Devotions By Jan


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Counting Jelly Beans

Scripture for Today: Matthew 18: 21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”

It was pure guess work.  I tried being methodical as a prize would be awarded for this baby shower-party-game.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered trying to count the jelly beans in this jar.  But in fact, my counting left something to be desired as my total was way off.  Someone else walked away with the coveted prize.  I would have been happy to walk away with the jelly beans!

Today’s verse is about something we are not to count; how many times to forgive someone.  Peter perhaps felt he was being generous to suggest forgiving seven times as the current thinking among the Pharisees was three times.  That makes Jesus’ answer all the more surprising.  The idea was not to forgive seventy-seven times or even seventy times seven.  The idea is that forgiveness is not to be counted at all.  Forgiveness is to be immeasurable.

My memory is so faulty on some subjects but somehow, the memories of when and how I have been wronged are very clear.  Forgiving someone more than once for the same offense is also too easy to remember.  I have had to say to my husband, “I am sorry, forgive me,” countless times over almost 40 years of marriage.  And I have had to forgive him too, many times without number.  It is so difficult to “forgive from the heart” (verse 35) over and over again.  And yet, I cannot think of a better way to show true love.  This is exactly what the Lord has done in forgiving me countless times.

Thank you Lord, that You do not count.

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Cherry Picking

Scripture for Today: Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely through His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Two cherry laden trees sat untouched half way through my vineyard walk.  Every day I would check on their progress.  Today the cherries were not only at their peak but some were even rotting on the branches.  It seemed the most natural thing to do to help myself to a few hand fulls.  The sweet juice dripped all over my fingers, staining them red and purple.  Although I was sure the owner would not mind, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could be caught “red-handed” as technically I had taken something not belonging to me!

Today’s verse explains that we are all red-handed.  “Sin had left a crimson stain” on all of our hands as we are all guilty of breaking God’s perfect law.  There is no way to remove that stain on our own.  But thankfully, one pair of hands are not red but nail-scarred.  Because of His amazing grace we are justified or declared righteous through what Christ did on that cross.  He sacrificed Himself freely out of love for us and not because we deserved it.

I want clean hands and a pure heart.  It is only then that I can enjoy Him, receive blessing and vindication from Him (Ps. 24;3-5).  But there is no cleansing without the humility to admit guilt and come clean with the Lord.  Rather than hiding my hands behind my back, He invites me to discover grace and forgiveness.  He is faithful and just to always forgive and give me a clean start. (I John 1:9)

Thank you Lord, that I can always come clean with You.


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Misnomer

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

In Southern California we are a bit mixed up.  The seasons are not so readily identifiable.  Our weather is so warm all year long that we continue to enjoy the summer fruits, including watermelon, even in the early days of autumn.  Thankfully, the display of pumpkins is a good reminder of what the calendar says.  However, calling pumpkins, “watermelons,” is a great example of a misnomer.  They may both be round and heavy but there the resemblance ends.  It is obviously the wrong label.

There are a million misnomers in our world but one that stands out is the use of the word, “love.”  We name many different emotions as love when they are not.  The description in today’s verse makes that obvious.  It might look like love.  It might feel like love, but many times it falls short of what true love is all about.  Of course, there are different kinds of love, whether they be brotherly or romantic.  But whatever we name “love” needs to resemble the qualities listed in I Corinthians 13, including the important quality of love never failing.

It is easy to be swayed into thinking that love means good feelings.  It is such a lovely experience when it does.  But the essence of love involves a committed decision to faithfully seek the best for the other person.  For me, that decision takes work and determination.  Oh, but the benefits are worth it!

Thank you Lord, for showing me what true love looks like and giving me the power to do it!

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


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Apples and Oranges

Scripture for Today: II Samuel 7:22 “How great You are, Sovereign Lord!  There is no one like You, and there is no God but You, as we have heard with our own ears.”

“It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”  The expression has been around a long time to mean that two items are incomparable, being so different.  But in fact, the expression does not hold up too well as both the apple and the orange are sweet.  Both are similar in size, weight and shape.  Either fruit can be eaten or juiced.

Today’s verse points out that no one can compare to our unique God.  It goes further to say that there is no God but Him!  In today’s pluralistic society, this is not a popular thought.  It is a much more comfortable thought that each person can worship their own God, whoever he may be.  In allowing for this we can agree that our gods may be different and we can choose the one that most fits our style.  We can even be content in comparing apples and oranges, not being concerned with the slight differences.

How can we say there is only one God and that there is no one like Him?  We do not say this, He does!  His greatness and power are incomparable!  He is sovereign and in complete control, able with His power to keep all His promises.  No one else is worthy of my praise.  No one else is worthy of my trust.  In contemplating His beauty and power I am overwhelmed with the truth that He is also personal, knowing me and loving me!  No, there is no other god that is comparable and I am humbled to think that I belong to Him!  I never want to take Him and His greatness for granted!

Thank you Lord, for being the only Sovereign incomparable God.

(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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Love or Chocolate?

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

I had to chuckle when I saw this same saying inscribed over the doorway of a cafe!  I admit that I am a “chocoholic” but I do have my standards.  I am most tempted with the dark and only in certain forms.  Indulging in that creamy satisfying taste never lets me down.  Chocolate always lives up to my expectation.  But before long, I would have to “fall” into it again to have that same satisfying experience.

The expression, “falling in love,” makes love seem half-hazard and unintentional.  If we can fall in, perhaps we can climb out as well.  Today’s verse speaks of a love that stands firm forever.  It is a love that is constant and true because of the One who is doing the loving!  Beginning this relationship does not involve falling into it, unless we are falling to our knees in repentance and humility!

It is understandable that love can disappoint.  Love between flawed humans is in a constant state of flux.  Our ever-changing emotions make our love unreliable.  But there is a love that does not change.  God’s love is so great that it reaches to the skies! (Ps. 57:10)  He will never disappoint.  That is because His love does not depend on me but on His faithful promise.  His faithfulness to His Word is untouchable there in Heaven itself!

What a huge comfort to know that the Lord is never going to give up on me!  Nothing is going to change His love.  God is Love in its most beautiful and purest form.

How amazing it is that You can love me, Lord!  Help me believe it today.

(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.)