Devotions By Jan


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Table Settings

Scripture for Today: Psalm 78:19 “They spoke against God; they said, ‘Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?'”

I love a pretty table setting!  Somehow, all that attention to detail makes the food taste better.  When I have company over they may ask to help set my table.  But that is something I always reserve for myself.  However, this  outlet for creativity can be overdone.  This table looks a bit crowded as there seems to be no place for the dishes.  The flowers are perhaps too tall to see other table guests!

Today’s verse talks about the Lord Himself spreading a table.  It was no picnic being in the wilderness year after year.  The Israelites complained and repeatedly put God to the test.  How gracious He was to rain down manna, called the “grain of heaven” and the “bread of angels” (verse 24-25).  They gorged themselves on meat that He provided.  Yet, their hearts were not loyal.  Though He provided for their needs again and again, they continually forgot His power (verse 42).  How exasperating it must have been for the Lord to hear the question posed in our verse when He had proven Himself over and over.

I imagine that though the Lord loves me, He must sometimes be exasperated with me!  Can He really meet this need?  Will He come through for me this time?  Can I completely count on Him for that?  To even have such thoughts reveals that I have forgotten His power.  He has already shown Himself faithful time after time.  Yes, He can and does spread a table in the wilderness!  When all seems dry and desolate, He provides above and beyond all we can ask or think! (Eph. 3:20)

Thank you Lord, for spreading a table for me and meeting my every need!

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


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Straddling

Scripture for Today: Deuteronomy 30:19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live”

There is nothing so frustrating as being behind a driver who is straddling two lanes!  My first inclination is to pass him and get well away.  But I sure would not try to pass in either of the two lanes he is using.  Chances are he would decide on my lane just as I am passing!  Better to bide my time and wait until he makes his intentions clear.

The choice of a traffic lane is one of a myriad of choices we make in a day.  But far more important is our choice of whether we turn toward or away from the Lord.  Today’s verse makes it clear that there is a choice to be made.  There is no possibility of “straddling lanes.”  We either turn our hearts toward God in obedience or we turn away from Him in rebellion.

I love how this verse reveals God’s loving heart as He urges us to choose life and blessing.  He reassures us that what He asks is not too difficult or beyond reach (verse11-14).  He promised life, blessing, and protection for the Israelites ready to cross over into the Promise Land.  And today He promises an abundant life for all those who belong to Him (John 10:10).  Choosing Him is choosing a life consumed with loving Him, listening to His voice and holding fast to Him (verse 20).  Choosing Him is living a life that is worth living.  The Lord is my life.  I cannot even imagine living life without Him!

Thank you Lord, for giving me the choice and the privilege of choosing You!

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


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Open Hands

Scripture for Today: Psalm 104:28 “When You give to them, they gather it up; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”

Hands can be so expressive.  When curled up they indicate tension.  When folded they can communicate a readiness to listen.  When their palms are lifted, the hands express bafflement or confusion.  Anger is expressed when they form a fist.  But the open hand is a giving hand.  I remember when our children were small.  We tried to avoid spanking with our hand.  We never wanted our hands to be feared.  How terrible when children cringe from a helping hand!  We wanted our hands to have a positive association.

This beautiful verse for today mentions God’s hands.  They are open in a giving gesture to provide for His creation.  Although God is spirit (John 4:24) it is helpful to have this image of His hands.  He reigns, delivers and does mighty works with His powerful right hand.  His hands are like no others and when He opens them, it is with loving provision.  All that is good in our lives comes from those open hands.

I never need to cringe from His hands lifted in anger and punishment.  Although wrath and judgement do come from His righteous hands I do not fear them.  That is because I have placed my trust in Christ.  By faith I have received His righteousness as a gift and I am no longer under any condemnation (Rom. 8;1).  His nail-pierced hands are full of mercy and grace.  I do not fear those hands as His perfect love has cast out all fear. (I John 4:18)  I can trust His outstretched hands as they offer forgiveness and peace.  His hands provide for me what truly satisfies that deep longing in my soul.

Thank you Lord, for opening Your hands to me.

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


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Shearing Sheep

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 12:11 “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

This silly sheep disliked shearing so much that he hid in a cave for six consecutive seasons to avoid the ordeal.  With the sixty extra pounds of wool he could barely move!  Life was getting a bit difficult and it was probably with a sense of relief that he finally gave up and allowed himself to be sheared.  Without shearing, that wool fleece becomes heavy, soiled and unhealthy.

In today’s verse there is a harvest, not of wool but of righteousness and peace.  This harvest requires a process that can be as uncomfortable as shearing.  The Lord’s discipline is unpleasant and painful.  But for the believer it is not a question of punishment.  Jesus took on Himself that punishment on the cross. Discipline is love in action and a sure sign of belonging to Him. (verse 8)  Just as a father lovingly disciplines his son, so the Lord corrects and trains through discipline. (verse 9)

When I am experiencing something negative in my life, I can sometimes wonder if it is a “trial” or “discipline.”  But usually it is clear.  I am like that three year old who looks sideways at the parent to see if he is watching.  There is rebellion in my heart when I refuse to acknowledge that something is wrong.  When I stubbornly continue my behavior the Lord lovingly corrects me for my good.  When I finally give up what I know is wrong, that heavy weight on my back is lifted!  Like the newly shorn sheep, I can run and jump and move with ease!  Peace and righteousness feel good!

Thank you Lord, for Your loving correction.

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


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All Directions

Scripture for Today: Joshua 1:7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law My servant Moses gave you.; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”

These signs are common in France.  Apparently, everywhere I want to go is to the left!  “All Directions” is actually a helpful indication when trying to change course.  It helps to know how to change direction when confused.  Details come later.  This sign at least points toward major streets from which one can exit the area.  By following it, one can avoid going around in circles and getting tied up with one-way streets.

Today’s verse calls for strength and courage.  This is the charge the Lord gave directly to Joshua as he took over as leader of the Israelites.  The law came through Moses but was not to be considered invalid at his death.  Obedience to the law was to continue.  And following it would bring blessing and success.  But there was plenty of temptation to turn away from it.  A few steps to the left or to the right would be detrimental.  The verse warns us to be careful not to turn away from what God had said.

There are signs everywhere encouraging me to turn off with promises of an easier route.  The sign, “All Directions” is everywhere.  Surely, there is more than one way.  Try this route, or maybe that one is just as valid with less trouble.  There are roads that are narrow that lead to life or there are roads that are wide that lead to destruction (Matt 7:13-14).  How important it is for me to choose well!

Give me strength and courage Lord, to carefully follow Your way!

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


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Fashion Glasses

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 21:2 “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.”

I am trying to like these fashion glasses, but they just make me smile.  I am sure that is not the desired reaction.  Wearing something so big and bold on the face takes lots of confidence.  The style must be considered right and accepted as fashionable or one could not pull it off.  But like beauty, good style is in the eye of the beholder!

Today’s verse points out how subjective each of us are in evaluating our own behavior.  We are masters at rationalizing it to sound good.  It is right in our own eyes or we could not sleep at night.  It is right because it feels good.  It is right because there is a good result.  Perhaps it is right because it is convenient.  Usually, we feel that something is right because everyone else seems to think so.

How does one really evaluate what is right?  The real reasons for our behavior are not found in logical thinking.  We can know that something is not right or good for us and still stubbornly do it.  When trying to correct a social ill, the accepted method is to educate.  Surely, if people understand the health risks, or see the negative consequences possible, the behavior will stop.

Knowing what is right and doing it are heart issues.  The Lord sees my heart and I am very thankful no one else does.  He weighs it and sees the rebellion and stubbornness.  It is only His power that can clean it up and keep it clean.  He convicts and convinces through His Word to show me what is true and right.

Change my heart Lord, to know and do what is right today!

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


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Chimney Swifts

Scripture for Today: Job 12:7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;”

It was a real show!  In my sister’s yard in Portland, we arranged our chairs to watch as hundreds of small swifts circled in the air.  They would gather in small groups, adding new members as they swooped around the rooftops.  After about twenty minutes of this confusing ballet, someone in the group deemed it time to drop, fluttering, into the chimney.  All it took was one to begin a mass entrance!  How did they know when to begin?  How did they choose their leader?  Somehow, they were communicating with each other to orchestrate this orderly nightly processional.

Today’s verse points out that animals and birds can teach us!  If these birds could speak, what would they tell us?  Each one of them knows that, “In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (verse 10)  They are not at all confused about where they came from and Who it is that gives life and breath.  Their existence depends entirely on their Creator.  Perhaps that is the meaning of their high-pitched chattering calls!

These birds can testify to truth that escapes many people!  He is not far from any of us as, “in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)  Not one sparrow is forgotten by God (Luke 12:6) and the swallow nests in the shelter of God’s presence (Psalm 84:3).  In God’s sight we are worth so much more than these tiny flying creatures.  His care is so obvious in my life.  How silly of me to doubt!  Regardless of my circumstances, He is there and He is faithful.

Thank you Lord, for your constant unfailing love.

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