Devotions By Jan


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A Christmas Carol

Scripture for Today: John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

This particular version of the classic tale by Charles Dickens was filmed in 1938 and stars Reginald Owen as the unloveable Scrooge.  It was the first major adaptation of a Dicken’s novel and it took some liberties with the story, having each Christmas spirit appear in one night rather than in three.  But the message of Christmas being a time to give liberally to others finally gets through to the stingy Scrooge.  He begins to care.  He begins to love.  And so he begins to give.

Today’s often-quoted and beloved verse explains the reason for God offering His Son.  He gives because He loves.  He loves all of mankind, regardless of race, religion or culture.  The offer of His Son was to give us a way to spend all eternity with Him.  It was His love that motivated such a sacrifice of His one and only Son.  And it is only through faith in His sacrifice for sin that eternal life can be ours.

The birth of Christ was a gift for everyone because our need for a Savior is universal.  We all need Him.  No one is exempt from their need of a Savior to forgive and give life. One day I invited Him to be mine and it was the best and most important decision I have ever made!  And because He loved me first, I can love Him in return.  One of the best ways I can love Him is by showing His love to others.  He loves so He gives.  I want my love for others to show itself in selfless giving.  Not only at Christmas but everyday!

Thank you Lord, that You gave.

 

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A Christmas Story

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

Little Ralphie dreams of receiving his heart’s desire for Christmas; a Red Ryder Air Rifle.  This low budget comedy filmed in 1983 has become a Christmas staple.  It stood out among all the other saccharin-sweet Christmas movies as it brought in a note of realism.  What parent has not experienced the unbridled avarice of their sweet children!  Commercialism, anticipation, disappointment and hurt feelings are all part of real Christmas in real families!  And of course, the warnings about his perfect gift came close to being realized, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Today’s verse is about another gift that cannot ever be adequately described!  It is a gift that cannot be purchased and it will never be deserved.  It is a gift that is eternal and totally without equal.  There is no question of returning it as it goes beyond every expectation!  This gift is God’s surpassing grace in the Person of His Son, Jesus (verse 14).  His unmerited favor is a gift that continues giving throughout our earthly life and into eternity!

Words cannot adequately convey how life-changing His grace is towards me.  It is indescribable!  This grace was given to me in Jesus before the beginning of time (II Tim. 1:9) and by this grace I am saved.  His grace allows me to live beyond the limits of my weaknesses (II Cor. 12:9).  And it is by His grace that He gives me eternal encouragement and good hope (II Thes. 2:16).   There are so many layers of wrapping to this gift of grace that it takes a lifetime to experience it fully.  I am so humbled by the enormity of this gift and the cost the Lord paid to offer it to me.

Thank you Lord, for this incredible gift of Your favor to me!

 


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FastPass to Santa

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

There is nothing worse for a mom of young children than standing in a long line to see Santa!  What starts out with happy anticipation quickly turns into whining and complaining.  Feet hurt, tummies rumble and the need for a  bathroom trip is desperately trying to be ignored!  Thankfully with the FastPass, made with a simple on-line appointment, one can sail past all those waiting to the head of the line!

There is a throne that we can approach any time.  Today’s verse describes our access to the throne of Heaven.  It can be approached with confidence for those that belong to Him.  There is never any waiting as He is always available.  His ears are attentive to our cries (Ps. 34:15).  His throne is a throne of grace, ready to give us what we do not deserve.  And His mercy and grace are given at exactly the right time when we most need it!  He will never turn us away or redirect us to the end of the line!

How amazing that He is the God of the universe and yet so approachable!  I am so glad He does not wait until I am worthy before I approach, or I could never be near Him.  He responds my cries for help.  He understands when I feel like giving up.  When all I want to do is cry in His presence, He understands that too.  He empathizes with everything I feel because He experienced weakness as well (verse 15).  And He responds with amazing grace and mercy!  What a wonderful God we serve!

Thank you Lord, for allowing me in Your presence anytime, anywhere!

 


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Helium Shortage

Scripture for Today: Psalm 21:6 “Surely You have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of Your presence.”

It had never occurred to me that there could be a helium shortage.  However, it cannot be manufactured and there is a limited supply underground.  Five years ago a tank costs 25 dollars.  Today the price tag reads closer to 300 dollars!  The concern of party balloon companies is understandable.  But the implications for the medical field are very troublesome as it is used for MRI’s as well as for research in chemistry and biology.

Today’s verse mentions something that will never run out.  There will never be a shortage of God’s blessings.  They are unending and eternal.  King David, talking about himself in the third person, lists some of the blessings he sees as coming from the Lord: victories, the desire of his heart, a crown, length of days, splendor and majesty.  What a king could understandably take credit for, King David attributes to God.  But it is not only these God-given blessings that make David glad, but more importantly the joy of God’s presence!  He knows and trusts in God’s unfailing love for him (verse 7).

How giving and generous the Lord is!  He liberally gives and gives and sometimes I am not even aware that HE is the Source!  Because of His great love for me, His blessings are unending, continuing on into eternity.  His flow of blessings may not be material.  They may not even be what I think I should have.  But they are always more than I deserve!!  But what surpasses every blessing is the joy of His presence!  Feeling HIs faithful love and presence, especially in the difficult times, is the deepest and most meaningful blessing!

Today may I “praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

 


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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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Dried Out Clay

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called, ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

There is not a whole lot one can do with dried out clay.  It always seems to be a problem with my grandsons.  When their clay is left out, it becomes dry and hard and pretty much useless.  Without storing it properly, the air seems to suck out all the moisture and it is no longer pliable.  Instead of being fashioned into pleasing shapes, it becomes brittle and hard.

Today’s verse says that we can become hardened.  Our hearts have the tendency to turn away from God in rebellion and unbelief (verse 12).  It can be a slow insidious process that we do not even realize is happening.  Sin is deceitful and can pull us gradually and subtly away from the God we love.  Sin is deceitful because it can seem so good and right.  It can appear sophisticated and desirable.  We need encouragement everyday in order to resist its attraction.  By recognizing sin’s empty promises and praying for one another, we can hold on firmly to what we have in Christ (verse 14).

I would like to think that I am immune from sin’s attraction.  After all, I have known and loved the Savior for quite some time.  I understand the complications and danger sin can bring to a life.  But I am not immune.  I will always need the example and encouragement from other believers.  He is always ready to forgive, but I do not like the distance I feel from the Lord when I give in.  I know that if I flirt with sin, my heart will no longer be soft and pliable to Him.

Lord, do not let my heart become hardened.


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The Amaryllis

Scripture for Today:  Revelation 3:17 “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

I love the burst of vibrant red color in the amaryllis.  The color is especially surprising as it can bloom indoors in the middle of a dark cold winter.  Each bulb produces 2-12 funnel-shaped flowers.  This flower goes by many names; Belladonna Lily, Jersey Lily. March Lily and Easter Lily.  But the Amaryllis is not directly related to the lily even though it is shaped like one.  Because of its long leafless stems, it is commonly called, “Naked Lady.”

Today’s verse talks about a nakedness that is spiritual.  What is so sad is that the person described does not realize his nakedness, nor his poverty or blindness.  Being wealthy has caused this person to feel self-sufficient and not in need of anything.  But Christ proposes a remedy.  Along with salve for the eyes to restore spiritual sight and true eternal riches, Christ gives us white clothes to cover our nakedness (verse 18).  Those white clothes are a symbol of His righteousness obtained for us.

I may stand proud and colorful like the Amaryllis, but in fact, I am poor, blind and naked without the Lord.  My pride keeps me from realizing my need.  As a matter of fact, the word “Amaryllis” means pride!  And instead of answering His knock (verse 20) I mistakenly think I am fine on my own.  I need to let go of of my pride and denial so I can open the door to His knock.  I am so grateful that He waits there, ready to forgive and begin anew an amazing love relationship!

Lord, may I always realize my need and open the door to You.