Devotions By Jan


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Red and Green

Scripture for Today: Psalm 108:4-5 “For great is Your love, higher than the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth.”

Christmas season is all about the red and green.  Anytime I wear these two colors during the year I may hear the comment that I am wearing Christmas colors.  Nature has no such seasonal restrictions!  Red and green are part of the skies as seen in this photo of the “green flash” at sunset.  It is a rare event that few have the privilege of seeing.  This flash of green above the upper rim of the sun’s disk only lasts a few seconds.  Refraction bends the light, the atmosphere working like a weak prism.  I look for it but have yet to see this colorful display.

Today’s verse exalts and praises God for His love, faithfulness and glory.  They are seen in the beauty of the heavens.  From all over the earth one can look up and see His glory in the expanse and resplendence of the sky!  The red and green sky is one more reminder of His faithfulness at Christmas time.  He was faithful to His promise to send salvation in the person of Jesus.  He proved His love in putting on flesh to walk among us.  Jesus is now exalted to the highest place at the right hand of God (Acts 5:31 and Phil. 2:9).  He is higher than the heavens!

His faithful love was shown all over the skies, in the star of Bethlehem and in the appearance of the angels.  He continues to remind me when I am not feeling it.  He lifts my head to look up!  He is faithful and He is love.

Lord, remind me again today.


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Deflated?

Scripture for Today: Psalm 27:4 “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord, to seek Him in His temple.”

Is there anyone out there who is experiencing “Christmas fatigue” before the 25th has even arrived?  The whirlwind of shopping, parties, events, and concerts can leave one feeling weary and yes, a little deflated!  It is not easy living up to expectations for the holiday.  Trying to get the decorations just right and even counting down to the “big day” can zap me of the wonder of it all!  I know I am in this state of mind when the Christmas music sounds tinny and fake.

Today’s verse speaks of a place where we can constantly dwell, where expectations are never too high and there is no “let-down.”  To be in the Lord’s presence and gaze upon His beauty is an experience that never has to end.  The warmth and comfort of His love rivals any warm and fuzzy feeling from holidays, music and decorations.  His presence and care never disappoint.  There is joy in His presence!  He has granted unending blessings and made us glad with the joy of His presence (Psalm 21:6).

My Christmas tree is beautiful!  The lights in the neighborhood twinkle and shine.  But how odd that after awhile it can become mundane and I walk right past, not noticing.  The joy of gift-giving is lovely.  But I would be hard pressed to name every gift I received last year.  Everything will eventually lose its shine and luster.  But the beauty of the Lord is forever and He invites me to continually gaze on Him!

Lord, keep me seeking You above all else.


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Candy Canes

Scripture for Today: John 10:11 “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

There are lots of legends and stories surrounding the origins of the candy cane.  One of those stories says that a choirmaster in 1670 gave sugar sticks to his young choir boys to keep them quiet during a lengthy church service.  It is said that he shaped them to resemble a staff so as to remind them of the shepherds visiting the baby Jesus.  It is more likely that candy sticks were straight at that time, but it is a nice story.

Today’s verse is a declaration of Jesus about who He is.  It seems strange that He would identify Himself so closely with shepherds as they were considered lower class citizens on the fringe of society.  Yet, “God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:11) and we are in desperate need of a Shepherd to meet all of our needs and to lead us!  Not only does this Shepherd do all of this, but He is good.  Everything He does is good whether it be keeping us from danger or correcting us with His rod and staff.  But the biggest proof of His goodness and love is the laying down of His life for us, His sheep.

How appropriate then, that the angels announced Christ’s birth to those shepherds!  They were the first to hear the news!  They were the first to bow down and worship Jesus.  And they were the first to spread that news, glorifying and praising God! (Luke 2:8-20)

And I have the same privilege!  I may not be the first but I am just as privileged to know and love that Good good Shepherd.  He has laid down HIs life for this silly sheep and I am forever grateful!

Thank you Lord, that You came for me!

 


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Gingerbread House

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 14:1 “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

I have seen lots of gingerbread house creations over the years, including those of my grandsons.  But I have never seen such attention to detail as these houses on display at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Napa Valley.  It took lots of self control on the part of my husband to not indulge in just one roof tile.  That is because not only are they elaborately constructed, but they were done by budding chefs, making them delicious too!

Today’s verse describes the wise woman as someone who knows how to build her own house.  By contrast, the foolish woman will tear hers down.  It is in the power of the woman to do either.  So much of a family’s emotional health and well-being are dependent on the wife and mother.  She has the potential to build up the members of her household with words of love, acceptance and encouragement.  What comes out of her mouth is to build others up according to their needs (Eph. 4:22).  The home where this is true is a safe and peaceful place.

It is a sobering thought to realize the potential of my words.  I do not always see the damage I am doing to the walls and floors with my complaints and negativity.  There may be tiles missing from my roof as a result of my criticism and nagging.  It is a daily challenge to bite my tongue.  But I have seen too the benefits when the Lord answers my prayers to “set a guard over my mouth.” (Psalm 141:3).  It is only with His help that I can be that wise woman with a house still standing!

Lord, help me control my mouth today.


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The Nutcracker

Scripture 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).

Sadness does seem to press down on me and can feel overwhelming in the face of loss.  And like Paul says, it can be perplexing as I struggle with the questions of “why.”  But for me as a 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 turns my despair into hope!