Devotions By Jan

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Bûche de Noël

yule-log-cake-buche-de-noel-coffee-eugenieScripture for Today: John 6:35 “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty.'”

The Bûche de Noël was always a fitting end to our Christmas meals in France.  This rolled sponge cake filled with buttercream was made to look like the traditional log burnt on Christmas Eve in times past.  They are often decorated with little figures made of marzipan and meringue  We always enjoyed the ones with ice cream fillings.  Having such a rich dessert after a heavy meal can sometimes be too much of a good thing!

In today’s verse, Jesus declared Himself the bread of life.  Bread is the perfect symbol of what is needed for daily sustenance.  He did not use the symbol of a rich gooey dessert as He provides just what is needed.  Often after too much dessert there is regret, but one can never have too much of Him!  He satisfies our hunger perfectly.  We are full without discomfort.  But there is a condition according to this verse.  We are simply to come to Him.

I often do not recognize my hunger.  There are days when I am soul sick because I am feeding on what does not satisfy.  That fancy pastry the world offers can be a big distraction.  But instead of feeling full and satisfied, I am left feeling a little queasy.  But when I go to Jesus, He more than satisfies what my soul really craves.  He offers Himself: His love, His peace, His joy.  Everything else is a poor substitute.

“Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.”  Thank you Lord, for being everything I need today.

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2nd nutcracker0Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:8 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.”

For years I have enjoyed seeing the nutcracker in Europe, but now I am seeing more and more making their appearance in America for Christmas.  They have long been a symbol of good luck in Germany where they originated.  The early ones were in the shape of animals, birds and people in the 15th century.  By the 1800’s they were fashioned to represent and vilify unpopular leaders of the day.  Now, the most popular ones are the soldiers who benignly stand guard.   Their function as nutcrackers is almost forgotten!  But their purpose is to press that hard nut until it is crushed.

There is hard pressing in today’s verse but not crushing.  Paul goes on to say that there is persecution but not abandonment.   He is struck down but never destroyed.  Paul experienced tremendous pressure but his spirit was not crushed.  He did not crack.  He did not lose heart as he was convinced that the One who raised Jesus from the dead would also raise him (verse 14).  Despair does not have a chance as Paul is filled with hope, fixing his eyes on the unseen and eternal (verse 18).

This Christmas season has been unique for me.  I have found myself buying several condolence cards for friends instead of Christmas cards.  The pressure of sadness can feel overwhelming in the face of loss.  But for the believer there is hope instead of despair.  There is God’s comfort and presence instead of abandonment.  He is especially close to those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).  What is unseen and eternal keeps me from feeling utterly crushed.

Thank you Lord, that Your birth at Christmas brings hope.  I pray You will especially comfort those who are hard pressed today.

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Through the Roof

article-2250766-16960521000005DC-805_634x401Scripture for Today: Psalm 111:2 “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”

I am amazed at some of the Christmas displays and lights on private homes!  It is so pretty to drive around and enjoy the ambiance.  But the display pictured here is unique.  There is a subtle message from this tree that seemingly goes through the roof!  We want our Christmas decorations to be bigger and better than the neighbors.  An insidious competitive spirit invades our thinking and we spend more time and money than we had planned.  The admiring glances of our handiwork take on a bigger and bigger importance!

There is no Christmas display that can rival the great works spoken of in today’s verse!  His works are glorious and majestic (verse 3).  They are worth our deepest admiration.  The works of His hands are faithful and just (verse 7).  Long after the Christmas lights and decorations come down, He causes His wonders to be remembered (verse 4).  The delight we take from pondering His works can last all year long!

Mary knew to ponder God’s great works (Luke 2:19).  The miracles surrounding the birth of Jesus were without doubt remembered and reflected on often throughout her lifetime.  Regardless of the hard times she had to endure, I am certain she was able to delight in her participation in God’s glorious work!

Do I delight in God’s great, glorious and majestic works?  Or maybe I am too easily distracted by what man can come up with!  The most elaborate Christmas decoration cannot hold a candle to even one star in His celestial display.  But the most awe-inspiring work at Christmas is the miraculous birth of His Son, bringing peace and hope.

Thank you Lord, for the delight I find in pondering You!


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Highest Mountain

Mount-EverestScripture for Today: Isaiah 54 :10 “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed, ‘ says the Lord who has compassion on you.”

It was a simple question; “Which is the highest mountain?”  But I found that the answer was not quite so simple.  Mount Everest, pictured here, has the highest elevation above sea level at 8,848 meters.  But Mauna Kea is the tallest at 10,000 meters if you count the 6000 meters below sea level.  But wait!  Chimborazo is the highest mountain above Earth’s center.  Our oblate spheroid-shaped earth is widest at its equator and because this mountain is just one degree south of that point, it earns the distinction of highest mountain above Earth’s center.

Regardless of which mountain is highest, they are all breathtaking and majestic.  Their soaring heights and rough terrain bring to mind strength, stability and permanence.  One cannot imagine these mountains crumbling into the sea, let alone being shaken.  Today’s verse uses the image of the mountains and the hills to describe the unending faithful love the Lord has for His own.  His love and promise of peace is even more sure than their strong reassuring presence.  Even if the mountains and hills were to disappear, His love and promise of peace will continue.

His love is a compassionate love, full of grace and mercy and forgiveness.  There is no love on this earth that comes close to His unending faithful love.  It is so sure and real, that I can and do build my life on it.  He does not disappoint.  He promises that those who hope in Him will not be disappointed (Isaiah 49:23).

Thank you Lord, for a “love that will not let me go.”

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walk 2895860359_b1c999b2ae_zScripture for Today: Psalm 97:11 “Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart.”

How often I have read novels or seen movies where at the end of  life, one moves toward a light!  In these stories the light represents eternity and the presence of God.  The light is bright and welcoming.  We associate light with warmth and goodness, whereas darkness can represent something cold and evil.  Even just a small pinpoint of light is powerful, dispelling darkness and chasing away shadows.  The light has a direct affect on our sense of well-being.  Without enough light, we can easily become depressed and negative.  Light has a way of lifting our spirits and giving us hope.

Today’s verse describes another blessing for the believer.  Light and joy shine on those whose heart is in right standing with God.  There may be darkness all around but “even in darkness, light dawns for the upright.” (Psalm 112:4)  When our hearts are right with the Source of light and joy, then it stands to reason that we can experience that light and joy ourselves, regardless of our circumstances.

I cannot drum up light and joy on my own for any length of time.  It is too easy to allow negative guilty thoughts darken my mind, robbing me of joy.  Light and joy are directly linked to my relationship to Him.  They are a natural outgrowth of a close relationship with my Creator.  He has made His righteousness mine through His Son, and with that clean heart comes the light and joy I so need!  How wonderful the benefits of forgiveness and grace!  In a world of pessimism and darkness, I can share that light and joy with others!

Thank you Lord, for being my light and my joy today!

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The “Text Neck”

tumblr_nbl69wc2Ik1rwwnb7o1_500Scripture for Today: Psalm 3:3 “But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”

The 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 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.

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Party On!

surprise_partyScripture for Today: Psalm 89:15-16 “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You, who walk in the light of Your presence, Lord. They rejoice in Your name all day long; they celebrate Your righteousness.”

Who doesn’t enjoy a good party!  The surprise party pictured here captures the pure joy and delight on this woman’s face.  Although my birthdays have always been special, I have never had a surprise party (hint hint).  If it should ever happen, I would hope that I would have on all my make-up and were dressed at least as well as the guests!  A good party for me would always include balloons, confetti and Abba music!

Today’s verse gives us reason to celebrate.  This party centers around the most important guest, the Lord Himself.  It is His righteousness and name that are celebrated.  I love how this verse talks about “learning” to worship and acclaim Him!  As we grow in our faith we grow too in our adoration and praise for all He has done.  Praising Him leads to joy and celebration.  Gone is the long religious pious face.  Our demeanor and our expression radiate the joy and blessing He puts in our hearts!

This is a celebration that is not confined to just one season, time or place.  We can walk in His presence and rejoice all day and every day!  I can just imagine how crazy happy Heaven will be with blasting trumpets and shouts of joy!  There will be no sad interruptions.  But we do have a “foretaste” now of that eternal party.  Whenever I consider and think on who He is and what He has done for me, my heart turns to Him in praise and my whole being fills with joy!

Lord, make this day a day of celebration!