Devotions By Jan


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Puppet Strings

Scripture for Today: Joshua 24:15 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

I was surprised to learn that Punch and Judy have been around since the 1600’s!  These marionettes  as part of British culture were originally intended for adult entertainment.  It was not until the Victorian era that the stories were changed for children.  Each story had common themes including: Punch’s bad behavior, struggles with Judy, his wife and the baby, victory over run-ins with the law, and plenty of songs and jokes mixed in.  Of course, Punch and Judy had no say in the story line!

Today’s verse is part of a charge Joshua gave the Israelites just before his death.  He admonished the people to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully by throwing out the gods of their ancestors.  Joshua challenged them to choose!  Then comes the often-quoted declaration that he and his household choose to serve the Lord.  Our Creator has given us choice.  How it works with His sovereignty is a mystery but true nonetheless.  There are no puppet strings however.  God wants our love and service to be sincere and come from our hearts.

Every day there lies before me a choice in how I will spend those next 24 hours.  I can choose to live them for my own selfish pleasure or I can choose to find my pleasure in service to Him!  When I choose my own interests over His, it is as if I am choosing the same false gods of those Israelites.  But when I choose to serve Him, I feel His pleasure and experience His gracious blessing!

Lord, today I choose You!

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Big Ears

Scripture for Today: Mark 4:23 “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”

A baby’s little ears are so sweet.  However, they will look completely different at age 80, and perhaps will not look so sweet!  Because ears seem bigger and longer with age, there is a common misconception that they continue to grow.  But in fact, it is just that the elastin fibers in the cartilage begin to breakdown, making them stretch and sag.  In any case, having bigger-looking ears does not translate into better hearing!

Today’s verse is a phrase used only by Jesus and He said it eight times in the Gospels to get His listeners’ attention.  Of course His listeners have ears and can hear.  Yet, He understands how easily we are distracted from really listening and responding.  Jesus goes on to say that we are to consider carefully what we hear.  We are responsible and accountable for what we have heard Him say.  He wants from us a response to what we have heard.

There are a multitude of sounds all clamoring for my attention during the day.  Some of these sounds are inevitable, and many of them I can disregard.  When sleeping, our ears continue to hear sounds.  It is just that the brain disregards most of them so we can continue sleeping.  But there is a still small voice that, like Elijah, I need to discern.  The question I need to ask myself is, “Do I really want to hear what He is saying.?”   I do not want to hear Him ask what is uncomfortable or difficult.  But then I would not hear His whispers of love either.

Lord, I really do want to hear You.  Please speak to me today.


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Calling All Cows

Scripture for Today: John 10:4-5 “When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; in fact they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

Seeing these cows on my walk reminded me of 30 black and white dairy cows in Normandy.  In 1943 their owner left them in a field as the Germans were advancing.  He was able to return for them but some French opportunists had taken them for their own.  They challenged my friend’s grandfather to prove the cows were his.  So he told them to call the cows over.  Of course, the cows just looked at those interlopers and did not budge.  But when the true owner called them, they all immediately got up and approached!

Today’s verse describes the same phenomenon but with sheep.  Jesus was addressing the Pharisees but they were not understanding His meaning.  Jesus then identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep (verse 11 & 14).  Those that are His sheep know and recognize His voice and follow Him.

Not only is the Lord’s voice recognizable but He calls each sheep by name! (verse 3)  And when He speaks to me, I will know it is Him.  He will never say anything in opposition to what He has already said in His Word, the Bible.  His voice does not condemn as he has already laid down His life as payment for every sin.  His voice will never accuse or tear down.  His words are full of love, even when He says something difficult to hear.  His voice is soft and tender as He draws me closer to Himself.

Lord, let me hear Your voice today.


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Dormant

mount-edgecumbeScripture for Today: James 1:19b-20 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

The residents of Kruzof Island got quite a scare when seeing this black plume rise out Edgecumbe mountain.  The volcano on this Alaskan island was thought to be dormant as it had not erupted for four thousand years.  (A volcano is classed as “dormant” when it has not erupted in the last ten thousand years.)  When a helicopter flew over to investigate, they found it to be an elaborate prank by a resident who had set fire to tires!

Today’s verse encourages us to be inclined to listen rather than to speak, and to be slow in becoming angry.  Our anger, even in the face of injustice usually does more harm than good.  Our anger does not always result in righteousness.  More often than not, even justified anger ends up being something for which we ask forgiveness.  God’s anger, vengeance, and justice however always produces righteousness.  When we are slow to anger, allowing it to lie dormant, we give ourselves the opportunity to see God work!

There is always some level of anger underneath the surface.  There are times I have been wronged personally.  I get especially angry when I see family members hurt.  Rather than lash out, I need to wait and see the Lord take care of it, in His way and in His timing.  Allowing my anger to spill out serves no purpose at all.  Burying it below the surface is not ideal either, but better than erupting!  I need to trust in His perfect justice!  God’s Spirit gives me the control to slow down the anger and not erupt!

Lord, I need your control today.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Checkmate

IMG_20151204_152757Scripture 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.”

My grandsons had no idea where each chess piece should be placed to begin or even continue a game!  Their Nana sure could not help, but they had fun anyway, confidently moving the pieces around according to some unseen vision in their little heads!  The strategy escapes me but I do know enough to recognize that “check” is not what one wants to hear, and “checkmate” even less, signaling that the game is over.

Today’s verse talks about making plans for the future.  Of course it is important in reaching any goal to carefully plan a strategy.  A building is not begun without considering the estimated 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 can always “check” or “checkmate” our progress.

When I make plans I want to always recognize that the Lord may have something different in mind.  Recognizing this keeps me humble and it keeps me in an attitude of submission.  Recognizing 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 later.  Being overconfident about my plans is seen as “boasting” in the Lord’s eyes (verse 16).  There may be a change of plan but through it I can trust Him.

Lord, keep me following Your plan.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Improvise!

improvise2962204559_1_3_IZa3X68UScripture for Today: Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

In our small studio in France, we are learning to live without what we normally take for granted.  We dry our clothes outside, fold up the two chairs to allow for more space when not in use, and close all the shutters to keep cool.  We have no freezer, no oven and no stove top.  Thankfully, we have a microwave!  We are learning to improvise, but perhaps not to the point of grilling meat on an iron!

Today’s verse is a comfort.  The Lord is personally involved in the direction our lives take.  He watches for what is needed.  When asked He gives His counsel in making decisions, and He teaches us which direction to take.  However, He also allows us freedom to choose.  When His direction is clear, we can decide to follow it, or not.  And He also allows freedom and choices when several options are just fine with Him.

If I thought that every choice made in a day was directed by Him, I think I would live in fear of missing it.  But He has given me my mind, my intellect, and my preferences to follow.  When I am in an attitude of submission to Him, I can trust that He will intervene if I am making an incorrect choice.  His goal for me is to become more and more like His Son and He can make that happen in a variety of circumstances.  So if my next step is not so clear, I improvise!  I do not have the script but that OK.

Thank you Lord that I know You, the Author, and how the story will end!

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.


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Face Plant

Scripture for Today: I Kings 18:39 “When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord – He is God! The Lord – He is God.'”

I have never understood why cats do this!  Our Tiger would often bury his face into the couch, so much so I worried that he was not getting enough air.  He would face plant on the hard uncomfortable floor as well.  I guess when sleep overwhelms, any position will do.  But he sure did look silly.  However, face planting by his owners is embarrassing, unintentional and takes looking silly to a whole new level!  Who wants to look that undignified?

Today’s verse describes an intentional face plant!  There was no concern about looking undignified.  The Israelites fell prostrate, face down on the ground in response to the awesome power of God.  In answer to Elijah’s simple prayer, the only true God sent fire down from Heaven in a contest between Baal and Himself.  This fire was unique not only because it fell from Heaven, but because it burned up sacrifice, wood, stones, soil and water!  What other response is possible but to fall face down to the ground in fearful humility and worship?  The Lord, He is God.

In our French church, we stand when we take communion.  There is standing and lifting up of hands in many churches as an expression of worship as well.  Paul tells us that one day every knee will bow in humble recognition at the name of Jesus (Phil. 2:10).  But when God reveals Himself completely and I see for the first time all His magnificent power and beauty, I cannot see myself in any other position but prostrate with wonder!

Standing, kneeling or prostrate, Lord, may my heart be completely Yours today.

Look familiar?  This is a repost due to summer ministry.