Devotions By Jan


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The Gavel

Scripture for Today: Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The tapping of a gavel in a courtroom can mean different things.  When tapped twice, everyone is to rise.  When it is tapped three times, all are to be seated.  There can be repeated vigorous tapping to restore order.  One tap may be used to declare a matter settled and finished.  With the tap of a gavel comes all the power of that court.  When that gavel is brought down there is a decision made.  And that symbol of authority brings with it a certain finality.

In the courts of heaven, the gavel comes down with unquestionable authority.  God has every right to proclaim someone guilty or not guilty.  He is our righteous Judge and all His judgements are true and just.  Today’s verse is a wonderful assurance for the one who has placed their faith in Jesus.  There is no fear of that gavel coming down.  The believer is justified, or declared righteous, not because of our own deeds but because of being credited with His righteousness (Romans 4:22-25).  The just punishment that we rightly deserve has been fully met by His death on the cross.  The righteousness Jesus achieved has been laid to our account!

It has been decided.  The gavel has already come down.  I do not have to live in fear and doubt.  He declared, “It is finished,” on that cross.  How amazing that I can stand before Him, declared righteous!  There is peace with God now and throughout eternity.  My heart is not troubled because of my guilt and sin.  His forgiveness and declaration has established heartfelt peace, relief, and the joy and hope of heaven!

Lord, how can I ever express my gratitude?

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


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An Easy Fix?

Scripture for Today: Jeremiah 17:5 “This is what the Lord says; ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.'”

My children watched the resourceful MacGyver weekly on French television growing up.  He never ceased to impress and astound with his innovative Fix-It-Yourself solutions.  There was never a crisis he could not surmount, never a problem he could not resolve with just a little know-how and imagination.  The FIY or DIY concept enjoys lots of success as it saves money and impresses family and friends.  I am all for ingenuity in problem solving.

Unfortunately, there have been some recent major problems in our society that we cannot seem to fix.  Rather than turning toward the One who is all powerful, we accuse Him for our sin.  We say that He cannot fix the problem when in fact, there is nothing too hard for Him.  But for so long, men have been trusting in their own intellect and in their own strength.  Man has limited himself to only what he can create, and it has turned ugly.  Today’s verse describes the one whose heart is turned away from the Lord as “cursed.”

Turning to God in repentance means we can draw on His enormous strength and power for change.  The One who keeps the oceans in their place, the One who raised His Son from the dead is the same One who infuses us with His strength to change every behavior.  Our independent spirit to fix it all ourselves without God does not work.  We cannot do it, but He can!

Thank you Lord, that You have the power, the strength, the know-how and all the answers!  I cannot do life without You.  Keep my heart turned towards You today.

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


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Missing!

Scripture for Today: Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

I remember seeing these milk cartons with the faces of missing children plastered all over them.  The program started in 1982 in Des Moines, Iowa as a result of two child abductions.  By 1985 the program had spread nationwide.  Although a number of children were returned to their homes, the idea was short-lived.  One of the problems was the complaints from parents that the pictures were frightening their own children.  But the campaign did raise awareness and now, the spirit of it lives on in the electronic version, Amber Alert.

Today’s verse is all about being lost.  It comes after three parables describing a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son.  Jesus came to this earth to seek out the lost ones.  Those lost do not understand where they are nor where they are going.  What is worse is not realizing one is lost!  Being lost in Luke’s three parables meant separation from one’s owner or one’s Father.  It is the same for us.  When we live a life separate from our Creator, we lose the sense of who we are, where we are and where we are going!

How incredible that the Lord takes the initiative!  He actively seeks me as I am too lost to find the way to Him on my own.  He loves me enough to go out of His way and extract me from the mess of my own making.  He left Heaven to come after me!  I am no longer confused and lost, fearful or panicked.  I am found now and I am His.  I know where I am and to whom I belong.  What security that is!

Thank you Lord, for seeking after me.


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Snatched!!

Scripture for Today: John 10:28 “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

The sea lion looked cute and adorable, enjoying the breadcrumbs tossed in by a family vacationing at a fisherman’s wharf in Canada.   This little girl squealed with delight as he approached.  But moments later a terrifying scene saw him snapping at her dress and snatching her into the water when her back was turned!  In a matter of seconds she was pulled from the water by her Grandfather who had immediately jumped in after her.  Thankfully, she emerged unharmed but in total shock.

Today’s verse serves as a reassuring promise and a sobering reminder of danger.  The danger comes from Satan who is like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).  He would like nothing better than to snatch and destroy the unaware.  But those who belong to Jesus are in His hand.  Nothing and no one can ever snatch us out of that hand.  The Father is greater and more powerful than any foe and we are secure and protected.  If God is for us, who can be against us ? (Romans 8:31).

He has promised that I will never perish and what God says is always true.  Every sin is covered by His sacrifice when I turn to Him in faith.  Regardless of doubts or feelings He has given me eternal life.  No other sacrifice is required.  I am secure and peaceful in His wonderful grip.  No circumstance will ever pry those fingers open.  His power and promise means I can trust those hands.

Thank you Lord, that I can never be snatched away from You!


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Shamefaced!

Scripture for Today: Psalm 34:5 “Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

Can dogs feel shame or guilt?  Looking at this image one would think so.  But a number of studies have found that dogs do not feel or display guilt.  I am positive that a number of dog owners would disagree.  However, scientists believe it is too complex a reaction and it is just not how their brains work.  What seems to be a guilty look happens with scolding or questioning from an angry owner.  The dog is simply reacting to the owner’s behavior, tone of voice and gestures.

Today’s verse describes a face that is not covered with shame.  In fact, there is radiance in place of shame.  When looking to a righteous, perfect God, it would be natural to feel shame for our sin.  One’s first reaction would be to cover one’s face in the blinding light of His holiness!  But for those who fear the Lord and belong to Him, there is no more shame.  In His grace, He has paid for all our sin and shame with the sacrifice of His Son.  No one who trusts in Him will be condemned or held guilty (verse 22).

Because He has erased my sin and shame, I can look to Him and be radiant!  No longer will I blush for my past sins.  He has removed my sin and guilt as far as the east is from the west! (Psalm 103:12)  He has said that my sin He will remember no more (Heb. 10:17).  Any shame felt with my memories is not from Him.  I am in Christ (Romans 8:1) and no longer condemned.  The Lord not only took away my sin, but the shame of it all as well.

Thank you, Lord, that my face can be radiant with Your forgiveness!


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The Sea Cucumber

Scripture for Today: Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

They really do look like cucumbers!  And in Asia, some species are farmed and enjoyed as a delicacy.  But what is really amazing about these funny ocean creatures is their ability to regenerate their own organs!  When in a tight spot they will mutilate their own bodies as a defense mechanism.  They will violently contract their muscles and jettison out of their anus some of their internal organs!  Fortunately, the missing body parts are quickly regenerated!

Today’s verse talks about the washing of regeneration.  Being in Christ makes us a “new creature” (II Cor. 5:17)  The old has passed away and is replaced by the new!  It is due to the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit.  It is all His work in us and has nothing to do with our own good works.  He saw our predicament, desperately needing to be saved from the judgement our sins warranted.  Rather than giving us what we rightly deserve, the Lord acted out of His infinite mercy.  He changes the heart and makes us new.

Self help and good intentions will not make me new.  Strong resolve or publicly-made resolutions will not change my heart.  I may succeed in changing my behavior for a time but I am still the same inside.  On my own, real heart change is not possible and I only end up frustrated.  I need His power to work in me.  His supernatural regeneration is the only way I can truly be made new.

I am tired of the old me.  Thank you Lord, for making me new!


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Passion Fruit Flower

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 12:2b “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I have always wondered why this flower is called the “passion flower.”  But it seems obvious when seeing the original Latin genus name of “passiflora,”  However, there is another explanation.  In the early 1700’s missionaries in Brazil used this flower as a teaching aid to explain the crucifixion.  They called it the “flower of 5 wounds” referring to the nail wounds in the hands and feet of Jesus and the lance wound in His side.

We are nearing the end of “Passion Week” which refers to the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.  Passion motivated the Lord to endure great suffering out of His love for us.  The word, “passion” or “passio” in Latin originally meant to endure suffering.  Later it came to mean any intense emotion.

Today’s verse gives us a glimpse into the passion Jesus felt as He hung on that cross.  He endured the pain, the humiliation and the shame.  He endured the scorn and the excruciating separation from His Father for the first time in all eternity.  He did it all for the joy set before Him.

Why was He so passionate?  What was the joy set before Him?  Could it have been me?  He rescued me because He delighted in me (Psalm 18:19).  He takes great delight in me and in His love will no longer rebuke me but rejoices over me with singing (Zephaniah 3:17)  Because of His sacrifice an eternal love relationship is now possible.  It has always been a joy for me.  How amazing that I am a joy to Him as well!

Thank you Lord, for being a passionate God!