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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Steamroller

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:2 “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.”

It’s coming.  In fact, even though it is still November, I hear the Christmas music and see the lights and trees set up in the anticipation of Christmas.  I may be alone in this, but it does not make my heart feel happy to see this 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.  In my house at least, I can keep Christmas at bay a little longer.

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 overcommit and get stressed out.  I do not want to feel the pressure to have everything decorated Pinterest style 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.


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No Longer New

wrapping-paper-messScripture for Today: Lamentations 3:22-23  “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are NEW every morning: great is Your faithfulness.”

I am not sure that any Christmas present can live up to the hype we give it.  The surprise and thrill of something new is great!  The problem is that newness can quickly wear off and become mundane, leaving us dissatisfied and bored.  Old news, old hat, been there, done that.  We feel compelled to search again for the next new thing!  How long until the next Christmas or birthday?

Our Creator God understands our need for the new!  His promises of new are not found “under the sun” where King Solomon searched.  Rather they are found in the spiritual realm.  Today’s verse tells us that His compassions are new every morning.  He continually reveals something new about Himself.  His compassion today is not leftovers from yesterday.  His relationship with me is new and fresh and timely every morning.  In fact, His renewed compassion for me is the reason I get up in the morning!

Perhaps you are like me.  Even as a child of God I can sometimes be bored.  Desiring something new in my day is fine.  But when I look for satisfaction in the new, I find it a quick but temporary fix as the new eventually becomes old.  However, experiencing His compassions never gets old!   Discovering something new in His nature is a discovery that begins now and lasts for all eternity!  Every morning I can look forward to something NEW!  And this “new” will never grow old!

Thank you Lord, for renewing Your love for me this morning.

 


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Is Christmas Over?

ornament-dfb74655a80cad9b1bb017f520ff884dScripture for Today:  Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance. kindness, goodness, faithfulness. gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Christmas is over.  That warm fuzzy feeling of “goodwill toward men,” seems to be over a bit too quickly as well.  The extra attention given and received by family and friends has been wonderful and affirming.  But now the tendency is back to business as usual.  The routine and obligations of life reassert themselves and somehow the “love, joy and peace” of the season is forgotten.

We tend to associate these three words with Christmas and for good reason.  It was for love that the Son of God came to earth.  His coming means that peace is now possible between God and man.  Could there ever be a more important reason for joy?  But the words on this Christmas ornament are not only for December 25th.

These same words are part of today’s verse.  Love joy and peace are just three of the nine aspects of the fruit of God’s Spirit living in the believer.  These are to characterize the life of the one who follows Jesus.  The love I have for the Lord is extended to others all year long.  The peace I enjoy as a result of my communion with Christ is the same peace that carries me throughout the year.  And the joy that He gives in knowing my sins are forgiven is a joy that does not falter in the face of trouble.

The ornament pictured says to “believe Christmas.”  It is a nice sentiment but the truth is that belief in the Christ of Christmas is what gives us love, joy and peace all the year long!

Thank you Lord, that though Christmas might be over, Your love, joy and peace remain!


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Little Drummer Boy

little-drummer-boyScripture for Today: Deuteronomy 6:5 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your strength.”

The Little Drummer Boy is one of the more recently written classic carols.  It was originally a Czech song entitled, “Carol of the Drum.”  Translated by Katherine Davis in 1941, and later modified with the help of Henry Simeone and Henry Onorati, it was first performed in 1958.  It made the top 40 list for five years in a row, establishing itself as a well-loved classic.  The repetition of the “rum pum pum” twenty one times makes it  a very rhythmic song to which “the ox and lamb kept time!”

I cannot imagine Mary allowing the drummer to play his drum for Jesus when he asked!  What mother would appreciate such a loud intrusive sound startling her baby?  But I love the sentiment of this song.  The drummer boy is poor and has no gift to bring the newborn King.  Even so he wants to honor Him.  So he uses his talent as a gift, and is rewarded with a smile from the baby Jesus.

Today’s verse encompasses all of what Jesus wants from us today.  He quite simply wants it all;  all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our strength.  There is no other gift more appropriate after everything He has given us!  When we love Him in return with our entire being, it honors Him more than any show of a costly gift.

To give the Lord my all is a life-long challenge.  But every Christmas I am reminded that this is what Jesus did for me when He stooped to earth to redeem me.  How can I hold back anything?  Amid all the gift giving this Christmas, I want to give my all to Him and see His smile.

Merry Christmas!

 


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Silent Night

silent-night42173aea400dc63f955182ae88564662Scripture for Today: Psalm 4:8 “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

This beautiful chapel in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria, is the site of the first performance of Silent Night.  The assistant priest, Joseph Mohr, asked the organist, Franz Gruber, to put his previously written poem to music.  Legend has it that the organ was out of commission so this simple melody was performed to a guitar accompaniment on Christmas Eve, 1818.  The original text has six verses and the German lyrics express a great longing for comfort and peace.  It was written at the close of the Napoleonic Wars when boundaries and governments changed and the future seemed uncertain.  To “sleep in heavenly peace,” was a heartfelt prayer.

Today’s verse is a call to deeper trust.  King David is encouraging his subjects to search their hearts and be silent on their beds.  Rather than worrying over the future and wondering about finances, we are told to trust Him to provide and to fill our hearts with joy.  What a wonderful affirmation that “heavenly peace” is possible, allowing sleep!

Good deep sleep can be elusive, especially during the holiday season!  It is not “visions of sugar-plums ” dancing in my head, but rather to-do lists!  More troubling are worries about bank balances, health issues or potential family conflicts.  But if a king could trust himself to the Lord’s care with all his issues, surely I can!

I cannot imagine Jesus losing sleep because of worry.  As a baby or adult He trusted His Father completely.  When sleep eludes me I want to remember in the dark silence His amazing love and power.  He is there and in control regardless of what I may be facing.

Thank you Lord, for providing that wonderful sleep in heavenly peace!


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O Come O Come Emmanuel

photoScripture for Today: Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us.’)

This carol is sung to a slow majestic tune sounding like a Gregorian chant.  No one knows its author but it is thought to be written in Latin by a monk sometime before 800AD.  The text is replete with Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah.  The words are deep and meaningful as in, “O come, o come thou Dayspring bright! Pour on our souls thy healing light. Dispel the long night’s lingering gloom and pierce the shadows of the tomb.”

Our verse for today comes from the words spoken by an angel to Joseph in a dream.  After realizing Mary was pregnant he was contemplating divorcing Mary quietly.  The angel explained that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and he was not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.  Not only was he to name the baby Jesus, but people would refer to Him as Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”  This would fulfill a prophesy spoken many years before by Isaiah.

God with us.  Have I heard the Christmas story so often that I have lost the meaning somewhere?  What a pivotal moment in history this was, that God would humble Himself and enter our world as a baby!  At that instant, everything changed.  He lowered Himself into our messy world to redeem us.  He brought light and life to a hopeless hurting world.  And He did it out of love for each of us!

There are many sweet and good traditions surrounding Christmas.  They can create warm feelings and special family times.  But the real wonder and delight is that this baby is God with us!

Thank you Lord, for being with me today.