Devotions By Jan


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Matching Chocolate Game

Scripture for Today: Matthew 23:3 “So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”

Photo credit: Jo Zimny Photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/joeyz51/38331378485

This is my kind of matching game! And I can assure you that it would not stay in a game cupboard to be played again another day! I would be most motivated to play it if I could immediately eat the pairs I found. Judging from the time recorded for this player, perhaps that is what happened! But taking that short amount of time to actually eat the chocolate pairs seems about right!

Today’s verse talks about the importance of matching something else: our behavior with our words. Jesus acknowledges that the teachers of the Law sometimes got it right. But what they consistently did not was their day-to-day practice of what they knew was true. Those listening were to be discerning. They were not told to dismiss a message that was true to God’s Word. But they were not to follow their example of legalistic and prideful self-righteousness.

The standard of practicing what is preached is a very high one. And I can relate to Paul who shares his struggle in Romans 7:18. “…I have the desire to do what is good but cannot carry it out.” I will never be able to consistently practice what I preach, hard as I may try. How gracious God is to convict and forgive me! But when I pretend that my behavior always matches my words, then I am also guilty of hypocrisy. I need to humbly see the “mismatch” and be honest with God and authentic with others! People will see my failures but hopefully they will see humility and His forgiveness as well!

Thank you Lord, for Your patience with me!


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A Heart of Gold

Scripture for Today: Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

The Portable Antiquities Scheme/ The Trustees of the British Museum, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What a find! This beautiful golden heart was discovered in Pembrokeshire, England and now sits in a museum. This heart is thought to date back to the late 14th century. It was at that time that the pear shaped heart, representing love, changed position. Before that time the heart was portrayed upside down! Today no one would mistake the heart as a symbol of love regardless of its position or even its composition. Of course, one made of gold has a longer shelf life than one made of chocolate!

Today’s verse puts a heart made of stone in a very negative light. The stone represents an unwillingness to submit to God. This is a heart that is stubborn and hardened against God and His commandments. The Sovereign Lord wanted to bless Israel for obedience and through them to make His name known to all the nations. But the people resisted God’s plan and their hardened hearts caused them to forgo His blessing, that is just until they repented.

I can almost feel my heart hardening when I ignore what He says in His Word. But when I am submissive and agree with Him that His way is better, I can feel my heart becoming soft and pliable again. This new spirit He gives is one of obedience. And His Spirit moves me to follow and obey Him (verse 27). I do not want a heart of gold that is hard and stubborn. I want my heart made of flesh, so that it is soft and malleable, one that He can use.

Lord, keep my heart soft towards You.


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Bewitched!

Scripture for Today: Galatians 3:1 “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”

With just eight seasons, the Bewitched show has become an icon of television history! We have the privilege of knowing the Murphy twins, Diane and Erin, who played the role of Tabitha. This show, running from 1964 to 1972 made the top 20 in its first five seasons. Its declining popularity toward the end of its run is sometimes blamed on the unexplained and sudden switch of the character, Darrin. There is even a term used to reference an unpopular switch; “the Darrin Syndrome.”

Today’s verse uses the term,” bewitched” to describe the switch the Galatians had made. They were bewitched or fooled into switching from the Gospel of grace to a system of works. A group of legalistic Judaizers convinced this group of converted Gentiles that the death of Christ was not sufficient. They believed that certain ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were still binding. They were adding works to the Gospel of grace. Paul reminds the Galatians that observing the Law did not earn them the Holy Spirit or right standing with God. Faith in Christ’s sacrifice is what was essential.

It is so easy to be “bewitched” today. How many religions fool their adherents to believe that it is through our own efforts that we are saved or can please God? Why switch to a never-ending treadmill of works that does not erase my sense of guilt? I am never good enough. There is always more I should be doing. I am so thankful for His grace.  God’s standard of righteousness was fully met in my Savior and the debt of my sin has been fully paid!

Thank you Lord, that You paid it all and there is nothing more to add!

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2016)


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Sand Dollar Invasion!

Scripture for Today: John 17:15 “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Rachel Hathaway https://www.flickr.com/photos/rachelhathaway/4945569932

If you want to get rich quick, thousands of sand dollars are right now littering the southern edges of Seaside Beach on the Oregon coast! They are washing up alive on the afternoon high tides and getting stranded. If thrown back in, the ocean just plops them back up on the sand. And the longer they are outside their intertidal zone, the more unlikely their survival. That zone is found above the water level at low tide and underwater at high tide.

Today’s verse is part of the prayer Jesus prays for His disciples and for all those who will believe their message (verse 20). He asks that they be protected from the evil one even though they are in a world where he is active (John 12:31). Believers are part of this world but not of this world (verses 14 & 16). We are part of God’s Kingdom and are no longer in a kingdom of darkness (Col. 1:13). Loving the world and adopting its values is incompatible with loving the Father (I John 2:15).

When I identify too closely with the world’s ideas of what is important, it is as if I am no longer in those intertidal waters where I can thrive. Yes, I am part of this world but I need to be nourished by the environment He has chosen to strengthen me. His Word keeps my values unworldly. Being encouraged by His people keeps me on track. I do not belong up on the sand where I dry out and shrivel. I do not want the world to pull me away from my love for Him.

Lord, keep me close to You.


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UFO Clouds

Scripture for Today: Nahum 1:3 “The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.”

Omnisource5, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What a bizarre shape for a cloud! This lens or saucer look reminds me of a UFO. The lenticular cloud, as it is called, can seem motionless and stable. But in fact, it is made up of very unstable air. Instead of moving horizontally across the ground, this cloud when disturbed by the wind, will move vertically and even accelerate!

Today’s verse describes clouds as the dust of God’s feet. This poetic description of God’s power is part of a warning against the city of Nineveh. Our God is a jealous and avenging God (verse 2). Mountains quake and hills melt away before their Creator (verse 5). But the people of Nineveh disregarded God’s righteous wrath against their wickedness. That is until they heeded Jonah’s message and repented. This same righteous and powerful God is a refuge in times of trouble and cares for those who trust Him (Verses 7-8).

What kind of God would He be if He did not punish the wicked? His absolute holiness demands it. But thinking on His wrath is not a comfortable subject. Thankfully, in His incredible mercy, He made a way for me by placing all my guilt on His Son. God’s righteousness was satisfied in Christ’s sacrifice for me. Yes, His judgement and wrath are to be feared. But at the same time, His mercy and grace are my refuge! He is slow to anger, not willing that any perish and enter eternity without Him (II Peter 3:9).

Thank you Lord, for Your power, justice AND mercy.