Devotions By Jan


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Sourdough Bread

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 30:8 “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”

There must have been five million different kinds of bread in France! There were different grain combinations, different densities, and different shapes.  Each region had their own specialties with recipes going back generations.  There were differences between baguettes in our own town depending on the bakery.  But one bread I could never find was sourdough bread.  For whatever reason, the French did not sell this variety.  Perhaps they felt the flavor would fight with the cheese.  And of course, because I could not get it I craved it more than all the others!

Our verse for today is about contentment.  The author of this proverb realized that too many riches did not make for a happy life.  And having nothing at all can create all kinds of discontent.  Somewhere in the middle there is a contentment possible with only the basic needs provided.  Having our daily bread is a luxury for some and yet in our affluent society, it is so easy to take it for granted.  Having so many choices of bread in France turned out not to be enough for me.  What a picture of discontentment!

Having too much or too little can lead to lies and falsehood to get what we want.  Having much somehow leads to craving more.  Staying in this frame of mind can make it easy to bend the rules, cheat a bit or defraud others.  Having too little can lead to lies and falsehoods in a desperate attempt to get ahead.

Where is my middle ground?  Could I honestly repeat this prayer?  Lord, “give us this day our daily bread” and with it may I find contentment in You.


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Sparkling Water

753444421-sparkling-water-sparkling-drink-water-glass-carbonic-acidScripture for Today: Isaiah 12:3 “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

I was never much interested in drinking sparkling water before living in France.  But it quickly became my drink of choice.  Now, I not only prefer it to flat water but I have my favorite brands.  I can taste the differing amounts of salt and the varying levels of carbonation.  Perhaps it is an acquired taste as so many of my friends want nothing to do with it!  For me, it looks pretty in a tall footed glass. The bubbles catch the light and seem to make the water more refreshing.  I especially appreciate that it has no calories!

Our verse for today is also about a different kind of water.  It is different because its source is a different kind of well.  Water is essential to life and this water is essential to eternal life.  We draw from the Source of salvation and He will never disappoint.  His water quenches the deepest longing of our souls.  When drawing from this well, we do so with joy and anticipation.

Jesus points out this “well of salvation” in John 4.  He calls Himself the “living water” that becomes a spring of water welling up inside to eternal life (verse 14).  We draw from this water with joy, knowing that His provision of salvation is all grace.  It is a gift.  And it is a gift that is for all time and completely satisfies.  There is no more thirst or striving for something more.  Nothing else in life can compare to the joy that is found in His presence.  He fills me up with that joy! (Psalm 16:11)

Perhaps the bubbles can represent the joy in this different water!  Thank you Lord, that You are my unending Source of refreshment and life!


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The Vineyards

Summer 2009 040Scripture for Today: Philippians 1:11 …“filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”

My husband and I loved living in an area surrounded by vineyards.  Each season brought beautiful changes and the anticipated fruit was celebrated with festivals at its arrival.  Our landlords were vinedressers themselves and taught us much about the different varieties.  Alsace boasts 7 different grapes; Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sylvaner, and Pinot Noir.  Not only were these varieties distinctly different but the climate, the soil and the sun exposure all contributed to more subtle differences.  All it took was a difference of 100 meters in location to completely change the fruit.

Our verse for today is a prayer of Paul for the believers in Philippi.  He prays that they will  be filled with love (verse 10) in order to produce the fruit of righteousness.  That fruit cannot be produced except through Jesus Christ.  There is no fruit of righteousness without being connected to the Vine (John 15:5)  But connected to Him we can be filled with that fruit!

Just as there is so much variety among the grapes of Alsace, so there are varieties among the spiritual fruit of believers.  Each season of life is different.  Each person’s spiritual gifting is different.  Each believer’s circumstances are different.  I can get distracted from my own “fruit production” by comparing myself to others.  The fruit God is producing in me is supposed to be different than what He is producing in someone else.  I am a different variety!

I thank God for different varieties!  I thank Him that He is the One who produces the fruit in me.  It is all about Him and His glory and praise.

Lord, thank you that You use even my variety of fruit for Your glory!


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Static

800px-TV_noiseScripture for Today: John 5:39-40 “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.”

Remember the snow-looking static we used to see on televisions?  Modern televisions automatically turn to a blue screen when not receiving a transmission signal.  The old image was just a random dot pixel pattern which made no sense.  In northern Europe the pattern is different, looking like fast-flickering black bugs on a white screen.  They do not call it snow but “ant soccer!”  In either case, the static makes no sense.

Our verse for today is a quote from Jesus speaking to the Jewish leaders.  These men were diligent about studying Scripture.  But they were missing the fact that the Scriptures prophesied and testified of Jesus Himself.  Their study was not the source of eternal life.  The Source was standing right in front of them.  But as long as they refused to come to Christ in faith, those Scriptures would be like unintelligible static.

God’s Word is just noisy static to people today as well.  Study can be diligent and life-long, but without coming to Jesus with a humble open heart, there will be no understanding.  That is because it is His Spirit who guides us into all the truth (John 16:13).  His Spirit opens our spiritual eyes in a way that study without Him could never do.

The Lord does not owe me understanding.  I do not earn it.  He helps me understand because His Word is His love letter to me.  If I am only hearing static, then I need to start over with humble prayer for His clarity.

Thank you Lord, for the understanding You give out of Your grace.

 


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Tricky Crossing

brookunnamedScripture for Today: Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”

I enjoy my walk in the San Juan hills every chance I get.  But this part is tricky.  It is not that the water is deep or the rocks too far apart.  They are in fact spaced just right.  The problem is that some of these rocks move slightly when I step on them.  Add to that my terrible sense of balance and the inevitable is sure to someday happen.  But for now, I have avoided slipping into the water.  Thankfully, there has never been anyone around to see my silly unsteadiness.

Our verse for today describes our God as a Rock.  He does not move.  His works are perfect and He can always be counted on to do what is absolutely right and just.  He never does anything remotely wrong or questionable.  He does not change with the times.  His actions are never capricious or based on whimsy.  He is faithful and just to His character.  The fact that He is unchangeable means He does not move.  He  does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17) or like rocks in a stream.

I love that the Lord is sure and steadfast.  I can build my life on His unchanging truth and character rather than the shifting ground of worldly values and views.  I can cross over water that is deep and scarey knowing that He makes my steps sure.  He is faithful and will not let my feet slip.  His promises are as rock-solid as Himself.  I will not be moved when trusting in Him!

Thank you Lord, that because of You I can walk with confidence today!


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Perfume

perfume5Scripture for Today: Proverbs 27:9 “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”

Living in France all these years has given me a new appreciation for perfume.  We have had friends in the business and we have visited factories.  When my Bible study ladies got together, the subject would sometimes turn to their favorite scents.  They gave me a classic perfume as a parting gift.  Its fragrance reminds me of those ladies and their sweet friendship.  But even with all this exposure, I am not as knowledgeable as some people are who make perfume their hobby.  At least I know what I like even if I cannot say it gives me an “emotional rush” or “butterflies in my stomach!”

Our verse for today acknowledges the morale booster a nice scent can be.  And just as perfume and incense can bring joy to a heart, so also does the involved friend who gives sincere and heartfelt advice.  I do not always think of advice from others as being pleasant.  Perhaps I have been too often the recipient of advice that was not given by a true friend or was not heartfelt.

Heartfelt advice is recognizable.  When advice is given in a spirit of love one does not so easily take offense.  Even if the advice is off the mark, when it comes from the well-intentioned friend, it can be pleasant.  It means the person cares.  It means the person wants to see you succeed.  Advice, asked for or not, means that person is willing to get involved in problem solving and helping.  The wise person listens to advice (Prov. 12:15).

Thank you Lord, for friends that care enough to advise.  Help me be wise enough to listen!


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A Little Bird

A_Little_Bird_Told_Me____by_HikuiShoujo623Scripture for Today: Ecclesiastes 10:20 “Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.”

“A little bird told me,” is usually the bearer of good news when this expression is used today.  A little bird often tells of exciting news, birthdays or anniversaries.  But for Siegfried’s second act, a little bird tells the main character to steal.  And a Norse legend recounts how Sigurd was able to understand what birds were saying.  Their message was a warning.  Perhaps this expression referred to the use of carrier pigeons bringing messages.  I can just imagine the confusion of a non-English speaker learning this phrase!

In our verse for today, there is a negative reference to a bird that overhears and reports your words.  How thankful I am to live in a country that protects the right of free speech.  But for the believer, free speech needs to be words that one would not mind being repeated in public.  Our speech is to be seasoned as it were with salt and full of grace (Col. 4:6).  If that were always the case, I would not be ashamed or troubled if overheard.

Our tongues are so difficult to control.  James tells us the tongue cannot be tamed without the help of its Creator (James 3:8).  What we think about eventually finds its way to our mouths where words do such harm.  But if I make the habit of asking the Lord to put a watch over my lips (Ps. 141:3), then I do not have to worry about being overheard.  With the Spirit’s control, the words overheard will be gracious and kind, soft and forgiving.  Let the birds come and listen!