Devotions By Jan

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Looking Back

looking back83Scripture for Today: Psalm 89:1  “I will sing of the loving kindness of the Lord forever.  To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.”

Today is the last day of the year.  Every year seems to pass by more and more quickly!  The television channels often have programs that summarize the entire year.  Each time I view these I am surprised at how much I have forgotten.  There are reminders of which celebrities have died.  There are the highs and lows of big news events.  And there are reports of new records set throughout the year.

Not everyone enjoys looking back.  Some things are better forgotten.  Reliving some of the negatives can be very depressing.  But looking back can help change our perspective.  With hind sight comes some understanding.  Problems that seemed insurmountable while living them take on a completely different light after some time has passed.

Our verse for today proclaims the faithfulness of the Lord.  This beautiful characteristic of our God is best seen when looking back.  Many times it is not until the trial is over that we see the positives.  It is often after the fact that we see God’s hand.  His faithfulness brings us through, developing patience, making us more like Him.  His faithfulness means we can count on His Word and His promises.  His faithfulness brings about that “good” that Romans 8:28 describes.

This past year He has been faithful.  He has been faithful every year.  I am confident He will be faithful next year!  It is His nature.  I can look back these last twelve months and pinpoint all the ways He has shown His faithfulness, not only to me but to my family and my friends.  Regardless of any negatives, He makes looking back a joy!  Great is His faithfulness!


Dark Night

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 42:8  “The Lord will command His loving kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”

We just experienced the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere on December 21st.  The winter solstice makes for a very long and dark night.  However, this year, it was the night before that could claim that distinction!  Due to a lunar eclipse, the night of the 20th is said to have been the darkest night in the last 500 years!

For many people, the holidays are represented by some very dark nights.  Expectations not met, hopes dashed and keen disappointments mark holiday nights.  Sweet “Hallmark” moments do not match up with one’s reality.  For some, the darkest nights occur when everyone else seems to be celebrating.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has said when it is dark enough, men see the stars.  But our verse for today is no pithy saying.  It is truth.  His loving kindness is ours in the daytime.  His song is ours in the night, even in the darkest night.  Circumstances can disappoint.  People can disappoint.  But HE does not.  Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed (Romans 10:11).  What an incredible truth!  During the darkest night, I can sing!  He gives me hope.

I love that our verse for today says that He “commands” His loving kindness.  It reminds me that He is in control.  He commands and directs.  He arranges and controls.  So much of my life is not my call, but His.  I am thankful that His control is loving and kind.  His direction is trustworthy.

No matter how dark the night, thank you Lord, that my heart can sing because You give me hope.

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Seeking Him

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

I always smile to myself when I see the bumper sticker or plaque that says, “Wise men seek Him still.”

The story of the wise men seeking the baby Jesus is only told in the Gospel of Matthew.  Because this event took place some time after the birth of Jesus, it is often given less attention.  We typically think of there being three wise men as there were three gifts offered to Jesus: the gold, frankincense and myrrh.  But regardless of their number, they went to great lengths to seek and to find the baby Jesus.  They spent money, time and effort to make that long arduous journey.  The star guiding them to the exact place they could find Him was nothing short of miraculous!

It was telling that these learned men went first to Herod’s palace to inquire.  It was only logical to think that the birth of the King of the Jews would take place in some distinguished surroundings.  I can imagine their surprise when the star indicated what must have been a very humble home!  Matthew 2 tells us that they were filled with great joy when they saw Jesus.  Their immediate reaction was to fall to the ground in worship.

Wise men seek Him still.  And He wants to be found.  I may not have a miraculous star, but I have His Spirit drawing me back to Himself.  I am wise when I listen.  Our verse promises me that He rewards those who seek Him.  He rewards me with a very special and privileged relationship with Himself!  Thank you, Lord, that YOU are my reward.


Joyeux Noël

Noel unnamedScripture for Today:  Luke 2:10-11  “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'”

There are actually two Christmas messages in this garland.  First, there is the obvious; “Joyeux Noël” or “Merry Christmas” in French.  The second message is an unintended repetition; “no L.”  When teaching fourth grade I used to put the alphabet on the blackboard without the “L” and see who could find the Christmas message first!

The word,”noël” was first used in the English language in the 14th century.  There are two ideas about its origin.  The first thought is that “noël” is a variant of “nael” derived in turn from the Latin word, “natalis” meaning, “birth.”  As Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus, that makes sense.  Then there is the idea that “noël” is derived from the French word, “nouvelles” meaning, “news.”  In either case, the emphasis is on the good news of our Savior’s birth.

In our verse for today, there is good news announced of a great joy!  It is not just for those hearing the angel’s declaration but it is offered to all the people.  The birth of the Savior is astonishing news!  That the God of the universe would condescend to humble Himself and become a vulnerable baby is astounding!  But the truth that He did it for me is what is difficult to grasp.  He did it to become my personal Savior.  In His love, He stooped that low so that I could be saved from the entirely just punishment for my sin.  It is too wondrous to describe!

What joyful news!  Joyeux Noël!


Stylish Hats

hat unnamed Scripture for Today: Isaiah 35:10  “And the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads.  And they will find gladness and joy and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

My husband loves his hats!  However, the one pictured here is only a distant memory!  It was the perfect hat!  It had metal in the rim and could be twisted this way and that for the perfect look!  He was able to enjoy it for only a few days.  On a ferry ride, it blew off his head and into the waters of the Atlantic.  Oh, the shock and regret of that moment!  There was nothing to do but watch it drift away.

In our verse for today, there is something very different on the head!  Hats will have to make way for everlasting joy!  This prophecy of Isaiah made reference to a literal return of the Israelites from exile in Babylon.  They would one day return to Jerusalem or Zion.  But in a larger sense it can refer to all whom the Lord has redeemed.  One day there will be a highway traveled only by the redeemed and it will lead right into God’s Millennial Kingdom.  There will be uninterrupted joy in the presence of our King!

In God’s presence is fullness of joy! (Psalm 16:11)  In the future there will be no sorrow nor sighing.  One day there will be no tears.  Even the memories of struggle and disappointment will completely fade.  It will all flee away in the overwhelming joy and gladness of His very presence!  What a day that will be when I see Christ!  “One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase.”

Thank you, Lord, that even today in Your presence I can live a bit of that joy!