who sees and I can count on Him.

Thank you Lord, for getting me out of what can appear hopeless!

 

 


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My Father’s Gift

Scripture for Today:Matthew 7:9-10 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”

My Dad loved to bowl which may explain how this happened.  For months as a young girl, I dropped many not-so-subtle hints about the expensive doll I had seen advertised.  That Christmas morning, trembling with excitement, I made a beeline for that big narrow box tagged with my name.  What keen disappointment I felt when unwrapping a toy bowling set instead of a doll!  My Father gave it out of love but it was not the good gift I was expecting.

Today’s passage explains that our Heavenly Father gives good gifts to His children when we ask Him (verse 11).  In answer to our prayers, He gives to His own exactly what is good for us.  He is not random nor is He arbitrary.  Our Father is a perfect Father.  He sees past what may be selfish or frivolous requests.  He answers the deeper need we sometimes do not even see.  And what is so amazing is that our Father is the unrecognized Source of much that is good in our lives!

I have heard people quip, “Be careful what you pray for, you just may get it.”  The idea is that we will be sorry we ever asked.  That does not describe my perfect heavenly Father.  What He gives me is out of love and always for my good.  If I mistakenly ask for a stone or a snake, He has committed Himself to giving only what is good for me.  I can trust His goodness in all of His answers.  I am so glad He sees what is good for me when I cannot.

Thank you Lord, for being a good good Father!