Devotions By Jan


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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.


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The Woodworking Plane

planer-usesScripture for Today: Philippians 2:13 “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”

Wood shop in high school was for the boys.  Perhaps it was just as well that I stayed away from those power tools and sharp instruments!  How the wood got to be so smooth, flat and level remained a mystery, only because I was too disinterested to find out.  But when my Dad took up woodworking as a hobby, he taught me to appreciate those smooth flawless surfaces and the effort it took to achieve.  The planer shaves off those high places in the wood, making the surface level.

Today’s verse reveals that God is continually working in us.  His goal is to mold our desires and actions to mirror His.  He has a purpose for this work and we can trust that it is a good purpose because He is good.  He is working to make us smooth and level by taking out the high places in us.  He is opposed to the proud (James 4:6) and will work to flatten those thoughts of superiority and self sufficiency.  The result is something beautiful that He can use!

Having my pride worked on hurts!  That blade is shaving off what does not belong.  It is humbling to be brought down to the right size.  He may use the reprimand of others.  He may use a miserable failure and allow me to fall flat on my face!  He often uses His Word to convict and point out areas that need flattening.  Whatever the case, it is not a comfortable experience.  But when it is all over, He gives favor to the one He has humbled.

Oh how I need Your favor today!  Lord, keep me smooth and humble.

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


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Director’s Chair

directorchair03Scripture for Today: Luke 10:40 “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me.”

I like the idea of the Director having his own personal chair.  It is elevated to be above the others and the role is clear.  The director directs.  He tells everyone else what to do.  The first known use of the word “director’s chair” was in 1953 on a movie set.  But the design of the chair can be traced to the fifteenth century.

In today’s verse, it would seem that Martha would be the most likely to have a chair like this.  She is overworked and overwhelmed with preparing the meal for a houseful of guests, including the Lord Jesus.  She is not sitting like her sister, Mary, enjoying her most important guest.  Instead, Martha is standing and distracted by all the work.  Even so, she does not hesitate to direct Jesus.  Martha tells Jesus what He should do to show His care for her.

It seems a bit audacious of Martha to direct Jesus.  But I find that sometimes in my prayers I do the same thing.  In approaching the Lord with my request, I will direct Him on the best way to answer me.  When He does not do it my way, I can doubt His care.  If I really want to understand just how much He cares for me, I need to drop what I think is so important and sit at His feet.  When I do, I am less likely to try to direct Him.

Lord, help me to get down from that chair and allow You to direct me today!

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


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Little Heart Cockle

Scripture for Today: Mark 12:30 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

The scientific name for this shell is “corculum cardissa” but I prefer the common name, “little heart cockle” as it certainly resembles a heart!  This mollusk lives in the Indio-Pacific region which is why I have never seen one.  The shells vary in color but they have a pattern formed from transparent mass and nontransparent mass.  Much of their shell is thin and translucent making them fragile. Yet they are often found intact on the surface of the sand among coral debris and broken shells.

Today’s verse is the response Jesus gave to a teacher of the law who asked Him which is the greatest commandment.  Following this commandment would make all other commandments a non-issue.  When the Lord has all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, then He also has our obedience to all other commands.

The tendency though is to keep parts of our hearts separate.  It is difficult to give Him all of ourselves.  There is fear for what He may ask of us.  There is selfishness in wanting to go our own way.  What if He asks us to give something or someone up?  My goals, my desires, my hopes and dreams are in that part of the heart that is difficult to relinquish.  However, giving Him all of my heart poses no risk at all.  I can trust Him with the deepest part of myself.  He does not hurt my heart and He never disappoints.  He has already given all He could for me.  My only reasonable response is to give everything back to Him!

Lord, take all of my heart and make it Yours today.


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A Panda-Sized Meal

Scripture for Today: James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Who does not enjoy watching these cute cuddly-looking pandas!  They can look especially adorable when romping around playing.  But more likely, they are seen doing what they spend the majority of their day doing; eating!  They eat 30-45 pounds of bamboo per day.  Their back molars are very strong for tearing this fibrous plant.  And they even have a sixth digit for holding those long stalks.  But because the bamboo is low in nutrition and pandas digest a very low percentage of what they eat, they must consume huge quantities.  They are constantly eating.

Today’s verse talks about two ways one can feed on God’s Word.  One can merely listen to it and be deceived into thinking that is sufficient.  Or one can not only listen to God’s Word but actually apply it and put it into practice.  In obeying God’s Word, there is change, growth and good spiritual health.  However, merely listening is much easier to do.  There can be momentary feel-good reactions to a poetic passage or a challenging story of faith.  But it is when we respond to His commands with submission and obedience that we truly grow.

I can get quite prideful about how well I know Scripture.  I can recite verses with the best of them.  But large quantities of head knowledge is not what makes for true heart change.  It is only in doing what God’s Word says that I can grow and become what He wants me to be.  It really is not how much I know or how much I listen to that makes a difference.  The difference lies in how much I do what it says!

Lord, don’t let me be deceived.  Show me where I need to obey.