Devotions By Jan


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Skinning a Watermelon

watermelon-600x450Scripture for Today: James 3:14 “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.”

I have never tried this.  It looks complicated and time consuming.  I suspect it requires some handling skills I sure do not have!  But I can see the benefits of skinning a watermelon.  There is nothing so annoying as scooping out the flesh too deeply and ruining that sweet mouthful with a taste of the bitter rind.  I usually end up throwing out some of the fruit in order to avoid that bit of bitterness.

Today’s verse comes in the middle of defining two kinds of wisdom; earthly and heavenly.  The earthly wisdom is full of envy and selfish ambition, leading to all kinds of chaos and evil.  Heavenly wisdom exhibits itself in a life of good works done in humility (verse 13).  Harboring bitter envy in one’s heart signals the presence of pride.  That selfish thought that one deserves better is a sure way to become embittered.

I would be less than honest if I did not admit to thoughts of envy.  I am constantly surrounded by those who enjoy the world’s “goodies” that I do not have.  But what makes envy “bitter?”  I cannot enjoy that sweet bite of watermelon with the bitter rind included.  In the same way, I cannot completely enjoy all of God’s wonderful blessings while entertaining envious thoughts.  It turns even the good things I enjoy into something sour.  Wanting what others have even has an adverse effect on health, “rotting the bones” (Proverbs 14:30)  But a “heart of peace” gives life to the body.  I do not want anything this life has to offer as much as I want contentment!

Lord, help me to be thankful and contented with everything You have given me.

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

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Gaining Weight

Scripture for Today: I Timothy 6:6-7 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Weight gain is usually a negative thought except when it concerns a new baby.  The baby’s check-ups nearly always includes a weighing in, often on cold hard metal, without a diaper and amid much protest.  How much and how quickly a newborn gains weight is carefully monitored.  The growth charts are regularly checked to verify that the gains are within the norm.  Often, being in the ninetieth percentile for weight is a point of understandable pride for the mother.

Today’s verse talks about “great gain.”  In our world, a great gain would be a reference either to financial gain or perhaps a gain of physical strength.  But this great gain is described as godliness with contentment.  Any other kind of gain is left behind.  We can bring nothing into this world nor can we take anything out of it.  Godliness with contentment is a gain that changes how we live and lasts into eternity!

Contentment is learned (Phil. 4:11-12).  Godliness too is something for which we train ourselves (I Timothy 4:7-8).  It is a process and I have a long way to go.  But the effort is worth it as “godliness has value for all things” (verse 8).  To be both content and godly at the same time is of tremendous worth, adding a whole other dimension to my life. Unfortunately, my envy and discontent distract me.  My tendency to compromise or rationalize a less-than-godly activity keeps me from progressing.  I often feel it is “one step forward, two steps back.”  The rare times when both contentment and godliness are present in my day make it a very good one!

Lord, make this day a day of great gain!

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


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Salmon Run

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 5:8-9 “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

It is an incredibly strong instinct that drives the salmon to swim upstream to spawn.  After a few years in the ocean, the urge to lay its eggs in the exact fresh water stream where they were born drives them to make the long and arduous journey.  The salmon are so intent on their goal, they do not even stop to eat on the way.  They are so exhausted when arriving “home” that after laying their eggs, most do not survive.

Today’s verse refers to an eternal home with the Lord.  As long as we are in these earthly bodies we are not completely “at home.”  How surprising that Paul would rather be away from his body in order to be completely at home with his Lord! He not only says this but he says it with confidence.  In these bodies we groan and are burdened.  But when we are finally home, we will be clothed with a new body.  In the meantime we swim upstream.  As believers, we swim against the current as our life’s goal is to please Him.

I am often distracted from my heart’s desire to please Him.  But if to please Him is the all-consuming goal of my life, then I can persevere when life gets difficult.  Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6) but I can feel His pleasure when I turn to Him in absolute trust and confidence.  Pleasing Him gives purpose to my day, even a mundane one.

Lord, keep me focused on pleasing You today.

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


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The Scattered Leaves

Scripture for Today: I Chronicles 29:18 “Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of Your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to You.”

I love the colors of fall.  But seeing leaves scattered all over the place, not so much.  When they become wet, those leaves are more difficult to gather, sticking to the ground and becoming slippery.  Soon they lose their pretty color and become a soggy brown mess.  But even when conditions are dry, raking and gathering them become quite a chore.  One good gust of wind is all that is needed to send them scurrying away from the rake.

Today’s verse is a prayer of David’s during the collection of gifts for the building of the temple.  After David gave liberally of his gold and silver to its construction, he encouraged the people to do the same.  They responded generously and together they praised the Lord.  Their generous giving revealed the thoughts and desires of their hearts.  David prays that their thoughts and desires continue to be loyal to the Lord.

Much like wind-blown leaves, my thoughts and desires can be scattered all over the place.  When I spend time in God’s Word, it is as if the verses serve as a big rake, gathering my thoughts to a place they should be.  Love of the world and consumerism can quickly blow my thoughts and desires into corners they do not belong.  Spending time with Him lines up my priorities and keeps my loyalty to Him undivided.  I want to keep those God-honoring thoughts and desires in my heart where they belong.  And I want to express them by generous giving.

Lord, keep my thoughts and desires from wandering away from complete loyalty to You!

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


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Something’s Missing!

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 1:8 “All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.”

This bizarre bronze statue was created by Bruno Catalano and can be seen in Marseilles, France.  The artist, having been a sailor for twenty years, created his idea of a world citizen.  Every time he personally left a place, he felt he left pieces of himself behind.  Perhaps most everyone can relate as, “Everyone has missing pieces in his life that he won’t find again.”  This is a much more artistic way of expressing the lyrics of, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco!”

Today’s verse is something a world traveler may eventually feel.  In the beginning of exploring our world, there is much to see, hear and experience.  King Solomon had all the resources needed to experience life to the fullest.  Every desire to see and hear was fulfilled.  And yet those experiences did not fulfill him.  The desire to see more is always there.  The longing to hear more is never satisfied.  There is something missing.  The search for something new exotic and different becomes wearisome.  It does not fulfill something deep within.  There is still an emptiness.

I suppose one could call me a world traveler after having visited close to twenty-five countries.  I am privileged to have seen and heard a lot!  I know a number of people who are “minimalists” decrying the accumulation of things and instead filling their lives with seeing and hearing experiences.  But eventually it all becomes wearisome without that relationship with the Creator.  He is the One who fulfills my life, filling in all the empty places.

Thank you Lord that Your love and presence is more satisfying than anything I can see or hear!

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


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Elephant Feet

Scripture for Today: I Samuel 2:9  “He keeps the feet of His godly ones.  But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; For not by might shall a man prevail.”

One would think that it would take a serious problem to bring down the mighty elephant.  But in fact, the single most important ailment of the captive elephant is the foot-related problem.  With limited movement their soles and nails do not naturally wear down and need constant cutting back.  If abscesses, nail infection and arthritis are not guarded against, any of these seemingly inconsequential problems could bring down this amazingly strong animal.

Today’s verse is part of a song by Hannah.  She is leaving Samuel, her precious son, at the temple to serve as she had promised.  Surprisingly, her heart is exalting in the Lord instead of melting in sorrow at the separation!  Hannah is affirming the truth of the sovereignty of God.  She understands that God will protect her little boy.  He will be keeping the feet of His godly ones, protecting their comings and goings.  It is not the strong and mighty ones that will prevail.    The wicked can only count on stumbling around in the darkness.

It is a tremendous comfort to know that the Lord sees every step before I take it.  He makes firm the steps of those who delight in Him (Psalm 37:23).  I can even walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4) without fear knowing He sees, He knows and He is right there beside me.  As His own, I walk in His light and will prevail through His strength.  Whatever I may face today, this truth will not change.  I can step out that front door with confidence in His loving sovereignty.

Thank you Lord, for Your intimate knowledge and care for me.

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


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Oh Rats!

Scripture for Today: Psalm 19:11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

The ship was crossing the channel, taking all of our family to England from France for a house exchange.  We were thankful that no one suffered any sea sickness, there were no sudden squalls and we did not see rats making for the exits!  Of course, if we had, we would have been plenty worried.  It is a common belief that rats know when to flee a sinking ship.  Some research seems to indicate that animals can pick up “infrasonic” sound pulses created by storms and earthquakes, giving them a head start toward safety.  If I saw rats running for their lives, I would consider that a warning and follow!

Today’s verse promises reward for keeping God’s laws and decrees.  That is the positive side.  The negative side in this verse is that they also serve as a warning.  Like the rats headed for the exit, God’s commandments give us warning.  They let us know when we are headed toward trouble.  God, in His grace, alerts us through His Word so that we can avoid needless heartbreak.  Following His way rather than our own keeps us out of harm’s way.

Our sin hurts.  It complicates a life and results in brokenness.  But it does not have to be if we heed His warning signs.  It is unpopular to speak of absolutes but they are not my words.  God delineates quite clearly in His Word between what is good and evil, black and white, dark and light.  He makes it clear so I do not add senseless pain and guilt to my life.

Help me Lord, to see Your commandments as a positive loving gesture from You.

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