Devotions By Jan


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“We Lift Our Gazes”

Scripture for Today: Psalm 12:1-2 “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

As with so many presidential inaugurations, we hear inspiring words that encourage us to look to the future. And so it was again with the words of a young poet laureate reading her poem saying, “And so we lift our gazes, not to what stands between us but what stands before us.”. What is standing before the girl in this image is the strength of a mountain which she seems to be embracing!

Today’s verse is an encouragement as to where to look. We are to lift our eyes, not to what stands between us nor to what stands before us. Neither of those gazes are lifted high enough! This psalm of ascent is thought to be part of a collection sung and recited during the Jews’ annual uphill pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Looking up to the elevated temple of Jerusalem they are at the same time figuratively lifting their eyes to the Lord who sits enthroned in heaven. (Psalm 123:1) He is the Maker of heaven and earth and the Source of much-needed help!

It is when I lift my gaze to Almighty God that I have any hope for my future. As Creator God, He has absolute control and power to help. On my own, even with the best intentions, I fail to do the right thing. (Rom. 7:15) I fail to see others as more important than myself. (Rom. 12:3) He not only helps me to live a life that pleases Him, but He helps me in every area with His presence, love, comfort and forgiveness. Because He alone is my help, I can look to the future with every confidence!

Lord, keep me gazing at You for my help!


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Missed Rendez-Vous

Scripture for Today: Romans 15:4 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide, we might have hope.”

My husband and I were to have a rendez-vous at a particular cafe near our home in France. We arranged to meet there after doing our shopping. As planned, I arrived at the appointed hour. I then waited close to two hours for my husband, not knowing whether to be angry or worried! As this was before cell phones, I had no choice but to wait. Randy, on the other hand, was having much the same experience in a cafe down the road! We laugh about it now, but a missed rendez-vous is no fun at all!

In today’s verse we are reminded that the Scriptures are written for our learning. Through reading His Word, we are encouraged to persevere and to have hope. God is the source of endurance and the One who supplies that hope. One of the Bible studies I led was called, “Rendez-Vous Avec La Bible.” Normally in French, a “rendez-vous” is a term used only with meeting people. But in a sense, when studying God’s Word, one meets with its Author! Unlike any other book in the world, there is a meeting or rendez-vous with the One who spoke through the writers. 

There are many ways God encourages me to persevere and to hope. He uses the testimonies of others. He uses a beautiful hymn. He uses the prayers of others. But the biggest source of hope and encouragement is God’s Word. It is through His Word that I am taught to look to Him for hope. It is in meeting with Him that I am encouraged to persevere. That is one rendez-vous I do not want to miss!

Thank you Lord, for the encouragement You give me.


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Inauguration

Scripture for Today: John 3:30 “He must become greater, I must become less.”

Had this man been a religious official in ancient Rome, anyone watching him would assume he was interpreting natural signs or augurs. Divine approval or disapproval was often determined by watching the behavior of birds! Augurs were meant to predict an outcome. “Inaugurato” was a ceremony using the augurs to seek the sanction of the gods for something decreed by man. The Latin origin of inaugurate was “inaugurare” meaning to “increase.”

John the Baptist in today’s verse is reassuring his disciples. They were concerned that Jesus was stealing John’s thunder. John told them that Jesus must increase or become greater while he himself must fulfill his role to prepare the way for Him. John understood that he would decrease, or become less, even though he was in the unique position of being the last prophet of the Old Testament. Rather than holding on to his influence and power, John gives way to the Lord. In a sense, John the Baptist was to “inaugurate” Jesus, pointing people to Him. His ministry was not about himself but about Jesus.

There may be no formal ceremony involved, but I am to do all I can to decrease myself and increase my Lord! My life is not about me primarily but about Him. Paul expressed this thought when he said, “For me to live is Christ…” (Phil. 1:21) I want Him to be seen and recognized in me but it is a daily challenge! However, I find that when His character is evident in me through His Spirit, I am my best self! It seems counter-intuitive but fulfilling my role to point others to Him makes my own little life so much more significant!

Lord, may You increase in me and in my life!


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Icicles

Scripture for Today:  Hebrews 3:13  “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

This wall of icicles was impressive! But all I am thinking while standing there was how cold it was and would you please finish with taking the picture! What I should have been thinking was that it would be better to stand out from those icicles a bit more! As beautiful as the ice is, those hard sharp points are a danger! We had to learn over our years in France how to shovel and salt the snow, how to drive on icy roads, and how giving a wide berth to icicles was the smart thing to do!

Today’s verse is a loving warning. The deceitfulness of sin can harden a heart. The longer one denies wrong doing, the more difficult it is to hear His still small voice of conviction. The more one indulges in a sinful behavior, the more likely it is that the heart becomes hardened and deceived. There is an urgency in this verse. Hardened hearts do not improve with time. They only become harder. The time to respond to His voice is today. His voice may be much fainter tomorrow and we may miss it completely. 

When I listen to Him my heart is soft and open, like fresh powdery snow. When I ignore His conviction, what was soft and melted becomes hard and defensive. When I rationalize what I am doing, I deceive myself. Sometimes I am not even aware of what I am doing, until the hardness of my heart makes me slip and fall! Today is the day I need encouragement to obey. Today is the day I need to encourage others to obey. 

Lord, do not let me ever be hardened towards You.


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Kingdom Day

Scripture for Today: Psalm 145:13 “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.”

Kingdom Day today is all about honoring the civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It has been done for more than three decades by holding a parade. But in these strange times of pandemic, the parade will be held virtually. When looking up “Kingdom Day,” the first suggestion was the celebration in the Netherlands! Kingdom Day for them is their commemoration of the signing of their charter in 1954.

Today’s verse speaks of a Kingdom Day that is every day! This kingdom is everlasting. God’s kingdom endures through all generations. It is never outdated or shoved to the annals of history. That is because God’s kingdom and dominion are not just a matter of talk, speeches or signed documents. It is rather a matter of power! (I Cor. 4:20) And His Kingdom is both literal and spiritual. For the believer, His Kingdom is already present in the heart and we seek to put it first in our lives as well. (Matt. 6:33) But we also long for and pray for that day when His Kingdom comes and is established on earth. (Matt. 6:10)

In the turmoil of our world today, I need to grasp this reassuring truth. Kingdoms, regardless of our political bent, will come and go. None of kingdoms of this earth are eternal. But God’s kingdom endures forever. It is a kingdom with a trustworthy King who fulfills every promise. He is trustworthy because He is faithful in all He does. This is true in the grand scheme of things but also in my little life! What an amazing privilege to be part of this kingdom!

Lord, may Your kingdom come.