Devotions By Jan


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Easter Baskets

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 40:12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”

I can still remember the squeals of delight when distributing those Easter baskets to my kids!  I started with the oldest, much to the annoyance of my youngest.  The origin of Easter baskets is thought to be from a Catholic tradition in Poland and other eastern European countries.  Families would bring their Easter Sunday dinner to mass in a basket to have it blessed.  Of course, anything in the basket other than chocolate and jelly beans would be firmly rejected by children everywhere today!

Today’s verse describes the contents of one basket as being all the dust of the earth.  This poetic description of God’s mighty power asks rhetorical questions that can only have one response; no one.  No one but God could measure all the waters of the earth, or the breadth of the heavens.  No one but God is powerful enough to hold all the dust of the earth or weigh the mountains and hills.  If He can do all of this, than raising Jesus from the dead poses no challenge at all to the all-powerful One.

I serve a mighty powerful God who is not bound by the laws of nature that He Himself created.  And because He raised Christ from the dead, He raises me to new life as well.  I was dead in my sin (Col. 2:13) but God made me alive with Christ!  I can be truly alive only because He is!  “And life is worth the living just because He lives!”

He has risen.  He has risen indeed!

 

 

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Easter Eggs

Scripture for Today: Romans 6:4 “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

I bought beautifully carved real egg shells much like these from a street vendor in Prague.  Because they were so fragile, I carefully wrapped them in my carry-on.  How disappointed I was to have them confiscated as an animal product!  Easter eggs perhaps grew out of the tradition of hard boiling eggs during Lent.  In medieval times, Lent was stricter with prohibitions against eating all animal products.  When Lent was over, people would distribute their stockpiled eggs to the poor, right around the time of Easter.  Of course, eggs have long been considered a symbol of rebirth.

Today’s verse teaches that new life is possible as a result of being buried with Jesus.  Just as Christ was raised from the dead to new life, so we, by our “baptism” or identification with His death, can be raised to live a new life!  When we are in Christ, a new creation has come as the old has gone (II Cor. 5:17).  As a believer, I am dead to what I was and my life is now hidden with Christ in God! (Col. 3:3)

Old habits, old values, and old desires can all be changed!  The new life He gives awakens me to a whole new perspective on what life is all about!  This new life gives me a new purpose in living it for Him.  It is not easier but it is deeper and more satisfying.  I wake up every morning to new love and compassion from Him! (Lam. 3:22-23)  I never want to do life without Him!

Thank you Lord, for the new life You give!


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Easter Bonnet Violets

Scripture for Today: II Thessalonians 1:11 “With this in mind we  constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.”

These beautiful clusters of fragrant violets reminded someone of an Easter bonnet to have given it this name!  These dainty deep purple flowers attract bees and butterflies with their strong fragrance of honey.  They flower very early in the spring and although they look delicate, they are quite hardy and frost resistant.

Today’s verse is in a passage that commends the believers for their growing faith and perseverance in the face of persecution and trials (verse 3-4).  Paul reassures them that God will deal with those that oppose them.  He prays that God will continue His work in them by making them worthy of His calling.  But what caught my attention was the reminder that it is God’s power that allows them to realize their desires for goodness and good deeds done in faith.  It does not matter how small and unimportant a believer may feel.  Appearances are deceiving because just as a delicate flower can resist frost, so the seemingly weak individual can resist and stand up under trial.

I know this is true because the Lord has been faithful to me time after time!  It is God’s power that works in me giving me unexpected resolve.  As a believer, I do not just survive but thrive because of His strength!  Like Paul, I can even look at my weaknesses as a positive thing (II Cor. 12:9) knowing that God’s power will be recognized!  As a result of His power, He fulfills my desire to live for Him a life that is significant!

Thank you Lord, for making me strong!


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Rabbit Trails

Scripture for Today: Psalm 73:25 “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You.”

We have all experienced the chagrin of having to return from a “rabbit trail” while in a group discussion!  Veering off the topic is easy to do when a story or explanation is interjected that goes nowhere.  These mazes of unrelated detail can derail a conversation and be totally frustrating for someone trying to guide a discussion.  These side trips may be interesting but can easily confuse as they add no light or clarity.  It is a confused path that leads nowhere.

Today’s verse could be thought of as a purpose statement to a life.  With a focus like this, there are not as likely to be too many distractions or rabbit trails.  Asaph declares that God holds him with his right hand, (verse 23)  guides him, and will take him one day to glory (verse 24).  He describes God as the strength of his heart (verse 26).  His relationship with God is so intimate and fulfilling that nothing in heaven or earth can compare!

My deepest desire is to have a relationship with the Lord that is just that focused!  Too easily, I get distracted by pretty baubles.  Wonderful relationships and exciting experiences make life rich, but can also draw my attention away from the One who is blessing me!  I do not want to be so diverted by good gifts that I forget the Giver.  Chasing after what the world values is a true rabbit trail leading nowhere.  Of course, I desire lots of things that are truly good.  But above all else, I want to desire Him.  He is the only one who reaches deep within me and fills me with His love!

Lord, keep me close to You today.


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Willow Leaves

Scripture for Today: Colossians 1:11 “being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”

Patience is a virtue that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe likened to the willow leaf.  This 17th century German writer and statesman said, “A leaf that is destined to grow large is full of grooves and wrinkles at the start.  Now if one has no patience and wants it smooth offhand like a willow leaf, there is trouble ahead.”  These leaves are shiny, thin and 2-4 inches long.  But of course, they do not start off so large and smooth.  It will take lots of sunshine, water and time to get to this stage.

Today’s verse is an encouragement.  That elusive quality of patience is something that comes, not from ourselves, but from His power.  The believer is strengthened with power from His glorious might to have great endurance and patience.  It is not something we can naturally muster up on our own.  Over time, He develops it in us as we become more like Him.  It is part of the work He does in us (Phil. 1:6).  And more often than not, this quality of patience grows out of living through difficulties.

In the space of three days, I had ample opportunity to show patience.  After experiencing jet lag, toilet emergencies, roof leaks, and a power outage, it was almost comical….almost.  My leaves are still not so large and smooth.  There are still plenty of rough edges!  But God’s reassurance of His control calmed me down.  I am thankful that being in His Word has encouraged me and helped me stay in that place of quiet confidence (Rom. 15:4).  Things may fall apart around me, but I don’t want to fall apart too!

Lord, thank you for Your strength and patience!


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Swallows Day Parade

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 84:3 “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, My King and My God.”

The 60th annual Swallows Day parade takes place in San Juan Capistrano this weekend.  It is the largest non-motorized parade in the United States.  This event celebrates the return of the swallows from Argentina where they winter each year.  Parade spectators enjoy the festive ambience and a sense of community as local clubs, schools and associations participate.  There are dogs, wagons, horses, bands, dancers, and of course the pooper-scoopers at the end!  The only thing missing are the swallows, most of whom have unfortunately migrated further north to Chino Hills.

Today’s verse talks about the ideal place where the swallow builds her nest for herself and her family.  The swallow builds her nest near God’s altar.  When one thinks of a nest, there is the thought of comfort, care and protection.  A nest represents home and hearth.  The altar of God represents His presence and His dwelling is described as “lovely” (verse 1).  His altar is a place of adoration and worship and the one who dwells there is said to be blessed or happy.

My nest could be feathered very comfortably with all kinds of creature comforts.  But like the swallow in today’s verse, the most important component is God’s presence.  Far more important than open concept, decor or the latest appliances is enjoying the presence of my Lord God and King every day.  He has knocked on my door (Rev.3:20) and I want to make sure that my door remains open to Him!

Lord, may my home be marked by the happiness and peace I have in You!


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The Big “C”

Scripture for Today: Psalm 112:7 “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.”

Tears flow as I write.  In just one short week my list of friends having to battle cancer has grown by two.  There are already too many on that list.  In this image, a woman remains calm and serene receiving the news from her oncologist.  I do not know her or her story but I am amazed at the thought that a diagnosis of cancer could be received without panic and tears.

Today’s verse is one of my life verses.  I wear it on a custom pendant.  It helps me to face an unknown future with confidence.  This psalm of David’s is in the context of warfare.  The “they” are the righteous or those in right standing with God.  The righteous will not be shaken and God honors them for their trust in Him.  Even in the darkest of times, light dawns on those who belong to Him. (verse 4)  There is no fear of bad news because hearts can remain steadfast and sure, trusting in God’s power and goodness.

The Lord wants me to live confidently, sure of His control in every situation.  If I ever hear the “C” word for myself, I know that in the end I am victorious!  His plans are good because He is good.  I may never understand the “why” behind pain and suffering, but I can always cling to His love and goodness.  “C” may stand for cancer, but it can also stand for “Confidence.”

Lord, keep my heart steadfast and confident in You.