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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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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Boundaries

Scripture for Today: Psalm 104:9 “You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.”

We know all about the tides and their timetables.  We know all about how the moon can affect those tides.  But what we do not know is why the ocean stops at a particular beach and goes no further.  I often think of this fact as I walk along a shore.  With all our knowledge and scientific discoveries, there is so much we do not know.  The immense expanse of the ocean just seems to “know” to what point it should flow.  We do not give it a thought but build beautiful homes close by in total confidence that the ocean will go so far and no further.

Today’s verse is not just poetry.  God Himself sets the boundaries the oceans are not to cross.  The ocean is His creation and He is sovereign over it.  There is nothing that is out of His ultimate control.  As this verse says, the ocean waters have in the past covered the earth.  Perhaps this is referring to the time of creation (Genesis 1:9).  Or it may be referring to the time of worldwide flood in the days of Noah (Genesis 7:11).  In either case, God sets boundaries.

The Lord sets boundaries in my life as well.  He has promised that I will not be tested above and beyond what I can handle (I Cor. 10:13).  He will always provide a way.  Those waves coming at me will not engulf me.  Just as the Lord placed limits on Satan in his temptation of Job (Job 1:12), so my God is faithful to me.  I can trust Him.  The water may look dangerously close, but my powerful Creator is closer still!

Thank you Lord, for Your loving control of today!

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


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Pressed

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 1:8 “For we would not brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired of life.”

I can still remember seeing my Mother seated at a mangle just like this one.  She would feed the wrinkled clothes into the heated roller and they would magically come out the other side smooth and wrinkle free.  Sometimes she would allow me to feed it easy items like handkerchiefs and pillow cases.  But the dress shirts were a challenge that was better left to her.  I was surprised to learn that one can still buy a rotary iron!  Perhaps the newer models do not run the risk of mangling a clothing item or inattentive fingers!

Today’s verse describes the trouble that Paul and Timothy experienced as something that pressed on them.  They faced such great pressure that they did not think they would survive.  But Paul realized that the crushing pressure of their pressing circumstances had a purpose.  That purpose was to rely on God’s power and not on themselves (verse 9).  They understood that there would be no deliverance without God’s power.  Recognizing this, Paul asked for prayer.

My husband often says that life is made up of one crisis after another.  No one is spared trouble, although we try to avoid it where we can.  But for the believer, it is a comfort to know that those pressing circumstances are not happening by chance.  The Lord is using them to encourage a greater dependence on Him, on His power and on the prayers of His people.  Every pressing trouble is a reminder that I need Him.  I cannot do life without Him.

Lord, help me to rely completely on You and Your power.

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


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Delayed

Scripture for Today: Psalm 40:17 “But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; You are my God, do not delay.”

This happened.  Actually, experiencing flight delays happens pretty regularly.  I try to stay calm, but when a connecting flight is affected I tend to panic.  No one likes running frantically to a gate.  Being delayed because of my own lack of organization is one thing, but when the airlines delay me for whatever reason, I feel intense frustration.  I have no control and that is an uncomfortable feeling!

David was concerned about delays for a much better reason.  He was waiting for the Lord to act on his behalf in the face of enemies!  Today’s verse is a cry for help and deliverance.  David saw that he had no control in the situation.  In fact, he was humble enough to see his poor and needy state.  He was totally dependent on God’s response.  How odd that a king would say that he is poor and needy.  Yet David felt that way when overwhelmed with his troubles and sin, as well as his enemies (verse 12).

When I am feeling rich and confident in my own resources I am less likely to call out to the Lord for help.  I am tempted to feel smug and complacent when all is going well.  It is when I am surrounded by troubles, feeling the weight of my sin and feeling opposed by unbelievers that I realize just how poor and needy I am!  Perhaps, that is why God sometimes delays.  He waits for humility.  He opposes the proud but gives so much timely grace to the humble.

Thank you Lord, that Your help is never too late when I cry out to You.

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


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Underdog

Scripture for Today: Romans 8:31b-32 “…If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”

This poor dog is in a humiliating position of defeat!  He is literally the “underdog!”  We often like to cheer the underdog or the one who seems to be facing insurmountable odds.  In sports, the team who is not favored to win can excite more cheering than the one thought to be stronger.  There is something about the weaker one carrying the victory that encourages us to hope and to greater effort in our own circumstances.

Feeling like the “underdog” as a believer is all too common.  Those who follow Christ are more often outnumbered and in the minority.  This can lead us to think that we are in the weaker position and cannot expect to have victory.  But nothing is further from the truth!  Today’s verse encourages the heart of every underdog.  God sees our predicament.  He understands that we are limited and often powerless to stand firm in our faith.  We are mocked and maligned, misunderstood and marginalized.  But we are on the right side and that changes everything!

God is for His own.  He has sacrificed His dearest Son to have this relationship with me.  No one can snatch me out of His hand (John 10:28).  No one can separate me from His love (Rom. 8:38-39).  No one.  He has won the victory for me (I Cor. 15:57) and I can hold my head up!  I may feel outnumbered and insignificant, but with God on my side, suddenly the playing field changes.

How could I live this life without You being for me?  Thank you that I do not have to!

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


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Salt Water Taffy

Scripture for Today: II Cor. 4:8-9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

What a strange process it is to make taffy!  I remember my Mother pulling taffy with my siblings and me in the kitchen.  It was a slimy sticky ordeal with lots of pulling until we thought our arms would drop off!  Everyone would take a turn until the taffy turned a lighter color.  All that pulling and stretching aerated the taffy with little air bubbles, making it lighter and chewier.  Of course, using a machine may be more efficient, but where is the fun in that?

In today’s verse, Paul is recounting some of the hardships he and Timothy had faced.  At the beginning of the chapter and at the end, he says, “We do not lose heart.”  It would have been completely understandable if they had!  Paul had been shipwrecked, beaten, stoned and imprisoned for his faith.  Being perplexed, he perhaps did not always understand the “why” behind what was happening.  Yet, he remained confident that the pulling and stretching was producing something of value in him; the life of Jesus (verse 10).

Feeling perplexed is not uncommon when I am faced with hard times.  I usually cannot explain why the Lord allows certain difficulties in my life.  But He promises that all the pulling and stretching will be producing a “weight of glory” one day (II Cor. 4:17).  All that is painful is only a “light affliction” compared to what lies ahead.  Even when panicked and confused, my Father reassures me  that He is in control and His control is good.

Thank you Lord, that You use it all to make me more like You.  Help me not to lose heart.

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