Devotions By Jan

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Follow Your Heart?

Scripture for Today: Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

This saying on a poster is beautiful, and there are many like it.  We enjoy thinking of the heart as lovely and romantic, and so often it is.  We counsel each other to just follow your heart and all will be well.  Somehow, the heart will guide us to the right way, the right solution, the right love.  When we listen to our heart, we discover what we really desire.

Today’s verse has a message of warning about the heart.  The heart, which in the Bible is the seat of all our emotions and will, can deceive us.  We try to understand what our heart is saying to us.  But no one can quite understand.  One day it says one thing and the next, another.  I have often been quite sure about what I have wanted.  Then, when I have managed to receive it, I find that I did not want it after all.  That brings to mind the dog who chases after a car.  He has no clue what to do with it once he catches up to it!

My heart deceives me so following it can be dangerous.  Because I cannot cure it, I need to follow Someone who knows my heart better than I do.  The Lord searches my heart and tries it.  As my Creator, He knows what I really want and what will bring me true satisfaction and fulfillment.  He knows so much better than I do what is good for me and what is not.  He sees the pride and selfishness hiding out in my heart.  And His love and forgiveness are the cure.

Lord, do not let me be deceived today.  Help me follow Your heart.


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Conversation Hearts

Scripture for Today: Luke 6:45 “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Growing up, I loved these conversation hearts, giving away to that “special someone” what I could not bring myself to actually say!  And receiving these from others would communicate to me something the giver may not have intended!  Today, one can special order these candies with your own personalized message.  That way you can say exactly what you want the other to hear.  Communicating what is in the heart is not always easy.

Today’s verse gives us a reliable way to know what is in the heart of another.  What is there is evident by that person’s behavior.  Expressing emotions can be lovely but the real indicator of feelings and the state of the heart is evident in our actions.  And one action is especially telling.  What comes out of our mouths demonstrates the good or the evil found in the heart.  That sincere compliment or word of encouragement shows love.  The snide remark or the profanity that escapes our lips signals that all is not well.

What slips out of my mouth can be shameful.  I am so glad that some of it happens when there is no one to hear.  However, there is always Someone who hears.  And whether others are around or not, those nasty words signal a need for some serious heart cleaning!  Thankfully, He is full of grace and forgiveness, ready to make me clean again and give me a new start!

Lord, clean my heart and fill it with good things to say!

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The Sorry Game

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 7:9 “Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended…”

I grew up with this board game and although it has gone through some revisions, it is still enjoyed today.  The idea was to get around the board first, usually by impeding the progress of others.  As the youngest in my family I often felt put upon and would relish my revenge by landing on an opponent and sending them home.  That most feared “sorry card” allowed a player to go directly to any occupied space and knock them off.  The expected “sorry”  spoken would of course sound hollow and insincere.  I was never really sorry!

Today’s verse talks about being sorry.  Sorrow for sin is something that God intended us to feel.  Sorrow is even called “godly sorrow” when it leads to repentance.  And of course, this repentance is heartfelt and not just lip service.  God sees into our hearts and responds with forgiveness and cleansing when we come clean with Him.  Trying to ignoring that sorrow and shame can be destructive as it can lingers on, even for a life time.  His forgiveness and grace allows us to lift our head again.

Being sorry is not enough if it does not lead me to fall on my knees and repent.  It is in repenting that I can turn my back on that sin.  That second step is where I find not only His forgiveness but a new start.  If I am only sorry I will probably be sorry again over the same thing.  He wants to give me victory over sin.  He lifts that burden of sorrow and makes my heart light again!

Thank you Lord, for erasing my sorrow.

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Banana Peels

Scripture for Today: Romans 9:32 “…they pursued it (righteousness) not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.”

It is no laughing matter to slip on a banana peel!  However, it was the stuff of comedy routines in the early 1900’s Vaudeville stage.  This form of physical humor even appeared in the early silent films.  But it used to be much more of a hazard when it was common to throw one’s garbage out a window in the mid 1800’s.  Even as late as 1880 the public was admonished in the Harper’s Weekly about this slime-covered booby trap.  Just seven years ago a woman in California sued a store after allegedly falling and injuring herself on a peel left in the aisle.

People are stumbling in our verse for today.  They are stumbling over the stumbling stone, who is Jesus Christ.  Rather than obtaining a righteousness that is to come by faith in Him, law-followers put their trust in their own efforts at righteousness.  Our right standing with God is given through faith in Jesus Christ whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 3:22).  Unfortunately, there will always be those who feel it is their own efforts and works that save.  They stumble over the Truth but keep walking, doing things their own way.

With that same attitude I am at risk to slip and fall.  I have no righteousness of my own.  I cannot earn my way to Heaven or earn His favor and blessing!  He gives freely what I can never deserve.  It is my pride talking when I entertain even a whisper of self-congratulation.  He knows my every motive and thought and I know I cannot be righteous apart from Him.  It is all grace.

Thank you Lord, for the right standing You have given me!


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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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Walking Backwards?

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 38:17 “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In Your love You kept me from the pit of destruction; You have put all my sins behind Your back.”

Nothing stops a person so completely in their tracks than a muscle cramp!  The pain, though temporary, can be so intense and feels like it will last forever!  That involuntary contraction in the calf is incredibly strong and the only relief seems to be in massaging and stretching.  However, some have found that walking backwards is a good way to relieve the pain.

Our suffering may stop us in our tracks.  Like King Hezekiah, sometimes all we can do is turn our head to the wall and cry.  Today’s verse was written by King Hezekiah after his illness and recovery.  He acknowledges that there was benefit in his suffering.  He learned humility (verse 15) as a result of the “anguish of his soul.”  He understood that the Lord acted out of love and not malice towards him.  That suffering was used to save him from destruction.

Suffering in any form can shake my faith to its core.  When I do not see the outcome I want, the suffering can well transform itself into an anguish of the soul.  It is too easy for me to doubt God’s love and wonder if He really cares.  But God always acts out of love for His own.  He works that suffering into a benefit that is of eternal value although I may not always see it.   The ultimate suffering would be to spend eternity without Him.  I can never really doubt His love because He spared me that suffering when He forgave my sins.

Thank you Lord, for sparing me from the worse kind of suffering!



Steam Radiators

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 9:14 “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Our century-old house in France was heated by steam radiators in every room.  I was not too thrilled with them but Tiger, our cat, thought they were the perfect place to  curl up and have a nap!  Central heat may not be so quaint but it is sure more effective.  Air would get inside those valves, causing an annoying dripping sound and block the heat.  Every so often, my husband would use a special turn key to purge the radiators and evacuate the air.

Today’s verse speaks of our conscience being purged.  The Old Testament system of animal sacrifice served its purpose of symbolizing Christ’s death.  But how much more perfect was the sacrifice Jesus made, once for all!  His sacrifice not only cleanses us from our sin, but purges our consciences as well.  His forgiveness is complete.

Satan would like me to think otherwise.  He whispers in my ear his accusations.  He reminds me of times when I really blew it and let the Lord down.  Satan would like nothing better than to take me out of the game and put me on the sidelines.  How thankful I am that he is wrong!  I do not need to live with that constant annoying dripping sound.  My conscience has been purged.  I am a new creation in Him.  No accusation from the enemy can change this truth.  When I lay my head on the pillow at night I can sleep easy knowing that Christ has taken care of every sin and failure.

Thank you, Lord, that You have purged my conscience once for all!