Devotions By Jan


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Home for the Holidays?

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 5:8 “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

I love the carol, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.” Much of my decorating for Christmas is done in the hopes of making my house seem more “homey.” The right ambiance and the painstaking emphasis on feeling tones are all done with the hopes of creating a sense of HOME. But of course, the important element is the people there to enjoy it! Everything can be in its place. The decorations can be perfect. The right carols can be playing and the air filled with wonderful scents of cinnamon. But without loved ones there, it all falls flat.

Today’s verse expresses Paul’s preference to be “home with the Lord” rather than at home in his body. Even if conditions on this earth were perfect, there would always be a sense that we are not home yet. Paul believed that being home with the Lord is far better than living here on earth. That’s because to be home is to be with Him. HE Himself is our “home.”

There are family and friends of mine already with the Lord. I miss them. But they are home. What is more, they are home for the holidays, in their true home. The holidays they are enjoying far outshine what we can do to celebrate here on earth.  No budget, no tiredness, no dashed expectations, no overindulgence! Those in Heaven have no trouble keeping Jesus front and center! It is true, there is no place like home for the holidays. How much more this is true for our eternal home!

May Christ be my “home” during this holiday and every day!


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God Is With Us

Scripture for Today: Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).”

This image came from a site that provides greetings to friends and families, personalizing them with a name. Immanuel or Emmanuel is not a name I hear too much except in France. There, it is used for boys or for girls but with a different spelling. But in both cases it is often shortened to “Manu.” I cannot hear the name Immanuel without thinking of this verse and its meaning; God with us.

Today’s verse is part of the angel’s message to Joseph. Not only does it reassure Joseph, but the name Immanuel also ties in to a prophecy in Isaiah 7. The wicked King Ahaz was in a tight spot, his reign threatened by two kings. God sent Isaiah with God’s promise to deliver Israel both then and in the future. Despite Ahaz, Judah and David’s line would be preserved through the coming of the Messiah! Because “God is with us” Isaiah says to be careful, keep calm, do not be afraid and do not lose heart (verse 4).

What an amazing message is wrapped up in the name, Immanuel! Because God is with me, I can stay calm, despite what is happening around me or even to me! There is no reason to be fearful because God keeps His Word. He will never leave me or forsake me (Deut. 31:6) even when surrounded by enemies! He will never leave or forsake me when facing financial challenges (Heb. 13:5). His presence is constant so I do not lose heart. I may not understand what is happening but I understand that He is there and He loves me!

I love You, Immanuel.


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Keeping It Simple

Scripture for Today: Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Somehow, this simple nativity scene has survived 17 moves including some transatlantic ones! It has also endured the sticky hands of young children, both my own and my grandchildren! And yet it still comes out of storage every year unscathed. When I start to feel that pressure to decorate perfectly, to display the latest bauble or to create just the right ambiance, I look at this and sigh.

Today’s verse tells us that we do not have to follow the pattern the world has of doing things, including how we celebrate His birth. We have the choice and the freedom to do things differently, to even do things God’s way. And His way is far better. It is good, pleasing and perfect. In belonging to Him, our minds can be renewed through His Word to know and appreciate what His way is.

I want to be intentional this Christmas. It is a challenge to avoid overcommitment and stress. But I so want to resist the pressure to have everything decorated Pinterest style or impress people with my cookie baking skills. The best way I know to celebrate Christmas is to slow down enough to ponder and reflect like Mary did at the birth of her Son. I want to turn my thoughts toward Him of whom the angels sang, and sing to Him myself! And I want to love sacrificially as He did in coming to this earth.

Lord, help me celebrate Your birth in a way that pleases You.


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Sanctuary of Truth

Scripture for Today: I Timothy 3:15 “if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

This ornate shrine stands 345 feet tall on the edge of a sea near Pattaya, India. It is made entirely of teakwood using an ancient Thai carpenter style, using no nails as they would rust in the sea air. Built in 1981 it houses thousands of Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses. Under one roof is found centuries of disparate beliefs from Southeast Asia. But the question is whether truth is found under this roof.

Today’s verse describes the Church as the pillar and foundation of truth. Both the pillar and the foundation are images of support and reinforcement for the truth of God’s Word. And when the “deep truths” of the faith are kept (verse 9) it will be evidenced by godly conduct. We know we are of the truth when Jesus Himself is the Source of godly living (verse 16). There is no system of thought or philosophy that can change a heart. There is no godly living without the life of the only true God.

I do not need to look for truth elsewhere. I have found the truth in Christ who declared that He Himself IS truth (John 14:6). And by His own words, His truth is exclusive. There is no other name by which we are saved (Acts 4:12). And yet, His invitation is inclusive extended to all who would come to Him in faith (John 12:46). His truth is my pillar and foundation as it holds me up and sustains me. Regardless of the shifting ideas of this world, my faith remains firm, upheld by a Person who is Truth.

Thank you Lord, for being my firm foundation!


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Time for Change

Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

If it were not for the song, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” written by Pete Seeger and made popular by the Byrds, perhaps we would not be so familiar with the first eight verses of Ecclesiastes 3. We enjoy the seasons in God’s creation but are maybe less enthusiastic with changes in our lives. This beautiful red leaf used to be green. And soon it will be a somber dry brown. And the old will eventually be making way for the new.

Today’s verse reminds us of the passing of time and seasons. The earth is locked into a cycle of time that has no equivalent above the heavens. The seasons are unique to us. Heaven and eternity are not bound or limited by time. And each season that God ordains in our lives has a God-given purpose for His glory. There is a time for birth or death, mourning or dancing, speaking or remaining silent, among many other activities “under heaven.” (verse 2-8) How encouraging that God is above heaven and above time!

The most unsettling thing about the seasons of life changing is that period of transition and adjustment. I get comfortable with what used to be new and different. Just when I start to feel settled, everything shifts. The scenery changes or what is unexpected throws me off balance. I forget that I have felt this way before. And I forget how faithful the Lord has been in the past to move me to a new stage. Seasons may change but HE does not and He will remain faithful! What a comfort to be able to stand firmly on His Word and promises, even in the middle of change!

Thank you Lord, that You remain faithful.