Today’s Devotional | February 24 | ACTS 20:1-12 | Which Day?

Today's Devotional

Memory Verse
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight (Acts 20:7).

Most Christians worship on Sunday. Some look upon this practice as sin. Charges are often hurled at earnest believers, labeling them as “sun worshippers” or even the recipients of the “mark of the beast.” Some who worship on Sunday are insecure as to the proper day and are easy prey for Sabbath-keeping groups whose Saturday worship may be but a tiny part of a whole system of legalism.

The honest Bible student must face the fact that Saturday is the Sabbath. But sabbath- keeping was part of the Law that was nailed to the cross: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of any holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2:14-17).

The first day of the week then became the day or worship for the New Testament Church. NO WONDER! This was the day of our Lord’s resurrection (see John 20:1) signaling complete victory.

Perhaps the spiritual meaning of the first day of the week is the most important reason for observing it as the day of worship. The Sabbath pictures the Law perfectly. Under law, one worked and then rested. The first day of the week pictures grace. Under grace, we enter into our rest in Christ and then we work to serve Him.

Daily Devotionals


As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God…”

Psalm 42:1, 2

 “Soul Food” is a daily devotional written by Dr. Jack Van Impe that brings God’s Word to life.

“The Tender Touch” is a weekly devotional from the heart of Dr. Rexella Van Impe.

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    February 23 | ACTS 22:1-21 | Hurting Jesus
    Memory Verse
    And l answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest (Acts 22:8).

    Paul must have told his conversion story many times. Five of these occasions are recorded for us in the Bible. He never tired of calling to mind what had happened to him on the road to Damascus. Here he is giving his testimony to a great company of people gathered in the court of the Temple in Jerusalem as he defends himself against accusations being made about him.

    Most are familiar with the ingredients in Paul’s conversion: there was the light from heaven and the voice of Jesus questioning him about his persecutions and then, of course, his response. Imagine how surprised the persecutor of Christians must have been when he discovered he had been persecuting Jesus...that is what the voice said, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.”

    But how could that be?

    Paul had never personally hurt Jesus...only those who professed to know Him as Saviour.

    Now an important truth surfaces: Jesus feels all the hurts of His people. To persecute a Christian is to persecute Jesus.

    Have you wondered just how close Jesus is? Consider this revelation given to Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus. He not onlyknows every wound you experience but He feels it as well...even the one you are grieving over today.

    Is your heart heavy? He feels the ache...the lump in your throat. You do not carry your burdens alone. And you do not need to seek revenge. Those who have injured you have inflicted pain on Jesus and they must face Him one day in judgment.

    Be kind to other Christians. Don’t be guilty of hurting Jesus.

    February 22 | PHILIPPIANS 3:15-21 | Citizens of Heaven
    Memory Verse
    For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20).

    This world is not our home.

    We’re just passing through.

    Strangers, Peter called us. Pilgrims. No wonder we don’t always fit in. We’re citizens of another country. Foreigners.

    Our language is different, regardless of the mother tongue. Every earthly language has its carnal and spiritual tongue. For the vast majority of earth’s citizens everything centers in materialism and is punctuated with profanity. Using that same language there is a minority who speak the language of heaven, a divine dialect centered in Jesus and punctuated with praise.

    The aim of heaven’s citizens should be different. While others hoard earth’s trinkets and struggle to own as much as possible of this troubled planet, the citizen of heaven remembers that there is a better land in which to invest. He is driven by a statement of his Lord that contrasted the owning of the whole world to the value of one soul.

    Heaven’s citizens are good citizens of earth. They obey the laws, treat their neighbors with respect and kindness and work for thegood of the nation in which they live. They take part in worthwhile projects and bring a positive influence in any community. Still, they are not overwhelmed by earth’s problems, knowing that God is working out His purpose and that at the proper time, their Lord will come.

    While traveling through this world, heaven’s citizens are not immune to earth’s afflictions. They catch cold, get the measles and sometimes have headaches. They even experience death because they are members of Adam’s race. But they know that life’s end can only take them home. And that is where they really long to be... heaven!

    February 21 | PHILIPPIANS 2:1-11 | Lord of All
    Memory Verse
    That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth (Philippians 2:10).

    Leonardo da Vinci took a friend to see and criticize his masterpiece, “The Last Supper.” Upon seeing the great work, the friend remarked, “The most striking thing in the picture is the cup!” The artist immediately took his brush and wiped out the cup, saying: “Nothing in my painting shall attract more attention than the face of my Master!”

    The earth has known Jesus in His humiliation. The record of His life and ministry here is one of tears and the cross. His resurrection guaranteed the truth of His words and His deity. Still millions turn Him away even today.

    He has ascended to heaven to prepare places for His own and to intercede for us. We shall go to be with Him at the end of life’s journey. One day He will return to take His bride to heaven. Those living at that time will not die but will be translated in a moment, caught away to heaven.

    At the end of the Tribulation period, Jesus will come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Then his full authority will be known and recognized by all. Every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue will confess that he is Lord of all. Some allow Him to be Lord of all now. They are headed for heaven but have a taste of heaven on earth. F. B. Meyer cried, “Oh for more of heaven on the way to heaven!” Then he explained that this is a prayer we can almost answer for ourselves by seeking more of Him who is Himself the heaven of heaven — the Lord Jesus.

    Make Him Lord of all!

    February 20 | II CORINTHIANS 5:1-10 | Present with the Lord
    Memory Verse
    We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8).

    Some doubt that Christians go to heaven when they die. They are unlike Paul. He was confident.

    Some think that only 144,000 will make that blessed shore. Paul knew of no such limits on God’s grace.

    Some think that the soul and body are one and that both will perish in the grave. Paul looked forward to a day when he would no longer be limited by the flesh. He anticipated being “absent from the body.”

    Some think the saints will sleep in the earth until the coming of the Lord and that they will not see Him until the resurrection. Paul never entertained such thoughts. He knew that the moment he was absent from the body he would be present with the Lord. He was confident.

    Some think that Christians will bypass heaven altogether and only reign with Christ on earth. Paul rejected such conclusions, knowing that at death he would be with Jesus — and he knew that Jesus was no longer in the grave. At the end of life he was homesick for heaven.

    No wonder Paul could write: “O death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55). He was confident.

    If you have been entertaining doubts about heaven being the home of the saved, put those doubts out of your mind and be confident.

    If you are saved and have been concerned about a long stay in the grave, erase those faulty thoughts and enjoy the hope of heaven. Be confident.

    Life is short at it’s longest but death is not the end for one who has been born again.

    I’m confident!

    February 19 | PHILIPPIANS 1:19-30 | Far Better
    Memory Verse
    For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better (Philippians 1:2).

    An old Scotch preacher had struggled all through his ministry to help those who were facing death. He had difficulty in this part of his ministry because he had never himself conquered the fear of death.

    Near the end of his life, he moved to another house. When all the furniture had been removed from the old home, he lingered there. His children had been born there. He had prepared hundreds of sermons within those walls. It was hard for him to leave. A thousand memories moved through his mind.

    Finally, one of those helping in the move came to him and said, “Everything’s gone; and the new house is better than this one.”

    It was just what he needed. The sermon in that statement was unforgettable. He understood Paul’s desire to depart and be with Christ because heaven is far better. The years that remained found him capable in aiding others to prepare for heaven.

    There are many wonderful sights on earth... but heaven is far better.

    Fond friendships are formed on earth... but heaven is far better.

    Dream homes rise out of the minds of architects and under the sound of the builder’s hammer... but heaven is far better.

    Sweet music is played by gifted people and it echoes in great auditoriums produced by famous orchestras... but heaven is far better.

    And for the Christian, heaven is home!

    February 18 | ACTS 17:1-12 | Searching the Scriptures
    Memory Verse
    These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11).

    Paul commended the Bereans because they searched the Scriptures daily. The Bible deserves our daily attention because it is the verbally inspired Word of God. Some doubt this foundational fact; yet without a dependable Bible, Christianity would crumble. Thankfully, there is ample evidence of inspiration.

    The unity and harmony of this divine library is miraculous. Taking over 1,600 years in the writing, it stands without flaw or contradiction. It dwarfs all other literature, and withstands the test of the ages.

    Fulfilled prophecy is another strong witness. Facts about nations, empires, and moral and social conditions were foretold centuries before their occurrence. Details about the incarnation of Christ were given with pinpoint accuracy.

    The Bible also contains statements of scientific truth. Revelations concerning the suspension of the earth in space (see Job 26:7) and the roundness of the earth (see Isaiah 40:22) are just a few of its teachings that awaited acceptance while men struggled with now-discarded theories about our world.

    Perhaps most convincing is the Saviour’s guarantee of the authority of the Scriptures. Jesus picked the most difficult portions of the Old Testament and associated himself with them. Creation, the flood, the destruction of Sodom, and the experience of Jonah, are all declared true by Jesus Christ.

    Search the Scriptures every day.

    February 17 | II CORINTHIANS 12:1-12 | The Third Heaven
    Memory Verse
    I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell, or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth,) such an one caught up to the third heaven (II Corinthians 12:2).

    What is the “third heaven?” It is the abode of God.

    The first heaven is the atmospheric heaven that surrounds the earth. The second heaven is where the planets and stars are located. The third heaven is the focal point of the universe and the place to which Christians go when they die.

    Paul was stoned at Lystra and it is generally thought that he died during this stoning and then was resurrected. See Acts 14:19-20. Approximately fourteen years later he wrote the words of our text. Most feel he was looking back to that experience. Answering a question concerning this in his book “Bible Questions Answered,” Dr. William Pettingill said: “...if we believe, as seems very probable, that Paul is discussing his Lystra Experience in II Corinthians 12:1-10 we must leave the question unanswered as to whether he actually died under the Lystra stoning, for he says he cannot tell whether or not he was in the body. Comparing the dates between Acts 14 and II Corinthians 12 you will find that just about ‘fourteen years’ elapsed between them. (See II Corinthians 12:2.) Whether the stoning was actually to death or not, it is certain his recovering so quickly and so fully was miraculous, and that the infirmity of the flesh resulting from the experience, was given him only that he might not be ruined in his testimony by undue exaltation.”

    Reflecting on the experience, Paul said that paradise was unspeakable. He couldn’t find words to describe it. Some future for Christians!

    We’re headed for the “third heaven!”

    Week 8 | What’s In a Look?

    The instant I saw her I knew she was special.

    She was only about 5 years old, and her smile
    simply captivated my heart. Something about her
    moved me and compelled my attention.

    It was the closing night of our crusade in
    Roanoke, Virginia, and after the service Dr. Van
    Impe and I were sitting on the edge of the
    platform, shaking hands and visiting with people.

    A young couple came over to me and smiled up
    at me so sweetly. There was such a wonderful
    expression of the Lord on their faces. I leaned over
    and shook their hands and greeted them, but they
    didn't say a word.

    That's when I saw her -- their beautiful little
    daughter with a cherub face and an angelic smile
    that wrapped itself around my heart. I motioned
    to her with my finger and she came up on the
    platform and stood in front of me.

    As I looked into her eyes, suddenly I realized
    that she couldn't talk -- both she and her parents
    were without speech. So with the little bit of sign
    language I know, I asked, "Do you love Jesus?"

    And she signed back -- not only with her hands,
    but with her eyes and her heart -- "YES... OH, YES!"

    I was so moved... so overcome with emotion
    that I also was mute for a long moment. There was
    something in her look that spoke volumes.
    Somehow I realized that this child knew the Lord
    in a way that few people ever will. She had an inner
    relationship with Christ so real and powerful that
    His radiance glowed in her face and His joy flowed
    out of her tender young life to touch everyone
    around her.

    I looked down into the faces of the child's
    mother and father and saw their love and pride.
    And I also saw that they had that special look. One
    glance... and people could tell they had been with Jesus.

    Because I couldn't understand the meaning of
    all their signs, I was unable to converse very much
    with them. But I had no doubt that they were able
    to speak to Christ, perhaps in a much deeper and
    more meaningful way than most of us do.

    And they had taught their daughter well, and
    had led her to know Jesus. Somehow I was
    absolutely convinced that she had been on Christ's lap
    often, even as little ones were centuries ago.

    Do you have "the look"?

    What do people see when they look at us? Can
    they tell at a glance that we've been in the
    presence of the Lord?

    I love the beautiful Old Testament account of
    how Moses went up to the mountain to meet with
    God and to receive the Ten Commandments.
    When he came back down into the camp of the
    Israelites, his countenance shone -- the light that
    emanated from his being told all the people at a
    glance that he had been with Jehovah God.

    Some time ago, a local television program
    featured a man who was talking about how to have
    the look that was right for you. He was stressing
    the importance of choosing just the right
    makeup, hairstyle, clothing colors, etc.

    I believe that this is important. But as I watched
    that program, I was struck with the thought that
    even if we make the outer person look his or her
    best, without the abiding presence of the Lord
    within, we can never achieve the look that sets us
    apart from the world.

    What does it matter if people can look at me and
    say, "My, doesn't she have an up-to-date look --
    her make-up, her hair, her clothes, her grooming
    are just impeccable!" If they do not see beyond the
    outer shell, how real is my Christian testimony?

    For all believers, one of our greatest joys should
    be having people see Jesus in us -- sensing that
    there is something different about us without our
    saying a word.

    The look of love

    Not long ago, I had a beautiful, blessed
    experience. I was trying on a dress in a shop when the
    girl who was assisting me began to talk, and in
    minutes she was pouring out her heart to me. She
    told me her problems and asked for advice and
    help. After I counseled with her concerning her
    personal need, I proceeded to explain God's plan
    of salvation and her greatest need of all -- to
    accept Christ. So we were praying, and she
    opened her heart to the Lord. Later, when I asked
    why she came to me for help, she said, "There was
    just something about you -- a certain look that
    touched me."

    What's in a look?

    God help us to be so filled with His presence and
    so overflowing with His love that we have our
    Lord's look -- the look of love.

    Week 7 | Ashes

    I've always felt that ashes were so worthless. If
    you've ever looked into a fireplace after the fire has
    gone out and the last embers are cold, what you
    see is so empty and useless.

    A few years ago when a disastrous fire struck
    the company where the videotape masters of all
    the past Jack Van Impe television programs were
    stored, I felt so helpless. It was devastating to
    think that so many months and years of hard
    work had gone up in smoke -- at least 2.8 million
    dollars' worth of production value was lost forever.

    All that was left was... ashes!

    But no -- suddenly the Lord let me see that the
    value of those TV programs was not encased in a
    few reels of videotape. Their real worth is
    measured in the number of souls won to Christ -- the
    decisions and rededications... those comforted and edified.

    The work God wanted those tapes to
    accomplish was done, and no fire could destroy their
    eternal value. Satan might reduce their physical
    form to ashes, but he can never erase the impact of
    their gospel message on the hearts and minds of
    millions of people around the world.

    Mark Video Enterprises was one of the most
    modern facilities in the world. Its vaults were
    supposed to be among the safest, most fireproof
    storage centers available. But they failed.

    And the only thing that will last out of the ash
    pile that was left is what was done for the Lord.

    Tried by fire

    I am reminded of what the Bible teaches about
    that day when we all stand before the Lord. The
    Apostle Paul wrote, and the fire shall try every
    man's work of what sort it is
    (1 Corinthians 3:13).

    If our lives have been invested for God, our
    works will withstand the fire as if made of gold,
    silver, or precious stones. But if our treasures have
    been material things, they will burn up like wood,
    hay, or stubble, leaving only ashes!

    Oh, I want my works to have eternal value on
    that day when I stand before the Master, don't you?

    That's why we must put God's work first in our
    lives and devote our time and energy to winning
    souls to Christ. That's why Dr. Van Impe and I
    implore you to help us carry out the Great
    Commission and produce fruit that remains.

    Perhaps you feel that the fires of adversity have
    already swept across your life and everything
    you've worked for has gone up in smoke. It may be
    that all you can see are the ashes of what might
    have been.

    Well, I have good news for you.

    Jesus came to restore you, to bind up your
    broken heart, to free you from bondage, to give
    you beauty for ashes! (see Isaiah 61:1-3).

    Let His love heal you. Let His Spirit strengthen
    and empower you.

    Let His forgiveness make you over and give you
    a new life. Rise up from the ashes of every failure
    and disappointment that has marred your life and
    begin anew.

    Stand firm upon the foundation of the Lord
    Jesus Christ and begin building a work that will endure.

    Week 6 | Believest Thou This?

    Resting in the Reality of the Resurrection

    Not too far from where I live is a beautiful
    memorial garden where my father is buried. I pass by
    there often, and many times I find myself
    remembering the comforting words of Jesus in the New
    Testament, spoken to a woman who had lost a
    loved one in death.

    I am the resurrection, and the life: he that
    believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall
    he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in
    me shall never die. Believest thou this?

    Because I do believe Christ's promise, I have the
    absolute, unshakable assurance that I will see my
    father again some day. He is going to be
    resurrected! Jesus said so, and He triumphed over
    death nearly 2,000 years ago. Because He lives,
    we shall live also.

    Now, if Jesus had said, "I'm your resurrection
    and life," and hadn't come out of the grave, I
    wouldn't have very much hope that my father is
    going to be resurrected... or that I will be. But our
    Saviour did rise again. HE'S ALIVE!

    My father's homegoing

    My father, Rex Shelton, was so very dear to me.
    He was a man of faith -- he had the assurance of
    his personal salvation. He trusted completely in
    Jesus. So when the time came for him to leave this
    life, mother and all of us children were ready to see
    his suffering end, knowing that he would be
    ushered into the presence of Jesus for all eternity.

    "Go on, Dad. We know you want to go. Go on,
    Dad." These words of love, understanding, and
    comfort were spoken by my brother Bob as our
    father was drawing his last breath of mortal life.
    My two brothers, their darling wives, and my
    precious husband and I had gathered at my mother's
    side from all parts of the country. She had not
    called one of us. Through the drawing power of
    God's Spirit, we had sensed that Dad was ready to
    leave us, and we all wanted to be there.

    How we praise the Lord for those closing days
    and hours with him. We talked together, laughed
    together, cried together, prayed together, and
    loved together. The very presence of God was in
    that hospital room each day and night, and we
    experienced the serenity that He alone can give.
    Oh, how great is our dear Lord to condescend to
    care for our feelings, frustrations, and passions.

    I had felt so helpless as I watched my father
    suffer. We had prayed for a miracle -- for the
    healing of his body. But, as the Lord said "no" to
    Paul when he three times prayed to be healed of
    his infirmity, so God had said "no" to us. Instead,
    He promised a special reward and crown for Dad's
    patience and suffering during those 11 months of
    intense pain. Through it all, Dad never doubted
    God's love, infinite wisdom, and plan for his life.
    He knew Jesus was walking with him every
    moment and that he was not bearing the pain

    "My Lord is waiting!"
       "Rexella, look up there." I had leaned very close
    to my father's side as he pointed to the wall from
    his bed.

    "What is it, Daddy?"

    "I'm walking through the valley of the shadow
    of death."

    With all the compassion and love I had within
    me, I placed my hand on his and asked, "Who is
    waiting for you on the other side?"

    Great peace shone on his face and tears welled
    up into his eyes as he replied, "My Lord... my
    Lord is waiting."

    The valley of the shadow of death is not hurtful
    or painful for a believer. Just as it causes no pain to
    drive through the shadow of a truck on the
    highway, so passing through the shadow of death
    brings but a temporary lack of full light and
    brightness as we approach heaven -- where Jesus
    himself is our light.

    Just hours before Dad left us, he was still in
    perfect control. In fact, his departing thoughts and
    statements have implanted themselves into our
    hearts forever. He prayed over us and shared one
    final time his joy in knowing that we were all there
    to strengthen one another in family communion
    and love.

    Finally, the doctor with whom my father had
    shared his faith and the love of God for seven years
    informed us that Dad would be gone before the
    day ended. The nurses who had tenderly cared for
    him placed a soft, white lambskin under his body
    to ease the excruciating pain and through tears
    expressed their sorrow at losing him. They knew
    Dad well on that floor of the hospital and had come
    to love him.

    Resting on the Lamb

    As we sat around Dad, praying, remembering
    him, loving him, and clinging to the Lord and each
    other for strength, I looked up and beheld my
    father resting on that lambskin. "Oh, look at
    Daddy," I exclaimed. "How symbolic of what is
    occurring. He is resting on the Lamb!"

    At 4:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 24, 1981, Dad
    left us for the home he had reserved as just a
    young boy. He had opened his heart to Jesus
    Christ in an evangelistic meeting and never
    doubted his eternal destiny thereafter.

    Dad's departure into eternity, infinity, and the
    presence of the Lord was profound and sacred to
    each of us as my mother, my brothers, and I held
    his hands and touched his face one last time. How
    privileged I was to personally witness the faith,
    strength, and tranquillity God supplies to His
    children when they pass through the valley of the
    shadow of death. How satisfying it is for me to
    know that one day very soon -- perhaps today -- I
    will see Dad again. He was the one who had taught
    me how to live, and he so beautifully taught me
    how to die.

    Every time I think of Easter and the resurrection
    of Jesus Christ, I think not only of His
    resurrection, but the promise He gave that all those who
    have trusted in Him will be resurrected one day,
    too. If the Word of God will not stand up in our
    times of deepest need, what good is it?

    But it does stand! I know personally, from my
    own experience.

    The truth of Christ's resurrection was sufficient
    for my father. It is sufficient for me. And if you
    have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, it is
    sufficient for you.

    I'm so happy that I have this assurance, and I'd
    like to leave you with this challenging question --


    Week 5 | The Night God

    The ancient Greeks loved the theater. Their
    writers created elaborate stories -- both comedies
    and tragedies -- in the form of plays to be acted out
    in their amphitheaters.

    Greek actors, skilled at playing many roles,
    switched from one character to another by going
    backstage and changing masks. When an actor
    returned to the stage with a new face he became
    another person.

    The Greek word for one of these people of many
    faces was hypokrite -- or hypocrite in English. It
    has come to mean one who acts out a part or
    pretends to be what he is not.

    In the New Testament Jesus chided the religious
    elite of His day, the scribes and Pharisees who
    were more concerned with the traditions and
    ceremonies of serving God than the meaning and
    purpose of God's laws. He said, Well hath Esaias
    prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written,
    This people honoureth me with their lips, but
    their heart is far from me
    (Mark 7:6).

    Today so many who call themselves Christians
    have an extensive collection of masks they can put
    on and take off at will. They wear many different
    faces, depending on where they are, who they are
    with, and what they are doing.

    Don't misunderstand me -- I'm not talking
    about being able to perform different functions as
    a person. A man may be a husband, father,
    businessman, sports enthusiast, handyman, scholar,
    and spiritual leader. A woman may be a wife,
    mother, counselor, chef, chauffeur, seamstress,
    designer, musician, gardener, etc. But in both
    examples, the individual can remain the same
    person while performing various functions.

    Hypocrisy comes from attempting to be
    completely different people according to the
    environment or situation in which we find ourselves. And
    all of us are tempted to try our hand at role playing
    at one time or another.

    The real you!

    Do you ever find yourself acting one way at
    church, another way at home, and still another at
    work? Have you ever considered allowing your
    values, appearance, vocabulary, personality, and
    behavior to change dramatically from Sunday to
    Monday... from your work place to your home...
    from public to private life?

    Are there times when you wonder who -- and
    what -- is the real you?

    Several years ago, Dr. Van Impe and I knew of a
    young evangelist who had enormous ability. He
    was handsome, knowledgeable, and articulate.
    He spoke with eloquence, diction, and power. It
    seemed certain that he would become one of the
    most effective ministers in America.

    I remember especially his strong messages
    about the evils of alcohol and how the devil was
    using strong drink to cause untold misery and
    destroy countless lives.

    Then, in the prime of his life, this young
    minister suddenly died! In an instant he was gone.
    Later, it was revealed that he had fought an
    unending personal battle with liquor. Many nights
    after his evangelistic services he drank himself
    into an alcoholic stupor. How tragic that he
    proclaimed the life-changing, transforming power of
    Christ's salvation to multiplied thousands, yet
    never accepted God's deliverance from the satanic
    bondage that enslaved him.

    Mixed signals

    One troubled young man in California came to
    as after a service and said, "I don't understand my
    dad's religion. He's a deacon in the church and he
    seems so pious and so holy. But when he comes
    home, he yells and swears at my mother." This
    boy was troubled at the mixed signals he was
    receiving from his father's behavior. He realized
    that something was dreadfully wrong.

    The Apostle James asked, Doth a fountain
    send forth at the same place sweet water and
    bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive
    (James 3:11,12).

    Of course not! Then why is it that we often see
    entire casts of characters wrapped up in a single
    individual? Sometimes we're not quite sure
    which face they will show us next. How can this

    I believe it may be explained by noting that man
    loses the awareness of his true identity when he
    loses sight of who God is! When man -- either
    deliberately or accidentally -- loses sight of God
    the Father, he soon loses his way in the resulting

    The Bible tells how in the beginning the Lord
    God himself came into the Garden of Eden to have
    fellowship with Adam and Eve. He knew them
    personally... and they knew Him.

    Then they sinned by disobeying God.
    Immediately Adam and Eve changed the way they acted --
    they hid themselves from the presence of the
    Lord. Ultimately they were driven out of the
    Garden... and out of fellowship with God.

    From that day on, the human family began to
    lose sight of God -- to forget who He was and what
    He was really like.

    Putting a mask on God

    As the years and centuries went by, man created
    a picture of God that was so distorted and
    mistaken that very few really understood His divine
    plan and His tender lovingkindness.

    In the eloquent words of Paul the apostle: When
    they knew God, they glorified him not as God,
    neither were thankful; but became vain in their
    imaginations, and their foolish heart was
    darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they
    became fools, and changed the glory of the
    uncorruptible God into an image made like to
    corruptible man
    (Romans 1:21-23).

    I like the way The Living Bible expresses verse
    21 -- And after a while they began to think up
    silly ideas of what God was like and what He
    wanted them to do.

    In effect, man created a mask -- grotesque and
    corrupt -- and used it to cover the face of God. And
    darkness again covered the earth and the lives of

    It was then that God chose to reveal himself
    afresh and anew to all mankind. Paul Scherer
    described "the night of all nights when God came
    down 'the stairs of heaven with a child in his

    Throwing aside the crude mask that man had
    placed upon Him, the Father sent His Son, Jesus,
    from heaven to earth -- to once again walk among
    men and show them who God is and what He is
    like. So Jesus came, ministering to the poor,
    healing the sick, pouring out boundless love to all
    men. "Do you see me and my works?" He asked.
    "Then understand that this is the nature of God.
    For when you see me, you see the Father."

    Identify with God

    Oh, my friend, the joy of seeing the Father... of
    having fellowship with God! This is the secret of
    true self-discovery. For as you find out who God is
    and your eternal relationship with Him through
    Christ, you will suddenly see yourself in a new

    And then, you can strip away all your masks
    and faces and go forth in your new identity -- as a
    child of God.

    Join me in giving thanks for that first
    Christmas, when God took off His mask and
    revealed himself to us again. If you have not yet
    received Him, I urge you now to -- Turn your eyes
    upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; And
    the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the
    light of His glory and grace.