Devotions By Jan

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The Last Word

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 16:1 “To humans belong the plans of the heart but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.”

The Siamese cat is known for his distinctive coloring. I grew up with Chin-Chin, a seal point. She was very dark and her blue eyes were startling. The Siamese are one of the oldest breeds, thought to originate in Thailand in the 14th century. Our Chin-Chin lived to about eighteen years old. But what I remember most about her was how talkative she was! A Siamese is known to be vocal, commenting on everything throughout their day. Chin-Chin took it one step further. She had to have the last word!

Today’s verse, a proverb, makes the observation that man naturally makes plans in his heart. But the Lord has the last word on those plans. From Him comes what is proper to do and to say. With His word or decision, He establishes plans. (verse 3) It is the Lord who establishes man’s steps. (verse 9) Whatever the plans of our hearts, James tells us to do our planning with the recognition that the Lord has the last word on whether today or tomorrow, “we do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

I need to lay every plan or project before the Lord. My motives can be dubious and I can be unaware of them. (Jer, 17:9-10) But He can search my heart and examine my mind, pointing out wrong motives. I may be convinced that my plan is good. And it might very well be. But His plan is always better. He sees what I cannot. And when I humbly lay my plans before the Lord, I can at the same time ask for His will, His way and His blessing.

I am grateful, Lord, that You have the last word and that Your word is good!

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Summer Breeze

Scripture for Today: John 3:8 “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

It is not uncommon to be approached by vendors on the beaches of France in their hopes of selling you a scarf. Scarves are worn regardless of the time of year. In the summer they are lightweight rather than heavy and are especially worn when there might be a current of air. It is commonly thought that a cold could be caught on that summer breeze!

Today’s verse talks about being born of the Spirit. Jesus is telling a very religious Nicodemus, a Pharisee, that he must be born again. The Greek word for “Spirit” is the same as that for “wind.” And God’s Spirit is like the wind being invisible, powerful and unpredictable. That wind can be light and gentle, like a soft current of air. Or the wind can be a powerful gale that abruptly changes everything. Believers are to live by the Spirit and keep in step with Him (Gal. 5:25). He gives us the wisdom and understanding to know and follow what God wants (Col. 1:9).

Sometimes, the leading of His Spirit is unmistakeable as He steers me clear of compromising situations or obvious sin. But other times I can easily miss what He wants and be “out of step.” My own will is awfully strong and frankly, I do not always want to ask for His. I use that “scarf” to avoid feeling the wind. However, keeping in step with Him is far better as He makes my path straight. When I acknowledge and submit to Him (Prov. 3:5-6) I find His way is always better.

Lord, help me follow Your Spirit today.

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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, 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.


Our Future Plans

Scripture for Today: James 4:15 “Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

We’re late. In our household we move from one year’s agenda to the next at the beginning of July. But somehow, time got away from us. Here it is August and I am only now making the transfer. Perhaps subconsciously, I was putting off recording our planning in the new agenda as the world continues to change and restrictions come and go. Too often, plans have fallen apart through circumstances outside my control.

Today’s verse talks about making plans for the future. Of course it is important in making any plan to carefully weigh the pros and cons, to count the cost and to prepare for contingencies. Scripture encourages us to count the cost (Luke 14:28). But this passage is speaking to the arrogance of making plans without thought to the plans the Lord may have. We do not know what tomorrow will hold or whether we will have life and breath to carry out our future plans (verse 14). The unexpected will always surprise us, but will never take the Lord by surprise.

When I make plans I want to acknowledge that the Lord may have something different in mind. Recognizing this truth keeps me humble and keeps me in an attitude of submission. Accepting His control also keeps me asking and listening to Him. As wonderful as I think my plan is, I do not want to miss out on something better!  He knows what tomorrow holds. He knows what health issues I may be facing. He is already aware of possible changes in our finances. Being overconfident about my plans is seen as “boasting” in the Lord’s eyes (verse 16). He wants me to make Him my confidence. 

Lord, keep me following Your agenda.

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Body Language

Scripture for Today: Deuteronomy 33:3 “Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand. At your feet they all bow down, and from you receive instruction.

The body language of this woman seems to indicate respect for the killer whale as she bows to it.  My body language when encountering a killer whale was not so much respect as fear!  Years ago I was volunteered to be kissed by one of these amazing creatures.  I was carefully held by a park employee over the end of a plank jetting out above the water.  I think I was as stiff as that board as I closed my eyes in fear!

Today’s verse describes a bow to One who is so much more worthy than any creation of His.  This bow is done in worship and does not stop at the waist.  Those showing reverence to the God of the universe bow all the way down to His feet in abject humility.  Our posture before His majesty is one that is self-abasing and glorifying to Him.  He is worthy of this worship for many reasons but in this verse He is bowed to for His love.  He loves and holds His own in His mighty and powerful hand!

One day I will physically bow to Him in His presence.  One day everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will do the same (Phil. 2:10).  For some it will be under compulsion.  But for believers it will be a continuation of our worship here on earth.  The challenge for me here and now is whether I can bow my will to His in humble submission.  He is my King and my Lord.

Lord, may Your will  be done in my life today.

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2018.)