Devotions By Jan


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Where Are You Looking?

Scripture for Today: Psalm 147:5 “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”

https://www.flickr.com/photos/hedera_baltica/29107323717/in/photostream/

This Long Eared Owl can turn his head every which way. Because his head is connected with just one socket pivot instead of our two, he can turn his head almost 360 degrees. It may be that many of us are turning our heads to look behind us, being that this is the last week of the year. The excitement of Christmas day is passed and the hoopla of the New Year’s celebration is ahead of us. What a perfect time to slow it down and reflect on this last year and the changes it has brought. We remember both the good and not so good. And hopefully, in looking back we gain wisdom.

Today’s verse reveals that God never needs to look back to gain wisdom. He is great and mighty in power. And there are no limits to His understanding. He does not need to look back over 2022 to make plans for 2023! He never wishes He could change an action taken in the past as all His ways are perfect. (Deut. 32:4) He would never regret His own perfect decisions nor would He be surprised at their outcomes. There is no need for God to look back to improve His understanding of events. He is all-knowing and eternal, seeing all from outside the confines of time.

What a mighty God I serve! There is nothing He does not understand. He is aware of every thought, every motive and every circumstance. How deep are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge! (Rom. 11:33) And this is why I can trust Him for 2023. He not only completely understands what I cannot about the past but He already sees what is ahead. There is a plan already in place, globally and personally. (Jer. 29:11) My understanding will always be limited. But I can trust my All-Knowing Father, looking back with gratitude and facing the future with confidence.

Thank you Lord, for understanding my past and my future.


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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Scripture for Today:Matthew 13:16 “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”

I never quite understood the symbolism in the carol, Do You Hear What I Hear, until I looked at its history. It was written in 1962 by a couple named Noel and Gloria Regney. Each stanza asks the question and the conversation is not resolved until the end where the king declares that all people should pray for peace and that the Child born would give us goodness and light.

This carol was written as a prayer for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Knowing that gives new meaning to the “star” that is seen in the sky with a “tail as big as a kite,” and the so-called song above the trees with a “voice as big as the sea.” I love that the carol uses the lamb as a picture of innocence. But for each of the images in the carol, there is a corresponding spiritual truth!

The star can also be seen as the star of Bethlehem heralding Christ’s coming and the birth of hope. Jesus was called the Lamb of God, His sacrifice taking away our sin. As the song says this Child, “will bring us goodness and light.” And the Lord did just that!  John declares that God is light (I John 1:5) and David affirms that His goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6).

Not everyone sees. Not everyone hears. The message of Christmas is so often lost in the beautiful distractions of the season. I want to keep my focus on the Giver of goodness and light.  Do you hear His invitation to, “come and see?” (Psalm 66:5)  Do you see Jesus for who He really is; God’s only Son?

Lord, may I see and hear You this Christmas season.

(Look familiar? This is a re-post from 2016)


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A Christmas Tea

Scripture for Today: James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

I appreciate a lovingly brewed tea. I especially enjoy it when it is accompanied with sweets!  It takes time and some effort to do it correctly. There are always directions on a box of tea on how long to steep that bag. But more often than not, I tend to hurry the process along. For the full flavor to be realized, the bag needs to steep long enough in that hot water.

Today’s verse talks about a process with a very positive outcome. But like steeping in boiling water, it takes time. The testing of our faith through trials and difficulties does eventually bring about perseverance. And this is why one can consider it a joy.  Believers are to look at their problems not as a punishment, a curse or bad luck. The one belonging to the Lord is to consider or regard each trial as something positive. There can be joy when we can see past the problem to the perseverance that is being produced in us.

Of course, joy is not my first response to hard times. But after long careful consideration, I can eventually come to it. It is usually well after that negative experience that I can see how God used it in my life. I can esteem something as a joy when I see my faith become stronger as a result. The joy is not found in that circumstance but in what God is going to do with it! Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2). I want to see the joy that is set before me as well and so be able to endure with perseverance whatever He allows.

Lord, help me to trust what You are allowing in my life.

(Look familiar? This is a re-post from 2018)


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An Unexpected Christmas Gift!

Scripture for Today: Matthew 7:9-10 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?”

My Dad loved to bowl which may explain how this happened. As a young girl putting together my Christmas list, I dropped many not-so-subtle hints about the expensive doll I had seen advertised. That Christmas morning, trembling with excitement, I made a beeline for that big narrow box tagged with my name. What keen disappointment I felt when unwrapping a toy bowling set instead of a doll! My Father gave it out of love but it was not the good gift I was expecting.

Today’s passage explains that our Heavenly Father gives good gifts to His children when we ask Him (verse 11). In answer to our prayers, He gives to His own exactly what is good for us. He is not random nor is He arbitrary. Our Father is a perfect Father. He sees past what may be selfish or frivolous requests. He answers the deeper need we sometimes do not even see. And what is so amazing is that our Father is the unrecognized Source of much that is good in our lives!

I have heard people quip, “Be careful what you pray for, you just may get it.” The idea is that we will be sorry we ever asked. That does not describe my perfect Heavenly Father. What He gives me is out of love and always for my good. If I mistakenly ask for a stone or a snake, He has committed Himself to giving only what is good for me. I can trust His goodness in all of His answers. I am so glad He sees what is good for me when I cannot.

Thank you Lord, for being a good good Father!

(Look familiar? This is a re-post from 2020)


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Flattened!

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas! I love the twinkling lights, the smell of ginger and cinnamon and I especially love singing carols. But what I don’t love is the early approach. It seems to come earlier and earlier every year. I may be alone in this, but it does not make my heart feel happy to see celebration so soon. I almost feel that a steamroller is coming at me, and will soon flatten all my enthusiasm. I cannot keep it at a fever pitch for over a month!

Today’s verse tells us that we do not have to follow the pattern the world has of doing things. We have the choice and the freedom to do things differently, to do things God’s way. And His way is far better. It is good, pleasing and perfect. In belonging to Him, our minds can be renewed through His Word to know and appreciate what His way is.

I want to be intentional this Christmas. I do not want to get all booked up and stressed out. I do not want to feel the pressure to have everything decorated perfectly or impress people with my cookie baking skills. I want to slow down enough to ponder and reflect like Mary did at the birth of her Son. I want to turn my thoughts toward Him of whom the angels sang, and sing to Him myself! And I want to love sacrificially as He did in coming to this earth.

Lord, help me celebrate Your birth in a way that pleases You.