Devotions By Jan


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Poinsettia

Scripture for Today: Psalm 112:4 “Even in darkness, light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and  compassionate and righteous.” 

I love seeing the red and green of the poinsettia at Christmas time!  This native flower to Mexico is referred to as, “Flower of the Good Night.”  The reason for this term is the way the poinsettia becomes so colorful.  It is only after twelve to fifteen hours of darkness a day for a period of three months that the leaves (or bracts) become a vibrant red.

Today’s verse is a wonderful reassurance that the darkness the believer experiences will not be indefinite.  Those who belong to the Lord are upright because of Christ’s righteousness.  And we are assured that eventually there will be a dawn.  Often in Scripture darkness represents calamity and light represents well being.  No one is exempt from dark times.  Regardless of education, wealth, health or status, we all face some kind of crisis or suffering.  But for the believer, there is a dawn coming!  For the one made righteous through Christ, there is hope.

What is amazing to me is that even in the darkness, there is blessing.  The Lord is actively at work in that darkness.  He is using all the negative in my life to test and refine my faith.  Every hurt and disappointment, He uses to grow me more like Him.  He does not waste any pain or difficulty but He utilizes it all to change me.  What a comfort to know He is in control!  When I finally exit that time of darkness, I am different.  Because of His work and grace I can emerge more colorful.  Perseverance, endurance and stronger faith are the colors He produces through that dark time.

Thank you Lord, that you know what You are doing and I can trust You.

 

 

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Misfits

Scripture For Today:  Hebrews 11:13b and 14 …”and they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.”

Do you remember the old song on Sesame Street that says, “One of these things is not like the other.  One of these things just doesn’t belong…”  It is obvious from this photo which of these petals does not belong.  Living as a foreigner in France meant that I often felt like a misfit.  After almost thirty years of living in France I am still dumbfounded by newly discovered differences in their thinking!

What is even more surprising to me is having this same out-of-place feeling when in the USA.  My frame of reference has changed and I have grown comfortable with what previously was strange to me.  I find it difficult to change again to the American way of thinking.  So in fact, I consider myself a misfit on both sides of the ocean.

Today’s verse is part of a chapter listing  great men and women of faith.  What is true of all of them is that they were looking for a country of their own.  They were not comfortable in their culture.  They were longing for a better country, a heavenly one (vs 16).  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.  So in one sense, we are ALL called to be misfits.  As believers, our citizenship is in heaven so we do not feel too comfortable in whatever country we live.  We are not home yet.

I love living in France and I love living in the States.  But in fact, there is a restlessness inside of me.  I want a better country.  And He is preparing it for me!

Lord, keep me looking toward that country to come!

 


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Pearl Harbor

Scripture for Today: I Peter 4:12 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Today is “a date that will live in infamy.”  On December 7th, 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaii Territory.  We have visited this war memorial placed on the hull of the sunken Arizona battleship.  How sobering to think of the 2,433 servicemen who lost their lives on that day.  The Japanese chose to attack on a Sunday as they surmised that everyone would be more relaxed.  And they were correct!  Most men were still in their pajamas or eating breakfast and were caught totally off guard!

Today’s verse describes being off guard as well.  We can be surprised by the negative reactions, the loss of employment, or the social shunning that could come from our testimony.  These “fiery ordeals” or tests to our faith are a result of being a Christian.  The opposition we may face for standing up for our beliefs should be expected.  Instead of surprise, we are to react with joy at the prospect of sharing in the same kind of suffering the Lord Himself faced!  He promises special blessing if we endure insult because of His name (vs. 14).

Even knowing this, I am still surprised at the vehemence and outright hostility to the name of Jesus Christ.  As His own, I understand that it is directed at Him in me.  And He took on such suffering for me that I have no reason to complain!  But in facing opposition, it helps to expect it.  To have joy through it is absolutely a gift from Him!

Lord, may I be faithful to Your name no matter what!

 


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Steam Radiators

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 9:14 “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Our century-old house in France was heated by steam radiators in every room.  I was not too thrilled with them but Tiger, our cat, thought they were the perfect place to  curl up and have a nap!  Central heat may not be so quaint but it is sure more effective.  Air would get inside those valves, causing an annoying dripping sound and block the heat.  Every so often, my husband would use a special turn key to purge the radiators and evacuate the air.

Today’s verse speaks of our conscience being purged.  The Old Testament system of animal sacrifice served its purpose of symbolizing Christ’s death.  But how much more perfect was the sacrifice Jesus made, once for all!  His sacrifice not only cleanses us from our sin, but purges our consciences as well.  His forgiveness is complete.

Satan would like me to think otherwise.  He whispers in my ear his accusations.  He reminds me of times when I really blew it and let the Lord down.  Satan would like nothing better than to take me out of the game and put me on the sidelines.  How thankful I am that he is wrong!  I do not need to live with that constant annoying dripping sound.  My conscience has been purged.  I am a new creation in Him.  No accusation from the enemy can change this truth.  When I lay my head on the pillow at night I can sleep easy knowing that Christ has taken care of every sin and failure.

Thank you, Lord, that You have purged my conscience once for all!


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Cows Coming Home

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 63:14 “Like cattle that go down to the plain, they were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord. This is how You guided Your people to make for Yourself a glorious name.”

In Bavaria, Germany there is a tradition about bringing the cows home.  After spending the warmer months of the year in the hills and mountains, the cows are brought down to the lower elevations.  They are moved to the plains before the onset of winter.  But this yearly trek is done in style!  The cows wear elaborate headgears made of flowers for the occasion!

Today’s verse pictures God’s leading of His people towards rest as cattle being led to the plains.  In this seasonal change of residence, there will not be so much moving or climbing up and down.  Some days they may not even leave the warmth and shelter of the barn and all their needs will be met.  The Lord knows and cares about the needs of His people.  He sees when they need to slow down.  He knows when they need to rest.  He understands when there needs to be a different season of life.

Rest is an illusive commodity during a busy holiday season.  Rest seems impossible for the student preparing for exams or the mother of young children.  Physically, the idea of rest sometimes needs to be tabled for later.  But what is so amazing about our God is that in the midst of busyness, He can provide rest for our souls!  Our burden does not have to be heavy when we consciously hand it over to Him (Matt. 11:30).  I can find that rest in closeness with the One who is “gentle and humble in heart.”  He will care for my every need.

Help me Lord, to find that soul-rest today!


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Watch Where You Sit!

Scripture for Today: Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”

I will never forget the story.  A friend of mine grew up in some rustic conditions in Papua New Guinea.  She was used to getting up in the night to find her way half asleep to the outhouse.  Of course she carried her flashlight.  On this particular night she just happened to shine her light on the toilet opening before sitting.  Unlike the spider pictured, this nighttime visitor completely spanned the opening!  How relieved she was for the light!

Today’s verse describes the Word of God as a lamp and a light by which we find our way.  Without that light we would still be stumbling around in the darkness with no way to find God.  His Word lights the way to Him, to His holy mountain or dwelling place (Psalm 43:3).  But even after finding Him and enjoying a relationship with Him, we continue to need that light.  His Word warns of danger, snares and pitfalls (Ps. 19:11).  Following His commands even preserves our lives! (Ps. 199:93)  His Word keeps us on that path of righteousness where we can enjoy walking in the light of His presence (Ps. 89:15).

I am amazed how easy it is for me to get off track!  When I am not in His Word, I start to doubt His love and control.  When I neglect reading His love letter to me, I begin to rationalize behavior that I know deep down does not please Him.  But staying in His Word keeps me holding on tight to what I know is true (Ps. 33:4).  His Word keeps my heart  flooded with the warmth and light of His guiding presence!

Thank you Lord, for lighting the way to Your presence!

 

 


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Mulled Spiced Drinks

Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:8 “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” 

Some smells transport me back in time.  This is one of them.  Every outdoor Christmas Market in our area of France sold hot spiced wine or hot spiced apple juice.   The smell of it would waft up and down the rows of stands.  People would wrap their frozen fingers around that mug for warmth.  And for those indulging in the alcohol version, the warmth radiated within as well.  Those spices of allspice, cloves, cinnamon, orange zest, ginger and anise would be mulled for hours, the flavors intermingling.  The result was pure delight!

Today’s verse encourages the believer to think about a list of things that are excellent or praiseworthy.  Just as a variety of spices are mulled and mixed over time, so we too are to reflect, ponder or ruminate over the truth.  Truth is the starting point for all of our thoughts.  And when we start there, we find ourselves thinking of all the rest.  The truth is noble and right.  The truth is pure, lovely and admirable.  The Truth is Jesus Himself (John 14:6).

My thoughts can be all over the place.  So many times, it takes a conscious effort to reign them in and focus on truth.  So many things clamor for my attention.  So many things distract me and often those very things are the opposite of this list!  But there is a wonderful result when I mull over truth.  I will experience the peace of God guarding my heart and mind (verse 7) and the peace of God will be with me (verse 9).

Thank you Lord, that thinking on You is worth the effort.