Devotions By Jan


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Checkmate

IMG_20151204_152757Scripture for Today:  James 4:15 “Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

My grandsons had no idea where each chess piece should be placed to begin or even continue a game!  Their Nana sure could not help, but they had fun anyway, confidently moving the pieces around according to some unseen vision in their little heads!  The strategy escapes me but I do know enough to recognize that “check” is not what one wants to hear, and “checkmate” even less, signaling that the game is over.

Today’s verse talks about making plans for the future.  Of course it is important in reaching any goal to carefully plan a strategy.  A building is not begun without considering the estimated cost (Luke 14:28).  But this passage is speaking to the arrogance of making plans without thought to the plans the Lord may have.  We do not know what tomorrow will hold or whether we will have life and breath to carry out our future plans (verse 14).  The unexpected can always “check” or “checkmate” our progress.

When I make plans I want to always recognize that the Lord may have something different in mind.  Recognizing this keeps me humble and it keeps me in an attitude of submission.  Recognizing His control also keeps me asking and listening to Him.  As wonderful as I think my plan is, I do not want to miss out on something better!  He knows what tomorrow holds.  He knows what health issues I may be facing later.  Being overconfident about my plans is seen as “boasting” in the Lord’s eyes (verse 16).  There may be a change of plan but through it I can trust Him.

Lord, keep me following Your plan.

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


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The Emerald

Scripture for Today: Revelation 4:3 “And the One who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.”

The color and brilliance of this emerald take my breath away!  This gemstone is a variety of the mineral beryl.  But what classifies it as an emerald is its deep bluish to pure green color saturation.  And the more it is transparent the more it is valuable with its shine.  The small fissures in the stone are called the stone’s “jardin” (garden).  Some are treated with oil to fill in these natural fissures.  Although the emerald has been mined for centuries, today one can buy synthetic emeralds.  But somehow it is not the same.

The shine of an emerald is the image John uses in today’s verse to describe a rainbow that encircles God’s throne.  Its brilliance will be awe-inspiring and fitting for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  But He Himself will have an appearance just as brilliant as the stunning ruby and the crystal-like jasper.  These precious stones, as beautiful as they are, do not come close to describing God’s magnificence.  His glory would be blinding if not for our new bodies with its new eyes.  We will be filled with the wonder of His beauty as we fall to our knees in worship and praise.

I need to be reminded of God’s incredible beauty and glory.  Too often I over-simplify God in an attempt to understand Him.  I can only know His reflection for now, but one day we will be face to face (I Cor. 13:12).  Then I will know Him fully, as fully as He knows me!  What a day that will be!  No more flawed impressions, wrong ideas, or ambiguity.

Lord, give me another glimpse of Your glory today.

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


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Towers

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.”

These towers were all over the island of Sardinia, off the coast of Italy.  I was there recently, singing with my French Gospel Chorale.  Our guide explained how vulnerable the island was to multiple attacks over the centuries.  Archeologists have found the ruins of seven thousand towers, although they believe there were originally as many as ten thousand.  Most of the ones still standing today are more recent from the 1500’s and served a similar function of defense and communication.

I love the description in today’s verse that portrays the Lord’s name as a fortified tower.  We never have to worry about this tower being in disrepair or in pieces.  It stands tall and beckons the believer to run to it for safety and security.  There may even be a small window like the one pictured, from which we can watch the Lord take down our enemies!  There is opposition to His name now, but one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess His name (Phil. 2:10-11).

The righteous can run to it for safety.  The righteous?  Can that mean me?  I am given Christ’s righteousness as a gift.  I can run to that tower with confidence that I will not be turned away or mistaken as the enemy.  In fact, it is in believing in that precious name of Jesus that I am saved from the punishment of all my wrong doing.  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).  Whatever opposition I face, He is there to protect me and fight for me.  His name and presence are stronger than any of my feeble attempts.

Lord, keep me running to Your arms.

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


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Bent by the Wind

Scripture for Today: Psalm 38:6 “I am bent over and greatly bowed down; I go about mourning all day long.”

So many of the trees at this beach on the island of Sardinia were bent over as a result of the strong winds.  It was almost impossible to walk through a grove of them and avoid running into their lowered branches.  Some of them were practically horizontal.  Only a few provided the shade we needed at the right height for our picnic.  Even so, they managed to keep growing, in spite of the buffeting from those strong gusts of wind.

Today’s verse talks about being bent over and bowed down as an image for guilt over sin.  David feels the seriousness of his failures so keenly that he mourns all throughout the day.  He describes the guilt he feels as a burden too heavy to bear (verse 4).  He feels that the guilt is even affecting his health when he says there is no soundness in his bones because of his sin (verse 3).  He calls his sin, “folly” (verse 5).

This is exactly what guilt feels like.  But this description is before David confesses (verse 18).  David ends the psalm with confidence in God’s help and forgiveness.  Those strong winds of guilt have him bowed down but he is still standing.  Perhaps David was a “man after God’s own heart” because he recognized the seriousness of his sin and was willing to completely humble himself.

I do not often have this kind of guilt.  It is not that I do not sin as much or as seriously as David.  But I think I am sometimes desensitized to it.  Or my pride just does not allow me to think that I am quite that bad, or that what I have done is so serious.

Lord, examine my heart today.

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


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Flat Footed

Scripture for Today:  Luke 12:25 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

Flat feet are no fun.  Not only do they cause feet to quickly tire, but they are also painful and can cause swelling on the inside bottom of the foot.  Flat feet can also cause back and leg pain.  To be “caught flat footed,” is an expression having little to do with the problem.  This saying, meaning “taken by surprise,” or “unprepared,” originated from baseball slang in 1912.  The idea was to be “on your toes,” and ready for anything.

My husband often expresses that he does not want to be caught flat footed.  I am blessed to be married to someone who thinks through possible consequences and plans for contingencies.  But life is full of surprises.  Today’s verse takes preparedness for the future to a different level.  How easy it is to slip into worry!  One cannot foresee and be ready for absolutely everything that may happen.  No matter how thorough, one can suddenly feel flat footed at an unexpected development.

I am glad the Lord does not have this problem.  He is never unprepared, knowing all from the beginning to the end.  Nothing surprises Him.  There is tremendous comfort in knowing He knows.  Worrying about what may happen drains me and adds nothing positive.  There is value in thinking through a problem but when it slips into worry somehow I am doubting God’s control and care.

When I feel the urge to worry I often imagine all kinds of unlikely scenarios.  It is during those times I need to remind myself that with God, nothing is impossible.  I can give over to Him all the “what if’s.”

Thank you Lord, that in giving it all to You I can experience peace rather than worry!

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