Devotions By Jan


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Lap Cat

Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:12  “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

This is not our cat.  Tiger would never consent to sit in our laps, let alone relax and sleep there.  I tried so hard to make him a lap cat, but he would have none of it!  There is something soothing about having that little heater rest on one’s knees.  But when a cat is that relaxed and contented I feel pinned in place, not wanting to disturb him by getting out of the chair.

Today’s verse is about experiencing contentment regardless of our circumstances.  Having every need and desire fulfilled is no guarantee to having contentment.  Nor is experiencing lack a recipe for discontent.  Paul knew what he was talking about as he lived both of these scenarios.  What is encouraging is that contentment can be learned.  It is not always our first reaction but with enough practice it can be.  There is a secret to learning this contentment and that secret is found in our relationship to Christ.  He gives me the ability to find contentment in Him.

What this suggests to me is that when I am feeling disgruntled and deprived, I just need to crawl back up into His lap!  Rather than focusing on the negatives in my life, I turn to Him.  Reminding myself of who He is and all the blessings He has already given me helps me find that lap of contentment.  For me, it is really a choice as to where I am focusing my thoughts.

Lord, help me to find that elusive contentment in You.

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Comforters

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 7:5b-6 “…we had no rest, but were harassed at every turn – conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,”

I look at this bed as having two comforters!  Burying a tearful face in the fur of a cat can be a comfort.  Or just that down-filled comforter to snuggle in can bring a measure of comfort.  There is something about that softness that can soothe the tension away.  What can be comfort for the body can sometimes then be transferred to the spirit.  The French word for this bed covering is “duvet” but I prefer our word for what it suggests; comfort.

Today’s verse gives a more reliable source for comfort.  Paul and Timothy had been having a rough time in their travels preaching the Gospel.  He described it as great pressure, hardship, and even deadly peril (II Cor. 1:8-10).  And now Paul is affirming that even though there was no rest and continual harassment, he could experience God’s comfort.  In the middle of conflict and fear, God reached out to comfort Paul by the coming of Titus who Paul loved like a son.

God comforts the downcast.  He sees when I am overwhelmed with fear and worry.  He cares when I am feeling too sad to get up from bed   Better than physical comfort, He gives me the amazing comfort of His love and goodness.  He brings to mind a song lyric.  He uses a long-forgotten verse.   And so often, He gives comfort through the encouragement of other believers as he did for Paul.  He is the “God of all comfort” (I Cor. 1:3-4) and knows better than anyone else how to lift my head and my spirits.

Lord, thank you for Your comfort and help me to share it.


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The Serval

Scripture for Today: Psalm 62:11-12 “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that You, O God, are strong, and that You, O Lord, are loving. Surely You will reward each person according to what he has done.”

This cat is all ears!  The serval is a wild African cat believed to be the ancient ancestor of the cheetah.  Their ears are the largest of any cat. They live in tall grass and are not as likely to see their small prey.  So their ears are huge to hear what they cannot see.  The ears of a serval are so sensitive they can recognize sounds made by animals moving in their underground tunnels!  But it was for their grace and strength that the ancient Egyptians worshiped them.

Today’s verse was written by David, a very wealthy and powerful king.  His ears were attuned to God’s Word.  Rather than trust in his own strength and riches, David acknowledges that only God has real power.  David had been listening to many things God had spoken to him personally, but these two truths kept him in an attitude of trust.  Not only does God have all the power but it is used to fight for and protect those He loves.

I need to be listening for these same truths.  Unwittingly, I put God in a box with my thinking, forgetting just how formidable He is.  I need to remember that He is all powerful and nothing escapes His perfect justice.  But how thankful I am that His power is coupled with His love!  His sacrificial love has made a way for me to escape the punishment my sins deserve.  Nothing and no one can prevail against me or separate me from this incredible love  (Romans 8:38-39).

Lord, help me hear Your reassurances of power and love today!


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Holding a Grudge

Scripture for Today: Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

They say that cats do not hold grudges.  There is supposed to be some other reasonable explanation for their behavior.  However, when returning from a trip, it would always take our Tiger a bit of time to warm back up to us.  He would hold himself aloof and look at us sideways as if to say, “Where have you been and how dare you leave me?”  After a few rebuffed overtures he would eventually be his loving self again.

Today’s verse can be convicting.  It is repeated throughout Scripture that we are not to take revenge (Romans 12:19).  That job is done much better by the Lord who sees hearts and is righteous.  However, holding a grudge is something that we feel entitled to do, reminding ourselves that it is not OK what was done to us.  Holding a grudge keeps the memory alive and keeps the offender at arm’s length.  But love is impossible without true forgiveness.

So often, the guilty one is unaware of that unforgiving spirit I harbor.  It certainly does nothing to him.  The pain I continue to feel becomes self-inflicted and can become more important than the original offense.  Still, it is hard to let it go.  To forgive and forget seems as if I am letting that person get away with something.  The closer the offender is to me the deeper the wound.  It is impossible to forgive and let go without the Lord.  Because He forgives me and does not hold a grudge, He empowers me to do the same.  It can only happen as I continually give it to Him.

Lord, help me to forgive like You do.

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


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Good Taste

Scripture for Today: Job 34:3-4 “For the ear tests words as the tongue tests food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.”

This cat is enjoying ice cream almost as much as I do!  Our Tiger never tasted the stuff because I was always unwilling to share.  However, I have given him as taste of yogurt and he was thrilled.  I imagine many cats enjoy foods that involve milk or cream.  But I still remember the veterinarian warning us that the digestive system of an adult cat does not take too well to drinking milk.  Although the taste is delicious, it is not so good for him.

Today’s verse records the advice of one of Job’s three friends.  Elihu was eager to help Job discover the reason for his troubles.  He had a lot to say but it was off the mark.  Certainly, we are to test what we hear and listen with discernment.  Just as we taste food to see if it has a pleasing flavor, so we “taste” what we hear to decide if it rings true.  The problem is that we all have differing taste buds.  What seems right and good to one can seem wrong and sour to another.  Our subjectivity gets in the way of finding absolute truth.

Thankfully, we do not have to discern for ourselves what is right.  It is not up to us to come to some sort of consensus.  God’s Law goes beyond individual opinion or cultural norms.  God’s Law does not change with the times.  Surveys and votes do not change what God has put in place.  And not only does it taste good, but it is good for us!

Help me Lord, to discern what You call good and right.

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


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Thin Ice

Scripture for Today: Psalm 89:2 “I will declare that Your love stands firm forever, that You have established Your faithfulness in Heaven itself.”

This kitty is trying to walk on thin ice.  I have yet to meet a cat who enjoys getting wet.  This one is walking oh so gingerly to avoid falling through the ice and getting an unintended freezing bath!  So many factors are against him.  The ice could be thinner in spots or the air temperature could change.  A sideways slip could move him off the ice and into the surrounding cold water.  How much more reassuring to walk and stand on firm ground!

Today’s verse is about standing on something that is firm forever.  There is no chance of it failing to take our weight.  It will hold us up when every other kind of love lets us down.  There are no outside factors or circumstances that will change it.  God’s love is completely dependable and faithful.  When God establishes something, nothing under Heaven can change it as His decrees are firm (Psalm 19:9).

He has not only declared that He loves me but He has proved it with the ultimate sacrifice; His death on the cross.  What other evidence do I need?  And yet, there are times when I do doubt it.  Knowing my dark heart I wonder how He could possibly love me.  It is a true miracle that He does.  Thankfully, He does not love me because I am lovable.  If that were the case, it would be thin ice indeed!  It is out of His grace that He has committed Himself to love me and not because I deserve it.

“O, the wonder of it all….just to think that God loves me!”  Help me to stand firmly in Your love today.

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


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Back Scratcher

Scripture for Today: Matthew 5:46a-47a “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?”

This cat and cat owner have learned how to live out the saying, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours!”  The owner scratches the cat’s back first and then the cat obligingly does the same for her!  What could be better than having your own in-house masseur?  This saying came from sailors in the 17th century.  When crew members were told to flog one another for an offense, they would sometimes do it lightly, only “scratching” the back, in hopes of being treated the same way.

Today’s verse points out that only loving those who will love you in return is not so admirable.  Greeting only those who will greet you back is no big risk.  Even those who do not follow Christ do as much.  The believer is held to a higher standard.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies (verse 44) which means loving those who will not respond in kind.  We are not to do for others in order to receive something in return.  We are to love and even pray for those who treat us poorly.

Our world does not work this way.  There are expectations and obligations that come from gifts and favors.  But as a believer I am to show love that is unconditional and not dependent on someone’s response.  It is not always easy to ignore the lack of a thank-you note or a return dinner invitation.  However, the Lord delights in rewarding and blessing my obedience.  Knowing this frees me up to give and give again without any strings attached.

Lord, make my love for others like Yours is for me!