Devotions By Jan


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Bitter Melon

Scripture for Today: Psalm 71:20 “Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up.”

Bitter melon looks nothing like a melon!  It looks more like a cucumber and it is not only its taste which can discourage a try but also its bumpy warty skin!  This very bitter fruit is grown in tropical areas of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and South America.  It is also known as balsam pear, bitter squash, karela and goya.  The bitter melon is believed to aid digestion and improve overall health.  It is even believed to help in treating diabetes and cancer, although the research is not conclusive.

Today’s verse talks about many bitter troubles.  David has had his share with his enemies seeking to kill him.  He has also lived with some very unhappy family relationships.  Yet he remains confident that his troubles will be short-lived.  He looks to the future with hope that God, though allowing the bitter trouble, will restore and lift him up once again.  David can say this as he has already seen the Lord do just that for him.  This psalm is full of testimony to God’s wonderful faithful care.

Although I enjoy God’s blessings, I am not spared “many and bitter troubles.”  And Peter tells me not to think it strange to experience fiery trials (I Peter 4:12).  But like David, I do not want to allow something difficult and even bitter to make me bitter!  He is there through all of it and is ready to restore and lift me up from the depths of disappointment, dashed hopes and depression!  In fact, He is the only One able to do it!

Thank you Lord, that You are my hope and comfort!


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After the Rains

Scripture for Today: Psalm 65:10 “You drench its furrows and level its ridges; You soften it with showers and bless its crops.”

With the recent rains, our local hills are green and beautiful.  And the wildflowers have put on quite a show this year.  But not everything that grows is welcome!  I knew that if I did not attack our hill soon, the weeds would be much more difficult to clear.  The warm drier weather will soon arrive and that ground will harden and be unforgiving.  But for now, the ground is soft and easily gives up the roots to those nasty weeds.

Today’s verse describes the rains and what they do for the land.  This psalm describes God’s abundant blessings on this earth including His forgiveness when overwhelmed with sin (verse 3).  There was special blessing for those who God brought near to live in His courts (verse 4).  His blessings are sometimes depicted as rain on thirsty ground.  And when we realize that what is good in our lives comes from Him (James 1:17) it can soften our hearts with gratitude.  Soft hearts not only soak up His blessings but also hear and obey His voice.  But we can harden our hearts when we ignore His voice (Hebrews 4:7).

I want the soil of my heart to be soft .  I want the weeds of sin and the roots of bitterness to be easily removed.  When I stubbornly choose to ignore His convicting voice, I can almost feel my heart hardening.  I belong to Him and so I can expect Him to correct and reprimand me.  When my heart is soft and I respond with humility the experience does not have to last very long and is a lot less painful.  He is waiting to love on me with His forgiveness!

Lord, keep my heart soft towards You.

 


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NASCAR Spotters


Scripture for Today: Proverbs 20:24 “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?”

The NASCAR driver can not turn his head while wearing the required head and neck support.  His wrap-around helmet also reduces visibility.  The driver can really only see directly in front of him or behind him.  These safety requirements have made the role of the “spotter” crucial.  The spotters are called, “eyes in the sky” seeing the whole track at once.  For three and a half hours the race-long conversations help their drivers avoid wrecks, position themselves to the best advantage and maneuver around blind corners.  Those words of guidance and encouragement in a calm tone can make all the difference!

Today’s verse acknowledges that the Lord directs the steps of those who belong to Him.  But often, the one directed has no idea of His direction!  The question expresses what is often felt:  How can anyone understand their own way?  We do not have the same vantage point and we can never understand it all.  We are told in any case not to lean on our own understanding but to acknowledge Him so that He can direct us (Prov. 3:5-6).

Because I cannot see what lies ahead, I need to trust the One who is already there and knows the way.  If I were to wait until I understood the reasons behind every directive, I would be at a standstill and make no progress!  But I can be confident of my direction even without full understanding.  That is because I trust Him.  His eyes are always on me and the twists and turns are not random.  He has a loving purpose in every change of course.  His direction is always towards a more loving relationship with Himself!

Lord, help me to trust You completely!


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Ramona’s Marriage Place

Scripture for Today:  Proverbs 14:1  “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.”

This adobe building in Old Town, San Diego called Casa de Estudillo or Estudillo House was once considered one of the finest homes of its day.  Built in 1827, it later came to be associated with a work of fiction entitled, Ramona.  Tourists flocked to the site, believing that the story took place there.  In the absence of the owners, the caretaker decided to capitalize on its popularity and sold pieces of the house as souvenirs!  Obviously, the state of the house rapidly deteriorated!  It was restored in 1910 and later declared a historical landmark.

Today’s verse describes a house coming down.  It is very much in the power of a woman to make or break a household.  A foolish woman needs no help to bring the house down around her head.  But a wise woman will fight for her home and her family.  She will do everything in her power to protect those precious walls.  The wise woman fears the Lord first and foremost (Psalm 111:10).  Following God’s commandments in a marriage relationship and as parents is the surest way to keep that house standing.  A foolish woman will consider God’s way as old fashioned and antiquated.  Without realizing it, the foolish woman will tear her own house down little by little.

There are cracks in my walls every now and then.  Sometimes following God’s way is just difficult.  I need His help to obey.  He has made His plan clear in His Word for all the family relationships.  And sometimes it is at odds with how our society operates.  But following His way is well worth the effort.

Thank you, Lord, that my house is still standing!  Keep me faithful to You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Day of Remembrance

Scripture for Today: I John 4:10 “This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Memorial Day is a special day of remembrance, honoring  those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.  The soldier who lies in this grave is no exception even though his remains could not be identified.  His name is not recorded but his sacrifice is commemorated even so.  On this day we want to remember the incredible price paid by all the fallen, named or unnamed.

Today’s verse speaks of another sacrifice, one made to secure our freedom from the power and curse of sin.  He has won the battle over evil and darkness forever.  His name is known and has been for centuries.  The name of Jesus is a polarizing one that has provoked hate, division and rebellion as well as love, unity and submission.  His sacrifice to secure for us a future in Heaven was done out of love.  And His love is the supreme example of a life-changing sacrificial love.

I remember Christ’s sacrifice not only on Good Friday and when taking communion, but hopefully everyday.  I sometimes  forget though how costly His sacrifice was.  It was not only physical pain that Jesus endured but the incredible pain of separation from the Father.  It was the first time in all of eternity that God turned away from His Son.  And it was because of my sin.  Jesus suffered that separation from God so I would not have to.  His sacrifice is proof positive of His love for me!  Every time I think on it I am overwhelmed with gratitude and a desire to make His name known!

Lord, remind me of Your sacrifice every day.

 


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Walking Partners

Scripture for Today: Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

These look like unlikely walking partners!  But apparently, they don’t know that!  Walking is great exercise but with a partner it can enrich the experience.  There are digital platforms that connect people.  The People Walker is one that provides safe reliable walking partners for a fee.  They advertise that with a partner, it becomes more than just a mere walk.  There is conversation, accountability, motivation, exploration, sightseeing and new experiences!

Today’s well-known verse simplifies what the Lord requires of us.  It simplifies but it is not simple!  His standard for what is truly good and necessary is to always live a life that is just and to love and show mercy.  The life of a believer is a lifelong journey walking humbly with God.  Walking with God humbly would be to stay by His side, allowing Him to set the pace and direction.  It is also more than a mere walk, providing conversation, accountability, motivation, exploration, sightseeing and new experiences!

There is no possibility of me acting justly or loving mercy were it not for my Walking Partner.  His presence and power give me the desire and the ability to do what He asks of me (Phil. 2:13).  Walking with Him keeps me out of a whole mess of trouble, be it unnecessary detours or tripping over rocks.  He keeps me in that path of righteousness.  But He keeps me there by His very presence at my side.  And because He sets the pace, He knows when I need to slow down and rest.  And when the path becomes difficult, He is there to get me through.

Thank you Lord, for walking with me.


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Deepfake Technology

Scripture for Today:  I John 4:1  “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Imagine seeing your face on social media saying something with your voice that you have never said!  This kind of video manipulation is called “deepfake technology.”  The term refers to videos that use artificial intelligence technology, superimposing multiple images.  The result makes people think you said or did something you did not!  There are subtle signs that give it away such as unrealistic blinking and facial movement.

Today’s verse encourages believers to take a closer look at those claiming to be prophets of God.  False prophets can look authentic and even use Scripture, but they do not speak for God.  There are several tests that reveal whether a prophet is false.  A false prophet denies the deity of Jesus (I John 4:2-3).  He is false when he says he knows God but does not obey God’s commands (I John 2:4).  A true prophet will be one that obeys God’s Word.  His life will match his words.  And the false prophet will not teach God’s truth but his own version of it.  None of these tests have anything to do with their apparent success in the world, the size of their audience or even the miracles performed.

I am so grateful to know the Source of truth (John 14:6).  But that does not mean that I cannot be fooled.  When I rely on my own flawed reasoning or rationale, I can get myself into trouble.  It is His Spirit that guides me into truth through His Word (John 16:13).  The more I know and meditate on His truth the more easily I will be able to spot a fake!

Lord, keep me far from anything false.