Devotions By Jan


Why Celebrate?

Scripture for Today: Psalm 2:10-11 “Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.”

We just finished bringing in the New Year with lots of noise, toasts and and celebration. It was a happy time of saying goodbye to a difficult year and welcoming the clean slate of the new. There was hope for peace, good health and prosperity. The celebrations seemed a bit short-lived this time around as we see the political unrest in our world. Talking about celebration appears to be completely off-subject compared to the somber mood of today.

Today’s verse is a warning to the rulers of the earth. Regardless of the amount and extent of the power held in one’s hands, they are to acknowledge and serve the Lord with fear and trembling. Wise ruling on their part can only happen as they recognize that the Lord has the ultimate rule and not them. It is God that reigns over ALL the nations. He is seated on His holy throne. (Psalm 47:8) His powerful rule is forever. (Psalm 66:7) The rulers and the ruled can celebrate this truth as His rule is righteous and just.

Regardless of the political turmoil, I can continue to serve the Lord. And as incongruous as it sounds, I can continue to celebrate His rule, being assured of His control! My God continues to reign despite chaos. He has already revealed the end plan in Revelation and His plans are never thwarted. (Psalm 33:10-11) No, I am not wearing the party hat anymore. But I can have deep-seated joy and confidence in God’s hand moving world events to bring about the future He has in mind. I can celebrate His power, His plan and His control!

Thank you Lord, for reassuring and lifting my heart!


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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Flame Vine

Scripture for Today: John 15:11 “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

This beautiful flowering vine is obviously called the Flame Vine for its vibrant color. It grows very quickly and is a native of Brazil and Paraguay. Some stems can be as long as 80 feet! Its vigorous growth will cover fences, trellises, trees and small buildings. When everything else is dying and turning brown in the fall and winter, this vine puts on a stunning show of flame-colored blossoms. In a cold bleak time one can almost feel its warmth.

That beautiful happy color only stays vibrant when these flowers stay connected to the vine. Today’s verse speaks of joy, a much-sung commodity in the Christmas season. Jesus is telling His disciples that the fruit of joy comes as we stay connected to the vine, meaning Jesus Himself. Remaining connected to this source of joy is done through our obedience to His commands. We remain in His love (verse 9-10) through following His commands, enjoying that sense of closeness to His heart. His joy comes through that connection as well, especially as we love others as He has loved us. (verse 12)

There are quite a few props to joy that are missing from my celebration of Christmas this year. Somehow, without some Christmas traditions I can lose sight of my joy. But the joy that comes from connection to Jesus remains and cannot be stolen from this season. His joy is a complete one that does not depend on those outward prompts. His quiet deep joy comes from the warmth of His love and presence. And just like the flame vine I can exhibit vibrant joyful color against a bleak landscape because of His joy!

Thank you Lord, that You give me joy.

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Hanging It Up

Scripture for Today: Psalm 137: 1-2 “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps.”

I love decorating the Christmas tree with musical instruments. We have a set of white porcelain ones that stand out against the greenery. For me, Christmas is all about the music. The old classics are always my favorite with their rich descriptions of the Gospel message. It makes me smile and tear up to hear the old ones played in the malls as many have no idea of the profound truths they are hearing. (unfortunately, only with instruments) Harp music is something I especially associate with the joy of Christmas and the world-changing message of the angels.

Today’s verse has the captive Israelites hanging up their harps in the poplar trees. They did not do it for decoration but as a sign that they were done with singing. Their captors had demanded of them songs of joy. (verse 3) Their response? How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? (verse 4) What these captives did not realize is that all those who live by faith are foreigners and strangers on earth. (Heb. 11:13) We can continue to sing songs of joy when we look to that better country, a heavenly one. (Heb. 11:16)

I am not quite ready to hang up my harp just yet, although there are definitely days that I think of it. Quite frankly, the fear, negativity, isolation, and the surrender of some Christmas traditions can steal songs of joy. But I can choose to focus on what will never be stolen from me; my true country ahead! There, unending songs of joy will fill the corridors and resound in every corner!

Restore to me Lord, the joy of my salvation!