Devotions By Jan


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Unmasked!

venetian-mask-colombina-carnival-of-venice-italyScripture for Today: Psalm 38:9 “All my longings lie open before You, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from You.”

Among the many kinds of Venetian masks is this elaborate one called the “Colombina,” or “little dove.”  Made of paper mache, Venetian stucco, shiny gold macrame and black feathers, it is certainly ornate and mysterious.  Based on a character from the Italian stage, beautiful women especially preferred this style as it covers only half of the face.  These masks are worn for the annual festival in Venice, Italy which is one of the oldest in Europe dating back to 1162.  Being masked gives people the opportunity to hide their identity and freely mix with those above their social standing.

Today’s verse makes it clear that there is nothing hidden from the Lord.  With Him, we are unmasked.  David acknowledges his sin (verse 18) being overwhelmed with guilt and groaning “in anguish of heart.” (verse 8)  He pours out his complaint that his friends have turned on him.  He ends this psalm with a cry for help and a plea that God would not forsake him as well.  Every longing and every sigh is seen by the One who knows our hearts and thoughts.  Nothing is hidden from Him.

I wonder if sometimes I do not wear a “mask” in my private prayers.  If all is open and bare before Him then there is no need to sanitize my prayers.  He knows just what I am feeling and He waits for me to be honest with Him.  He does not censor my words or rebuke me for wrong theology.  He hears my frustrations and my ill-concealed doubts.  Nothing shocks Him and He loves me no matter what.

Thank you Lord, that I can unburden myself with You and find sweet relief.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.

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A Bad Penny

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.”

I am one of those rare people who still bend down to pick up a lost penny, bad or not!  The phrase, “a bad penny always turns up,” was coined in the mid eighteenth century.  Pennies used to be more valuable and because they were easily counterfeited, the “bad ones” would continually circulate, turning up in a pocket or purse.  “Turning up like a bad penny,” came to mean someone or something unwanted, turning up repeatedly and unexpectedly.

Today’s verse reassures the believer that God’s forgiveness of sin is complete.  He chooses to no longer remember our sins.  Because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice for sin, the penalty has been paid and God’s justice is satisfied.  Those sins are blotted out forever.  When He forgives, He does not bring it up again.  But like a bad penny, the thought of them (for the believer) can turn up at the most unwanted and inopportune times.  Thankfully, that is never the case for the Lord.  Of course, He is all knowing and so forgets nothing.  But the idea is that He does not call it to mind with censor and judgement.

I would love to be able to “remember my sins no longer.”  But the memories remain.  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 remembrances can serve to remind me that I am not perfect, but His forgiveness is!

Thank you Lord, that Your grace chooses not to remember what is forgiven!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Blowing a Fuse

blown-fuseScripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

There is never a good time to blow a fuse.  But of course it happened while in the kitchen making a meal for company.  Our wiring is a bit quirky and I had forgotten that I could not plug in the water heater with the microwave on.  I am sure I looked just as lost as this woman pictured as my husband was gone. Finding the right switch was not a problem.  However, it did not flip over completely as intended, and I continued to be without power.  I felt myself growing frustrated and angry.

Today’s verse cautions us not to be quickly provoked.  Whatever the provocation, we are to be slow in becoming angry (James 1:19).  When we are characterized as an angry person, we look the fool.  Blowing a fuse and exploding in anger misrepresents the Lord to others as He is “slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15)  Whether justified or not, human anger is not something that produces the righteousness God wants from us (James 1:20).  Our anger is rarely a neutral thing and most often hurts others and in the end ourselves as well.

My anger can build to mega proportions when left unresolved.  My jaw clenches and sleep alludes me.  Diffusing that anger is not something I can do quickly on my own.  The sooner I can give it to the Lord, the more easily I can get rid of it.  When I realize the wrath my sins deserve and the enormity of God’s forgiveness for me, than I can replace that anger with kindness, compassion and forgiveness (Eph. 4:32).

Lord, I need Your help today to slow down my anger.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Bald is Beautiful

Scripture for Today: Psalm 40:12 “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head and my heart fails within me.”

This man is getting his head shaved for a very special reason.  He along with 119 other Airmen went bald to support a little boy who had cancer.  As a fashion statement, not everyone can pull it off but this kind of bald is always beautiful!  For those who are battling cancer, losing one’s hair can be a terrible blow to one’s self-esteem and make their treatment that much harder.  I am glad society is more accepting of the bald look if only to make it easier for those who have no choice.

Today’s verse is a heartfelt admission of guilt.  David is feeling overwhelmed by his sin likening their number to the hairs on his head.  His sins have created immeasurable troubles for him and his heart drops at just the thought of them.  Perhaps he cannot see for the tears he sheds as he realizes his guilt.  David turns to the Lord for mercy (verse 11).

I confess that I do not often have this kind of awareness about my own sin.  I am a master at minimizing their gravity.  I am very good at rationalizing them.  My sin is never as serious as someone else’s!  But when I examine my heart in the light of God’s holiness I become just as overwhelmed.  It is when I see how black my sin is that I can appreciate His grace and forgiveness!  He is merciful to me over and over.  Whatever sadness I feel over my sin He replaces with joy and a light heart with His forgiveness!

Thank you Lord, for Your incredible mercy to me!


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Caring Dolphins

Scripture for Today: Galatians 6:1-2  “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Awhile back I took my daughter whale watching but all we saw were dolphins.  Neither of us were disappointed though.  They are so much fun to watch, jumping, frolicking and following our boat.  Dolphins are such intelligent mammals and often will “bow-ride,” swimming alongside a ship to conserve energy.  But what is really surprising is their altruism!  A dolphin will stay by another ill or injured dolphin, even helping them to the surface to breathe!

Today’s verse is addressed to those who are living and walking by the Spirit.  Restoring a fellow believer who is broken with sin is more than just altruism but a command. This act of love and caring is done with kindness, tenderness and a gentle spirit.  When we restore someone to a close relationship with the Lord, we listen, we cry, we share, we pray together and we encourage confession.  How amazing it is to see God’s forgiveness make one whole again!

There are really two prerequisites to restoring a believer caught in sin.  The first is to be in right relationship with the Lord myself.  The second is to care, to care and love so much that I am willing to be involved, even long term.  To care that much means being a servant with my time.  It also means caring enough to risk misunderstanding and perhaps a broken relationship as a result of speaking truth.  But what a privilege to be used by Him to bring someone back!

Lord, make me willing to care that much!


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Justify, the Racehorse

Scripture for Today: I Corinthians 6:11 “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

The horse racing world is all abuzz with the newcomer named, Justify.  This three-year-old colt just won two of the three Triple Crown races; the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.  He is now in a good position to win all three when he competes at the Belmont Stakes in June.  As is the custom, he has only had his name since the age of two.  Perhaps the owner feels that the $500,000 paid for this horse is completely justified!

Today’s verse tells us that we were justified, as well as washed and sanctified by the Lord.  After having been found guilty of a whole list of wrongdoing, God would have been justified to mete out immediate judgement.  Instead, He washed us clean of all the filth, set us apart for Himself, and justified us.  He sees us through the righteousness of His Son, just as if we had never sinned.  We are justified through our faith in what He did on that cross for us.

I cannot justify myself.  I have tried and it does not work.  I may be able to justify my behavior to others.  But before God who sees my heart, there is no justification for what I do.  I am without excuse before a holy and righteous Judge.  If I were to continue in my denial of guilt, there could be no forgiveness.  All He asks is that I come clean with Him.  When I do, that guilt is erased and I am justified before Him.

Thank you Lord, for doing what I could never do.


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The Gift of Life

Scripture for Today: I John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Donating blood is not something I enjoy doing!  That is why I am so impressed by James Harrison, an Australian man who has been donating blood every week for the last 60 years!  At 81 he has decided to stop, but not until he had saved the lives of 2.4 million babies!  No wonder he is called the “Man with the Golden Arm.”  His blood has unique disease-fighting anti-bodies that have helped pregnant women.  These were women with a condition where their blood attacked their unborn baby’s blood cells.  His blood was truly a gift of life!

Today’s verse talks about the blood freely given by Another.  This blood also saves lives and was given out of love and compassion for our condition.  The blood of Christ saves us once for all from the eternal punishment for our sin.  His blood makes it possible to walk in light rather than darkness.  His blood makes it possible to walk with others in sweet fellowship, rather than discord.  His blood cleanses and purifies us from sin and its consequences.

He shed His blood so I would not have to.  His blood saved my life.  My faith in His blood pays for all of my ugly sin (Romans 3:25).  More than just a needle in the arm, His gift of blood cost Him everything; separation from the Father, the mockery and violence of others, and His life.  How amazing and deep the love that motivated Him!  And how unworthy I am to be a recipient of such a precious life-changing gift!

Lord, how grateful I am for Your gift of life!