Devotions By Jan


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A Peaceful River

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 48:18 “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.”

There is something so restful about water.  It has such a calming affect on the spirit.  The reflections on the surface of the still water can make me sigh.  And the repetitive sounds of the waves gently lapping the shore lull me into a sense of well-being.  Stay long enough and tensions leave the body and time seems to stand still.  The water mesmerizes me and when I leave it, I somehow leave refreshed.

Today’s verse describes our peace and well-being like a river.  That peace comes as a result of following God’s way.  His way includes leading us by quiet waters and restoring our souls (Psalm 23:2).  His commands are designed for our good.  He teaches us what is best for us (verse 17).  But in our independent spirit, we do not pay attention to how He leads, or if we do, we think we know better!  That peaceful river alludes us as we move away from the Lord of peace.

When I am listening and obeying God’s voice, I experience peace with Him.  There are sweet times and a clear sense of His pleasure when I am not fighting Him.  Submitting to Him can be a struggle, but worth the effort when I can feel that deep heart peace in the middle of turmoil around me.  He calms my spirit and anxious thoughts.  Regardless of my circumstances, the still waters of His peace get me through, guarding my heart.

Lord, keep me obedient and close to the quiet waters of Your peace today.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)


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An Easy Fix?

Scripture for Today: Jeremiah 17:5 “This is what the Lord says; ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.'”

My children watched the resourceful MacGyver weekly on French television growing up.  He never ceased to impress and astound with his innovative Fix-It-Yourself solutions.  There was never a crisis he could not surmount, never a problem he could not resolve with just a little know-how and imagination.  The FIY or DIY concept enjoys lots of success as it saves money and impresses family and friends.  I am all for ingenuity in problem solving.

Unfortunately, there have been some recent major problems in our society that we cannot seem to fix.  Rather than turning toward the One who is all powerful, we accuse Him for our sin.  We say that He cannot fix the problem when in fact, there is nothing too hard for Him.  But for so long, men have been trusting in their own intellect and in their own strength.  Man has limited himself to only what he can create, and it has turned ugly.  Today’s verse describes the one whose heart is turned away from the Lord as “cursed.”

Turning to God in repentance means we can draw on His enormous strength and power for change.  The One who keeps the oceans in their place, the One who raised His Son from the dead is the same One who infuses us with His strength to change every behavior.  Our independent spirit to fix it all ourselves without God does not work.  We cannot do it, but He can!

Thank you Lord, that You have the power, the strength, the know-how and all the answers!  I cannot do life without You.  Keep my heart turned towards You today.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)


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Snares

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 29:25 “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

The simplest way to catch wild game is with the basic snare trap.  It consists of just a single piece of wire or string with a loop at one end, creating a noose.  It looks harmless enough until the animal runs through it, tightening the noose until it can not free itself.  It would break my heart to see one of these used.  I would pity the plight of the animal to the point of setting it free at the first opportunity!  Thankfully, I am not in a survivor mode having to depend on hunting to live.

Today’s verse uses the image of a snare to describe how fear affects us.  Fearing what man can do is a paralyzing trap.  Fear keeps us from moving forward and realizing our goals.  It stops us squarely in our tracks.  Rather than venture forth, we cower and stay still.  Our movements are curtailed and we are no longer free to move about.

This verse thankfully does not stop there.  We have a choice.  We do not have to live in fear of what evil men may do, but can live freely, trusting in the Lord’s protection.  He honors our trust and confidence in Him by keeping us safe.  For the believer, the soul is beyond the touch of evil and our eternal future remains secure.  Our God is more powerful than any evil scheme and nothing can thwart His personal plan for each one of His own.  I know and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day (II Tim. 1:12).

Thank you Lord, that trusting You keeps me safe and secure.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)


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Nesting Dolls

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:3 “…Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

Although the nesting dolls or “matryoska” dolls originated in Russia, the ones pictured here are Alsacian.  We see them all year long in France, but they are especially popular at the Christmas markets.  The number of dolls in a set can vary anywhere from five to several dozen.  A number of different themes are used including fairy tale figures, animals, and religious or political figures.  I am partial to the traditional “little matrons.”  But they all show beautiful artistry in the elaborate and detailed painting.

Today’s verse came to mind in thinking of the different sizes of these dolls.  Each one has its place in the set.  Each one belongs to the other and is needed to be complete.  Paul encourages his readers not to think of themselves more highly than they should.  Whatever size we think we are, we are not to look down on someone else.  Whatever talents we have are a gift from our Creator.  Each capability is a grace from Him.

Each believer has received a special talent or gift to serve Him.  When we think about ourselves with sober judgement we realize that any success in life ultimately comes from Him.  It is all grace.  Like Paul said, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  I do not want to disqualify myself from serving Him by allowing pride to poison my thinking.  But, it is always a sneaky temptation.

Lord, thank you for all your gifts to me!  Keep me from taking any credit.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)


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Water Lily

Scripture for Today: Psalm 19:8 “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

Water lilies fascinate me!  Their beautiful white and pink flowers look as if they bloom effortlessly as they serenely  float on the surface of the water.  They can be seen on lakes or ponds whose waters are still, and they can root up to seven feet deep.  If left undisturbed they can cover hundreds of acres of water.  Because they float, they access the sunlight unhindered by taller plant species.  Their leaves lie flat on the water soaking up all that light.  The result is beautiful!

Today’s verse tells us that the commands of the Lord are radiant.  They give all the light needed to grow and thrive in life.  His commands refresh the soul and make simple people wise (verse 7).  They give joy to the heart.  Each and every direction God gives is right and completely trustworthy.  Obeying His laws makes our lives beautiful.

I do not normally think of rules and regulations as a source of joy.  But just as a child can feel unloved and neglected without parental boundaries, so we too can feel as if God does not care if He had not given us His commands.  They are a sign of His love.  He cares that I succeed in life and He has shown me how.  His commands and precepts are designed with my welfare in mind, not to limit me or restrict my freedom.  They can give joy to my heart when I see them as proof of His tenderness and care.

Lord, keep me in the still water, soaking up the light of Your presence today!

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule)


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Texting

Scripture for Today: Psalm 3:3 “But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”

I hurt just looking at her!  This hunched-over position while texting can have some serious consequences.  With the head weighing 10-12 pounds, bending over our phones increases the force, pulling on those neck muscles and joints.  Not only can our poor posture lead to headaches and spine problems, some researchers have even made a connection with depression!  The idea is that the relationship between mind and body can run both ways.  We slump over because we are sad or we are sad because we slump over!

Today’s verse tells us that the Lord’s presence in our lives is a protective shield.  He looks out for His own.  Nothing and no one can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28).   And as  believers, He is our glory.  Our lives are to progressively reflect His glory as He creates Christ’s character in us (II Cor. 3:18).  But in addition to all of this, He lifts our heads!  And not just a little bit.  He lifts our heads high!  We no longer hang our heads in shame and disgrace.  We do not have to look down in humiliation and guilt.  Because of His love and forgiveness He lifts our heads high!  What an amazing thought!

When He lifts my head, I have the advantage of seeing more of His wonders in my life!  With the perspective that comes with grace and forgiveness, I can see just how much He has blessed me!  Like Mary in her song, I can say that I am blessed, “for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His name.” (Luke 1:49)

Lord, help me to live this day with my head lifted up high with the assurance of Your love.

(Look familiar?  This is a re-post due to summer ministry schedule.)


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Obedient Ant

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 6:6 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise.”

This ant is carrying quite a load.  That is normal as they are created to carry twenty times their body weight.  But there is one ant who inexplicably carried away a lost contact lens.  Its owner was mountain climbing when she lost it.  She turned to the One who sees all and pleaded with Him for help.  On descending the mountain with her friends, another group of climbers at the bottom shouted up the question, “Did anyone lose a contact lens?”  They only noticed it because an ant was carrying it on his back!  I can just imagine the ant’s confusion as to why he was carrying such a cumbersome inedible object!

Today’s verse is in the context of working hard and preparing for one’s future.  The ant stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest in order to be prepared for the coming lean times.  We are encouraged to look to the ant’s ways and be wise.  However, there is also wisdom in fearing and obeying the Lord as that ant did in this woman’s true story (Prov. 9:10).  Something (or Someone) prompted that small ant to lug around a very heavy load to what seemed to be no purpose.

I do not always understand the why’s behind what God asks me to do.  But then my obedience should not depend on seeing the whole picture.  He sees what is ahead and His plans for me are good because He is.  I want to trust Him for the reasons behind His commands.  This whole faith adventure is by faith and not by sight.

Lord, help me to be faithful to You, even when I don’t understand.