Devotions By Jan


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Chocolate Joy!

Scripture for Today: Nehemiah 8:10 “Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”

Growing up in France, it was always a big deal for our children to buy and enjoy the Kinder Eggs.  This simple chocolate treat had a toy inside within a plastic shell.  The “surprise” was always very simple and quickly forgotten, but it was always good for a few brief moments of joy.  I am more familiar with the Kinder egg being labelled “Kinder Surprise” rather than “Joy.”

Today’s verse encourages the Israelites to enjoy food and drink and to celebrate the reading of the Book of the Law of Moses.  After years of exile, they had come back to their homeland.  And after years of exile, they were hearing the word of the Lord, some of them for the first time ever.  They were overcome with grief and were weeping as they listened.  But the joy of the Lord was the order of the day!  Continuing their mourning would only sap their strength.  Instead of grieving they were to celebrate God’s love and instruction.

There is a time to mourn and weep when facing God’s convicting word.  He is close to those who are brokenhearted and crushed in spirit for their sin. (Psalm 34:18)  But there is joy when I feel His forgiveness wash over me!  The realization of his unconditional love and grace wipes those tears and gives me new resolve.  I am energized and strengthened when His joy lifts me off my knees.

Thank you Lord, that you turn mourning into gladness (Jer. 31:13) and exchange my sorrow for Your comfort and joy!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)


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A Peaceful River

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 48:18 “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.”

There is something so restful about water.  It has such a calming affect on the spirit.  The reflections on the surface of the still water can make me sigh.  And the repetitive sounds of the waves gently lapping the shore lull me into a sense of well-being.  Stay long enough and tensions leave the body and time seems to stand still.  The water mesmerizes me and when I leave it, I somehow leave refreshed.

Today’s verse describes our peace and well-being like a river.  That peace comes as a result of following God’s way.  His way includes leading us by quiet waters and restoring our souls (Psalm 23:2).  His commands are designed for our good.  He teaches us what is best for us (verse 17).  But in our independent spirit, we do not pay attention to how He leads, or if we do, we think we know better!  That peaceful river alludes us as we move away from the Lord of peace.

When I am listening and obeying God’s voice, I experience peace with Him.  There are sweet times and a clear sense of His pleasure when I am not fighting Him.  Submitting to Him can be a struggle, but worth the effort when I can feel that deep heart peace in the middle of turmoil around me.  He calms my spirit and anxious thoughts.  Regardless of my circumstances, the still waters of His peace get me through, guarding my heart.

Lord, keep me obedient and close to the quiet waters of Your peace today.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)


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An Easy Fix?

Scripture for Today: Jeremiah 17:5 “This is what the Lord says; ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.'”

My children watched the resourceful MacGyver weekly on French television growing up.  He never ceased to impress and astound with his innovative Fix-It-Yourself solutions.  There was never a crisis he could not surmount, never a problem he could not resolve with just a little know-how and imagination.  The FIY or DIY concept enjoys lots of success as it saves money and impresses family and friends.  I am all for ingenuity in problem solving.

Unfortunately, there have been some recent major problems in our society that we cannot seem to fix.  Rather than turning toward the One who is all powerful, we accuse Him for our sin.  We say that He cannot fix the problem when in fact, there is nothing too hard for Him.  But for so long, men have been trusting in their own intellect and in their own strength.  Man has limited himself to only what he can create, and it has turned ugly.  Today’s verse describes the one whose heart is turned away from the Lord as “cursed.”

Turning to God in repentance means we can draw on His enormous strength and power for change.  The One who keeps the oceans in their place, the One who raised His Son from the dead is the same One who infuses us with His strength to change every behavior.  Our independent spirit to fix it all ourselves without God does not work.  We cannot do it, but He can!

Thank you Lord, that You have the power, the strength, the know-how and all the answers!  I cannot do life without You.  Keep my heart turned towards You today.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)


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Snares

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 29:25 “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

The simplest way to catch wild game is with the basic snare trap.  It consists of just a single piece of wire or string with a loop at one end, creating a noose.  It looks harmless enough until the animal runs through it, tightening the noose until it can not free itself.  It would break my heart to see one of these used.  I would pity the plight of the animal to the point of setting it free at the first opportunity!  Thankfully, I am not in a survivor mode having to depend on hunting to live.

Today’s verse uses the image of a snare to describe how fear affects us.  Fearing what man can do is a paralyzing trap.  Fear keeps us from moving forward and realizing our goals.  It stops us squarely in our tracks.  Rather than venture forth, we cower and stay still.  Our movements are curtailed and we are no longer free to move about.

This verse thankfully does not stop there.  We have a choice.  We do not have to live in fear of what evil men may do, but can live freely, trusting in the Lord’s protection.  He honors our trust and confidence in Him by keeping us safe.  For the believer, the soul is beyond the touch of evil and our eternal future remains secure.  Our God is more powerful than any evil scheme and nothing can thwart His personal plan for each one of His own.  I know and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day (II Tim. 1:12).

Thank you Lord, that trusting You keeps me safe and secure.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)


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Nesting Dolls

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:3 “…Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

Although the nesting dolls or “matryoska” dolls originated in Russia, they are also made by French Alsacians.  We see them all year long in France, but they are especially popular at the Christmas markets.  The number of dolls in a set can vary anywhere from five to several dozen.  A number of different themes are used including fairy tale figures, animals, and religious or political figures.  I am partial to the traditional “little matrons.”  But they all show beautiful artistry in the elaborate and detailed painting.

Today’s verse came to mind in thinking of the different sizes of these dolls.  Each one has its place in the set.  Each one belongs to the other and is needed to be complete.  Paul encourages his readers not to think of themselves more highly than they should.  Whatever size we think we are, we are not to look down on someone else.  Whatever talents we have are a gift from our Creator.  Each capability is a grace from Him.

Each believer has received a special talent or gift to serve Him.  When we think about ourselves with sober judgement we realize that any success in life ultimately comes from Him.  It is all grace.  Like Paul said, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  I do not want to disqualify myself from serving Him by allowing pride to poison my thinking.  But, it is always a sneaky temptation.

Lord, thank you for all your gifts to me!  Keep me from taking any credit.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)