Devotions By Jan


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Black Out Curtains

Scripture for Today: John 1:4-5 “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The black out curtains in my bedroom do a pretty good job of blocking out the morning light.  After living in France for so many years, I have been accustomed to shutters that keep the room entirely dark.  Now, I am much too sensitive to the morning light.  Even with black out curtains, there is always that chink of light that manages to get through and wake me.

Today’s verse describes Jesus as life.  And the life in Him is as a beacon of light illuminating this very dark world.  But no matter how dark and sinful the world is, that darkness will never overcome the light.  Even a tiny pinprick will dispel darkness.  Despite man’s best efforts to block it out, there will always be a chink of light shining through.  In that darkness we remain asleep until that moment Christ shines on us (Eph. 5:14).  And from that time on we are called “children of light” (verse 8).  That is because Christ made His light shine in our hearts, giving us the light of knowing Him! (II Cor. 4:6).

Every time I turn on the news I am reminded that I live in a dark world.  I can get quite depressed thinking about all the evil and injustice.  But these verses give me hope.  It will never be completely black around me.  He illumines my world with the light of His presence and love.  It is said that it is always the darkest before the dawn.  I am so thankful that He has overcome the world and the future is bright with Light!

Lord, I need You to shine on me today!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.

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Mondays

8-mondays-beatles-funny-parodyScripture for Today: I Thes. 2:13 “And we also thank God continually because when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as human word, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”

I wonder if even the Beatles hated Mondays.  The parody of this iconic picture sums up the attitude of most people.  Somehow, when that alarm jars you awake after a full weekend, the temptation to stay under those covers is oh so strong!  No wonder we hate Mondays.  Like the Mamas and the Papas’ 1966 song, “Every other day of the week is fine.”  But, “Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day!”

Today’s verse is about a work that is continual, regardless of the day of the week.  The Word of God is at work in those who believe.  When God sends out His Word, it will accomplish what He desires (Isaiah 55:11).  His Word is unlike any other book, being that it is alive and active, judging our thoughts and attitudes (Hebrews 4:12).  His Word reveals who God is and who I am.  Reading His Word brings comfort and encouragement.  It is absolute truth that changes how I see my world.  His Word guides my steps and keeps me on the best path.

Of course, His Word cannot be at work in me every day of the week if I am not reading it, listening to it or singing it!  I need to hide it in my heart like the Psalmist tells me.  It is then that His Word can do its work, slowly transforming me by renewing my mind (Rom. 12:2).

Lord, keep me motivated to read and love Your Word, even on Mondays!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Breaking Free

freedomb04c55f51dc9b7be98221b54113ab02fScripture for Today: Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This Freedom Sculpture was created by Zenos Frudakis and can be seen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  It depicts several people in different stages of breaking free of their molds.  The artist felt that everyone could relate to this image as the struggle to be free is a universal one, common to all mankind.

Today’s verse is put differently in another version; “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold.” Without a transformation of our minds, we stay firmly ensconced in the world’s way of thinking.  Like the last figure in this sculpture, we can so completely conform to the values and thinking of this world that we lose the freedom to follow what is best.  What the Lord wants for us is good and pleasing and perfect.  And so often, it is in direct opposiiton to the prevalent thinking around us.

I do not want to look, think and act like everyone around me and call that freedom.  But I can walk about in freedom when I intentionally seek out what God wants (Psalm 119:45).  His plan for me is not just good but perfect.  When He changes my heart and mind with His Word, pleasing Him becomes a pleasure.  Blending in by following another standard may sometimes be easier.  In fact it is usually easier to just go with the flow, but not as fulfilling.  His transformation is freeing me to become who He meant me to be, rather than a carbon copy of everyone else.

Thank you Lord, for the freedom Your transformation brings!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Inside Out

clothingd7587cae-9b39-49de-a72f-6043d7620bf6-620x620Scripture for Today: Romans 5:5 “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

I have done this often enough when dressing in a hurry.  Wearing something inside out is even considered good luck by some.  But for your day to be lucky, it has to be done unintentionally and not corrected if pointed out by someone.  The same is said for wearing one’s socks inside out.  But rather than thinking of clothing mistakes, I like thinking of the song by Bryan Adams called, “Inside Out.”  The lyrics say, “I wanna know you like I know myself…..I wanna know you inside out.”

Today’s verse describes God’s love as being poured into our hearts.  Any other love on this earth comes from the outside.  But God’s love is unique as it reaches to the inside and fills our hearts.  His love actually resides on the interior.  There is nothing hidden from His love.  He knows our deepest thoughts and desires.  He understands all of our motivation and fear.  Because He lives and loves from our hearts, He knows what makes us mad or makes us cry.  There is no other love as intimate or knowledgeable.  He loves me from the inside out.

How amazing that He could love me knowing all the junk in there!  I can be completely honest and open with Him as He knows it all anyway.  And yet, He still loves me!  He does not love me because, but in spite of myself!  There is only one best response to this kind of unconditional love: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.”

Thank you Lord, for reminding me of Your overwhelming love.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Unmasked!

venetian-mask-colombina-carnival-of-venice-italyScripture for Today: Psalm 38:9 “All my longings lie open before You, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from You.”

Among the many kinds of Venetian masks is this elaborate one called the “Colombina,” or “little dove.”  Made of paper mache, Venetian stucco, shiny gold macrame and black feathers, it is certainly ornate and mysterious.  Based on a character from the Italian stage, beautiful women especially preferred this style as it covers only half of the face.  These masks are worn for the annual festival in Venice, Italy which is one of the oldest in Europe dating back to 1162.  Being masked gives people the opportunity to hide their identity and freely mix with those above their social standing.

Today’s verse makes it clear that there is nothing hidden from the Lord.  With Him, we are unmasked.  David acknowledges his sin (verse 18) being overwhelmed with guilt and groaning “in anguish of heart.” (verse 8)  He pours out his complaint that his friends have turned on him.  He ends this psalm with a cry for help and a plea that God would not forsake him as well.  Every longing and every sigh is seen by the One who knows our hearts and thoughts.  Nothing is hidden from Him.

I wonder if sometimes I do not wear a “mask” in my private prayers.  If all is open and bare before Him then there is no need to sanitize my prayers.  He knows just what I am feeling and He waits for me to be honest with Him.  He does not censor my words or rebuke me for wrong theology.  He hears my frustrations and my ill-concealed doubts.  Nothing shocks Him and He loves me no matter what.

Thank you Lord, that I can unburden myself with You and find sweet relief.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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A Bad Penny

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

I am one of those rare people who still bend down to pick up a lost penny, bad or not!  The phrase, “a bad penny always turns up,” was coined in the mid eighteenth century.  Pennies used to be more valuable and because they were easily counterfeited, the “bad ones” would continually circulate, turning up in a pocket or purse.  “Turning up like a bad penny,” came to mean someone or something unwanted, turning up repeatedly and unexpectedly.

Today’s verse reassures the believer that God’s forgiveness of sin is complete.  He chooses to no longer remember our sins.  Because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice for sin, the penalty has been paid and God’s justice is satisfied.  Those sins are blotted out forever.  When He forgives, He does not bring it up again.  But like a bad penny, the thought of them (for the believer) can turn up at the most unwanted and inopportune times.  Thankfully, that is never the case for the Lord.  Of course, He is all knowing and so forgets nothing.  But the idea is that He does not call it to mind with censor and judgement.

I would love to be able to “remember my sins no longer.”  But the memories remain.  Thankfully, God’s Word is full of reassurances of unconditional love and complete pardon.  The Lord graciously softens and blurs memories of past failures.  If guilty memories occasionally do reappear, He is there to build me back up.  If nothing else, those remembrances can serve to remind me that I am not perfect, but His forgiveness is!

Thank you Lord, that Your grace chooses not to remember what is forgiven!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Beaded Necklace

img_20161030_175353Scripture for Today: Ephesians 1:4 “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.”

My sister-in-law spent hours and hours making this beautiful beaded necklace for me.  It touched me that she would put so much time in to creating this piece with me in mind.  If it was the “thought that counts,” than all that time thinking of me makes the gift that much more special!  It has survived many wearings and moves over thirty-five years.  It will be a very sad day if it ever breaks apart.

Today’s verse tells us that those who have accepted Christ as Savior were chosen before the creation of the world.  The interplay between God choosing us and we choosing Him is something I can never hope to completely understand.  But what amazes me is that the Lord had me in mind before the creation of the world!  That is quite a long time to be thinking of me!  He chose me to be blameless and holy.  Because of what Christ accomplished on the cross, I am declared righteous in Him.  I am certainly not  blameless and holy by my own efforts!

He thought of me and chose me before the world ever existed.  He formed me specifically in the womb of my Mother.  And I know He thought of me on that cross as well.  How precious His thoughts are toward me, numbering more than the grains of sand on a beach (Psalm139:17-18).  No one could ever think of me more than He does!  His love is so amazing that there is never a moment in my day when He is not thinking of me!

Thank you Lord, for Your precious loving thoughts for me.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.