Devotions By Jan

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Playing Checkers

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

The game of Checkers has been around a lot longer than this 1937 scene pictured here.  Checkers is thought to be the oldest game in the world dating back over 4,000 years!  According to inscriptions found in the temple of Thebes, Egyptian kings took time out from overseeing the construction of the pyramids to play checkers!  Lots of famous people have since had a fondness for the game including past presidents, noted scientists and popular sport heroes.  Whoever the player may be however, it is certain that they have a “checkered past.”

Today’s verse is a wonderful reassurance for all of us who regret those black squares that mark our past.   No one is immune from having that checkered past as all have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23).  But the Lord has promised a forgiveness and pardon that is complete.  He blots out every sin and chooses to not remember them.  He no longer holds against us all of our failures and disobedience.  Jesus took on Himself the punishment for each of those sins.

I would love to be able to “remember my sins no longer.”  But the memories remain.  And Satan loves to whisper in my ears his accusations.  Thankfully, God’s Word is full of reassurances of unconditional love and complete pardon.  The Lord graciously softens and blurs memories of past failures.  If guilty memories occasionally do reappear, He is there to build me back up.  If nothing else, those memories remind me that I am not perfect, but His forgiveness is!  When I remember a checkered past I can also remember that His grace is greater than all my sin!

Thank you Lord, for wiping out and forgetting my sin forever!


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Playing Solitaire

Scripture for Today:  Mark 1:35  “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”

Among the many pastimes possible when one finds oneself alone is the game, “Solitaire.”  Any tabletop game played alone qualifies.  The term can refer to games played with tiles, pegs, stones or cards.  I am most familiar with the card version.  It is a game of luck and the probability of winning is low.  The British call this game, “Patience,” for good reason!  I admit that I get impatient with the cards and to end the game will rearrange the cards to win!  My reasoning is that there are usually better things to do with my “alone time.”

During the short three years of Christ’s ministry, alone times were rare and precious.  The context of today’s verse describes a time when Jesus was surrounded by people needing healing.  In fact, the whole town gathered at the door of Peter’s home well into the evening.  The next morning, when one would think about sleeping in after such a busy day, Jesus got up early to be alone and to pray.

It is when I am alone and the house is quiet that I am most likely to hear His voice.  When there are no distractions I can open my heart to Him.  Sometimes that time of precious communion has no words but is rather a time of being still.  Other times my prayers are a torrent of worries and questions.  In any case, He meets me where I am and reassures me of His presence.  If Jesus needed alone time with the Father, how much more do I!

Help me Lord, to find that sweet solitary place with You.

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Chess Strategy

Scripture 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.”

If nothing else, chess is a game of strategy.  My Father had a heavy chess set made of beautifully carved onyx.  My grandson at 5 years old is already playing a simple version of the game.  But as for me, long periods of silent staring at the board does not appeal!  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 need 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).  I like having all my ducks lined up in a row, but that means I do not have to trust!

Lord, keep me following Your plan.

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Scripture fro Today: I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can bear it.”

Having visited the pottery  factories in Poland has given me a true appreciation for their products.  It was fascinating to see each artist bent over their work, hand painting or stamping their pieces with intense concentration.  Each piece is signed by the artist as well as stamped with the Polish word for “unique.”  It is true that each piece is unique.  But all the pottery went through the same process of being fired in the kiln.

Today’s verse recognizes that each believer faces the same kinds of trials and tests.  The details may vary.  The timing and even the intensity may differ.  But there is a commonality to all of the trials God allows us to face.  They are never intended to weaken us but to strengthen our faith.  In each trial we see God’s hand and His faithfulness.  And we have His promise that it will never be more than we can bear.

What I am facing is never unique.  Somewhere, someone in the world has faced nearly the same thing.  Knowing that helps me to not feel so alone.  Not only can I draw strength from the stories of others, but I can be encouraged knowing what Christ faced.  He experienced every kind of temptation and yet did not sin. (Heb. 4:15)  And because He Himself suffered when tempted, He is there to help (Heb. 2:18)  He Himself is my “way out.”  Depending on His strength and help makes all the difference.

Thank you Lord, that I do not need to do this alone.

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Covering My Cracks

Scripture for Today: Psalm 32:5 “Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And You forgave the guilt of  my sin.”

All is not lost with a cracked bowl.  The hairline crack on this one was deftly hidden by the painted design incorporating it.  An honest pottery merchant would label this piece as a “second” or “third”  because of the defect.  An unscrupulous pottery merchant might fill in the crack with wax, paint over it and try to pass it off as perfect.  The customer would be none the wiser, at least at first.  Eventually, the defect would be apparent.

Today’s verse is a great example of coming clean with the Lord.  King David recognized that some of his physical ailments could be attributed to keeping silent about his sin (verses 3-4).  When he acknowledged and confessed his wrongdoing he experienced God’s forgiveness, not only for his sin but also for his sense of guilt.  David understood that by having a deceitful spirit with God one would be forfeiting His blessing (verse 2).  He ends this psalm in joy and singing having reestablished his relationship with God.

When I am not honest with God, I am like that cracked pottery trying to pass myself off as perfect!  But the healing of those cracks can only come when I come clean with Him.  What keeps me from  humbling myself is my own stubborn pride.  It is much easier to ignore my sin and pretend everything is fine.  But before long, the cracks become apparent and my excuses no longer hold water.  I know He will restore to me that joy of salvation if I own up instead of cover up!

Lord, thank you for the forgiveness You so freely give!

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Scripture for Today: Ephesians 4:3  “Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of the Spirit in the binding power of peace.”

Could these two be any more different from one another?  Yet, rather than fighting like cats and dogs, they seem to have found some measure of peace.  My daughter has two dogs and a cat and the domestic scene is not always as harmonious as pictured here!  The cat often tries to eat the dogs’ food and the dogs try the same thing!  Everyone has their personal space to be respected…..or not.

Today’s verse talks about something as unnatural as cats and dogs getting along together.  Harmony.  Oneness.  Peace.  It is not in our natures to strive for this.  It is so much easier to divide into factions or to stand up for one’s rights.  We want recognition and special treatment even at the cost of unity.

Without the Lord, peace with other believers would not even be possible.  Thankfully, we have the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  Our differences do not need to separate us.  Our differing races or languages do not have to be a barrier to harmony.  Even differing styles of worship do not have to divide us when we are walking by the Spirit.  Being “one” was the prayer of Jesus in John 17:23.  He prayed that our oneness would be a testimony to the world!

I am thankful to experience this oneness with French believers.  It is truly a work of the Spirit that unites us.  We are so different from one another.  Yet it is our common love for Jesus that binds us together.  That bond of peace is so sweet and worth all the effort to guard and keep!

Lord, keep me striving for unity and peace.

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Wake Up Words

Scripture for Today: Mark 9:7 “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is My Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!'”

This Echo Dot speaker is connected to the voice-activated personal assistant, Alexa.  It can perform a number of tasks including: weather and news reports, music, alarms and timers, shopping lists and to-do lists,, reminders from the calendar, access to Wikipedia and more.  Other skills are constantly being added.  But all requests start with a trigger word or wake-up word.  It can be Alexa, Amazon, Echo, or Computer.  However, it can be disconcerting that in the default mode, Echo is always listening for the wake-up word to be spoken.

Today’s verse describes in part the scene when Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of Peter, James and John.  The Jesus they thought they knew was transformed, wearing dazzling white and speaking to Moses and Elijah. Rather than shocking Peter into respectful silence and an attitude of listening, this miracle loosened Peter’s tongue.  In his excitement and fear, he made some suggestions to Jesus.  Just before things returned to normal, God’s voice told them to “Listen to Him.”

This command to Peter is just as much for me today.  I need to simply listen to Him.  There are so many distractions in my life, even good ones. that pull my attention away from hearing what He wants to say.  His message can be heard through good preaching, through devotionals and through wonderful Christian articles.  But He wants to talk to me personally with that morsel of truth that needs to be applied to my life today!  He wants to impress on me the truth needed for this moment.  I cannot discern His voice unless I am quiet and actively listening.

Wake me up, Lord, to listen to You.