Devotions By Jan


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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!


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Cable Car Caroling

Scripture for Today: Psalm 147:1 “Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him.”

It was 1969 and our church youth choir had to get special permission from the city of San Francisco to reserve two cable cars.  I have sung in choirs at lots of different venues over the years including; street corners, European cathedrals, grottos, and the Rose Bowl.  But I will never forget singing my heart out up and down those steep streets!  Today, there are many different fundraisers and community groups who carol on these cars.  But in the 60’s it was not so common.  We got lots of funny looks, but we also got passerby’s joining in!

Today’s verse encourages us to praise the Lord through song.  It is fitting because it is His due and He deserves it.  But in addition, it is a good and pleasant experience.  Christmas time is the perfect opportunity to praise Him as so many of the older carols spell out who He is and why He came!  Thankfully, there are no restrictions in this verse that the singing needs to be on key or pleasant to hear!

I sing to and for Him.  But what is so incredible is that it does me so much good as well.  Praising God in prayer and listening to sacred music turns my heart toward Him.  But nothing lifts my spirits more than singing His praise!  It brings me closer to Him as I know He always listens.  Not only is my spirit involved but so is His Spirit as songs prompted by Him help me make music from the heart (Eph. 5:18-19)

Today Lord, “tune my heart to sing Thy grace.”


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Thirsty Kittens

Scripture for Today: I Peter 2:2-3  “…like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”

These sweet kittens seem pretty motivated to reach that pail of milk!  It cannot be too comfortable for them to stand on their hind legs and fully extend them.  I wonder what they did when the level of milk dropped so that they could no longer reach it.  I imagine that either one or more fell in or perhaps in their eagerness the pail tipped over!

Today’s verse describes that same longing.  A new believer will show enthusiasm for reading and learning from God’s Word.  It is not something a believer ever need deny himself.  Although a mature believer will gradually add the meatier doctrines of the Bible, one never outgrows the need to review and appreciate the foundational truths, or milk.

The milk of God’s Word is described as pure.  Hearing others preach and comment on God’s Word is important and valuable.  But my own personal feeding is essential for my faith to grow.  Nothing can take the place of His personal message.  Having that sweet communion leaves me wanting more.  And it is when I read His Word for myself that I taste His kindness for me!

I need that close quality time with the Lord for my faith to grow.  Through His written Word He reassures me of His love and presence, His control and care!  It is wonderful to grow in knowledge.  But my deepest desire is to grow closer to Him!

Thank you Lord, that You nourish my soul!


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Let Us Adore Him!

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 45:23 “By Myself I have sworn, My mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear.”

J’Adore perfume by Christian Dior was first launched in 1999 and had incredible success, even legendary status.  In English we use the word, “adore” to indicate strong passion.  But the meaning of  “adore” in French is not as strong as the word for “love,” and it is used lightly to mean a strong preference.  One can just as easily say that they adore chocolate.  But for French language purists, the word “adore” is used exclusively for God and means to worship.

Today’s verse is a declaration or vow of the Lord.  His word will never change or be revoked.  Everything He says is entirely true and will never change just as He will never change.  And what He says is that every knee will one day bow before Him.  The doubters and the mockers, the arrogant and the rebellious will one day kneel in absolute humility before Him, verbally acknowledging the truth of who He is! (Phil. 2:10-11).  The shepherds understood.  And when seeing the baby Jesus, even in humble circumstances, they adored Him and worshipped Him.

I love the carol that says, “O come let us adore Him.”  Adoring Him can be lost in all the activity and busyness of the Christmas season.  Everything, although good and happy, can distract me from the adoration and worship that is His due!  And there is enough going on every day to distract me from adoring Him!  But adoring Him is not only the best part of Christmas, it is the best part of any day!

Lord, You are worthy of all my worship and adoration.

 


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A Squirrel and his Nut

Scripture for Today: Psalm 77:11-12 “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will consider Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.”

I am not the only one who forgets where I have put things!  The University of Richmond did a study and found that squirrels fail to recover up to 74% of the nuts they bury!  Even so, they do have a strategy.  They do what’s called, “spatial chunking” sorting their nuts by size, type and taste and then burying them in groups.  Even more surprising are the grey squirrels who frequently dig up and then rebury the same nut, a behavior perhaps to refresh their memories!

Today’s verse comes from a psalm of Asaph, King David’s music director.  In his depression he is wondering if God is going to keep His promises.  He wonders if God’s love for him has vanished (verse 8).  He doubts and wonders but then he answers his own questions with these two verses.  He resolves to remember all of what the Lord has done in the past for him and his people.  He replaces his troubling thoughts with memories of God’s miracles and mighty deeds.

I have seen the Lord do so many miracles in my life!  He has provided and proved Himself faithful.  But those memories are so often buried.  I easily forget when I am struggling with a new difficulty.  I need to go back and dig it up to refresh my memory of His faithfulness!  Thoughts of His “mighty deeds” in the past restore my confidence and trust in Him!  Not only my memories do this but the testimony of others too!  He has done it in the past and He will do it again!

Thank you Lord, for Your incredible faithfulness.