Devotions By Jan


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Bless You!

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” 

Our cat, Tiger, would sometimes have a sneezing fit and would always look very surprised when it happened.  I never felt obligated to say the words, “bless you.”  After all, I figured it was usually the cat making everyone else sneeze.  There are many ideas on the origins of blessing people after a sneeze.  Some believed the sneeze had to do with evil spirits leaving the body.  Others felt it was the soul momentarily escaping the body.  My favorite is the belief that the heart temporarily stopped during a sneeze!

Today’s verse declares that the source of every spiritual blessing is Jesus Christ.  He has blessed every believer with unmerited favor and goodness.  The blessings He gives are not tangible but spiritual.  And because that is true, these blessings are eternal.  They include His choosing us, adopting us, redeeming us and forgiving us (verses 4-7).  He has blessed us by sealing us with His Holy Spirit and has promised us an inheritance (verse 13-14).  These blessings are not seen with our physical eyes but they are more real than things that are!

I need to be reminded of His blessings, especially when I see non-believers seemingly prosper around me.  Like David, I can feel discouraged and tempted to be envious (Psalm 37:1-2).  But their success is temporary and my inheritance is eternal!  Spiritual blessings are the ones that matter.  And the blessing of being His very own outweighs anything else.  I can live this life with faith and love because they spring from the hope stored up for me in Heaven! (Col. 1:5)  How blessed I am!

Lord, open the eyes of my heart to see Your blessings today..

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Recliners

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

When I think of a recliner, this is the image that usually comes to my mind!  Clearly, this particular one is well past its prime!  I realize that there are sleek modern versions now.  One of the selling points is often that it doesn’t look like a recliner, as if the look is somehow less than appealing!

Today’s verses were illustrated using a recliner in one of  Billy Graham’s sermons.  He recounted the story of a Bible translator who had trouble finding an equivalent for the word, “faith” in a tribal language.  For months he struggled until he saw a tribesman relaxing in a hammock.  He asked him what he was doing and the man answered that he was reclining.  The man was resting his whole weight on the hammock, trusting that it would hold him up.  In the same way, faith means putting all your trust and confidence in something (or Someone) outside of one’s self.

There is nothing I can do to save myself.  No amount of good works can qualify me to enter Heaven.  It is only because of His free gift of grace that I am saved.  Placing my faith in Him and His grace means that I no longer feel the burden of being “good enough.”  Reclining on His grace erases doubt forever as salvation does not depend on me.  Reclining on His grace gives me the soul rest I so desperately need.  He wants me to recline or rest on His finished work on the cross.  What a gift!  What grace!

Lord, “keep me ever trusting, resting.”


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House of Heads

Scripture for Today: Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

This is just one head on the facade of the “House of Heads” in Colmar, France.  He is surrounded by 105 other heads as neighbors.  This historical monument sits in the heart of the town’s walking section.  Built in 1609 for the mayor, this German renaissance-styled building has served several purposes over the years, including housing the city’s Wine Exchange.  It is now a high end hotel and restaurant.  But passing by all those heads has always given me the creeps!

Today’s verse is a prophecy concerning a particular head that will be crushed.  It is perhaps the first and biggest “spoiler” to the centuries-long story of man.  Yes, evil has had a temporary victory in messing with mankind, but Satan is only able to inflict a strike on the heel.  That pain that Jesus would later endure on the cross is minimal when compared to the crushed head, or fatal blow that the Deceiver will experience.  Satan’s destiny is the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10) and the final victory belongs to the Lord!

How gracious God is to give us the good news at the same time as the curse!  He wasted no time in announcing His promise of a Savior.  And from the very beginning He has established His plan of victory.  When I see evil seemingly gaining the upper hand, this reassures me.  His purposes will prevail.  He has promised.  I can have full confidence in His control and justice, regardless of my circumstances.  I am one whom He has redeemed and made His.  Whatever may happen, I am on the winning side!

Lord, keep me encouraged by looking toward Your final victory.


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Safety Gloves

Scripture for Today: Revelation 21:27  Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

These disposable safety gloves are so important in keeping our health professionals free of contamination.  But there is another pair of gloves on display at the Ghetto Fighters’ House museum in Israel.  They are the gloves worn by an Israel Security Service Agent when grabbing Adolf Eichmann off the streets of Argentina in 1960.  This Nazi criminal was brought back to Jerusalem to stand trial for his barbaric role in the massacre of Jews and was hung for his crimes.  Although Eichmann looked so unassuming and ordinary, the agent used gloves rather than touch pure evil.

Today’s verse declares that nothing evil will ever enter Heaven.  No one who has ever done anything impure, shameful or deceitful will be able to gain access to God’s presence.  The Almighty One is so holy that His eyes are too pure to even look on evil (Hab. 1:13).  The perverse person is an abomination to the Lord, not only by his actions but also by his thoughts (Prov. 15:26).  But being that there is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10) how can anyone enter?  The Lamb’s Book of Life contains the names of those who have placed their faith in Christ’s righteousness and His sacrifice for their sin.

Nothing I could ever do would qualify me to enter Heaven apart from trusting Him.  The ground in front of the cross is level and I stand just as guilty as the most deplorable Nazi.  But thankfully because of Jesus, the Lamb of God, I can boldly approach His throne and find mercy and grace (Heb. 4:16).

Thank you Lord, that Your mercy and grace made a way for me!


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Easter Baskets

Scripture for Today: Isaiah 40:12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”

I can still remember the squeals of delight when distributing those Easter baskets to my kids!  I started with the oldest, much to the annoyance of my youngest.  The origin of Easter baskets is thought to be from a Catholic tradition in Poland and other eastern European countries.  Families would bring their Easter Sunday dinner to mass in a basket to have it blessed.  Of course, anything in the basket other than chocolate and jelly beans would be firmly rejected by children everywhere today!

Today’s verse describes the contents of one basket as being all the dust of the earth.  This poetic description of God’s mighty power asks rhetorical questions that can only have one response; no one.  No one but God could measure all the waters of the earth, or the breadth of the heavens.  No one but God is powerful enough to hold all the dust of the earth or weigh the mountains and hills.  If He can do all of this, than raising Jesus from the dead poses no challenge at all to the all-powerful One.

I serve a mighty powerful God who is not bound by the laws of nature that He Himself created.  And because He raised Christ from the dead, He raises me to new life as well.  I was dead in my sin (Col. 2:13) but God made me alive with Christ!  I can be truly alive only because He is!  “And life is worth the living just because He lives!”

He has risen.  He has risen indeed!

 

 


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Easter Eggs

Scripture for Today: Romans 6:4 “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

I bought beautifully carved real egg shells much like these from a street vendor in Prague.  Because they were so fragile, I carefully wrapped them in my carry-on.  How disappointed I was to have them confiscated as an animal product!  Easter eggs perhaps grew out of the tradition of hard boiling eggs during Lent.  In medieval times, Lent was stricter with prohibitions against eating all animal products.  When Lent was over, people would distribute their stockpiled eggs to the poor, right around the time of Easter.  Of course, eggs have long been considered a symbol of rebirth.

Today’s verse teaches that new life is possible as a result of being buried with Jesus.  Just as Christ was raised from the dead to new life, so we, by our “baptism” or identification with His death, can be raised to live a new life!  When we are in Christ, a new creation has come as the old has gone (II Cor. 5:17).  As a believer, I am dead to what I was and my life is now hidden with Christ in God! (Col. 3:3)

Old habits, old values, and old desires can all be changed!  The new life He gives awakens me to a whole new perspective on what life is all about!  This new life gives me a new purpose in living it for Him.  It is not easier but it is deeper and more satisfying.  I wake up every morning to new love and compassion from Him! (Lam. 3:22-23)  I never want to do life without Him!

Thank you Lord, for the new life You give!


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Speed Limit

Scripture for Today: Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

This has got to be the best kind of speed limit sign….open to interpretation!  Like many others, we tend to think that there is wiggle room with most freeway speed limits.  Popular belief says that going just five miles over the speed limit does not really count.  So imagine our surprise when we were pulled over for just that on our cross country trek!  No matter that road conditions were ideal or that we were keeping up with the flow of traffic.  The law is the law.  And whether going over the limit by one mile or ten, we were still breaking the law.

Today’s verse has bad news and good news. The bad news is that all are guilty of breaking God’s Law.  None of us can match up to the holiness and glory of a just and perfect God.  Some fall just a little short.  Others fall short by quite a bit.  No matter.  No one can stand before a holy and righteous God on one’s own merits.  But the good news is that Christ has redeemed us through His sacrifice on the cross and through His grace we have right standing with Him.

It does not matter how good I may look to others.  I am just as in need of God’s grace as the most hardened criminal.  There can be no spiritual pride when I understand that small word, “all.”  And I am so thankful for a grace that is also for “all.”  There is no difference between Jew or Gentile (verse 22) or any other distinction I could make.

Thank you Lord, that Your grace includes me.