Devotions By Jan


Winter Begins

Scripture for Today: Psalm 42:8 “By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.”

Today is the official start of winter, marking the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice makes for a very long and dark night. These days I awake before the sun just to take advantage of as much light as possible! For some people these dark nights can represent holidays that do not quite deliver.  Expectations not met, hopes dashed and keen disappointments can mark these long nights.  Sweet “Hallmark” moments do not match up with one’s reality.  For some, the darkest nights occur when everyone else seems to be celebrating.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has said when it is dark enough, men see the stars.  But today’s verse is no pithy saying.  It is truth.  His love is ours in the daytime. His control is seen in that He directs and commands His love toward us. His song is ours in the night, even in the long, darkest night.  Circumstances can disappoint.  People can disappoint.  But HE does not.  Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed (Romans 10:11).  What an incredible truth! 

During the darkest night, I can sing!  He is God, yes. But like the psalmist, I can say that He is the God of MY life. He is my light when there is none around me. The hope He gives me lightens the gloom and keeps me looking forward. A song, a prayer, a praise and I feel that light-giving hope begin to burn inside and turn things around.

No matter how dark the night, thank you Lord, that my heart can sing because You give me hope.

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Upside Down Tree

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

Does anyone else feel that this sort of tree would be appropriate for Christmas this year? There was a time when the upside down Christmas tree was all the rage (and judging from this advertisement from Wayfair, they are still available!) I would see them decked out and hanging from the ceiling in boutiques. Aside from the fact that bumping my head was a possibility, the logic of something being top heavy escapes me! But logic may not be important here. Maybe it is all about how something looks! And Christmas looks a lot different this year.

Today’s verse puts the accent where it belongs. And it is not on how we decorate, what foods we enjoy nor what gifts we exchange. Christmas first and foremost is about the gift of Christ. 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.  From the courts of Heaven 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!

It does seem to be a messy world right now. For a variety of reasons, divisions run deep in families. Disappointments and dashed hopes mark the Christmas season for many. The usual distraction of concerts, parties and even family gatherings have been stripped away. But what remains is a baby in a manger. What remains is an indescribable Gift. The truth of Christmas can never be stripped away. We celebrate His first coming. We look forward to His second coming. And before too long, He will be asking each of His children to come home.

Lord, the gift of Yourself is indescribable.

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The Thiou River

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 46:4 “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.”

We have enjoyed living near a river in every European town we have lived. In Albertville it was the Arly. We enjoyed the Loire in the Orleans area. In the Grenoble area the Drac and the Isère rivers join. We walked along the picturesque Kander river in Kandern.  In Guebwiller we were just  two hundred meters from the Lauch River.  I loved crossing the quaint bridges hanging with flower planters. Pictured here is the Thiou River in Annecy, France, considered one of the cleanest in Europe.

Today’s verse describes a river that makes a whole city glad!  It is found in the city of God where the Most High will make His abode!  On the new earth this river will be clear, pristine and never polluted. This unique river is described as “the river of the water of life.” (Rev. 22:1-2) It will be clear as crystal and flow from the throne of God right down the middle of the city!  It will be a river that leads to His very presence, He who is the only Source of life! No wonder it makes the city and all its inhabitants glad!  

Rivers and the sound of water do lift my spirits. There is something so calming about flowing water. It is beside quiet waters that my Shepherd refreshes my soul. (Ps. 23:2) Near the very end of the Bible is an invitation to this water. (Rev. 22:17) But I do not have to wait until that day for my heart to be glad. Despite negative circumstances, the Lord gives me joy. In coming to Him, God keeps me occupied with gladness of heart! (Eccl. 5:20)

Thank you Lord, that You make me glad!

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Leaping Deer

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 35:6 “Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”

How often I have heard of a deer jumping out in front of a car!  They don’t just run, they jump and leap.  The deer is so fast and agile.  Some species can run 45 miles per hour for a short time on level ground.  But the height of their jump is impressive!  Research shows the deer can cover 30 feet between bounds!  That is as long as a school bus!  Because they can leap so high, it is difficult to find the right fencing to keep them out.  The standard  “deer proof” fence is often 9 feet high.

The deer leaping in today’s verse are not doing so to escape a predator.  They are leaping for joy!  The mute tongue is not just finding its voice but shouting for joy!  Water does not just trickle out in the wilderness but gushes out, forming streams in the desert.  This imagery is a beautiful depiction of what Christ’s return will do for His own.  There is already a partial fulfillment in the re-peopling of Zion or Jerusalem, but the complete fulfillment is larger and still to come.

When Jesus returns there will be a righting of all wrongs (II Thes. 1:6-7)  Creation itself will share in our completed redemption (Rom. 8:19-21). There will be endless and astonished joy!  What a future ahead of me! A deer leaping high in the air gives just an inkling of what I will be feeling on that day! But even now, my heart trusts in Him and He helps me. That is why my heart leaps for joy! (Psalm 28:7)  

Thank you Lord, for the joy and hope You give me! 


The Tung Nut

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 1:9 “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has set You above Your companions by anointing You with the oil of joy.”

What an odd name for this nut! The nut comes from the tung tree, native to China. Its name means, “heart,” in Chinese as the leaves are heart-shaped. But in fact, it is a misnomer as it is a seed rather than a nut, coming from the inside of the fruit of the tung tree. The oil from tung nut is used as a drying oil for wood and has been around for centuries as far back as Confucius! (This oil certainly brings joy to those who market it at Gulf Coast Tung Oil!)

Today’s verse mentions an oil of joy and is speaking of Christ whose name means, “the anointed One.”  Jesus is set apart as holy and righteous, superior to all created beings.  There is joy in this righteous relationship Christ shares with the Father.  There is joy despite the fact that Jesus was called a “Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” (Is. 53:3)  It was for the joy set before Him that He endured the cross (Heb. 12:2).  It is this same joy that we can experience even when going through trial and difficulty (James 1:2).

Just as oil was used in biblical times to consecrate and set apart a person, so this “oil of joy” does for me today!  Living with joy when nothing is going according to plan sets me apart and makes me different.  Joy in spite of grave health problems, uncertain finances or dashed dreams is not the norm.  But His Spirit’s fruit includes a joy that I can set before me as I endure whatever life may throw at me!

Lord, may the oil of joy overflow my heart regardless of what today may bring.