Devotions By Jan


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Gift Exchange

Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast.”

I love a Christmas party when there are gifts involved!  Whether it be an ornament exchange or even a white elephant exchange, there is the anticipation of bringing home something different or unexpected.  The only problem for me comes when I bring home something a whole lot nicer than what I brought!

Today’s verse teaches that there is nothing we can exchange with God for our salvation.  Very clearly it states that salvation does not come through our work or efforts.  We want to think that somehow, something we did contributed to being saved.  But no matter how hard one works to earn Heaven, man will always fall short of the perfect standard of God’s holiness.  Trying to exchange our righteous deeds for His free gift of salvation does not work.  Those good deeds are just “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).  Salvation is a gift from God.  There is nothing I can offer Him in exchange!  Because this is true, none of us can boast about having anything to do with it!

My gratitude towards God grows by leaps and bounds when I grasp this truth.  It is all grace and it is amazing!  There is tremendous freedom in my spirit to be assured that my salvation depends on Him and not my efforts.  Without this truth, I would always be in a state of fear and worry about my eternal destination.  Putting my faith and trust in what HE did on that cross rather than in what I can do makes my heart light!

Thank you Lord, for Your incredible gift of grace!


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Christmas Colors

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.”

Credit to G. Lombardi https://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1147a/

The 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.

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2017.)


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O Christmas Tree

Scripture for Today:Revelation 22:14b “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

Our sweet artificial Christmas tree has been all over the world and is the worst for wear.  Not only has our tree traveled everywhere in its now beat-up box but it is thirty-two years old!  Each Christmas I think will be its last with its frayed and missing branches.  But each year I end up squeezing one more year out of it!  There are so many memories attached to this tree that I cannot bear to part with it.  But someday it will be too ratty and will be thrown away.

Its ironic that there is so much attention given to the Christmas tree.  The description of Heaven in Revelation talks about an eternal tree that stands in the streets of the New Jerusalem.  This is a tree of life that spans a river of life flowing from the throne of God.  Its leaves are for the healing of the nations (verse 2).  The only ones who can enjoy this tree are those whose robes are washed.  This is what the Lord does for the believer, clothing us with a robe of HIS righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).

My Christmas tree is soon put away for hopefully another year.  And for those putting up a live tree, it will eventually droop, dry up and lose its needles.  But the eternal tree of life represents a beauty and joy that will last forever!  The joy and peace I experience over holidays will one day be the every-day-normal!  The curse will be lifted and because I belong to Him, I will enjoy Eden restored!

Thank you Lord, that the birth of Your Son gives me life now and eternally!

 

 


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Chestnuts Roasting

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 45:3  “I will give you hidden treasure, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

The carol, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” was originally titled, “The Christmas Song.” It was written by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé on a hot summer day in 1945.  Wells drew from his childhood memory of vendors on the streets of Boston selling roasted chestnuts and serving them in paper cones.

In France we also enjoyed roasted chestnuts on the street, their warmth feeling so good on cold hands!  But the chestnut is also candied, boiled, steamed and grilled.  For Christmas and New Year’s the “marron glacé” is traditional fare, a chestnut that has been glazed in sugar syrup.  When they are still green and fresh, the chestnut is difficult to handle with its spiny bur.  But getting at that delicious treasure is worth all the effort!  There can be up to seven chestnuts in one bur.

Today’s verse talks about treasures that are hidden.  The riches that the Lord reveals are not so obvious.  Like the chestnut, they are sometimes stored in places difficult to see.  The outside of that hidden treasure makes it easy to miss.  Getting at that treasure inside may involved going through some tough prickly times.

It is through the hard times that I see God’s love and gentleness with me.  It is when life is difficult that He reveals the treasure of who He is.  His comfort and His grace are the unexpected surprise behind that negative experience.  Through a trial He becomes MY Lord, calling me by name.  Faith becomes very personal as He reveals to me the treasure of His power and presence.

Help me, Lord, to discover true riches and treasure this Christmas!

(Look familiar?  This is a repost from 2016!)


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Christmas Wish Lists

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”

I remember pouring over those glossy catalogues that came in the mail to create my wish list as a child.  The more time I had to compose it, the longer it became!  Some things I did not even know I wanted until seeing the advertisement.  Of course my own children did the same thing and now I am seeing the list-making continue with my grandchildren.  As an adult, the items on my list tend to be of an intangible nature.  At the top of my list is LOVE.

I was bemused listening to George Harrison’s song, “Give Me Love.”  His list does not stop with “love.”  He goes on to list: peace on earth, light, life, freedom, hope, help to cope and the ability to reach heart and soul.  Even though this was intended as a love song, I could not help but think of Christ.  Today’s verse says that the gift of Jesus that God gives us is indescribable.  But this list, though not exhaustive, does a pretty good job of naming all that Jesus Christ is and what He offers us!  He is love, love that came down at Christmas to make reconciliation with God possible.

The gift of Jesus not only overwhelms me with love but gives my heart peace.  He has changed my darkness into light (Psalm 18:28).  The life He gives is not an easy one but it is full of significance.  He has freed me from the power of sin and death and gives me the sure hope of eternity with Him.  His help and presence help me cope with the troubles each day brings.  Because of Jesus I can touch and reach God with my heart and soul!

Thank you Lord, for the gift of Jesus.

 


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Yuletide Log

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”

Christmas is not just about the pretty lights and decorations.  Just as important to that “Chrismassy” feeling are the aromas!  Whether it is hot cocoa, peppermint or gingerbread, the smells can make one feel the magic of the season.  As wonderful as the aromas of cooking can be, some of us use shortcuts!  One can now buy a yuletide log for the fire that gives off the odor of fried chicken!

Today’s verse brings to mind a victory march after a battle.  Christ is at the head of this processional and we are the spoils of war.  Being His captives means we are subjects of a new King.  He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son (Col.1:13).  No longer are we slaves to sin.  And one of our identifying marks is our “smell.”  Believers are to be an aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere we go.

For some, my aroma is not so pleasant.  In fact, I even stink to people who are rejecting the Savior.  But for the one being drawn to Him, I am a pleasing aroma (verses 15-16).  He has promised to use me to spread the aroma of Him.  When I praise Him to others, I smell good.  When I encourage someone to trust Him, I smell good. And when I stay faithful to Him even in the midst of horrible circumstances, I smell good.  Knowing Him is an aroma and influence that can go a long way.

Lord, may I smell good for You today!

 

 


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Noël Bleu

Scripture for Today: I John 2:10 “Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.”

Our home town of Guebwiller in France transforms itself every Christmas into a sea of blue!  The normally unremarkable downtown streets dress themselves in blue light and the result is magical!  The light is soft enough to enchant but bright enough to walk confidently in the darkness.  That blue light shines just enough to light the way while at the same time beautifying what in the daytime can be  mundane.  It is truly a Nöel Bleu or Blue Christmas!

Today’s verse talks about how to live in beautiful  light.  Jesus calls Himself the Light of the World ( John 8:12).  He illuminates the path of obedience we are to walk.  By obeying Him we remain within the beam of that light.  It is easier to talk about obedience in general terms, but here the verse is very specific about one particular commandment; loving our brother and sister in Christ.  Loving other believers keeps me in His light and on the right path.

I never realized before how closely love and light are linked.  The amount of light I live with is dependent on how much I love my brother.  Quite frankly, I get used to my way being dimly lit.  My eyes adjust to the lack of light due to my lack of love.  I do not think to do anything about it…….until I stumble.  I trip on my lack of love.  How much better it is to make the effort to love!  My walk is so much more pleasant in the light.  Thankfully, I do not have to muster up that love on my own.  His Spirit’s indwelling provides that love.

Lord, fill me with Your love and light today!