Devotions By Jan

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Chip on the Shoulder

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath.  But a harsh word stirs up anger.”

This picture made me laugh!  It is not quite what a “chip on the shoulder” refers to but certainly brought the old saying to mind.  It used to mean the practice of placing a wooden chip on the shoulder.  It was done as a provocation to fight.  The idea was to knock it off as a signal for the fight to begin.  A feeling or conviction was so deeply held that to disagree meant that one would be challenged.  Examples of this practice are seen in old British movies in the early twentieth century.

Today’s verse gives a different response to the one with a chip on his shoulder.  Anger can be diffused with a gentle answer.  To respond in any other way to an argumentative person would only serve to stoke the fire of his anger.  Challenging his logic may very well fall into the category of “harsh words.”  When emotions run high is not the time to reason with a belligerent person.  However, it is always a good idea to calm the situation with a gentle soothing word.

It has been said that, “the best way to knock off the chip on your neighbor’s shoulder is to pat him on the back.”  Soft gentle answers can help validate someone who feels they have been unfairly treated.  The problem is that I want to be seen as right.  It is my pride that makes it so difficult to respond with gentleness and not try and prove my point.  I need His Spirit to keep me calm in the face of the one so angry if there is to be any “turning away of wrath”!

Lord, make my words soft and gentle today.



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A Very Long Arm

Scripture for Today:  Jeremiah 32:17  “Ah, Sovereign Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for You.”

I can only imagine how thrilling it must be for this astronaut to be held up in space by this robotic arm.  Is he looking around himself with wonder?  Or is he reminding himself of the viability of the mechanics.  I wonder if he is reassuring himself of the qualifications of his colleague at the controls!  To enjoy the ride at all, I imagine he has to trust that everything will work out just fine!

Today’s verse describes an outstretched arm.  The powerful arm of the Sovereign Lord brought about the creation of the heavens and the earth.  What is more, His arm is outstretched still!  He has demonstrated His power over and over.  Creation around me attests to that amazing power.  The night skies above overwhelm me with His majesty.  Nothing is too hard for Him.  All He needs to do is to stretch out His arm.

I forget that.  I get tunnel vision and get overwhelmed with my little world.  Yet, He is able and willing to again stretch out His arm in my life.  Ralph Carmichael in his song, “My Little World” expresses this thought.  “The uncharted craters of planets beyond, You know like the palm of Your hand.  And yet You’re concerned with my little world.  Oh, help me to understand.”  I need to be reminded of His powerful outstretched arm, holding up not only this earth, but my little world.  When all seems hopeless, how reassuring it is to know that nothing is too hard for Him!

Thank you Lord, that You stretch out Your arm for me!

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A One-Hit Wonder

Scripture for Today: Job 5:9 & Job 9:10 “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”

A “one-hit wonder” is something that achieves mainstream popularity and success for a very short time.  It is usually for only one piece of work, whether it be in the area of music or sports.  A good example of a one-hit wonder is the song, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men back in 2000.  In fact, this song made it into the top ten list of one-hit wonders (making it even more wonderful?)

What a contrast with the wonders God performs!  Today’s verse explains how unfathomable and numerous are God’s wonders!  This verse is even repeated in the book of Job for emphasis.  His wonders are awe inspiring and remind us just how big He is and just how small we are.  David states that God’s wonders are too many to declare (Psalm 40:5).  Everything He does is a wonder of love and grace towards us.  Whether it be His incredible creation, a miraculous healing, or a changed heart, it is all “wonderful” in the true sense of the word!

I sometimes think I get used to His wonders and even take them for granted.  When that happens I lose the awe and worship that is due Him.  He deserves all the glory, credit and recognition for the sun coming up this morning.  The Lord wants me to tell the next generation of His praiseworthy deeds, His power and the wonders He has done in my life (Psalm 78:4).  But how can I proclaim aloud His praises and tell of all His wonderful deeds if I do not even recognize them?

Lord, open my eyes today to Your wonders and the wonder of who You are!


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Scrabble Words

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

It was all over the news!  The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary has come out with a new edition for a new generation, adding 300 words.  They have added “OK” as well as other two-letter words including “ew”.  The dictionary has about 100,000 words but for North American tournament play, a supplement is added.  This addition allows for 90,000 more words that are “not sanitized to protect children and sensitive players.”  Really, that many?

Today’s verse raises the standard for what comes out of our mouths.  If children need to be protected from what comes out of my mouth, then perhaps I need to stop and think about what I am about to say.  I may not know if someone is sensitive.  The better part of wisdom is to treat everyone as sensitive and watch my words.  The standards of Scripture are high.  If what I am saying is unwholesome and not helpful, it is better left unsaid.

I can still hear my Mother’s voice.  “If you can’t say anything nice about a person, than say nothing at all.”   The problem is that my need to say it often overrides that caution.  So much of what displease my Lord comes from my mouth, whether it be gossip, lying, arguments, criticism, swearing….the list goes on.  Like James 3:5 says, such a little  member of my body does such huge damage.  But thankfully, the Holy Spirit offers His control.  His power changes my words from unwholesome to wholesome.  His control changes my words to be helpful and a benefit.

Lord, I need Your help to control my mouth today.


The Silverback Gorilla

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 12:9 “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

The Silverback gorilla is the strongest and most experienced male leader of his “troop.”  He is the one who decides where the others will travel, forage and sleep.  He is responsible for the safety of the group.  When challenged by interlopers he will beat his chest, scream, bare his teeth and charge, sometimes shaking a branch broken off from a tree!  What an amazing show of strength!

Today’s verse talks about a different Source of strength that empowers the believer to accomplish more than what was thought possible.  It seems so paradoxical but to experience His power and strength, we admit and even boast about our weaknesses!  There is no “show of strength” on our part.  For the believer, all the power and strength has Christ as its source.  It is through our weakness that God has the opportunity to manifest His strength.  And when this happens He gets all the praise, glory and recognition.

My pride keeps me from admitting to weakness.  No one wants to appear weak.  In fact, “The biggest weakness of all is the fear of appearing weak.”  But the more I admit to my weaknesses, my limitations and my failings, the more He can and does use me when I turn to Him.  He is so good to take that weakness and transform it into something strong.  He is so loving to ask me to be strong and then give me His strength!

Lord, make me strong today.





Digging in the Dirt

Scripture for Today:  Hebrews 12:15 “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;”

Roots are a good thing normally.  They are what support and sustain the plant.  But then there are those roots that support and sustain what is unwanted; those nasty weeds.  I can be quite proud of myself when I have cleared a large area of weeds in a short time.  But if I have not gone deeper, digging after those roots, then of course it all needs redoing very quickly.  Those roots are tenacious.  A weed can seem deceptively small but the root can go on and on.  There is a such satisfaction in getting to the hidden root and pulling it all up.

Today’s verse speaks of the damage that is done by a root of bitterness.  It can spring up out of nowhere.  It is a surprise when it surfaces as normally it is well hidden.  And of course, the longer it has been hidden below the surface, the longer and more entrenched it becomes!  The problem of an unforgiving spirit can seem like that deceptively small weed.  In pulling it out all seems resolved on the surface.  But the Holy Spirit wants to dig deeper and reveal the problem of bitterness underneath.

Digging hurts.  The conviction of the Spirit can be excruciating.  Oh, but the relief to have that long root pulled up and out!  There is freedom in having that bitterness eradicated.  Often, the offending party is not even aware.  But the whole process is heart wrenching as I give up the hurt and the any thought of revenge.  There is freedom in giving the whole mess over to the Lord.

Thank you Lord, that You can take that bitterness away.

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Eiffel Tower?

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

This reproduction of the famous Eiffel Tower sits at a round point down the street from us in the small town of Buhl, France.  No one would mistake it for its huge counterpart but I wondered why it was built there.  I learned that the Eiffel Tower could very well be called the Koechlin Tower as Maurice Koechlin, born in Buhl was the one who had designed it as an employee of Mr. Eiffel.  As this monument is said to be the most visited in the world, it is too bad that Koechlin did not get his name associated with the tower.

Today’s verse speaks of the name of the Lord as a different kind of tower, a fortified one.  His name represents all that He is and His character.  Running to Him as our tower of safety is an image of placing all our hope and faith in His power to protect and deliver.  This is in stark contrast to the rich who imagine that their wealth is a wall too high to scale (verse 19).

His name is Faithful and True (Rev. 19:11) and He has promised safety and protection from the wicked (Ps. 37:17).  When I run to Him, it is in faith, knowing that He will be true and faithful to His Word.  I am safe knowing that no evil can touch me without His knowledge and permission.  And certainly, no evil can touch my soul, that which I have committed to Him.  He is able to keep my soul against that day (II Tim. 1:12).  What comfort this is in a world where sometimes it seems that evil has the upper hand!

Thank you Lord, for being my safety and security!