Devotions By Jan


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Repairs and Renovations

Scripture for Today: Psalm 122:1 “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.”

I have heard some real horror stories about the repair and renovation process! Thankfully, so far we do not have one of our own. However, two observations on the process ring true for me; the work always takes longer than expected and the cost is higher than anticipated! In watching the progress, I have had to readjust my expectations. Patience is not my strong point and what I really want is for the work to be finished yesterday!

Today’s verse speaks about being glad to enter the house of the Lord. To be with other believers and worship our Lord together is a glad event. However, we ourselves are in the process of some serious renovation in that house. There may be some rough edges on people that need sanding down to make smooth. There may be a hanging hinge on a door which makes opening up difficult to do. Perhaps, there are “damaged” people in that house that need repair. Can I really be glad to enter a house like that?  Wouldn’t it be better to come in after all the renovations were complete?

I can be glad to enter the Lord’s house knowing that God is working in others just as He is working in me.  He promises to continue working right up to the day of His return (Phil. 1:6). The on-going changes He is producing in others are the same kinds of renovations He is doing in me. As believers, we are all in the process of change and growth into the very image of His Son. It is a renovation that we live with, knowing that the outcome is worth it!

Lord, help me to be patient with Your work in me, and in others!


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Circling the Wagons

Scripture for Today: Psalm 5:12 “Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”

It only made sense to circle those wagons. If not, those early pioneers on the Oregon Trail were vulnerable to attack. Not only was there safety in numbers, there was a better chance of fighting off attack when the enemy’s approach could be seen ahead of time. Every vantage point was used to be prepared. Whatever squabble may have separated these travelers during the day was forgotten in the need for unity and protection.

Today’s verse teaches that the believer is surrounded by God’s favor. That favor and blessing act as a shield against any attack from the enemy. On every side, God protects us from trouble and surrounds us with songs of deliverance (Ps. 32:7). The wicked do not have this protection but the one who trusts in Him is surrounded by His unfailing love (Ps. 32:10). Unlike that circle of wagons, there are no gaps in the defense He provides! On all sides we are covered and enclosed in His love and protection. No evil can touch our souls and nothing can snatch us out of His powerful hands (John 10: 29).

What a wonderful assurance this is! Regardless of the destructive power of evil, it will never touch my soul. I have been bought with a price and belong to the All Powerful One. He has delivered me from the power of Satan by what He accomplished on the cross. And He continues to deliver me from the snares and traps of sin. There is encouragement in being in that circle of wagons with other believers as well. Gathering together reminds me that I am not in this battle alone. I can draw courage from others as well to stand firm!

Thank you Lord, for surrounding me.


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Butting Heads

Scripture for Today: James 4:1 “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

Perhaps it is not so serious when humans butt heads. However, for goats with protruding horns, there is a definite risk of injury. An older goat may butt his head against the leg of his owner just to get more attention and affection! But between goats, butting heads can indicate stress or illness. The most common cause however is to show dominance. Goats, like chickens, have their own pecking order and will butt heads, kick or bite in order to show who’s boss!

Today’s verse was addressed to believers in the church. These early Christians struggled with the very same thing we do today. We are selfish and we want our own way. Desires battling within eventually show themselves in tensions and quarrels without. The desires mentioned here are probably the result of “friendship with the world” (verse 4). They desired what they did not have. Praying for their desires would not have resolved the situation. That is because they were asking with wrong motives and would spend what they received on themselves (verses 2-3).  There is only one solution and that is for our desires to change.

Most of my desires would probably fall into this same category. I wish I could say differently. The pull of the world is strong and so is envying what others have. In my heart of hearts I know that possessions do not bring me true joy but it sure is easy to be distracted! And when my selfish desires get in the way of a relationship I know it has gone too far. I want those secret desires in my heart to be God-honoring and to be centered on Him.

Lord, keep me from butting heads over selfish desires.


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“Flocking”

Scripture for Today: I Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

I have often heard the phrase, “flock of sheep.” But I never considered the word, “flock” as a verb. But in fact, this is an instinctive behavior for sheep. Normally, sheep will graze in loose bunches but they will form a tight flock when they feel threatened. Flocking is their main defense and they will form that tight group very quickly. This makes a predator’s chance of singling out and nabbing a sheep much more difficult.

Today’s verse speaks of a predator in our lives who looks to nab and devour the believer. The devil is described as a stealthy and hungry lion who is on the prowl for that isolated sheep. When distanced from the rest of the flock, this believer is vulnerable to attack. We are told to be alert to this danger and sober minded to recognize the risk. We are not to give up meeting together as believers as is the habit of some. (Heb. 10:24-25) Instead, we are to be together, encouraging one another, loving on each other and motivating each other to a life of service to God.

I need to be flocking. I need to feel the warmth and closeness of other believers. I need to draw strength and encouragement from the faith of others as others do from me. No man can be an island and expect to escape the notice of the one one who looks to destroy with doubts and discouragement. I am fooling myself to think I can go indefinitely without the physical presence of my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is together that we fight off the enemy and stay strong in our faith.

Lord, keep me in Your flock.


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Mistletoe

Scripture for Today: Romans 16:16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.”

Today is our 42nd wedding anniversary and no one needs to remind us to kiss today! But this mistletoe has long been associated with kissing. It seems strange as it is just a parasitic plant feeding off its host tree. But kissing under mistletoe has been part of Christmas tradition since the 18th century. In fact, it goes much further back having supposed magical powers to fend off evil spirits! I prefer the idea of love and romance!

Today’s verse tells us that believers are to warmly greet one another. The custom then was to greet with a chaste kiss. This custom continues today around the world. After more than three decades in France, I am accustomed to greeting others with a kiss on the cheek. It could be twice, three times or four depending on the region. But the idea is to acknowledge one another’s presence and make the other feel loved and important in whatever way is socially acceptable. In these days of hyper-sensitivity to germs, the elbow tap or fist bump has become another way to greet.

That warm greeting is so important. I love it when churches actually have folks at the entrance who officially greet you with that smile and handshake. We need to affirm one another and show genuine interest. We are all members of the same “body” of Christ and we need each other. My problem is that I am so centered on myself and my own needs. I forget that we all have the same need to be encouraged. It takes such little effort to greet as we should, but how much it can do to lift one’s spirit!

Thank you Lord, for mutual encouragement!