Devotions By Jan


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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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Storm Chasers

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 4:6 “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”

Why would anyone chase a storm?  To risk everything and knowingly put one’s self in the path of danger seems insane!  Storm chasers include locals with cell phone cameras, news crews, researchers, photographers, university field trips and van loads of storm tour groups!  Whether they are motivated by adventure or science, those who drive hundreds if not thousands of miles to chase a storm are passionate!  I can understand the thrill and the awe of nature but my sense of self-preservation is too strong to join them.  After all, it is just chasing after wind.

Solomon in Ecclesiastes often repeats the phrase, “chasing after the wind.”   Today’s verse notes just one of the activities he lists as futile.  Chasing after more and more wealth may fill two hands rather than just one but it does not give us peace.  The more we have, the more we seem to want.  There is always more to acquire with the promise of peace, security and satisfaction.  But when we arrive, we find that the promise was false.

Just as one cannot catch wind, one cannot find meaning in the material world.  We were created with “eternity in our hearts.” (Eccl. 3:11)  Everything else is not only temporal but in the end, unsatisfying.  Having more handfuls does not insure having peace.  More often than not, having more creates its own worries and headaches and robs us of peace!  Some of the most contented and peaceful people I know have surprisingly little in their hands.  But how easily I forget that fact.  The truth is, I want heart peace more than any material benefit that exists.

Thank you Lord, for the peace and rest I find in You.

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


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Stairs

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 2:22 “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?”

I almost passed right by this picture without seeing it.  Yes, it’s artsy but there is a little detail easy to miss.  The stairs lead nowhere!  Perhaps, there was once a door at the top, but no longer.  I think I would be plenty irritated to expend that energy climbing for no good reason.  How awful to finally get to the top of a long flight of stairs, only to find that there is nothing there!

It must have been with this same sentiment that Solomon wrote today’s verse.  What ever is the point of all the striving, working and toil man goes through all of his life?  If at the end of the climb one finds no satisfaction in reaching the goal, than life can seem a cruel joke.  But that is exactly the case if the Lord is left out of the picture.  Everything, even the most admirable success, is meaningless.  Climbing the ladder to wealth, prestige and security means nothing in the end.  At the end of life, a hard-earned fortune gets passed down until it dwindles away to nothing (verse 21).

I cannot imagine saying on my death bed, “I wish I had worked more.”  I would hope that I would say, “I wish I had loved and served Him more.”  Living for my Creator is the only life that makes sense to me.  My strife, toil and work when done for Him gives it eternal value.  Anxious striving for my own selfish desires proves empty in the end.  “Only one life, ’twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Lord, keep me focused on living and working for You!

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


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House vs. Home

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 5:8 “We are of good courage, I say. and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

I have lived in a variety of houses on both sides of the ocean.  Not all of them have really felt like “home.”  The essential element was not the window flower boxes, a fire in the hearth or baking smells wafting from the kitchen.  For me the word denotes a feeling of permanence, being settled and enjoying warm loving family relationships.  Being that we were many times on the move, my husband would often tell me that “home” is where I am.

Today’s verse tells us where our true home is.  We are at home when we are in the presence of the Lord.  One day that will happen literally as He has thoughtfully and lovingly prepared a place for us (John 14:2).  What will make this place home will not be the size of the mansion or its appointments.  It will be the fact they we will be forever with Him.  There will be no interruption to this warm loving relationship.  It will be permanent and we will feel settled.

No matter how wonderful some of my houses have been, none of them have given me a feeling of satisfaction.  There is always a nagging sense of being unsettled.  Sure, it is nice to come back after time away.  But that feeling of coming home quickly wears off.  I know for a fact that I am not home yet.  When I finally feel at home will be when I enter my eternal home!  But for now, I can enjoy a small taste of home when I sense His presence.

Lord, You are my home.  Help me find contentment in You.

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


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Satisfaction Guaranteed?

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 55:2 “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.”

It happened again.  A news report described the chagrin of a customer buying online what she thought was a great deal on a chair.  The chair looked study enough being made of wood.  And at 5$ what could go wrong?  Apparently, she did not read the fine print describing the dimensions of what was in fact a dollhouse item.  She could have sent it back for reimbursement but instead kept it on her desk as a reminder to always read the fine print!

Today’s verse could be like that fine print that we forget to heed.  Satisfaction is not guaranteed for any of our purchases except for bread.  Bread here is a symbol for what is daily essential for life.  Jesus declared Himself the “bread of life” (John 6:35).  He satisfies the hunger of our souls and He does this daily.  Trying to find that satisfaction in anything else just does not work!  But listening to Him and His Word is a food worth any price.  And what is so amazing is that we are invited to come and buy without money and without cost! (vs. 1)

I often do not recognize my hunger.  There are days when I am soul sick because I am feeding on what does not satisfy.  Those fancy pastries the world offers are a big distraction.  But instead of feeling full and satisfied, I am left feeling a little queasy.  However when I go to Jesus, He more than satisfies what my soul craves.  He offers Himself: His love, His peace, His joy.

Thank you Lord, that You satisfy!


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Bent Out Of Shape!

Scripture for Today: Philippians 2:14-15a “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure , ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation…'”

It is a mystery!  No one knows why this grove of about 100 pines in Poland became so bent and crooked!  Each tree sharply bends towards the North for three to nine feet before curving back upright.  They were planted in 1930 and no one is around to explain.  As nearby trees grow normally, the best explanation is that it was done by man to ready the wood for curved ship-building parts.  Although, I personally like the alien explanation!

Today’s verse describes a whole generation as being warped and crooked.  Being “bent out of shape” is the natural state of those who follow their own way rather than God’s way.  The works of the Lord are perfect and He is perfectly upright (Deut. 32: 4-5)  Those who belong to Him have His righteousness and stand upright as well, just as those surrounding straight trees.  One of the most telling differences between the children of God and the surrounding crooked generation is doing everything without grumbling or arguing.

We all grumble, complain and argue.  I find it difficult to imagine never indulging in doing this.  But the idea is that a believer is not to be characterized by this behavior.  If I really believe that the Lord is in control of my life, then it stands to reason that He allows those complaint-inducing circumstances!!  I can complain about being stuck in traffic or I can trust God’s timing for my day.  I can pine away about what I do not have, or I can thank Him for all He does give me.

Lord, You are so good to me.  Keep me from complaining today.


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The Leprechaun

Scripture for Today: Colossians 2:2 “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ.”

Today is a day for all things Irish.  And the leprechaun has been part of Irish folklore for centuries.  Our American ideas have changed him a bit as originally he is said to wear red.  The leprechaun in the beginning was a much scarier figure who would warn off people from sacred sites for their protection.  Now he is all about making shoes, granting wishes and hiding his gold at the end of he rainbow.  This leprechaun does not look so happy counting his gold!

Today’s verse talks about different riches.  They are described as “full” and have nothing to do with wealth in the traditional sense.  These riches involve understanding and knowing a Person, Jesus Christ.  Progressively coming to know God’s Son makes a life full and rich.  This kind of wealth is eternal rather than temporal.  Wealth of this kind cannot be stolen or taxed.  It is a wealth that has no limit.  The riches of Christ are boundless! (Eph. 3:8)

My riches are not tangible.  Their value is not easily recognized by the world.  Even so, I would never trade them for that “pot of gold!”  It cannot compare with the surpassing value of knowing and loving my Savior.  The closer I am to Jesus, the richer I am.  The further away I move from Him, the more impoverished I become.  Knowing, Him, loving Him and serving Him enriches me like nothing else!  How rich I am!

Thank you Lord, for the boundless and endless riches I find in You!