Devotions By Jan

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Just Deserts

dessertunnamedScripture for Today: Psalm 103:10 “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

I really thought I deserved this dessert.  I had ordered only fish and vegetables and so I figured I could indulge just a little.  After all, it was just dessert!  I had no idea it would be quite this big.  However, with three others helping, it was no problem!

The phrase, “getting your just desert” dates back to the 13th century, and its meaning was “a thing deserved” whether good or bad.  The original spelling used only one “s” referring to the obsolete meaning of  the word, “desert” or that which is deserved.  Today one sees this phrase with the two “s” spelling.  It makes more sense to me as I sometimes think dessert is my due!

Our verse for today is a wonderful reassurance that I do not get my just desert from the Lord.  If I were to insist on the justice I deserve, I would be in big trouble.  Certainly, God is just.  His justice was satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice for sin on the cross.  Because  Christ paid the penalty for sin, I am not repaid for my own.

I am so thankful that God does not give me what I deserve!  I am spared His wrath and punishment.  His grace is amazing!  This psalm tells me of His compassion.  He is gracious and slow to anger.  His love for me is as great as the distance to the heavens! (verse 11)  His love is so wide, so long, so high and so deep that it is immeasurable! (Eph. 3:18)  I absolutely do not deserve that kind of love!

Thank you Lord, that You do not give me my just desert.  Thank you for Your incredible mercy and love!

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Spoonful of Sugar

Sugar-724x482Scripture for Today: Luke 10:41-42a “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed, or indeed only one….'”

I can still remember my Mother crushing up an aspirin and adding some sugar and water to it.  She would put it all on a spoon and I would dutifully swallow it when sick.  Now, there are plenty of children-friendly pain relievers that do this.  But my Mother’s method was the only way I would swallow what was good for me.  A spoonful of sugar does indeed make the medicine go down, as in the Mary Poppins movie lyric.

In our verse for today, the Lord is reprimanding Martha with gentle correction.  Martha was at her wit’s end doing all the meal preparation and serving without the help of her sister, Mary.  In an outburst of self-pity, she tries to publicly shame Mary and enlist the Lord’s help in getting Mary to help her.

I love the response Jesus gives her.  You can just hear the love in His voice when twice He speaks her name.  This is the only time He repeated a woman’s name and it was done with gentle love.  Martha, in her well-meaning service, had neglected her first priority of listening to her Savior.  It was hard to hear but the Lord was gracious in the way he addressed her.

Jesus’ gentle manner with Martha was the sweet taste in His rebuke.  Like foul-tasting medicine, we need to swallow His correction.  The Lord disciplines those who belong to Him (Heb. 12:4-7).  But the goal is always restoration and growth.  It is never done in anger or exasperation.

Do I hear Him repeating my name in love?  Lord, keep me listening to Your gentle correction.  Keep my heart close to Yours.


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Refrigerator Magnets

Clean-dirty-indicator-combinedScripture 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.”

I feel very silly sometimes to find myself unloading dirty dishes into the cupboards!  My problem is that I rinse too well before loading them into the dishwasher.  The confusion can be avoided with a simple system of magnets on the dishwasher.  These pictured were handmade using mint tins and adhesive labels.

We use labels as well when determining whether people are clean or dirty.  Imagine wearing labels like these to declare to others the state of our hearts!  In our verse for today Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees about what is clean and what is dirty.  The disciples were not following the accepted standards of religious tradition.  Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites for placing outside cleanliness over and above cleanliness on the inside.

It is what comes out of a person that reveals the true state of the heart.  We can work hard on the outward show of religiosity but sooner or later, our words and actions reveal what is on the inside.  No matter what rules we follow, it is only Christ that can truly make us clean.  Despite the correct moral upbringing, environmental and financial advantages, and advances in technology, evil continues to exist in the heart.

It is much less threatening to address social ills by fixing everything on the outside rather than the internal change that is needed.  The Lord is in the business of true and lasting change.  Cleansing me from the inside out is something only He can do.

Lord, keep me from being so distracted by the outside!  Change my heart with Your cleansing.

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“You’re So Vain!”

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:3 “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

For a good five minutes I watched this bird look at himself in the mirror.  I have never seen a bird be obsessed with his looks!  He/she did not seem to mind that I was just inches away.  Perhaps he was just attracted to the reflected light, or perhaps he was enthralled with his own reflection.  All he seemed to see was himself.

The behavior of this bird reminded me of our verse for today.  This verse is addressed to believers in the church.  Each one is given his spiritual gift by God Himself.  These gifts allow for each of us to contribute our part to the functioning of the church.  It may be a more public speaking gift or it may be a behind-the-scenes supportive gift.  Each one is important.

These spiritual gifts are just that; gifts.  We did nothing to deserve receiving them.  God distributed them according to His wisdom and plan.  That being true, we have no cause to boast.  Our purpose is to glorify Him and not ourselves.  I am not to think that I am somehow higher up in God’s favor.  My view of myself is to be sober, recognizing the role of grace in my life.

When I think of myself more highly than I ought to think, I am forfeiting the grace He promises to the humble.  I can pretty much expect to fail and fall when I get too full of myself! (Prov. 16:18)

Lord, don’t let me become so proud that I miss out on Your glory and grace!


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Water Pressure

hydro-keris-pic2Scripture for Today: Psalm 119:9 “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word.”

This guy has the right idea being completely covered so as not to get soaked.  My husband and a friend recently rented a high pressure washer to prepare for painting our patio.  It was quite a production to remove all that filth and peeling paint from the stonework.  What was funny, at least to me as a bystander, was that there was an important piece missing from the equipment.  Both men were immediately drenched!  It was a moment made for video comedy had I been ready!

Our verse for today tells us how to keep clean.  The wisdom found in God’s Word keeps us from getting filthy in the mire of the world’s system and values.  So often, the commands of Scripture are in direct opposition to what is commonly accepted as normal.

The more I neglect the washing of His Word, the more layers of dirt I add to my life.  Soon, the washing of His Word can feel like that water pressure.  Rather than a gentle trickle to remove that daily dust, I find myself needing a hard spray of pressured water.  That conviction of His Word can feel uncomfortable.

I love the example of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples in John 13.  Feet washing was a daily and necessary experience.  If it was neglected, the cleaning would be much more rigorous and uncomfortable.  There would need to be some pressure to remove the caked-on dirt.  Denying our sin can call for the industrial size machines!  God’s loving discipline (Heb. 12:5-7) can feel like that hard spray of water.  How much better to have that gentle, daily cleaning and confession!

Lord, clean me daily with the washing of Your Word.


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cloakScripture for Today: Psalm 109:29 “May my accusers be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.”

I am not sure that cloaks are making a comeback, but I do see them from time to time.  I have a friend whose marriage took place in the ruins of a German castle.  She very creatively put a dark blue velvet cloak over her wedding dress and the effect was stunning, especially in those surroundings!  But often, a cloak is considered secretive and sinister somehow.  The term “cloak and dagger,” is thought to come from a practice in the 16th century.  A combatant hid the presence and the movement of his dagger from his opponent by holding his cloak in his other hand.

Our verse for today is part of David’s prayer for help.  He was being slandered by his enemies.  They spoke against him with lying tongues and seemingly without cause.  Perhaps there is nothing more damaging to one’s sense of well-being then to be continually and falsely accused.  David describes himself as being wounded in his heart (verse 22).  He felt as insignificant as a locust being shaken off an arm (verse 23).  David prays for vindication from the Lord.  He prays that they would be enveloped in their own shame.

There is someone who accuses me and he does it before God.  Unfortunately, the accusations of Satan are not false.  I know my own wicked heart and that I do not deserve salvation.  Yet, God in His mercy and love stands at my right hand to save my life from those who would condemn me (verse 31).  That is because I am in Christ and He took my condemnation on Himself! (Rom. 8:1)

Thank you Lord, that you have exchanged my shameful cloak for a robe of righteousness!

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Dutch Doors

dutch-door-ext-screen-3Scripture for Today: Psalm 48:14 “For this God is our God for ever and ever. He will be our guide even to the end.”

I love the look of a Dutch door.  It evokes a feeling of warmth and welcome.  It also reminds me of the countryside and a by-gone era when it was used to keep animals out and children within.  Fresh air could pass through and from it one could greet the passerby.  These doors were common in the Netherlands in the 17th century, thus the name “dutch door.”  But it is also called a stable door or a half door.

Our verse for today gives us assurance that God will guide the steps of His children.  He is not just “a” god, but the only true God and one who is entirely personal; “our God.”  He is intimately involved in the decisions of our lives.  When we submit to Him and seek His plan for our lives, His Spirit uses His Word, the counsel of others and circumstances to lead and guide.

We often speak of God “closing a door” when He does not allow us to continue in a certain direction.  Paul experienced this when he and his companions tried to enter Bithynia but “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” (Acts 16:7)  Like Paul, we sometimes encounter a closed door.  It can be a relief to see it and be assured that God is making His direction very clear.  The confusion can come when a door seems to be half open!

We walk by faith and not by sight (II Cor. 5:7) and I do not always see His direction.  Perhaps He uses the half-door when either one of two choices is acceptable to Him.  Thank you Lord, that in Your love and grace You allow me the freedom to choose!