Devotions By Jan


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Hypocrites!

Scripture for Today: Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye. You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

The beams pictured here are from the oldest home in a village in Germany. They date back to 1357 and they are just beautiful! They add such warmth and coziness as well as stability to the ceiling. I see lots of these beamed ceilings in Europe. I shudder to think what the termites in southern California would try to do to them!

The beams or planks spoken of in today’s verses are not seen in such a positive light. In fact, they are not seen at all! They represent our own failings and weaknesses. We do not like to see them nor do we want to see them. It is much more gratifying to be in the business of “speck removal” for our brothers. These verses certainly do not discourage helping our brother see his weaknesses in a spirit of love. However, what we mean to be helpful can actually hurt our brother when we have not in humility examined ourselves first.

This image of a beam and its relative size to a speck is ludicrous! It is just as silly for me to be overly concerned with minutia in my brother’s life. I ought to be more concerned with my own beam removal. As uncomfortable as it is to examine myself, I risk becoming a hypocrite without it! I sure do not want my own ignored specks to gradually converge and become a beam! 

Lord, keep me speck and beam free!


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The Capybara

Scripture for Today: II Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”

Meet the largest rodent in the world! He looks to be a cross between a pig and a beaver but with no snout or tail. He can stay submerged like the hippo with eyes, ears and nostrils near the top of his head. With his webbed feet he can stay underwater five minutes at a time to hide from predators. Water is a source of life for the capybara. He uses it for his dry skin, for plant foods and to escape danger.

Today’s verse talks about God’s divine power being the source of a godly life for the believer. Everything that is needed to live a godly life has already been given to us. Knowing Him is knowing the Source of divine power. On our own, we are unable to do what He asks of us. But through knowing Him we can participate in His divine nature. He is the Source of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, affection and love. (verses 4-7)

What an amazing description of what is godly or like God! And when reading these I see how little they describe what I can come up with on my own! I so need His power to exhibit any of these characteristics. Thankfully, He has made His power available to me through His Spirit. Living a life that is godly is possible through Him. My problem comes when I think I can generate anything godly without Him. (John 15:5) How good of Him to have already given me everything I need to live for Him!

Thank you Lord, for being the Source of anything godly in me.


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Strong or Weak?

Scripture for Today: Nehemiah 8:10 “Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”

I get a whole lot done in a day when I am happy. There is something about being joyful that energizes a person. Even when muscling through a long difficult task, I can be exhausted but it is a “happy tired.” The reverse is also true. When I am feeling down and discouraged, I am also demotivated to do much of anything.

Today’s verse is an encouragement to the Israelites not to grieve. This group of returned exiles from Babylonian captivity should have been ecstatic as their walls were now rebuilt and gates were in place. But instead of joy, they were weeping. The Book of the Law of Moses was being read to them from dawn to noon. Their response was intense grief as they understood how far they had strayed from God’s laws. Sorrow over sin is necessary in asking forgiveness, but joy and celebration are to follow! New strength is found in that joy!

When I completely blow it, sadness over letting the Lord down dominates my thinking. But feeling that sorrow is not such a bad thing. It tells me my heart is still soft enough to be broken over my failures. What is so wonderful is that the Lord promises to be near those that are brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18) He is so good to restore that joy with the forgiveness He so freely gives! There is new energy in my step when rising from my knees! His joy gives me the motivation to persevere in living for Him!

Thank you Lord, for giving me strength in joy.


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Shoeing Horses

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 4:11-12 “I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.”

It looks like it hurts. But when done correctly, the shoe can be nailed in place without pain. The hooves of a horse are similar to our human nails but much thicker. And the horseshoe protects the feet of the horse much like shoes protect our feet. Before nailing the shoe there is a whole procedure to follow: carving, trimming and leveling surfaces. Good shoeing will result in a symmetrical hoof, which is so important to unhampered steps!

Today’s verse is part of instruction from a father to his son. His encouragement is to get wisdom and to hold on to understanding. In doing so, paths will become straight, steps will not be hampered and stumbling can be avoided. It is God’s wisdom that keeps us balanced and walking the way we should. When we do not allow God’s Word and wisdom to trim and carve away what does not belong, our walk becomes painful. We need constant “maintenance” or unchecked pride grows and we become wise in our own eyes! (Prov. 3:7)

I love to read God’s Word. I even appreciate His commandments and warnings as they are spoken in love. But the independence in me is strong. When I start doing life without Him, my steps begin to look a bit foolish and off. My footing is not as sure and there is potential for falling. It is His wisdom in His Word that makes my steps firm and purposeful. I can trust His hands to cut away my pride and any wrong thoughts I may harbor.

Thank you Lord, that your wisdom makes my steps sure!


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“Tilting at Windmills”

Scripture for Today: Romans 8:31 “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

These windmills do not look much like the enemy, but try explaining that to Don Quixote! The English idiom, “tilting at windmills,” means to attack imaginary enemies. It comes from the story of this deluded but chivalrous knight in Cervantes’ classic story. Don Quixote sees a field of windmills and thinking they are giants, he rides out to fight them. Unfortunately, he charges full speed at the closest one just as the sail descends, catching his lance and throwing him to the ground!

Today’s verse reassures the believer that whoever we think might be our enemy, we can be confident that God is for us. The question in this verse can be answered in one word; “nothing!” The list of “these things,” includes: death, life, angels, demons, the present, the future, powers, height, depth, nor ANYTHING ELSE in all creation will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus! (verse 37-39) Whether our enemies are real or perceived, we are more than conquerors.

I do not know what my future holds and I can imagine lots of unhappy scenarios. I can easily make a giant out of what is just an innocuous windmill. The future sometimes looms large in my thinking, taking on a power that it does not really have. But even in imagining the worst case scenario I can find comfort in the fact that God’s love would carry me through. Because of His love and power there is no obstacle in my future that is insurmountable. Nothing is too hard for Him. (Jer. 32:17) I belong to the Creator of giants and windmills!

Thank you Lord, that You will always be there to fight my battles!