Devotions By Jan


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Raise Your Hand!

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 5:21 “God made Him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.”

While watching the NBA playoffs I was surprised to see Australian Andrew Bogut of the Warriors raise his hand.  This gesture of acknowledging a foul used to be mandatory and is still used in European play.  It helps the officiating crew in recording the number of fouls.  However, today it is something completely voluntary and rarely done.  Sometimes a player will raise his hand to take the heat off a star player, confusing the officials and taking the foul for the other player!

Today’s verse has Jesus Christ raising His hand for us!  He had no sin of His own.  He was completely innocent of any wrongdoing.  Yet, He took our place.  He paid the price God’s holiness exacts for sin; the price of death (Romans 6:23).  He did this so that those who raise their hand to admit their guilt could be declared righteousness and in right standing with Him.  Not only are believers declared righteous through His eyes, but we are to “die to sin and live for righteousness” (I Peter 2:24).

I am no “star player” that He should take the foul for me!  I am completely undeserving that He should take my punishment on Himself.  It is only because of His grace and love!  He loved me and sacrificed Himself for me while I was still an enemy of His! (Romans 5:10)  And His sacrifice for my sin makes it possible to share in His righteousness.  No longer will sin have the same power of death over me!  What an incredible love that He should die for me!

Lord, I am humbled and grateful that You raised Your hand for me!


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O.D.D.

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

What changes a young person who is normally sweet and compliant into a defiant rebellious person?  The answer could be the mental disorder called, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, or ODD.  It could be difficult diagnosing this as almost any child has his moments.  But this is something more.  It is a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance and even vindictiveness.  There is no clear cause but factors can include genetics or environment.  To avoid a lifetime of grief it’s best to have an accurate diagnosis and seek help from a professional.

Being easily provoked and dealing with anger issues is already a common problem for most.  Today’s verse tells us that this kind of anger is especially a problem for the fool.  A fool is described as one who does not believe in God (Psalm 53:1).  Without a relationship with our Creator we do not have the recourse of turning to Him for the self-control He gives (Gal. 5:22-23).  Belonging to the Lord does not mean we are never angry, but it does mean that we do not have to be characterized by it.  He is in the business of transforming us little by little to be like His Son (II Cor. 3:18).

My anger can be so destructive to myself and others.  Even when I feel it is justified, it does more harm than good.  I need His help to replace my anger at that slight I feel or at being overlooked or at that injustice.  I need His help to replace anger with His kindness, compassion and forgiveness.  His anger at my sin has been satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice.  If He can forgive me than I can show grace too.

Thank you Lord, that You calm my anger.


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Snowflakes

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

Did you know that some millennials are called “snowflakes?”  The reason for this derogatory term is that they have a reputation for melting down in the face of opinions with which they disagree.  Some believe they are special and unique (like a snowflake).  But more than that some believe that the world owes them because they have always been handed everything their whole lives.  The snowflake generation is thought to be self-obsessed and fragile, easily taking offense.  One example of this attitude is the banning of clapping at a meeting in case it caused trauma!

Rather than easily taking offense, today’s verse talks about overlooking it completely.  The one who lets that verbal jibe slide is the one who is taking the high road.  The intended insult and humiliation loses its impact when there is no response or biting reply.  That offense may have been unintended.  Sometimes, the offense is only a perceived one.  In any case, what was nasty or negative can actually work in one’s favor when responded to with wisdom and patience.

I wish I were not as sensitive as I am.  I wish those perceived hurts would slide right off my back.  Too often, I remember every word of a past insult.  How unlike the Lord!  Jesus did not take offense and quit when He was insulted, spit upon and mocked.  He went all the way to the cross and was glorified by the Father.  Any offense I face from others is so very small in comparison.  He wants me to overlook it with grace and forgiveness.  In doing so I am well viewed by others, but more importantly, He is glorified!

Lord, make me wise and patient enough to let it go.


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Brainy

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This sculpture of a brain is found in Norfolk, England.  It was created to honor a very intelligent 17th century author, Sir Thomas Browne.  It is made of marble, which reinforces to me the idea that it is difficult sometimes to change one’s mind!  Americans spent 1.9 billion on brain-improving apps!  Many of them claim to improve memory, increase IQ, and boost other cognitive skills.  Of course, engaging in different types of new cognitively demanding tasks is good for the brain!

Today’s verse talks about transforming and renewing one’s mind.  We are told to do it so it must be something that is possible.  But rather than using brain teasers and games, we are to use the transforming power of God’s Word.  Unlike any other book, God’s Word is living and active, penetrating to reveal thoughts and attitudes (Hebrews 4:12).  Reading, meditating and memorizing God’s Word allows the believer to discern what God wants of us.  His Word also helps us to resist what the world wants from us; conformity!

I find tremendous comfort in the fact that God’s will for me is good, pleasing and perfect!  Often I approach God’s will with trepidation, thinking that somehow God’s will is mysterious, unknowable, and much too difficult.  But after spending time in His Word, I have a different mindset.  He renews my mind so I can understand and be on board with what He wants of me.  And He shows me where my thinking conforms to the false ideas of the world.  He replaces those thoughts with His truth!

Thank you Lord, for changing my mind!


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The Happy Button

Scripture for Today: Matthew 25:23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share in your master’s happiness.'”

This is one way to get feedback easily.  Many airports worldwide use this system to determine satisfaction level.  With a quick push of a button one can rate their experience.  The choices are; very happy, pretty happy, pretty unhappy or very unhappy.  The faces make the choices clear in any language.  Companies use this data created by “Happy or Not” to improve service.  CNBC recently reported the 1 billionth Smiley button press!

Today’s verse has some very important feedback!  The context is the parable of the talents taught by Jesus.  The master of the house, after being away, calls for an accounting from each of his servants.  He commends two of them for their faithfulness in increasing what was entrusted to them.  Not only were they given positive feedback but they were rewarded with more responsibility.

One day, I hope to hear the same words of this verse when entering His presence.  But I need feedback today too.  Positive feedback from Him is motivating!  But He does communicate that feedback.  Many times it is through His reassuring Word.  Sometimes it can be through the encouragement of other believers.  It can even be the progress I see in the small victories over temptation.  His feedback may be expressed in giving me more responsibility.  More often, I just feel a closer sense of His presence.  His love  and strength seem more real somehow.  Intimacy and connection feel deeper.  There have been times I have even felt His pleasure!

Feedback or not, Lord, may I be found faithful to the end!


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Trivial Pursuit

Scripture for Today: Psalm 139:2-3 “You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways.”

Trivial Pursuit is probably one of my least favorite board games.  Somehow, the questions on popular culture and general knowledge have a way of stumping me and making me look stupid!  Yet it has enjoyed much success having sold over a 100 million games in 26 languages and in 17 different languages!  I console myself with the thought that the one who wins is simply the one who knows the most trivia!

Today’s verse describes God’s intimate knowledge of us.  He knows not only our physical movements but the direction of our thoughts as well.  God is so big that the smallest most trivial detail does not get past Him!  He knows when, where and why a swallow falls to the ground and He knows just how many hairs are currently on my head.  Our powerful God is not only Lord of the universe but also cares about the puny unimportant minutia of our lives.  His omniscience is all inclusive.

I find enormous comfort and assurance to know He is intimately involved in the details of my life.  Because of His love and grace, I do not have to hide from this knowledge.  And His intimate knowledge of me means I can live without fear.  I can move confidently through my day, knowing He is there.  He knows and He cares, even when it is something so small that has me worried.  Rather than get nervous over what could happen, I can trust Him.  There is nothing too small for His notice.  There is nothing too trivial.

Thank you Lord, that I can come to You over the smallest thing.


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Eating Scraps

Scripture for Today: Psalms 145:15-16  “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due time.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

Not a single scrap of food was wasted during the second world war.  This young girl is putting scraps into the city pig bin in Surrey, England.  The image comes from the Imperial War Museum to depict life at the “Home Front.”  All those scraps were collected and treated and then fed to the pigs.  The pigs will eat just about anything.  They are not too picky and are easily satisfied, sometimes even with food that is nasty and spoiled.  But for the famished young man feeding pigs in Luke 15, even their food looked good!  The prodigal son had traded the comfort of his Father’s presence for the pleasures the world had to offer.

Today’s verse tells us where true satisfaction can be found.  What comes from His hand brings satisfaction.  The problem comes when we turn to the world for that satisfaction.  We mistakenly think that the pleasures the world offers will somehow meet our desires when nothing is further from the truth.  Like the Prodigal Son, we end up with the pigs, mindlessly eating the scraps.

So many are deluded and living contentedly with scraps in the pigsty when they could be dining at their Father’s table.  What the world offers not only fails to truly satisfy but leaves a bitter aftertaste.  My Heavenly Father gives good gifts that satisfy my deepest and sometimes unconscious desires.  His open hand is waiting to give to those who look to Him in faith.  I can say this as He has satisfied me with a love that will never fail!

Thank you Lord, that You satisfy my deepest hunger, that of my soul.