Devotions By Jan


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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.  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.

 

 

 

 

!

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The Blue Devils


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

Duke is a private research university in Durham, North Carolina.  It has a long history having been founded in 1838 by Methodists and Quakers.  Their motto in English is “Knowledge and Faith.”  Their basketball team, called the Blue Devils, have an eight-episode documentary recently released.  It documents their preparation for their 2018-2019 season.  The title of this documentary is undoubtably meant to be motivational for the players, “Earn Everything.”

Today’s verse teaches an important truth that salvation is something that cannot be earned.  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.  And the problem with thinking we can earn it is never knowing if we have done enough!  Salvation is free and a gift from God.  Because this is true, none of us can boast about earning 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.  In a season of gift-giving, isn’t this the greatest gift of all!  Without this truth, I would always be in a state of fear and worry about my eternal destination.  But I do not have to worry when I place my faith and trust in what HE did on that cross!

Thank you Lord, for such an incredible, unearned gift!


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Famous Builder

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 3:3 “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.”

This is a very recognizable house!  It was many years ago that we made a visit to the White House and I remember feeling the history of the place.  But to my chagrin I did not remember who built it!  The architect, James Hoban, not only built it originally in 1792 but he also rebuilt it after the British set fire to it in 1814.  One would think that such a recognizable landmark with such history would have brought the builder more name recognition!

Today’s verse points out that the builder of a house would normally have more honor than the actual building.  The Jews being addressed were honoring Moses more than Jesus.  Moses was very important as a faithful servant in God’s house, however Jesus is the Son over God’s house (verse 5-6).  Jesus Christ as God’s Son and the Builder of the house deserves all the honor.  And the “house” are all those, Jews and Gentiles alike, who have trusted in Christ’s sacrifice for their sin.

So God is the Architect and Builder of my life.  Sometimes, I do not understand the building plans at all.  There seem to be some wide open places that I wish He would close in and make more intimate.  There are way too many doors when as an introvert I would prefer to be quiet and alone.  But He is the Builder of my life and I can trust what He is creating.  In any case, all the honor for any success and accomplishment belongs to Him!  When others see my “house” may they see the Builder.

Lord, what an honor it is to honor You!


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“I Want to Thank Me”

Scripture for Today: Psalm 35:18 “I will give You thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise You.”

A new star has just been added to Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame.  The one being honored before the crowd made quite a statement at the end of his tribute to  friends and family.  “Last but not least, I want to thank me for believing in me.”  He then went on to describe all his hard work and sacrifice.  He ended his self-congratulations with an expletive.

Today’s verse declares David’s intent to praise and give thanks to God before the crowd.  David, as king of Israel, had many occasions to speak publicly and honor himself.  But he did not.  He did not thank himself for all his hard work and sacrifice.  David had killed a giant.  As a mighty warrior and powerful king, he had much more reason than a pop star to praise himself before the people.  But instead, he gave all thanks and praise to God.   David understood that his life was fleeting, a mere “handbreadth.”  Every life is but a breath. (Ps. 39:4-5)  David was not perfect but he understood just how big God is in comparison to any man.

How odd to hear this news story during Thanksgiving week!  We just celebrated this day by recognizing all of our blessings.  We thanked our families and our friends.  But for believers, it is most importantly a time to thank God for His love, mercy and grace.  HE deserves all my praise and thanks for everything that is good in my life.  I cannot take credit for anything.  He gives me my intellect and my talents.  He gives me my health and my wealth.  He gives me my next breath and heartbeat!

Lord, I cannot thank me.  I thank You!

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Fallen Leaf Art

Scripture for Today: Psalm 1:3 “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

Have you ever walked by a leaf on the ground that had such vibrant color that you had trouble leaving it behind?  The Japanese use these beautiful leaves in what they call, “ochiba art.”  What would normally be swept up and left to decompose is instead arranged in beautiful designs.   Of course, the beauty is temporary.  But at least they go out in a burst of glory before they wither and die.

Today’s verse describes a seasonal cycle unknown in our world.  There is no Autumn as leaves do not wither, die and fall from the branches.  This unique season enjoys continual growth and greenery.  There is seasonal fruit and a steady supply of water for this tree planted by streams of water.  What a beautiful image of the one who delights in the law of the Lord and does not walk, stand or sit with the wicked. (verses 1- 2)

The wicked are pictured as chaff that dries up and blows away (verse 4).  What a contrast!  Rather than being vibrant and living, it is utterly useless and is carried away with the slightest breeze.  But the Lord will not allow me to be dried up and useless.  There may be differing seasons of fruitfulness, but my leaves will never wither.  I may not always see how He is using me, but He does produce fruit.  His life continues within and He never stops working in me!  Because of being planted in Him, I will stay green and vibrant and beautiful.  Because of Him my shade is inviting and my limbs provide protection.

Thank you Lord, that You can and do use me in spite of myself!


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Out of Control

Scripture for Today: Genesis 4:7 “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

It is one thing when your toddler throws a tantrum in the grocery store or at a friend’s house.  But it was quite another for this mother when her toddler lost it at the White House!  I can just imagine the mother’s chagrin to have such a display at the feet of the president.  It made me smile to see her looking at Mrs. Obama rather than looking at the chaos happening on the floor!

Today’s verse is a loving warning to Cain from the Lord.  Cain’s emotions have reached the boiling point.  Much more serious than a child’s tantrum, his anger is about to erupt in violence.  God does not tell Cain to swallow or suppress his emotions.  He tells Cain that he must rule over them in order to avoid sinful behavior.  As strong as his anger was, Cain always had a choice.  And he chose to allow his anger to grow out of control.

Self-control is something that normally is learned with maturity.  We cannot always get what we want when we want it.  I know that the anger I feel from not having my own way is totally selfish.  But sometimes that self-control is totally lacking and emotions seem to rule over me.  They do not respond to reason or good intentions.  I cannot seem to rule over my emotions on my own.  Thankfully, I have God’s Spirit and the fruit of His presence includes that elusive self-control.  When I feel like I am getting out of control, I need to embrace His control.

Lord, help me submit to You.

 


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Smashed!

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

I was not sure why Smashburger chose the name it did for their hamburgers.  I had visions of them sitting on them, making them flat enough to actually fit in one’s mouth!  Of course, the health department would surely have something to say about that!  But there is a specific smashing process using a special tool to flatten the pre-prepared meatball.  This tool is used to press hard for a full ten seconds, but no more than ten.  More than that would squeeze out the juices and cause it to dry out.  The result is a cooking time of three minutes rather than eight.

In today’s verse, Paul is recounting some of the hardships he and Timothy had faced.  At the beginning of the chapter and at the end, he says, “We do not lose heart.”  It would have been completely understandable if they had!  Paul had been shipwrecked, beaten, stoned and imprisoned for his faith.  Being perplexed, he perhaps did not always understand the “why” behind what was happening.  Yet, he remained confident that the pressing down he felt was producing something of value in him.

When I am facing hard times I am usually perplexed.  I cannot explain why the Lord allows certain difficulties in my life.  But He promises that all the pressing and crushing will be producing a “weight of glory” one day (II Cor. 4:17).  All that is painful is only a “light affliction” compared to what lies ahead.  Even when panicked and confused, my Father reassures me  that He is in control and His control is good.

Help me Lord, not to lose heart.