Devotions By Jan


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Vanilla? Really??

Scripture for Today: Job 34:3-4 “For the ear tests words as the tongue tests food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.”

Today is National Vanilla Ice Cream day! No one knows the creator and origin for this day but it appears every July which is National Ice Cream month. I am in the camp of those who prefer chocolate, part of the 17% of Americans (according to a poll from YouGov.). Those preferring vanilla number 15%. So maybe the majority is right this time! I will not even touch vanilla unless there is chocolate somehow mixed in. For me, chocolate is easily what is right and good!

Today’s verse records the advice of one of Job’s three friends about what is right and good. Elihu was eager to help Job discover the reason for his troubles. He had a lot to say but it was off the mark. Certainly, we are to test what we hear and listen with discernment. Just as we taste food to see if it has a pleasing flavor, so we “taste” what we hear to decide if it rings true. The problem is that we all have differing taste buds. What seems right and good to one can seem wrong and sour to another. Our subjectivity gets in the way of finding absolute truth.

Thankfully, we do not have to discern for ourselves what is right and good. It is not up to us to come to some sort of consensus. God’s Law goes beyond individual opinion or cultural norms. God’s Law does not change with the times. Surveys and votes do not change what God has put in place. And not only do God’s words taste good, but they are good for me!

Help me Lord, to discern what is truly right and good.


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Artisan Soap

Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 5:25-26  “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the Word,”

I love going to our open market in Guebwiller, France and smelling the homemade soaps for sale! There is such variety it is difficult to choose. My favorite is lavender because I like to think its fragrance is soothing. But there are all kinds available, including lemon verbena, almond, honey and so many more. Some are made with olive oil, others with shea butter. There are soaps that have crushed flowers or herbs in them. But one thing they all have in common is that they make one clean, even the black soap!

Today’s verse describes how Christ sets apart and cleanses those who are part of His church, also called His Bride. His goal is to create in us glorious splendor! One day we will be holy and faultless, without spot or wrinkle. This soapy cleaning process starts with His sacrifice on the cross. The believer is washed in His blood and his sins are forgiven forever. Those who come to Christ in faith are washed whiter than snow and it is all His doing. 

I have had my bath but my feet still get dirty (John 13:1-10). That is when I need “spiritual soap.” And that cleansing comes from God’s Word. The Lord uses His Word to signal to me what needs to be put right in my life. It does not happen every time, but very often. When I am in His Word I am motivated to to obey Him. He uses the written Word to speak to me and our relationship becomes closer. I come away from these encounters squeaky clean and smelling good!

Thank you Lord, that one day, soap will no longer be needed!


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Dog Obedience School

Scripture for Today: Deuteronomy 9:23b “…But you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. You did not trust Him or obey Him.”

This dog must have passed his dog obedience course with flying colors! Would that dogs obeyed their owners to this extent! I am not too sure I would enjoy grasping that wet bag handle though! Typically, the dog obedience school trains dogs to come when called, stay, sit, lie down and walk nicely on a leash. That last behavior is especially important. No one wants a dog lunging or pulling on a leash. A dog who walks attentively next to his owner is less likely to become fearful in new situations.

Today’s verse describes the disobedience of the Israelites when commanded to take the land the Lord had given them. God had promised victory had they gone up and taken possession. But they were fearful. To obey this command would involve trusting God’s promise. It would seem risky to take Him at His word. So instead of trusting and obeying, they chose to rebel.

Obeying God’s commands is not always easy or comfortable. I usually have an idea that seems better and with less bother. But doing things my way is really saying that I do not trust Him. I do not trust Him to work things out for my benefit. Can I really trust Him to meet every need? Can I truly trust Him to be enough? Will He really come through? There is no question of me obeying Him if I do not trust Him. My obedience comes out of a place of absolute trust.  Like the old hymn says, “What He says we will do, where He sends we will go; never fear, only trust and obey.”

Lord, help me to trust You more today than I did yesterday.

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2015)


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Our Fig Tree

Scripture for Today: James 3:12 “My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

Growing up, the fig tree in our back year was my Dad’s pride and joy! The whole family enjoyed those green figs and the abundant shade the large leaves provided. In fact, my Dad built a round bench encircling the large trunk.  Every year, he would lay out those figs for drying and we could enjoy the dried fruit all year long. In all those years, that tree faithfully bore its figs. Never once did it surprise us with olives!

Today’s verse describes a ludicrous scenario. How ever could a fig tree produce olives, a grapevine produce figs or a salt spring produce fresh water? It is impossible, of course. These images teach us that what comes out of the mouth reveals what is in the heart. What comes out of the mouth is consistent with what is thought and felt inside.  Eventually, our hidden nature is revealed by the words we speak.

No one can tame the tongue nor can anyone make themselves new inside. It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit that we can hope to change. When cursing and praise both come out of my mouth, it is a clear signal that I need to do business with the Lord. “…This should not be.” (verse 10) but unfortunately, it is. I can blame my words on stress or fatigue but what I really need to do is just confess it. I do not want to disappoint or grieve the Holy Spirit. And He graciously offers His self-control so that my life consistently bears fruit that honors Him.

Lord, control my tongue today to consistently honor You.

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2015)


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Bread-Loving Cat

Proverbs 6:25-26a “Do not lust in your heart for her beauty, and do not let her captivate you with her alluring eyes.  For on account of a prostitute one is brought down to a loaf of bread…”

photo credit: Julie Corsi at https://www.flickr.com/photos/corsinet/6807535513

This is not our cat, Tiger, but it very well could be. We were always careful to close the kitchen door when any food was left out. Tiger was not very discriminating in his tastes and would try just about any “people food!” As long as it was forbidden, it was somehow worth the effort to climb up on the counters or table and brave our displeasure.  Of course our cat, being French, was spoiled with the availability of baguette!

Today’s verse uses the image of a loaf of bread to describe the impoverished state of a man who visits a prostitute.  He not only wastes his money on something that does not really satisfy, but he also cheapens what is meant to be beautiful within the commitment of marriage. In allowing himself to be captivated by lust, he impoverishes his very soul. What could be romantic, noble and satisfying is reduced to something as ordinary and common as a piece of bread.

The warning in this verse can also apply to what goes on in my heart and mind. Jesus puts the standard very high teaching that secret lust is as serious as actual sexual sin (Matt. 5:28). The standard is put so high in order to safeguard what is meant to be beautiful. Rather than think of God’s Law as restrictive, I see His way as being what is most satisfying. Sexual immorality impoverishes whereas following God’s plan enriches and deepens a relationship.

Lord, protect my heart and mind from cheapening what You mean to be rich and satisfying.

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2014)