Devotions By Jan

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Face to Face

Scripture for Today: Numbers 6:24-26 “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Being “face to face” has new meaning in our day. And perhaps with all the connections we make through the computer screen, we have come to value and more deeply appreciate those in-person times. But with masks covering faces, even those in-person opportunities seem to lack an important component; the face. Sometimes that fleeting smirk, the quickly lifted eyebrow or the passing twinkle in the eye can be missed. So much of connection is made through our facial expressions. We communicate acceptance, compassion, and forgiving grace without ever saying a word.

Today’s verses are a priestly prayer given directly by the Lord to Moses. He was to pass it on to Aaron and his sons to be spoken over the Israelites in order to bless them. When God turns His face towards us, we are restored and saved. (Psalm 80:3) When He shines His face or presence in our lives we experience His grace and peace. We are told to seek His face (Ps. 27:8) and when we see His face we are satisfied. (Ps.17:15) As God is spirit, His face is a picture of His favor and blessing.

God’s “face” is turned away from those who are evil. (Ps. 4:16) It is only because of Christ and His righteousness that God can look on me with favor and blessing. His face is turned toward me every day because of His grace and mercy. It is because of this face-to-face relationship that I can live and move and have my being. (Acts 17:28) His face turned on me means deep heart-felt peace and blessing found nowhere else.

Thank you Lord, for turning Your beautiful face on me!



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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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At the End of the Roll

Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”

Who would have thought it! First folks were hoarding toilet paper in this time of pandemic. And now, so many months down the line, the hoarding has moved to paper towels! There are similarities in the material being disposable paper and in being on a roll. With both there may be a sense of panic or at least concern when coming to the end of that roll! The French have a saying for running out of money; “au bout du rouleau,” meaning to be at the end of the roll.

For the believer, we need not ever panic when it comes to finances.  Today’s verse gives us a promise.  He will supply all our needs.  His store of supplies will never run out.  One can never come to the end of the riches of His glory. Paul wrote this verse while in prison.  He experienced all kinds of hardship and yet he was able to affirm this truth.  God took care of all his needs.  I am sure that while traveling on his mission trips, he saw God supply all his needs.

I can affirm the truth of this promise.  For the last 33 years in full time ministry my husband and I have seen God provide for all of our needs through individuals and churches.  Some times were leaner than others.  But the Lord has always come through for us. My problem is distinguishing between what is “need” and what is “want.”  God’s Word does not promise to supply all I want.  (I know, I’ve looked!)  He knows the difference.  But He loves to give good gifts and His generosity is amazing!

Thank you Lord for Your faithful care.

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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.