Devotions By Jan

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Too Close?

Scripture for Today:  Phil. 2:3  “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”

I cannot imagine that these parakeets are too happy!  Hopefully, the crowding is only temporary at this bird market in South Jakarta.  Perhaps birds have a different perception of personal space.  But even among us, our comfort level in a crowded space can differ according to culture.  Some people are fine getting right up to your face to speak with you.  Most Americans would back up.  Two spaces free on a three-seat sofa?  It’s obvious to the American that the space in the middle should be empty.  Not so with other cultures.

Today’s verse has a direct effect on the rights to personal space that we feel are ours.  Whether the issue is space, right-of-way on the road, or living with a “morning person” when one is a “night owl” we are challenged to respond in a way that pleases the Lord.  Our world encourages us to insist on our rights.  Yet today’s verse talks about responding with humility and even seeing the other as more important than oneself!

It goes against my nature to give precedence to another.  I do not want to be viewed as a push-over.  I certainly do not want people walking all over me and ignoring my rights.  But I cannot be peaceable and considerate to all men (Titus 3:2) if I insist on my own way with others.  For me to obey this verse takes faith.  It means trusting the Lord to take care of my wants and needs.  Christ is more than able to take care of “rights” or to help me let them go if that is what He wants.

Lord, I need Your help to have this attitude.

Photo credit: Krotz at

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Heart Messages

Scripture for Today: Luke 6:45 “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Growing up, I loved these conversation hearts, giving away to that “special someone” what I could not bring myself to actually say!  And receiving these from others would communicate to me something the giver may not have intended!  Today, one can special order these candies with your own personalized message.  That way you can say exactly what you want the other to hear.  Communicating what is in the heart is not always easy.

Today’s verse gives us a reliable way to know what is in the heart of another.  What is there is evident by that person’s behavior.  Expressing emotions can be lovely but the real indicator of feelings and the state of the heart is evident in our actions.  And one action is especially telling.  What comes out of our mouths demonstrates the good or the evil found in the heart.  That sincere compliment or word of encouragement shows love.  The snide remark or the profanity that escapes our lips signals that all is not well.

What slips out of my mouth can be shameful.  I am so glad that some of it happens when there is no one to hear.  However, there is always Someone who hears.  And whether others are around or not, those nasty words signal a need for some serious heart cleaning!  Thankfully, He is full of grace and forgiveness, ready to make me clean again and give me a new start!

Lord, clean my heart and fill it with good things to say!

Look familiar? This is a repost from 2018.

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Bad Hair Day

Scripture for Today:  Matthew 10:29-31a  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not then…..”

We all have bad hair days.  But I was unaware that a horse could have them too!  It was not that they slept wrong or had hat hair, or even that their owners were experimenting with their look.  These horses were feeling the electricity in the air and it was making their hair stand on end!

Today’s verse tells us that the Lord knows exactly how many hairs are currently on our heads.  Some say that this is just an image and not to be taken literally.  But why ever not?  His omniscience is all inclusive down to the tiniest detail.  He also knows when where and why a sparrow falls to the ground.  He is Lord of the universe and nothing, no matter how small, escapes His attention.  It is because of His all-encompassing knowledge that we can face the unknowns of life without fear.

I find enormous comfort and assurance to know He is intimately involved in the details of my life.  Psalm 139 says that He knows when I am standing or sitting and what I am going to say before I say it.  Because of His love and grace, I do not have to hide from this knowledge.  His intimate knowledge of me means I can live without fear.  I can move confidently through my day, knowing He is there.  Rather than get nervous over what could happen, I can trust Him.

Thank you Lord, that You are trustworthy, even with the smallest details.

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Do Not Follow!

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 12:26 “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

In following this construction truck I was careful to keep my distance of at least two hundred feet.  Normally, when there is a sign forbidding a behavior, the rebel inside me wants to contest, ignore or disobey!  But because there was an explanation of possible damage with that second sign, I did not follow too closely.  I did not want to risk a broken windshield and so I hung back, regardless of the impatient car behind me!

In today’s verse there is a warning that motivates us to be wise in choosing our friends.  There is an explanation that encourages prudence in who we allow to become close.  A righteous person will take care not to associate with the wicked.  For even a righteous person can be influenced by a friend to participate in evil.  One can feel pressured to compromise morals and standards.  The pull can be subtle or progressive and barely noticed.  Friendship effects and impacts our character sometimes without us even realizing it!  This is why it was so important for the Israelites not to marry foreigners who did not worship the one and true God. They could be easily led away from Him.

I would like to think that my faith is so strong that I would never be influenced to do evil by someone wicked.  But if I were to become close friends with someone who does not have the same goal of living for the Lord, I could be gradually pulled away and faith could weaken.  Close friends have an enormous influence on my thinking.  They can encourage my faith or weaken it!  I want to choose carefully who I follow!

Lord, keep me closest to those close to You!

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Camel on the Menu

Scripture for Today: Matthew 23:24 “Blind guides! You strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel!

This camel looks a little ridiculous and undignified when really they are magnificent animals!  They can carry 200 extra pounds and travel 20 miles a day.  Camels can drink 40 gallons of water at a time and can eat anything without injuring their mouths.  They can close their nostrils against wind and sand, and store energy in their humps in the form of fat.  But one thing they are unable to do.  They cannot be swallowed whole!

In today’s verse the Pharisees are the blind guides that Jesus addresses.  One would have to be blind not to see the difference between a gnat and a camel!  The Pharisees were all about keeping every detail of the Law, including the tithe on their mint, dill and cumin.  But they were ignoring the larger and more important matters of the law: justice, mercy and faithfulness.  Keeping the details of the Law had become for them a point of pride as details of the Law were visible to others.  Justice, mercy and faithfulness were intangibles and frankly, more difficult to follow.

I am afraid that sometimes I am just as guilty of this in my Christian walk.  I tend to use an accepted set of rules as a shortcut to spirituality.  I know the right words.  I can follow routine.  I can look like I have my act together.  Outside conformity to a set of rules can mask the real state of my heart.  But the Lord knows when my thoughts towards others are harsh instead of merciful.  He sees when I excuse myself but no one else.  And of course He knows when my heart is unfaithful.

Lord, keep my heart close to Yours.

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Burnt to a Crisp!

Scripture for Today: I Peter 4:12 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

We are smiling here but not when we got the news of the fire!  Our two cars were burnt to a crisp as the result of a gang coming through causing trouble.  This form of protest in France is concerning but we never thought we would be a target!  It was surprising but the Lord had a plan in all of it.  He graciously replaced our cars with two that were newer with better mileage.  And He did this through the gifts of His people!  Through this test our faith has grown and become more fireproof!

Today’s verse tells believers not to be surprised at the hard times we suffer.  They are not the exception, but the norm.  We are not exempt from difficulties, although sometimes we think we should be.  The “fiery ordeal” in this verse is not something that is caused by our own wrong choices.  It is an ordeal that comes from living as a believer in an unbelieving world.

It is easy for me to think that I should be shielded from hard times.  But I am to view any suffering for Him as a privilege and a joy! (verse 13).  And the end result of this story is joy at seeing how Jesus used it for His purposes and His glory!  Our faith has been strengthened.  And the evil intent of this gang was turned around to His praise and glory in our lives.  Because of this drama I am less surprised at opposition and more confident that God will use it!

Lord, keep my faith strong in whatever I face.






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The Inchworm

Scripture for Today: I John 2:21 “I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.”

Do not believe everything you read!  This little inchworm is not a worm, nor is it exactly an inch long!  But the inchworm name is given to thousands of moth species in the Geometridae family when in their caterpillar stage.  The family name comes from the Greek, Geo meaning earth and metron meaning measure.  However, if you used this little guy to measure, your measurements would surely be off!

Today’s verse is clear that one can know what truth is and what truth is not.  That must mean that truth can be measured.  This verse contradicts the prevailing thought that in the spiritual realm, there is no objective truth.  There is “your truth” or there is “my truth” when it comes to spirituality.  The famous question of Pilate to Jesus, “What is truth?” was in response to what Jesus had just said.  “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:38)  Jesus is the standard of truth as He said of Himself, “I am the truth…” (John 14:6)

In a world where truth changes from one decade to another, what a comfort to know and be sure of objective, unchanging and eternal truth!  The truth of His Word is always a faithful measure.  Without it I would be lost!  He is my standard of truth.  He is the one and only measure of truth.  Because of Him I can recognize the lies that can so easily deceive me.  And because of Him being truth I can build my life on a sure and unmovable foundation.

Lord, keep me in Your truth.