Devotions By Jan

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Scripture for Today: I Samuel 16:7b “…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”

For a fruit that is so versatile, nutritious and easy to grow in a tropical climate, the jackfruit has an off-putting appearance! The skin of what is considered to be the largest fruit in the world is thick and spiny, making it difficult to open. A ripe unopened jackfruit is brown and has a strong unpleasant odor. But the pulp of an opened jackfruit is bright yellow or orange and smells sweet! Getting past that outside is rewarded with pleasant color and taste!

Today’s verse draws a sharp contrast between what man sees and what the Lord regards as important. The Lord had commissioned Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel. First, Samuel considered each of Jesse’s sons. But their birth order, their height and their appearance were non factors. It was the youngest son that had the lowly job of tending sheep who had the heart God could use.

I tend to assign value to a person based on outward appearance. I hate it when people do so with me and yet I find I do it all the time! When all is well-groomed on the outside, I assume the inside is in order as well. But wickedness can have a very appealing veneer of respectability. The flip side is true as well and I can completely miss a beautiful friendship by an off-putting image. Christ Himself had no beauty or majesty to attract us; nothing in His appearance would cause us to desire Him (Isaiah 53:2). And yet, no one who ever walked this earth was more beautiful.

Lord, make me beautiful on the inside.

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National Spinach Day

Scripture for Today: Ephesians 3:16 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, “

Vegans and vegetarians rejoice! Today is National Spinach Day! It is not one of my favorite vegetables, but sprinkled on a cheese pizza or hidden in a fruit smoothie, I will enjoy it! At odds with this day is the saying, “If it’s green it’s trouble, if it’s fried get double!!” Growing up, I was promised that spinach would make me strong as it did for the cartoon character, Popeye.

Today’s verse describes another kind of strength; that of the inner person. It is a strength unseen and given by the Spirit of God. It is His strength that He shares out of His limitless supply. And it is a strength that helps us stand firm in our faith. I have always wondered why “strength” or “power” is not listed among the fruit or evidence of His Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23. However, it is available through prayer as seen by this prayer of Paul’s for the Ephesians. We can pray for strength for ourselves as well as for others.

When I pray for His strength to be developed in me, He is gracious. He grants it because He is merciful, not because I deserve it. He gives me strength to stand firm in my faith when circumstances want to weaken it. He gives me strength to say “no” to temptation. He gives me strength to say and do the right things when it would be so much easier to compromise. I know it comes from Him as I am very aware of my weaknesses. Thankfully, God can even use my weaknesses to showcase His strength! (II Cor. 12:9) But He does want me to realize my need and ask Him. 

Lord, how I need Your strength today!

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Scripture for Today: Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Do you sometimes eat too much junk food, “by accident?” Mindless snacking can lead to the newly coined term, “snackcident.” This term presupposes regret after the fact. When the tummy starts to protest is not the time to be checking the ingredient list or fat content! Armed with information beforehand, a snackcident is much less likely to happen. However, there are always those social gatherings where it is just much easier to indulge and brave the possibility of the dreaded snackcident!

There is hunger and thirst in today’s verse for something much more satisfying than snacks, regardless of their ingredients.  Those that hunger and thirst for righteousness will be full and satisfied.  With His righteousness we do not pine for something more.  There is no feeling of missing out on something better.  A righteous life is the best kind of life.  Doing the right thing, following His way, and experiencing right standing with our Creator gives a sense of well-being that is complete.  No other kind of life can be quite as full or satisfying!

My problem is that I hunger and thirst for other things, good things, that give only temporary satisfaction.  And of course, I hunger and thirst again.  But I do not want my life to be characterized by always wanting.  I desperately want to experience that contentment and satisfaction He offers.  If I make the Lord the object of my longing, He will satisfy me.  He has promised life to the full (John 10:10).  This “blessedness” means that I can overflow with hope (Rom. 15:13) and with joy (II Cor. 8:2).  I want to be able to say with the Psalmist, “my cup overflows!” (Psalm 23:5)

Lord, satisfy me with Yourself.

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Turkey Talk-Line

Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Our turkey traditions have confounded the less experienced cook giving rise to the Butterball’s Turkey Talk-Line, begun in 1981.  Most questions have to do with thawing procedures and cooking times.  But some problems are unique, as was mine my first year in France. The fresh turkey not only had plenty of small feathers but was completely covered with small blackhead-looking spots. After wasting time trying to squeeze them, I finally just lifted and snipped them out with scissors, giving it an ugly patchwork look!

Today’s verse includes the word, “thanksgiving.”  Our tendency is to be anxious when confronted with difficulties. Whether our anxiety is understandable or completely manufactured by an over active imagination, there is only one thing to do with it; give it to the Lord in prayer.  And regardless of the size or importance of our situation, our Heavenly Father does not want us to feel anxiety. When we give our requests to the Lord, He asks that we do it with thanksgiving. 

I want to thank Him in advance for His answer, even if it is not the response I want or expect.  Thanking Him before His response shows Him that I trust His power to act, His wisdom to know the right outcome, and His goodness to do what is best. Today especially I thank Him for all His blessings.  Everything that is good in my life is because of His grace.  But He also wants me to thank Him for the answers that are still pending.  I want to include praise in my thanksgiving for His good plan and future blessings yet unseen!

Thank you Lord, for how You will answer!

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Rocky Road Ice Cream

Scripture for Today: Proverbs 4:26-27 “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or to the left; keep your foot from evil.”

It was 1929 and the country was in the midst of the Great Depression when this ice cream was invented. This innovative flavor was thought to have originated with William Dryer. One day he used his wife’s sewing scissors to cut up walnuts and marshmallows to add to his chocolate ice cream. He gave it the name , “Rocky Road,” as the financial landscape was so bleak.

Today’s verse tells us to be thoughtful about what path we choose. We do this by being steadfast and resolute to follow a path of righteousness. We are warned not to turn off this path to the right or to the left. It may be tempting to turn off our narrow path on to a wider one. We may feel that another path has fewer rocks or obstacles. It would be tempting to change paths to one that goes downhill rather than uphill. But the way of the wicked leads only to destruction. (Psalm 1:6)

It is more effort to follow a rocky road. Living a life following God’s commandments will not always be smooth. It is challenging and requires steadfast commitment to Him as the other path choices can seem easier. But His way leads to life. He knows when to lead me to still waters and green pastures. He knows when to restore my soul so I can keep going. His presence and help keep me from falling into a trap of compromise. I would rather have a rocky road with Him than a smooth easy road without Him!

Lord, keep me steadfast and determined to obey.