Devotions By Jan


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“Black Friday”

black_friday_2010_aeropostale-thumb-590x392-62546Scripture for Today:  Hebrews 13:15 “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

Today is what Americans call, “Black Friday.”  It signals the unofficial start of Christmas shopping. The term has an interesting history.  In the 1950’s it referred to all the workers calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving.  In the 1960’s it was used by policemen in Philadelphia to describe the mass of shoppers and the resulting congestion.  The term has now come to mean retailers finally pulling out of the red ink and into the black on their balance sheets.

France does not have such a day, although their two months of sales, January and July, are much busier.  When the stores put on a sale they will often use the word, “sacrifié” or “sacrificed” to describe their discounts.

It was this word, “sacrifice” that made me think of our verse for today.  In the Old Testament, there was a “sacrifice of thanksgiving” that was part of the sacrificial system described in Leviticus.  With Christ’s perfect sacrifice, we are no longer under this system.  But our verse describes another kind of sacrifice; one of praise!  The fruit of our lips is to give thanks to His name.

Why would it be called a sacrifice to praise Him?  A sacrifice means that it costs us something.  It is a sacrifice to praise Him when I do not feel like it.  It is a sacrifice when I am feeling discontent or deprived.  It is a sacrifice when I do not understand what He is doing.  But I can praise Him when I am looking towards that city which is to come (verse 14).  Praising Him is no sacrifice when I have that eternal perspective!


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Thankful Praise

junk-food-cornucopia-500Scripture for Today: Psalm 71:14  “but as for me, I will hope continually, And will praise You yet more and more.”

Today is a day of Thanksgiving and apparently someone is thankful for sweets!  One would expect to see fruits and vegetables spilling out of this cornucopia.  The “horn of plenty” is normally a symbol of abundance and “nourishment.”  But I am not so sure how nourishing these sugary treats are!

As a child, I had an insatiable appetite for anything sweet.  It was such a problem that my dentist put me on a strict low sugar diet.  Thankfully, as an adult I have less desire for sugar and appreciate all kinds fruits and vegetables, including the previously detested squash!  It is odd how the less  sugar I eat, the less I crave it.  However, the more I indulge in sweets, the more I have a taste for it and the more I end up wanting!

Our verse for today is about something else for which we develop a “taste;” praise.  This psalm is said to be written by an “aged man.”  Over the years he has praised God more and more.  With longer life comes more reasons to praise Him.  Through the years God show us His grace and faithfulness over and over.  It would follow that there would be more and more praise for what He has done!

The more I praise God the more I want to praise Him!  Just as I once could not get enough sugar, I cannot praise Him enough!  I want His praise to be continually in my mouth! (Psalm 34:1)  Like Paul in I Thess. 2:13 I want to thank God without ceasing!

Today is a special day of giving thanks.  Lord, may I have a thankful heart everyday that praises You yet more and more!


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Watershed

alps1235287_10201799891189606_1520841403_nScripture for Today: Deuteronomy 30:18  “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants. “

I never get tired of gazing at the Swiss Alps!  Their towering peaks and gorgeous glaciers are impressive.  The Swiss Alps directly or indirectly feed Europe’s four largest rivers; the Danube, draining into the Black Sea, the Po into the Adriatic Sea, the Rhone into the Mediterranean Sea, and the Rhine near us, draining into the North Sea.  One could say that these glaciers are the “watershed” of Europe.

A watershed is an area that separates waters flowing to different river basins or seas.  We often use this word to describe a turning point in life that decides the future.  Our verse today is some of Moses’ last words to the Israelites.  This is a watershed moment for them as they choose.  The choice is expressed so clearly; life or death? blessing or curse?  The passage goes on to say that loving and obeying the Lord is life and length of days.

The Lord gives us watershed moments as well.  He gives opportunities to make a clear decision that will affect the rest of one’s life.  It happened to me and I chose Him.  In doing so I chose life!  Since making that decision for Him I have been incredibly blessed.  I shudder to think how my life would have “flowed” had I not chosen Him.  My life is no bed of roses or “vie en rose” but it is blessed by His presence, His care and His love.  I have never regretted my choice, not once, not ever.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me such a clear choice!


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Rehearsal

rehearsalunnamedScripture for Today:  Revelation 5:13  “And every created thing which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’

I just finished a series of concerts with my French Gospel Chorale.  The program was called, “Total Praise” and I was sorry to see it end.  These concerts were the result of hours and hours of rehearsal throughout the year.  As the majestic music rose to the cathedral ceilings, I could not help but think what praise would be like in Heaven.  Our hearts will soar with our voices to the honor of the One who sits on the throne!

All those rehearsals are so important.  It is a time of learning and memorizing the words, the notes and the timing.  Our verse for today describes an unbelievable concert of praise given to the King of Heaven and the Lamb of God.  It will be a perfect concert.  There will be no false notes, no forgotten words and no missed entrances.  It will be the most perfect sublime music ever heard!  And it will be to His glory.

Here on earth, it is a time of rehearsal.  We praise Him but it is not yet perfect.  Sin can make us sharp or flat.  We live with that old nature.  We can come close to perfect music, but we will always be a little “off.”  The Lord is gracious to accept our imperfect praise as here on earth, this is just the rehearsal.

One day we will be part of that innumerable throng singing perfect praise!  Worthy is the Lamb of total praise!  Happy rehearsing!


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Transparency

see thruil_570xN.438569703_gcwmScripture for Today:  Psalm 32:5  “I acknowledge my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.  Selah.”

These shoes pose two problems.  First, with high arches, most shoes with much of a heel will not work.  But the more obvious problem is its selling point; transparency.  For perfect feet there is no problem.  But for those with any defect at all, these shoes reveal all.  There is no hiding the corn, bunion, callus, or chipping nail polish!  Obviously, not every foot is pretty.  Some toes are just bent and ugly.  For a casual sandal, most feet can risk going bare.  But for a fancy sophisticated look, very few can get away with this much transparency!

Our verse for today reflects a desire to be transparent with the Lord.  David decides to come clean with God.  He acknowledges what he has done wrong.  He no longer tries to hide his sin but instead admits it in humble confession.  The wonderful result is God’s freeing forgiveness not only from the ugly sin itself but also from the accompanying guilt!  It is such an amazing thought that David adds the word, “selah,” which means pause, and calmly think of that!

It is almost comical that I would try to hide anything from the omniscient God of the universe.  Nothing is hidden from Him (Psalm 90:8).  He waits for me to turn to Him so that He can forgive.  But it is my pride that keeps me from admitting my wrongdoing.  Like Adam, I want to assign blame to others or to the circumstances!  My pride prompts me to rationalize or minimize my sin.

Help me, Lord, to be completely transparent with You and so enjoy Your forgiveness.


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Giving Up

Never_Give_upScripture for Today:  Galatians 6:9  “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

This quote of Winston Churchill’s is on a magnet in our study.  It was given to my husband by a student in his biology class years ago.  My husband used this quote when giving the commencement speech at our second daughter’s high school graduation.

This quote was from a speech Churchill gave to the boys of his former school, Harrow School, in 1941.  It was just after the Blitz and the English were feeling encouraged.  The actual quote is a bit different with the words, “never give in” but the idea of perseverance is the same.

As inspiring as these kinds of quotes can be, God’s Word gives a special kind of motivation.  In our verse for today, Paul exhorts the believers in Galatia to continue in their good works, especially to other believers.  He understands the temptation to give in to weariness.  One grows especially weary when one does not see results.

Reaping what is sown is a repeated theme in Scripture.  Farming the soil meant prepping it, sowing the seed, and careful tending.  Waiting for the results was normal.  And so it is with believers.  We are told that one day there will be joyful reaping of all those good works sown.  But just because we do not see immediate results does not mean that we give up.

There is plenty of temptation to give up.  Living a life of service to others is not an easy life.  It goes against my selfish nature.  If seeing immediate results is my only motivation than giving up looks pretty good.  But “in due time” there will be results and there will be reward.  God has promised.


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Measuring Growth

oversized ruler growth chartScripture for Today: II Peter 3:18  “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.”

When our kids were small, measuring their growth was just a matter of a straight edge and a pencil marking on the wall.  Of course, at some point the wall would need cleaning!  On the market today are all kinds of whimsical growth charts to keep a fun record.

Our verse for today describes a very different kind of growth; growing in grace and in knowledge of our Lord.  They are Peter’s  last words in his second epistle.  Growing in our knowledge of Him continues forever.  We can never come to the end of knowing God as He is eternal.

Grace, being God’s unmerited favor, is unfathomable.  We are called, saved and justified by His grace.  Our Christian walk is also a matter of grace.  We stand in grace, establish our hearts and are strong in grace.  Certainly, His grace is sufficient to meet a particular need (II Cor. 12:9)  But how does one grow in grace?

At least three times in Scripture, God tells us to whom He gives more grace; the humble.  (Prov. 3:34, James 4:6 and I Peter 5:5)  The humble realize their need and more often approach the throne of grace.  The humble are aware of their sin and guilt are more likely to recognize His grace!  The humble are conscious of their weakness are in a place to receive His grace.  Growing in grace is to see the need and look to Him to fill it.

Everything good in my life is a grace from Him.  Oh, how I need to grow in His grace.  Lord, humble me so that I can experience more and more grace!