Devotions By Jan

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Pulmonaria Spilled Milk

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now, it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

One can understand how this plant got its name! The leaves of this semi-evergreen perennial are splotched with white, looking like someone spilled milk on them. The phrase, “don’t cry over spilled milk,” is attributed to James Howel, a British historian who used it is his writings in 1659. By it we mean there is no use in being upset over what has already happened.

Today’s verse tells us not to dwell on the past. Whether what is behind us is something negative or positive, we are not to keep our focus there but to be looking forward. We can miss the new thing He wants to create in our lives.  To us it may not look like much.  Our lives can even resemble a wilderness or wasteland.  But He has a purpose in mind and His plans are always good. His way goes straight through the dry times to life-giving springs of water!

During uncertain and negative times, my thoughts turn to the past. It is easier to focus there than to look around and see less-than- perfect circumstances! But I do have a choice. I can either look at the wilderness and wasteland OR I can look at the streams of water He has provided to meet my needs. I can bemoan the spilled milk all over the place representing some good things I have had to give up OR I can look to my Lord for the new thing He wants to create in me and my world.

Lord, help me to trust You and the new thing You are doing!

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Finding Life

Scripture for Today: Matthew 16:25 “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.”

This is exactly the kind of behavior we would see from Tiger when thunder would clap over the house and he would run for cover! The instinct in animals for self-preservation is a strong one. And we as humans are not much different. It is normal to want to protect our lives from natural disasters, serious illness or accident. We do not look to put ourselves in harm’s way. We take the necessary precautions. We take the safest route. We live our lives so as to avoid disaster.

The truth in today’s verse seems contrary to human nature. Of course we are going to try to save our lives when we feel that they are threatened. But at what cost? Peter had just rebuked Jesus, trying to discourage Him from going to Jerusalem. Suffering and death awaited Jesus there and He knew it. Yet He turned toward what would be certain death. Unlike Peter, Jesus had in mind the concerns of God and not merely human concerns (verse 23). It was because Jesus walked in obedience to the Father that He could set aside the restraints of self-preservation.

Finding true rewarding and fulfilling life only happens when I am willing to risk my own safety and comfort. Protecting my life at any cost makes me lose it! Christ bought my life at an incredible cost to Himself, not so that I can hide under the covers and wait for danger to pass. The goal of my life is not to preserve it but to spend it in service to Him. Following Him means picking up my cross daily in obedience (verse 24) despite personal risk.

Lord, may You find me faithful.

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A White Camellia

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

This beautiful flower comes in different shades of pink and red. But it is the white camellia that has special significance in the novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Jem destroys the cantankerous Mrs. Dubose’s camellia bush after she insults his family. Later, after reading to her as a sort of penitence insisted on by his father, she dies. But not before presenting Jem with a box containing a white camellia. This beautiful flower is now seen as representing understanding and patience.

Today’s verse from Proverbs tells us that it is from wisdom and understanding that patience can come. Overlooking an offense is the result of that patience and understanding. And overlooking an offense done to one’s self is admirable, commendable and puts one in a good light! It is difficult and sometimes nearly impossible, but if done, it can be to our glory! It certainly is not to our glory to respond to that offense with bitterness and retaliation.

Just as Jem could get past the old lady’s meanness when understanding her addictions, I can be more gracious when understanding the struggles of the one who hurt me. Understanding their circumstances and frustrations can make me more patient. Understanding too how much the Lord has forgiven me helps me extend that same grace. But I do have trouble letting go of hurtful words and slights and it is inglorious! I need the help of His Spirit to truly forgive from the heart. He wants me to overlook it with grace and forgiveness. In doing so I am well viewed by others but more importantly, He is glorified!

Lord, make me wise enough to understand and show patience.

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Great Slave Lake

Scripture for Today: II Peter 2:19 “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”

What an odd name for a lake! This immense body of freshwater is Canada’s second largest and is located in the Northwest Territory. This lake and many other bodies of water in that region are named after the Slave Indians. I was expecting to learn of a past full of slavery. However, the Slavey Indian Tribe were never actually slaves. Their name for themselves is “Dene.” The Slave name was given them by their more aggressive neighbors, the Chee.

I have never been a slave either. At least I used to think that way, but today’s verse tells me something different. We are slaves to whatever masters us. One can think one is free when at the same time being a slave to depravity. The “lustful desires of the flesh” (verse 18) can unknowingly be our master. We are told we are slaves either to sin or to obedience and righteousness. (Rom. 6:16) We serve one or the other of these two masters!

It is disconcerting to see that there is no middle ground! But if I have to be a slave, controlled by something outside of myself, I would rather it be something good and positive! When Christ took my place by dying on the cross, He broke the power of sin to master me! Now, I am truly free to serve Him. And what a loving and gentle Master He is! His will for me is always pleasing, good and perfect. (Rom. 12:2) His burden for me is light (Matt. 11:30) and He promises that in following Him my life will be a full one! (John 10:10)

Lord, You are my Master. Help me live this truth today.


Hill of Crosses

Scripture for Today: Colossians 2:15 “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

This Hill of Crosses is found in Lithuania and makes quite a statement! It is made up of acres and acres of huge crosses and then a multitude of smaller ones, crammed together to take up every inch of space! Notes and signs are intermixed with wishes and prayers everywhere. What is so incredible is that this hill of crosses has been repeatedly plowed over by the Russians, the Germans, and several times by the Soviets! And yet it keeps coming back as a form of protest and perhaps something more!

In today’s verse there is a cross that triumphs over every enemy and every foe. No regime can ever diminish the power of the cross of Jesus! What looked like failure to men was actually victory over the power of sin and death! Whether that power is earthly or in the heavenly places, the cross of Christ has sealed the fate of every spiritual force of evil. (Eph. 6:12) The cross of Christ polarizes the world into two groups; those that see the cross as foolishness or those that see it as the power of God. (I Cor. 1:18)

His cross is not just a pretty symbol to wear around my neck. It is to His cross that I cling for salvation and hope! If it were not for His cross I would still be lost in my sin and weighed down with guilt. What Christ did there to pay my debt takes my breath away! How could victory over death and sin be seen as foolish by anyone? And yet, Satan continues his lies and deceit, trying and succeeding in making the believer look foolish.

Lord, may I never be ashamed of Your cross.