Devotions By Jan


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Unfair!

Scripture for Today:  Matthew 20:15 “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous.”

Whether it is pizza, cake or pie it is important to cut those pieces evenly!  Those who get the larger pieces feel special but the one with that skinny piece may feel a bit slighted.  If my hostess is the one doing the paying, the cutting and the serving I certainly cannot say anything.  But I may be thinking, “It isn’t fair.”

Today’s verse comes from a parable Jesus told about workers who had come in early in the day.  They had made a contract with their employer to work for a certain sum of money.  Then at the very last hour of the day a second group begins work and they are paid the same amount.  Understandably, the first group was unhappy.  It was  unfair.  The employer reminds these disgruntled workers it is his money and he can be generous if he chooses.

It is not uncommon to have the same thoughts about God.  It seems there are times He is generous with someone so much less deserving than ourselves.  Perhaps we have worked harder and longer and feel we should be compensated differently.  Rather than rejoice at the generous blessings given to another, we grumble that we deserve more.  It is just unfair.

I am so glad God does not listen to this.  If I got what was fair I would be completely lost.  The wages of my sin is death (Romans 6:23) and I cannot say I deserve anything else.  Eternal life is unfair as I have not earned it.  I am so thankful that He gives me His mercy and not what is fair.

Thank you Lord, that Your grace is so much better than fair!

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Candy Canes

Scripture for Today: John 10:11 “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

There are lots of legends and stories surrounding the origins of the candy cane.  One of those stories says that a choirmaster in 1670 gave sugar sticks to his young choir boys to keep them quiet during a lengthy church service.  It is said that he shaped them to resemble a staff so as to remind them of the shepherds visiting the baby Jesus.  It is more likely that candy sticks were straight at that time, but it is a nice story.

Today’s verse is a declaration of Jesus about who He is.  It seems strange that He would identify Himself so closely with shepherds as they were considered lower class citizens on the fringe of society.  Yet, “God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:11) and we are in desperate need of a Shepherd to meet all of our needs and to lead us!  Not only does this Shepherd do all of this, but He is good.  Everything He does is good whether it be keeping us from danger or correcting us with His rod and staff.  But the biggest proof of His goodness and love is the laying down of His life for us, His sheep.

How appropriate then, that the angels announced Christ’s birth to those shepherds!  They were the first to hear the news!  They were the first to bow down and worship Jesus.  And they were the first to spread that news, glorifying and praising God! (Luke 2:8-20)

And I have the same privilege!  I may not be the first but I am just as privileged to know and love that Good good Shepherd.  He has laid down HIs life for this silly sheep and I am forever grateful!

Thank you Lord, that You came for me!

 


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Gingerbread House

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

I have seen lots of gingerbread house creations over the years, including those of my grandsons.  But I have never seen such attention to detail as these houses on display at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Napa Valley.  It took lots of self control on the part of my husband to not indulge in just one roof tile.  That is because not only are they elaborately constructed, but they were done by budding chefs, making them delicious too!

Today’s verse describes the wise woman as someone who knows how to build her own house.  By contrast, the foolish woman will tear hers down.  It is in the power of the woman to do either.  So much of a family’s emotional health and well-being are dependent on the wife and mother.  She has the potential to build up the members of her household with words of love, acceptance and encouragement.  What comes out of her mouth is to build others up according to their needs (Eph. 4:22).  The home where this is true is a safe and peaceful place.

It is a sobering thought to realize the potential of my words.  I do not always see the damage I am doing to the walls and floors with my complaints and negativity.  There may be tiles missing from my roof as a result of my criticism and nagging.  It is a daily challenge to bite my tongue.  But I have seen too the benefits when the Lord answers my prayers to “set a guard over my mouth.” (Psalm 141:3).  It is only with His help that I can be that wise woman with a house still standing!

Lord, help me control my mouth today.


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Mulled Spiced Drinks

Scripture for Today: Philippians 4:8 “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” 

Some smells transport me back in time.  This is one of them.  Every outdoor Christmas Market in our area of France sold hot spiced wine or hot spiced apple juice.   The smell of it would waft up and down the rows of stands.  People would wrap their frozen fingers around that mug for warmth.  And for those indulging in the alcohol version, the warmth radiated within as well.  Those spices of allspice, cloves, cinnamon, orange zest, ginger and anise would be mulled for hours, the flavors intermingling.  The result was pure delight!

Today’s verse encourages the believer to think about a list of things that are excellent or praiseworthy.  Just as a variety of spices are mulled and mixed over time, so we too are to reflect, ponder or ruminate over the truth.  Truth is the starting point for all of our thoughts.  And when we start there, we find ourselves thinking of all the rest.  The truth is noble and right.  The truth is pure, lovely and admirable.  The Truth is Jesus Himself (John 14:6).

My thoughts can be all over the place.  So many times, it takes a conscious effort to reign them in and focus on truth.  So many things clamor for my attention.  So many things distract me and often those very things are the opposite of this list!  But there is a wonderful result when I mull over truth.  I will experience the peace of God guarding my heart and mind (verse 7) and the peace of God will be with me (verse 9).

Thank you Lord, that thinking on You is worth the effort.

 


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Coconut Oil

Scripture for Today: Hebrews 1:9  “You have loved righteousness and You have hated lawlessness.  Therefore God, even Your God has anointed You with the oil of exultant joy and gladness above and beyond Your companions.”

When I smell coconut oil, it transports me back to younger days at the beach!  I associate the smell with a tropical vacation and in fact, one of its claims is that it reduces stress.  Coconut oil is called, “the wonder oil.”  I can understand calling it that if even half its claims are true.  Coconut oil is purported to be good for skin and hair.  It is supposed to improve digestion and increase immunity.  They say it speeds up healing, keeps organs healthy and boosts heart health.  I have no idea how much of this is actually true.  I just know I like the smell and taste!

Today’s verse refers to Jesus Christ.  In fact the name, “Christ” in Greek means, “anointed one.”  God set apart and anointed Jesus in giving Him a position that is above any other.  He not only is worthy of this distinction, but this anointing oil comes with joy and gladness.  Despite awful betrayal and death, Jesus experienced exultant joy and gladness.

I, too, am anointed with oil!  Psalm 23:5 says that the Lord does this for His own.  I am set apart for Him.  The oil also represents His Holy Spirit, who testifies with my spirit that I belong to Him (Romans 8:16).  This oil is surely the “wonder oil!”  His Holy Spirt is the Source of joy in my life as part of His fruit (Gal. 5:22).  And like Christ, I can experience joy and gladness despite my circumstances.  His joy is deep down in my heart where nothing can touch it!

Lord, I want to feel that joy today!


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Portion Control

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

Apparently, Americans are not the only ones who struggle with portion control!  The Polish cuisine is a hearty one as this Zapiekanka sandwich demonstrates, unless of course it serves several.  This baguette-style sandwich is considered Polish fast food and rivals most of our large sandwiches.  I was taught growing up to finish everything on my plate.  But the problem is that today, that plate groans with the weight of portions that have grown bigger and bigger, and the control has to come from me!

In today’s verse, there is no need to think about portion control!  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.  But of course, I hunger and thirst again.  However, I do not want my life to be characterized by 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)

Fill me up with You, Lord.


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The Pomegranate

Scripture for Today:  Colossians 1:11 “being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”

As a child I tired quickly, trying to pop out those pomegranate seeds one by one!  I would get more of the staining juice on my hands than in my mouth!  Unlike other fruits, it is the seeds or “arils” that are eaten.  But de-seeding a pomegranate takes either some know-how, some patience, or both.  However it is done, this sweet red fruit is well worth the effort.  I love them sprinkled on a salad or made into a glaze over roasted duck!

Today’s verse indicates from where patience comes.  It is through the strength and power of the Lord that we can live with a patient attitude.  It is His “glorious might” that makes it possible to have great endurance and patience.  To live a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way (verse 10) will take patience and endurance.  But thankfully, we do not muster it up on our own.  It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us (Gal. 5: 22).  It is also the result of having our faith tested and seeing the Lord come through for us. (James 1:3)

For me, the biggest test of patience is waiting for the Lord to answer my prayers, my way.  His timing is rarely my own.  And I tend to treat my prayers as “unanswered” if I don’t receive the answer desired!  How many times I have worried, full of anxiety while awaiting His response!  But being impatient serves no purpose and certainly does not obligate Him to hurry!  I know He is pleased when I wait for His answers and promises with a patient calm heart.

Lord, help me to patiently trust You more.