Devotions By Jan

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Merry Christmas!

Scripture for Today: Matthew 28:20b “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

“If you look for Me at Christmas, you won’t need a special star; I’m no longer just in Bethlehem, I’m right there where you are.” (author unknown)



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Zip Codes

Scripture for Today:  II Corinthians 5:8  “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

Did you know there are 43,000 zip codes?  They first made their appearance in 1963.  This 1973 stamp features their growing importance.  The 5 digit code was improved upon in 1983 with the addition of 4 more digits.  But it was met with such resistance that it is not required.  Some zip codes are more well known like the Beverly Hills 90210 zip code featured in a television series.  ZIP is actually an acronym meaning, “Zone Improvement Plan.”

Today’s verse expresses Paul’s preference for another “zone,” one that will be a huge improvement!  There is no zone on earth that can compare to what awaits us in our forever home!  What God has prepared for those who love Him defies the imagination! (I Cor. 2:9)  And for Paul, looking forward to being at home with the Lord gave him courage to face persecution, imprisonments and rejection.  This world is never really “home” for the believer.  We are “at home” when we are in His presence.  There will be a “settledness” at home with Him.

There is a saying that one can be too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.  I totally disagree!  The more I have this eternal perspective, the more fully I live this life with intention and significance!  I never want to feel too “settled” here.  True “home” remains in my future.  It is so incredible that it is worth thinking about and anticipating!  And like Paul, the thought of my forever home gives me hope and courage when life gets difficult.  The hope of my heavenly home inspires and motivates me to live this life for Him.

Thank you Lord, that being with You is being at home.


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The Elf Owl

Scripture for Today:  Psalm 14:2  “The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.”

I was drawn to the Elf Owl thinking its name had something to do with Christmas.  But of course, the name has to do with its tiny size.  It is the smallest owl in the world, no bigger than a sparrow.  Many people in seeing it mistaken this owl as just a young one.   And because of his size he only eats small insects.  He is not an aggressive bird and will fly away rather than stay and fight.  Perhaps that has something to do with his size as well.  The Elf Owl will play dead when captured until the danger is passed.  This owl’s reputation as being wise is certainly seen in his behavior!

Today’s verse equates seeking after God with wisdom.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10)  Those who are actively seeking the God of the Bible are showing that wisdom.  Wisdom is seeing just how tiny we are when compared to His grandeur!  Like the owl, our reputation of being wise is seen in our behavior.  And wisdom can be evaluated by our righteous and godly living.  In contrast, Psalm 14:1 describes the fool as the one who says in his heart that there is no God.

The more I seek Him the more I am showing wisdom.  Seeking after God is always rewarded as He wants me to find Him.  He has promised that those who earnestly seek Him will find Him (Hebrews 11:6).  It is worth the effort as He is the One who not only created me but loves me and has only the best in mind for me!

Lord, may I never stop seeking after You.

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Sticking My Neck Out

Scripture for Today: Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”

It is obvious how this Eastern Snake-Necked turtle got its name.  The neck on this common Australian turtle can be as long as his body!  When it feels threatened it can emit a strong musky liquid from the armpits and groin area.  Of course, its best protection is his shell.  But for this species, to fit that long neck into his carapace he has to bend his head sideways and make it go in sideways.  Retreating into his shell may take some extra maneuvering but worth the protection it gives.

Today’s verse talks about the Lord being our refuge in times of trouble.  He is good and He cares when we have stuck our necks out too far!  The refuge He offers is His presence and is always available.  There is no situation that is too difficult for Him regardless of how vulnerable and exposed we feel.  By hiding in Him we can wait out whatever is making us feel threatened.  He is our refuge, our fortress and our hiding place.  In His loving and protecting presence we can patiently wait out any pressure, stress or assault.  It is God who gives perseverance and encouragement (Rom.15:5).

I do not know what tomorrow may bring.  But I do know that He is already there and He will give me what I need to persevere.  At the first sign of trouble, He wants me to hide myself in Him.  He cares for me because I trust in Him.  He responds to my trust by being exactly what I need when the hard times come.  What a comfort that He is good and ready to hide me!

Thank you Lord, that You care.



Black Friday Season

Scripture for Today: Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the Law.”

Today is call, “Black Friday,” although the term now encompasses a whole season!  It signals the unofficial start of Christmas shopping. The term in the 1950’s referred to all the workers calling in sick the day after Thanksgiving.  In the 1960’s it was used by policemen in Philadelphia to describe the mass of shoppers and the resulting congestion.  The term has now come to mean retailers finally pulling out of the red ink and into the black on their balance sheets.

Today’s verse talks about a debt that belongs to every believer.  Unlike retailers on Black Friday, we will never pull out of the red ink and into the black on this debt.  The debt of love is never completely paid.  Perfectly loving others completely fulfills the Law.  This is because all of the Law is summed up in loving one’s neighbor as one’s self (verse 9).  But there is only One who has been able to fulfill the Law with a perfect love and that is Jesus.

I cannot drum up love for some people, even during the feel-good holidays.  There are times I feel like a hypocrite celebrating peace and love when harboring an unforgiving spirit.  He knows and He sees my heart.  And He also offers His love, made available to me by His Spirit.  His filling and control helps me to show love even to that hard-to-love person.  I may not feel warm and fuzzy but showing love is not simply a feeling.  It is serving and giving and honestly wanting the best for him.

Lord, fill my heart with Your love today.

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Heartfelt Worship

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 29:13 “The Lord says, ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.'”

Styles of worship vary so much, especially internationally.  Our French church would often begin the service with complete silence and the expectation was to spend time in prayer and reflection.  For other churches, the music is upbeat and loud to begin things, gradually toning down to the message.  There are churches that feel any instrument except the human voice is out of place.  And the volume, rhythm, and style can all be a subject of debate .

In today’s verse none of these considerations are addressed.  The essential component of true worship has nothing to do with style, traditions or even what is considered more spiritual.  What matters to the Lord is the attitude and intent of the heart.  One can mouth the right phrases and the right notes with a heart that is very far from Him.  Jesus taught that true worship will involve His Spirit and will use the truth of His Word (John 4:24).

I know the Lord wants my worship of Him to be sincere and from the heart.  The worship He desires not only comes from my mouth in song but also from my thoughts and daily actions.  When I read God’s Word it can be worship.  When I remember, meditate or share a verse it can be an act of worship.  When I praise Him to others in testimony it is worship.  Even when I am trying to hear and obey His voice, that is worship.

Lord, may my worship of You be daily and heartfelt.  You are worthy!

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Candy Haul

Scripture for Today:   Proverbs 27:7  “A sated man loathes honey, But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.”

This is a day when many are feeling the effects of too much sugar!  We say that the candy haul is not for us but for the kids.  But somehow and in some mysterious way, some of the candy finds its way into our own mouths!  Perhaps it was a result of “testing” it to make sure all was safe and as it should be.  When I was a little girl I had a very strong taste for sugar.  Thankfully, I do not crave sugar quite as much today.  Perhaps I got to that sated stage mentioned in today’s verse.  I reached a “sugar overload” that diminished my cravings. Now, the more I abstain from sugar the less I crave it.  I find a little sweetness goes a long way!

There is a profound truth in today’s verse.  One can quickly become sated and spoiled by all the good things this life has to offer.  But what is new and exciting today can become old and mundane when always available.  I may be initially thrilled with something that later loses its appeal.  By contrast, those less fortunate than I am are perhaps more appreciative.  A little hunger can sure change one’s perspective!

The Lord knows how to make my life sweet without any overindulgence.  He puts into life a mix of pain and pleasure.  He does not want me sated or famished but in an attitude of trust.  He cares not only about my needs but my desires and cravings!  Overindulgence usually sounds so good at the time, but in the end, satisfaction does not come with “more.”

Thank you Lord, that it is You who makes my life sweet!