Devotions By Jan


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Counting Blessings

IMG_20151222_105135Scripture for Today: Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

I was the lucky one!  During an ornament exchange I felt that I was the big winner taking home this royal vial.  The crown on top reminded me that I am a child of the King.  And the word, “blessed,” is such a good reminder to me of all that I have received.  I especially needed to keep that truth in mind when surrounded by the glitz and glamour of store displays and the draw of the next new thing.  I loved this ornament so much I made it into a necklace!

Today is the last day of the year and a good time to reflect on all His blessings.  Today’s verse is full of praise for blessings already given to those who know and love the Lord.  These blessings are not material but spiritual.  That means they will last into eternity!  He has blessed His own by choosing them, adopting them, granting redemption and forgiveness, marking them with the Holy Spirit, and giving them an inheritance!  What an incredible list of blessings!

I sometimes get distracted by what I consider “blessing” here on this earth.  But whatever I think I am lacking is of no importance when compared to the riches of His grace and the blessing of an eternal home with Him.  If He never blessed me with another material blessing, I would still be unbelievably blessed by what He has already done for me!  My heart is so blessed that the only way to respond is to praise Him!

Lord, make my heart grateful today for all Your incredible blessings!


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Ornate Frames

frame291921619_20289a4f62Scripture for Today: Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness.”

I appreciate a fancy picture frame but this one goes a little overboard!  The frame is so ornate that it cannot help but distract from whatever picture it surrounds.  The whole point of a frame is to highlight and draw the eye to the photograph.  A photo inserted in this frame would be completely swallowed up!  Sometimes, the simpler the frame the more effective it is in showcasing the picture.

This ornate frame made me think of the concept in today’s verse.  We can get carried away with our own importance.  We forget that our role as believers is not to showcase ourselves and our own accomplishments, but to draw attention to our Creator.  He is the central figure, not us.  He is to be glorified and honored for His incredible love and faithfulness to us.  Our role is to showcase all He has done and His perfect attributes.  The frame that detracts is the frame that is full of self-importance.

Of course, God’s glory is too immense to be overshadowed by anything man can do or create.  But anytime I take credit for something He has done for me, than I am failing to do what I am created for; glorifying His name.  To acclaim Him is my purpose for living.  To exalt Him, to praise Him, to extol and tell of His powerful and awesome works is why I am placed on this earth (Psalm 145).  Whether the frame is made of gold or wood is of no importance.  He is the One most worthy of all praise!

Lord, don’t let this day pass without me praising Your name to others!


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Shutters

shutters16447056-colmar-haut-rhin-alsace-france--exterior-of-old-colorful-half-timbered-housesScripture for Today: Psalm 139:5 “You have enclosed me behind and before, And You have placed Your hand upon me.”

I loved living with shutters in both Germany and France.  They completely blocked out noise and light, making it easy to sleep in!  When a storm came through, it was great to protect the newly washed windows from rain splatters.  During a hot spell, closed shutters kept the house cooler.  And for security reasons shutters were especially helpful.  In fact, some insurance plans would refuse to cover for theft if the shutters were open!  But the best thing about shutters was the sense of privacy they afforded.  I often felt a sense of peace with those shutters closing out the world.

Today’s verse describes just how well God’s Spirit knows me.  He knows when I am sitting, standing, when I go out and when I return.  He knows me so well that He knows what I am going to say before I say it.  Rather than this being an uncomfortable thought, it is a truth that is wonderful.  His thoughts to me are too numerous to count and they are precious (verse 17).  He lays His hand on me in a loving and protective gesture.  Like those shutters, He encloses and surrounds me with His presence and His love.

The world often needs to be blocked out.  Being enclosed in the Lord’s presence is only possible when I retreat from all the noise and activity around me.  To be still and listen to His voice often means turning off all the other clamoring distractions.  It is shutting the door to the room or closet to pray in private (Matt. 6:6).  When I make that effort, He is there, ready to meet me.

Lord, help me to shut out the world today and enjoy Your presence.

 


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Unwrapped

christmasaftermath-550x412Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”

With Christmas officially over, I can finally admit to being just a little tired.  Like this pooped pooch, the excitement has worn me out.  The presents are all opened and now the clean-up and organizing begins.  If possible I save the gift bags, boxes and bows for next year.  But if I am honest, there is sometimes a bit of a let-down after all the anticipation building over weeks.  Somehow, my unrealistic expectations go beyond reality!

Today’s verse describes a gift that will never disappoint.  This gift has no let-down.  It is a gift that is eternal and totally without equal.  There is no question of returning it as it goes beyond every expectation!  This gift is God’s surpassing grace in the Person of His Son, Jesus (verse 14).  His unmerited favor is a gift that continues giving throughout our earthly life and into eternity!

Words cannot adequately convey how life-changing His grace is towards us.  It is indescribable!  This grace was given us in Jesus before the beginning of time (II Tim. 1:9) and by this grace we are saved.  When we rely on His grace we are able to live life with integrity and sincerity (II Cor. 1:12).  His grace allows me to live beyond the limits of my weaknesses (II Cor. 12:9).  And it is by His grace that He gives me eternal encouragement and good hope (II Thes. 2:16).   There are so many layers of wrapping to this gift of grace that it takes a lifetime to experience it fully.  But I am encouraged to “grow in grace.”  I am so humbled by the enormity of this gift and the cost the Lord paid to offer it to me.

Thank you Lord, for this incredible gift of Your favor to me!


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White Christmas

marche JEKSI1jmb5pLdUmxH-bstxUx66sScripture for Today: Isaiah 1:18 “…Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

I am dreaming of a white Christmas, but in Southern California, that is all it is; a dream.  We enjoyed having snow in Alsace, France and sometimes even on Christmas day.  Pictured is a manger scene in the forest of the Christmas Market next to the Metz train station.  Somehow, the manger scene surrounded by snow makes it even more picturesque.  The Christmas markets with their quaint booths and twinkly lights looked magical when the snow gently fell.  It is lovely to see everything new and white.

Our verse today says that I can be whiter than snow.  The Lord’s forgiveness makes me that way.  My sin makes my heart dirty.  My guilt makes it dark.  But the Lord promises full cleansing when I confront and confess my sin.  His forgiveness makes everything white and bright again.

Like the snow outside, the whiteness of my heart does not seem to last very long!  Sin creeps back in little by little, dimming the white and changing it to grey.  Before long it is too noticeable to ignore.  The washing of my heart needs to be a daily routine.  Just as the washing of the disciples’ feet in John 13 is a daily necessity, so is my daily confession.

How wonderful to experience the new freshness of bright white snow!  How amazing that God’s forgiveness does the same for me!  His patient and consistent pardon means that each day can have a new white beginning.  One day, that whiteness will last forever!

Merry Christmas to all my readers and may your Christmas be white with His wonderful forgiveness!


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Wishing on a Star

nativitystar5Scripture for Today: Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“Star light, star bright, The first star I see tonight; I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight.”  This nursery rhyme from the late 1800’s still comes to mind when I see a bright star or planet shining on a clear night.  But I am sure those Magi from the east were not thinking of wishing on His star (Matt. 2:1).  Instead, they faithfully followed the star in order to worship the One born King of the Jews.

“Wishing on a star” pretty much describes the thinking of those who place their confidence in anyone but Jesus.  It is a poor flimsy substitute for real hope.  Hope for the believer is faith in what is sure.  Our hope is only as good as its object and that makes our hope in Jesus unshakable.  A star will not save.  A star cannot fulfill promises and save souls.  But a star can and often does move us to worship the Creator, as it did for the Magi.  His own hands stretched out the heavens (Isaiah 45:12).

Because of Christ’s birth, I have hope.  I not only have hope, I am overflowing with it as I trust Him.  He promises to fill me with all joy and peace as I live in that hope and trust.  The coming of Jesus is hope realized as He made a way to live eternally with Him.  There is a bright future ahead because of that hope.  The darkness of my despair is dispelled by the heavenly light of His presence!

Thank you Lord, for Christmas and for being my hope.


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Ugly Christmas Sweater

ugly-sweater-partyScripture for Today: Ephesians 4:22 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;”

It’s that season again of outdated, ugly and outrageous Christmas sweaters.  My daughter just attended a function where this was the theme.  Thankfully, she did not come to me to borrow what I would normally wear!  It seems unbelievable that these loud colorful sweaters use to be the “in” style.  It makes me wonder what will be considered ugly in twenty years that we now wear with pride!

Our verse today is about putting off our old self.  Like a piece of outdated clothing we are to take it off.  The old self or old nature is who we were before Christ changed us and gave us a new nature, resembling Him.  The old self is characterized by lies, sinful anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage, brawling, slander and all malice.  How much better to put on the new self, created to be like the Lord in true righteousness and holiness (verse 24).

If you are like me, some of these outdated items are still hanging out in your closet!  Like a ratty comfortable robe, I slip back into habits that should not be a part of my wardrobe any longer.  I am often unaware of what I am wearing.  But those old clothes are NOT pretty.

I do have a choice.  Nothing obligates me to put my hand on that old worn out sin and wear it again today.  Because of Christ, I can be new.  I can have a whole new look, a look that resembles Him.

Lord, help me to recognize the old and throw it out!