Devotions By Jan

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Napoleon’s Banner

Scripture for Today: Psalm 60:4 “But for those who fear You, You have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.”

This elaborate banner was a flag proudly carried by Napoleon Bonaparte’s Imperial Guard foot soldiers in 1813.  It is either an original or a very early reproduction.  Banners like these were normally carried on staffs capped with a  gilt bronze eagle to symbolize divine authority.  Unfortunately, the eagle finial for this one was stolen in 1990 from the museum housing it.  So much for divine authority!  The foot soldier appointed to carry this banner had to be someone recognized for their bravery as he was an obvious target for the enemy.

Today’s verse has a banner that has been raised by our God and does indeed denote divine authority!  It is raised for those that fear and obey Him.  Unlike those who were experiencing discipline in this psalm, God’s  faithful ones could depend on Him to save and help with His powerful right hand (verse 5).  Those who fear, respect and obey the Lord are in a battle for His cause; the cause of truth, justice and righteousness.

God has raised this banner for me.  How amazing for this puny foot soldier to be part of His plan!  Because He has raised it for me,  I know I will be victorious over enemies!  But I do need to unfurl it.  It is my identifying mark.  I want to unfurl His banner with confidence, standing for the truth of who Jesus is and the veracity and authority of His Word.  Regardless of possible negative attention, I never want to be ashamed of my Lord (II Tim. 1:8).  After all, He is not ashamed of me as His banner over me is love (Song of Songs 2:4).

Thank you Lord, for the privilege of standing up for You!







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A Lamb on the Lam

Scripture for Today: Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” 

This sweet little lamb was “on the lam” after surviving a semi-truck accident where all the other 74 sheep were killed.  She led would-be-rescuers on a merry chase throughout the night until they caught up with her!  The phrase, “on the lam” is sometimes misunderstood as “on the lamb.”  It means to escape or flee from justice.  But it comes  from an old Norse word meaning to make lame.  In 16th century English the word morphed to mean to beat soundly, then further changed to signify,”beat it.”

Today’s verse could be a mission statement to describe the life of Jesus.  He came to seek us out.  We are all like sheep that have veered off the right path (Isaiah 53:6).  But instead of owning up to our mistake, we run for cover!  We hide from the absolute Holy One.  He seeks us out, not to condemn us but to save us from our own folly (John 3:17).  Being “on the lam” works against us as His intent is to forgive and restore!  It is natural to run from Him when we feel the shame of our sin, but He seeks us out to make it right, having taken on Himself the just punishment we deserve.

It is exhausting to spend a whole lifetime running from Him!  But when we keenly feel our “lostness” He responds to our cry for help.  I am so grateful that I am found!  He left the other 99 sheep just for me!  (Matt. 18:12-13)  Because He is my Shepherd, I will never be in want.  The running is over and I am safe in His arms.  No one can pluck this sheep from His sure strong hands.

Thank you Lord, for seeking me out!

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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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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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Black Hole

Scripture for Today: Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Theory has it that falling into a black hole would stretch one out like a long piece of spaghetti!  These strange phenomena in space cannot really be seen, being black.  But scientists know they are there from the gravity pulling on the stars and gasses surrounding it.  They are thought to be the result of collapsed stars and their gravitational pull is extremely powerful.  The black hole grows enormous as nearby dust and gas fall into it.  That black hole grows larger but never becomes full!

Today’s verse describes where satisfaction is to be found.  God’s love does not change or falter.  It is unfailing and can be the best beginning of the day.  God’s love satisfies the relentless searching of our souls.  When we are satisfied with His love, our lives are marked by songs of joy and gladness.  Without His love, the search for satisfaction can be like that black hole.  We can grab at whatever we can grasp to fill the hole inside ourselves.  But nothing else can quite fill that void.  We are made for close intimate relationship with our Creator.

The minute my eyes fly open in the morning is the best time to appreciate and revel in His love!  Before the distractions and obligations of the day begin, I want to acknowledge His love and care.  He has given me another day of life.  He is there to walk through the day with me, His presence being my security.  His love will never fail me.  He has promised.  Thinking on this truth brings satisfaction to my day before it even begins!

Lord, satisfy me today with Your love.


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Snowflake Babies

Scripture for Today: Romans 8:15 “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba Father.'”

I was surprised to learn the circumstances surrounding the birth of my friend’s latest grandchild.  After the death of her four year old son, her daughter’s empty arms were again filled with a sweet precious baby girl.  She had given birth to her adopted “snowflake baby!”  This amazing miracle was the result of a frozen embryo left over from the in vitro fertilization procedure of others.  This sweet little girl had been a frozen embryo for eleven years and finally was brought into a warm loving family!

Today’s verse speaks of another kind of adoption.  This one comes through God’s Spirit and makes us children of God (verse 16).  Before our adoption, we might as well have been a frozen embryo as true and abundant life only happens through Him.  We were spiritually dead because of our sin, but He has made us alive! (Eph. 2:5)  This relationship is not one of fearful servanthood but of a close emotionally satisfying bond.  As His adopted kids, we call our Father, “Daddy.”

Life is a precious gift.  But how much more precious are our lives when we belong to Him!  His Spirit reassures my heart that I am chosen, planned for and loved.  Because it is a work of His powerful Spirit, I am forever in His family.  There is no fear in that perfect familial love (I John 4:18).  I will always be His and He will always be mine!  His is a love that is faithful and cannot cease.  What an amazing truth, one I can and do make an unshakeable foundation to my life!

Thank you, Daddy.

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Scripture for Today: Proverbs 3:16 “Long life is in her (Wisdom’s) right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace,”

At this writing, the Mega Millions jackpot stands at 540 million dollars!  The one winning this inconceivable amount will have beat some pretty incredible odds.  The odds of winning are roughly one in 259 million!  The standard response is, “Well, someone has to win.”  Eventually, of course.  But the jackpot has climbed this high as there has not yet been a winner.  And at each drawing the number of participants increases, making the odds of winning even more difficult to beat!

Today’s verse talks about having riches and honor in one’s left hand.  The right hand holds long life.  It is not lottery winnings that fill the hands but wisdom.  The advantages that wisdom gives a life is likened to what wealth can do for a person.  But even this comparison falls short as wisdom is better than riches.  How much better to get wisdom than gold! (Prov. 16:16)  Wisdom gives us what money cannot buy; long life, honor, pleasant ways and peace.  Skillful godly living makes life absolutely rich!

It is so hard to think in this way.  With wisdom there is no instant gratification!  Wisdom does not give me any covetous looks from my neighbors.  There is no recognition or envy.  And life is not necessarily easier with wisdom.  But I tend to think all that could be the case if I were just a little richer!  However, the benefits and advantages of living wisely are not taxed, stolen, or frittered away as money can be.  My life is rich because of Him who is the Source of Wisdom.

Thank you Lord, that with Your love and salvation, I have already won!