Devotions By Jan


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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!


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Silver Lining

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 11:17 “Light is sweet and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.”

These days I am looking for a “silver lining” to the dark clouds so many of us are experiencing. The proverb, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” is attributed to John Milton and a poem he wrote in 1634 entitled, “A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle.” Looking past the gloomy darkness to see that less obvious glimmer of light takes a mindset we do not always have. It is seeing the hopeful side of a somber situation.

Today’s verse is written by Solomon in a book filled with references to the sun.  The phrase, “under the sun” is often used when speaking of the futility of life.  All of life is said to be meaningless and vain if not lived in right relationship to God.  Even sweet light and the pleasure of seeing the sun has no real meaning without knowing its Creator. The context of this verse also speaks of remembering the darkness.  Whether we are in the middle of dark days or remembering those hard times, they help us appreciate the sweet light so much more when it arrives!  Recognizing the contrast makes me grateful for every ray of sunlight!

I am so thankful for a loving personal God who gives me just the right amount of darkness and sunlight.  I can trust Him as He gives to each day what He knows is best. The dark clouds of an on-going negative situation do not need to weigh me down. The Lord invites me to look to Him who is the Light. And even just a sliver of light can make a huge impact on that darkness.

Thank you Lord, for the sweet light of Your presence.


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Finding Life

Scripture for Today: Matthew 16:25 “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.”

This is exactly the kind of behavior we would see from Tiger when thunder would clap over the house and he would run for cover! The instinct in animals for self-preservation is a strong one. And we as humans are not much different. It is normal to want to protect our lives from natural disasters, serious illness or accident. We do not look to put ourselves in harm’s way. We take the necessary precautions. We take the safest route. We live our lives so as to avoid disaster.

The truth in today’s verse seems contrary to human nature. Of course we are going to try to save our lives when we feel that they are threatened. But at what cost? Peter had just rebuked Jesus, trying to discourage Him from going to Jerusalem. Suffering and death awaited Jesus there and He knew it. Yet He turned toward what would be certain death. Unlike Peter, Jesus had in mind the concerns of God and not merely human concerns (verse 23). It was because Jesus walked in obedience to the Father that He could set aside the restraints of self-preservation.

Finding true rewarding and fulfilling life only happens when I am willing to risk my own safety and comfort. Protecting my life at any cost makes me lose it! Christ bought my life at an incredible cost to Himself, not so that I can hide under the covers and wait for danger to pass. The goal of my life is not to preserve it but to spend it in service to Him. Following Him means picking up my cross daily in obedience (verse 24) despite personal risk.

Lord, may You find me faithful.


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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.


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Navy Seal Creed

Scripture for Today: James 1:12 “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

“Forged by Adversity” is one of the creeds of the Navy Seals. This image of the Navy Seal Trident represents what can only be worn by those who have earned it through their arduous training. The US Navy Website has this quote; “I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time.”

Today’s verse talks about adversity in the form of testing and trial. When going through it, one is blessed by God for persevering and not giving up. The Christian life is not exempt from any kind of hardship, although we think we should be! The Lord uses many kinds of tests to forge us into a tool of righteousness that He can use. When we stand firm when rocked by adversity, we do not just get a special trident to wear. The Lord promises a “crown of life” to those who stay true to their love for HIm.

Adversity forges my faith by using fiery trials or ordeals. (I Peter 4:12) I wish my faith grew stronger some other way. But it is in the middle of crisis that I look up and cry for His help. It is when I am too weak that He shows Himself strong. When I come to the end of my own resources, He responds by supplying my needs out of the riches of His glory! He turns my adversity into blessing and more reasons to love Him!

Lord, help me to persevere.