Devotions By Jan

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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It’s that season again of outdated, ugly and outrageous Christmas sweaters.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  Like a piece of outdated clothing we are to take it off.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!


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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!