Today’s Devotional | December 14 | LUKE 1:39-45 | Blessed Believers

Today's Devotional

Memory Verse
And blessed is she that believed, for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord (Luke 1:45).

Elisabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, acknowledged Christ as her Lord before He was born. Mary had gone to the hill country of Judah to spend some time with Elisabeth who was there awaiting the birth of John. At Mary’s greeting, the babe leaped in Elisabeth’s womb and she began to magnify the Lord for what He was doing in Mary and for the coming Saviour. As she concluded her statement of praise she exclaimed: “Blessed is she that believed.”

God always sends His blessings to believers. Some doubt their beliefs and others believe their doubts, but the blessings of God are for those who believe His Word. This truth was again made clear immediately following the resurrection of Christ. Thomas doubted that the Lord was risen since he missed the Lord’s meeting with the disciples. At the next meeting, Thomas was present and Jesus invited him to place his fingers in the nail prints in His hands and to thrust his hand into the wound in His side. Ashamed of his unbelief and sure of the Saviour, Thomas cried, “My Lord and My God.” Jesus responded, “…Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Believers have the promise of answered prayer. Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).

The final words of Elisabeth’s Spirit-directed declaration have to do with receiving blessings. As a believer, Mary became a receiver. Those who dare to believe God for the impossible still receive His blessings in reward of their faith in 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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December 13 | LUKE 1:46-56 | The Magnificat
Memory Verse
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46).

In response to Elisabeth’s pronouncement of blessing, Mary’s full heart overflowed with a song of praise. We have come to know her words as “The Magnificat.”

Mary rejoiced that day in her personal Saviour: “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” This is one of the great miracles in the story of Christ’s birth. Often those of high spiritual privilege or of honored position do not realize their personal needs. Paul observed that truth and spoke of it to the Corinthians: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (I Corinthians 1:26).

Having recently met with an angel who guaranteed her God’s favor, it would have been human to glory in her spiritual attainment. Instead, Mary broke forth into a song of thanksgiving and praise. Only the humble can be truly thankful, and Mary’s humility was evident as she poured out her heart before God: “For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). Her feelings toward her Lord were revealed as she praised Him for His might, His mercy, His grace and His goodness.

In concluding the Magnificat, Mary gave praise to God for His Word. She remembered His promises to Abraham and the other patriarchs of Israel. She gloried in the fact that God’s Word is dependable. She had undoubtedly heard the promises of the coming Saviour all her life. Now she was assured of the fulfillment of that promise through the One who would be born of her.

The promises of God had become first-hand information: Mary’s promises... and yours!

December 12 | LUKE 1:26-33 | Gabriel’s Mission
Memory Verse
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God (Luke 1:30).

The prophets had foretold the coming of the Saviour and the world had waited. When prophetic voices ceased, some doubted. Suddenly the silence was broken. Angels were sent on missions of earth-shaking importance. John the Baptist would come, Christ would be born.

The angel Gabriel brought the announcement of the coming birth of Jesus to Mary, The first words of this messenger of God were: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured.” Multitudes seek favor with God. The purpose of most religious ritual is to gain favor with God. Some give large gifts or afflict their bodies to gain favor with God, There is but one route to favor with God and that is the faith route: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Gabriel spoke to Mary’s fears: “Fear not, Mary...” And then followed that assurance of favor again: “...for thou hast found favour with God.” Fears will not flee unless we understand that in Christ we have favor with God. But once that wonderful position is assured, faith soars and fear can be overcome.

Mary’s future was now explained. She would conceive in her womb and give birth to the Son of the Highest. He would sit upon the throne of His Father David. Mary’s life would now be on a miracle basis. Her future was as bright as the promises of God. And this is true of all who place their faith in Him of Whom the angel spoke that day.

December 11 | LUKE 1:34-38 | All Things Possible
Memory Verse
For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37).

The birth of Jesus Christ was a miracle. Any attempt to understand it apart from that perspective is doomed to failure.

Some have tried to come up with a medical explanation of the virgin birth of Christ. These sincere people have searched the centuries for another example of a virgin with child, hoping to make the Christmas message more palatable to doubters. It is an impossible dream. Like the resurrection, the virgin birth of Christ required a miracle.

Others have focused on some bright star that might have been the one that guided the wise men to Bethlehem. But that conclusion disregards the Bible account. Try to get any known star to meet the requirements of Matthew 2:9: “...and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.” That was a miracle!

We should not be surprised that the incarnation boggles the mind of man. Even Mary struggled with the angelic announcement that she would bear the Christ child. She asked: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” Gabriel gave her the only answer that makes sense: “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

So, it is a miracle that we celebrate at Christmas — the incarnation of the Son of God. Let that thought capture your mind and warm your heart. It is the greatest love story ever told, the story of God’s love for you and me. Those are not just “catchy” lyrics that announce: “JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD IS COME.”

He has come!

For with God nothing is impossible.

December 10 | ISAIAH 11:1-10 | The Coming King
Memory Verse
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots (Isaiah 11:1).

Some who claim to be Christians do not like to think about the Jewish ancestry of Jesus. Somehow these double minded people are able to blot out the truth that, in His human line, Jesus came from the family of David. Often they blame the Jews for all the ills of the world.

The truth is that when Jesus returns to set up His earthly Kingdom, He will occupy the throne of David. That promise was given to Mary by the angel Gabriel: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give onto him the throne of his father, David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

The return of Christ is necessary to fulfill the prophecies concerning Him. Though the angels rejoiced at His birth in Bethlehem and spoke of peace on earth, the centuries since have been filled with war and wrong. The Prince of Peace was rejected and the world has blundered on in sin and violence. But a better day is coming.

When Christ comes to do on this earth what He now does in individual trusting hearts, the world will know real peace. It will be a great day. Justice and righteousness will cover the earth. The enmity between animals and men will be put away. Men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. The angels’ song will be fully realized. Until then, walk with Christ and experience His peace in your heart.

December 9 | ISAIAH 7:10-14 | Immanuel
Memory Verse
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).

Those who doubt the virgin birth of Christ are themselves a contradiction. They wrestle with the sign, yet often claim to accept the Saviour. There is no question but that the virgin birth required God’s intervention, but the name Immanuel is given by Isaiah to show that the child to be born would be God robed in flesh. Immanuel means “God with us.”

Do you have trouble believing the Bible account of the miracles surrounding the birth of Christ? Do the angelic appearances seem beyond the realm of reality? Do you doubt the experience of the shepherds and their encounter with the heavenly host? Does the journey of the wise men from the East seem too farfetched for you? If so, remember that this is the birth of Immanuel. God was in that stable. All doubts fade in the light of this great truth.

Now let us go a bit deeper. The moment you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you ceased being alone. He came into your life. This means God is with you. And here’s good news for the future: He has promised “...I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). Rest on this wonderful promise and live each day in the assurance of His presence and care. You do not have to face any problem alone. “...If God be for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31).

Immanuel assures the child of God that all is well.

December 8 | LUKE 1:57-66 | His Name Is John
Memory Verse
And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God (Luke 1:64).

John the Baptist was named twice. On the day of his circumcision in the temple he was named Zacharias, after the name of his father. That name could not stand, however, because his Heavenly Father had sent down another name. Elisabeth demanded that his name be John. Confused, those in the temple asked advice on the matter of Zacharias. He had been unable to speak since the angelic appearance in the temple and so he immediately called for a writing table and wrote: “His name is John.” At that moment he was able to speak again.

Our names are important to God. The names of those who are born again are written in heaven. Jesus spoke of Himself as the good shepherd and said that He calls His own sheep by name. Your name echoed through heaven the day you were converted to Christ. You are special to the Lord.

John had a vital mission to fulfill. And nearly two thousand years following the completion of his ministry, his name continues to be remembered around the world. He was the forerunner of Christ. That is, he came to prepare the way for Jesus. His message was one of repentance and faith. He called sin by its first name and was fearless as a preacher. There were many important people in that day who must have thought they were making a lasting mark on the world. Still, we know very few of them. We remember John because of his association with Jesus and His work for the Lord. When you invest your life for Jesus you don’t have to make a name for yourself.

December 7 | LUKE 1:67-75 | Light and Sight
Memory Verse
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people (Luke 1:68).

A doctor approached an anxious father in the waiting room of a New. York City hospital and informed him that his child had lived but two hours after birth. As the sympathetic doctor turned away, the quick-thinking father said, “I read only recently about the need of human eyes for corneal operations. Could my baby’s eyes be used to enable someone to see again?”

The next day, two corneal transplants were performed in two different hospitals. In one, sight was restored to a working man with a large family. In the other, sight was given to a mother. A babe who had lived but two hours gave physical sight to two needy people.

Nearly two thousand years ago, a baby was born in a dark stable in Bethlehem. The prophet Isaiah had written of the impact of His birth as that of light and sight coming to a dark world: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2).

Though His life was not long, the child born that night has imparted spiritual sight and insight to millions. The eloquent Phillips Brooks once said: “I am far within the mark when I say that all armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life — the life of Christ.”

In his famous hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Brooks made it personal: “No ear may hear His coming, But in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive Him still — The dear Christ enters in.”

Week 50 | Through the Eyes of a Child

Just last week I met and talked with a
friend I hadn't seen in a while. Right away I
said, "You look so sad!" I could tell by her
eyes.

Certainly our eyes do serve as a
barometer of our inner being and can express
deep-rooted feelings and emotions without
a word being spoken.

The English poet William Blake said our
eyes are "windows of the soul." I'm sure
you've noticed that the eyes of those around
you communicate in a dramatic way their
state of mind -- anger, fear, mischief,
tenderness, love, excitement, boredom, etc.

Doctors often look into the eyes of their
patients while examining them to determine
their state of health.

So it's not really surprising to discover
that the Bible has much to say about our
eyes -- there are numerous references
throughout both the Old and New
Testaments. Only recently have I begun to
comprehend just how important our eyes are to
our spiritual well-being -- that where we look
and what we see help determine who we
are and what we become.

The Apostle John speaks of the lust of the
eyes
(1 John 2:16), and Peter warns against
those having eyes full of adultery, and that
cannot cease from sin
(2 Peter 2: 14).

The psalmist, recognizing that what is
fed into our eyes affects what we become,
affirms, I will set no wicked thing before
mine eyes
(Psalm 101:3). And the Apostle
Paul, in what may be my life's foundation
verse, urges us to continue looking unto
Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith

(Hebrews 12:2).



   Some time ago, our ministry had an open
house in which we invited friends and
partners to come tour our World Outreach
Center and visit personally with Dr. Van Impe
and me and our staff. About 1,500 people
toured our headquarters in a single
afternoon -- it was wonderful to greet so many
friends.

I couldn't help noticing how many little
children came through with their parents.
And inevitably, when I looked down at them,
they would be looking directly into my eyes.
I would find myself kneeling to get to their
eye level...and happily, many times they
ended up in my arms.

But I began noticing how children look
at the world. They spend a lot of time
looking up! And when they encounter an
adult, they look into his or her face, up into
the eyes.

Children are very perceptive. They can
tell, almost at a glance, if a person is friendly
or menacing, if they can trust the person or
should run away. By looking into the eyes
of the adults around them, they sense if
they are welcome or are intruding. And
they can tell almost instantly if their parents
are pleased with them or disapproving.

Jack and I were having breakfast at a
little pancake house not long ago when a
mother and her two children came in. They
sat at a nearby table -- the little boy was
unceremoniously dumped into a high chair
and the little girl thumped into a chair across
from the mother. Once seated, she paid
little attention to the youngsters, staring
away from them, with a disgruntled look on
her face.

When the little boy peered up at the
chandelier, pointed a chubby finger and said,
"See! See!" -- her response was a terse, "Eat!"
And when the little girl squirmed and tried
insistently to get her mother's attention, the
unseeing, uncaring reply was, "Be quiet --
sit up."

When Jack and I finished eating and he
went to pay the bill, I walked over to the
table where this mother and her youngsters
were sitting.

"You are so fortunate," I said.

With a bit of a start, she asked, "Why?"

"You have such beautiful children -- they
are so sweet," I said. Then I leaned down
and looked into the eyes of the little boy
and said, "You are so good." My reward
was a bright, innocent smile.

"I'm good too," said the little girl.

"I know you are, honey," I acknowledged.
"What a sweet sister you are...and so pretty!"
With just those few words, the child
blossomed like a rose.

The mother barely smiled, even during
the little conversation I was having with her
children -- she hardly responded, managing
a mumbled "Thank you" as I walked away.

I couldn't help wondering how many
children are rebuffed and desensitized by
parents whose eyes are too full of other
things to really see and respond to their
own youngsters.

"You are a delight!"

Jerry Dillon is head of Century HealthCare,
the largest health-care provider for children
in the country. His organization operates
52 youth programs and 19 facilities in nine
states, specializing in treating emotionally-troubled
youngsters.

"If parents would look for the things in
their children that delight them, and tell
them so, what a difference it would make,"
says Dillon. "A great prescription to help
build a better relationship and a stronger
bond between parent and child is simply
for the parent to find some reason each day
to tell his son or daughter, "You are a
delight!"

Much of what we feel -- delight or
aggravation -- is communicated through our eyes,
whether we verbalize it or not. So often I've
noticed how a child will look into its mother's
(or father's) face for approval, guidance,
security, reassurance, and love. Without a
word being spoken, so many important
things are communicated...through the eyes
of a child.

Suffer the little children

No wonder children were attracted to
our Saviour during His earthly ministry.
The New Testament tells how the children
thronged about Him until the disciples were
going to send them away. But the Lord
said, "Suffer the little children to come unto
me, and forbid them not: for of such is the
kingdom of God
(Mark 10: 14).

The Bible doesn't tell us specifically, but
I'm very sure each of those little ones came
close to the Lord and looked up into His
face, directly into His eyes. What they saw
there -- love, acceptance, safety -- made them
relax and feel free. I think they wanted to
climb up onto His lap and just be near Him.

Many learned and wise theologians have
speculated about the meaning of Jesus'
words concerning children and the kingdom
of God. Certainly I do not claim to have
greater knowledge or wisdom than they
have. But I have my own idea about what
He meant.

Perhaps He was suggesting that if we
looked up into His eyes more often, we would
find the peace, direction, and strength we
need for our lives. We can find the answer
for guilt, sorrow, pain, and loneliness in
ourSaviour'sloving gaze.

Keep your eyes on Jesus

Our problems come when we take our
eyes off Jesus, when we look away from His
love, guidance, strength, and sustaining power.

The Gospel of Matthew relates the
thrilling story of Peter walking on the water
toward Jesus. The Lord had come to the
disciples as their boat was tossed by a
stormy sea. As long as Peter kept his eyes
on Jesus, he was fine. But when he saw
the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and

[began] to sink (Matthew 14:30).

I've found in my own experience that
when I felt life's problems were about to
overwhelm me, it was because I had taken
my eyes off Jesus and fixed them on my
troubles. When I looked to Him, He saw me through.

From time to time, I meet an individual
who is disillusioned -- even cynical -- about
the Church. Sometimes they say they have
lost their faith -- they don't believe in
anything anymore.

As I visit with people like this, I usually
discover that they have been disappointed
in the mistakes and failures of a particular
religious leader -- their eyes had been fixed
on a man. Once they looked back to Jesus,
the bitterness and disillusionment lost its
intensity, and the healing love of Christ
could make them over again.

One of the most beautiful and powerful
verses in all of the Bible, for me, is found in
Matthew's account of Peter, James, and
John at the transfiguration of Christ. After
the disciples had bowed down in the
awesome presence of God, Jesus told them not
to be afraid. And the scripture says --

And when they had lifted up their eyes,
they saw no man, save Jesus only
(Matthew 17:8).

No wonder Jesus said we should become
as little children to enter the kingdom of
God. Their eyes are focused in the right
direction. Lord help us to keep our eyes on
You...to seek Your will by looking into Your
face -- through the eyes of a child!

Week 49 | Remember, I’m Your Friend

A righteous man regardeth the life of his
beast; but the tender mercies of the wicked
are cruel
(Proverbs 12: 10).

Ever since I was a little girl, animals and
flying creatures have been very special to
me. Although they do not have an everlasting
soul or spirit to live on forever, I truly
believe they do feel and express emotions...
and they can be great companions.

God's creation

In fact, the first companions God created
for mankind were animals. The Lord
gave them a remarkable emotional
sensitivity. For example, at times when I've been
ill, my cat, Finica, would come lie by my
side and not leave. But when I'm well and
joyful, she's joyful, too.

Because animals are sensitive and have
feelings, I feel we, as the highest of God's
creation, should take the responsibility to
care for the animals God gave to us for
companions.

As a little girl, I always had a natural
instinct to care for animals. If a bird flew in
front of my father's car, it would make my
heart flip, afraid it wouldn't get out of the
way in time. And I instinctively wanted to
help and protect all animals...even more so
as I realized my God-given responsibility.

And now it seems as though, in my
awareness, I see many animals that I could
help.

A sad truth about the day in which we're
living is that most people don't want to be
bothered, even if another person needs our
help on the street, much less an animal.
Most folks seem to just drive right by. But
we mustn't allow ourselves to become so
calloused that we don't care. I believe if we
can ignore an animal in need, we'll ignore
people in need. If we abuse animals, we'll
abuse people.

In fact, the Michigan Humane Society
released a study which indicated that often
animal abusers become child abusers! So
if one finds himself becoming callous and
indifferent to animals, he'd better watch
himself.

The rescue

One day I was driving to the store and,
at a very busy intersection, I found the most
beautiful white police dog. Cars were
honking and screeching around him, and
the poor animal was frantically going back
and forth in the middle of the traffic. I
realized if someone didn't rescue the dog, it
would be killed. I stopped, put on my car's
blinker lights, and went over to the dog.
When I called, he came immediately, tail
wagging. I led him to the car and he jumped
in the back seat.

My new friend had a collar on, so I knew
that someone had cared for him. By making
a few inquiries, I soon found that his home
was about a mile from where I'd found him.
And when I took him home, his owners
were absolutely elated that I had found their
dog. He had gone out of the fenced backyard
through an open gate. By the time they
had realized he was out, he'd gotten lost.
I'm not sure who was happiest that he was
home -- the dog, his owners...or me!

On several occasions, I've rescued stray
cats, fed them, and either returned them to
their owners, or found a new home for them.
Also, Jack and I give regularly to our local
humane society to help in this work with animals.

Get involved

If everybody would be willing to get
involved a few times in their lives, think of
how many animals could be helped. And I
believe if we are tenderhearted toward
animals, we'll love people more, also. If we're
willing to do something for someone
-- who can't do anything in return
for us, it says something about the kind of
people we are...it says something about our
character.

Recently, I saw an essay in the Detroit
Free Press Magazine
that moved me so much
I asked permission to share it with you. I
pray it will touch your heart and motivate
you to get involved first with needy people
and then, with needy animals. Don't be
like those who did not care, but be a good
samaritan. (See Luke 10:36,37).


See Spot Die

by Javan Kienzel

I had your dog put to sleep the other
day. You gave me little alternative.

It was in the midst of one of Michigan's
April weather-by-the-hour blizzards. I saw
her -- a pitiful heap on the edge of the Eight
Mile median. Lots of other drivers had to
see her, but traffic was heavy and the
weather, as I said, was bad.

I don't know who you are, but she was
once your dog. She was wearing a collar
(but no tags, so you can't be identified) and,
as I learned later, she had been spayed.

As I approached her, I could see she was
a small, mixed breed. She pulled herself to
her feet, backed up, and bared her teeth. I
used my folded coat as a shield and tried to
get closer. She continued to retreat,
snarling.

I tried a different ploy. I opened the
front and rear doors of my car and walked
off a distance. After some hesitation, she
finally clambered up into the front seat.

She was alternately baring her teeth and
barking as I approached. I spoke quietly,
in what I hoped were reassuring tones, as I
inched closer. Finally, she retreated to the
passenger seat. Still holding my coat as a
buffer, I slowly slid into the driver's seat
and carefully put the car in gear.

As we entered traffic, she shook herself,
giving me and the car's interior a muddy
shower. She must have been out in the
sleet for a long while.

Gradually, she settled down, although
she whimpered every so often. She didn't
seem able to get comfortable.

Time was short. I was headed for a
medical appointment that had taken me
some time to get. I continued to speak
quietly to the dog, who now accepted my
touch. I patted her head cautiously, and
when I stopped for a light, ran my hand
over her body to check for injuries. She
winced as I came to a huge swelling and a
raw, jagged wound.

I stopped at two veterinary clinics, but
neither could locate a convenient animal
shelter. Mercifully, the second clinic agreed
to keep her while I kept my appointment.

When I returned after my appointment,
the dog came to me willingly and entered
the car without problem.

She obviously needed help. But where
to get it?

The last time I had picked up a stray, I
had thrown myself on the mercy of our
neighborhood vet. He had accepted the
animal, kept it overnight, and phoned the
shelter for a pickup the next day. I would
throw myself -- and my passenger -- on their
mercy again.

No prodigal was ever given a more caring
welcome. Dr. Chang, aided by Dr. Muns
and one of the staff, with the aid of a rabies
stick, finally removed the now near-frantic
dog from the car and carried her into the
examining room, all the while speaking
gently and reassuringly to the terrified
animal.

An X-ray, blood test, and examination
told the story. The dog was somewhere
between six and seven years old. It
appeared she had been a stray for some time:
she was thin to the point of emaciation,
and burrs were matted in her coat. She
had a variety of skin tumors and cysts.
She bore evidence of battles, some old, some
more recent, probably with cats and other
dogs -- but one unhealed laceration looked
as if it might be a gunshot wound of some
kind, with the possibility that a BB or shot
was still lodged in her. There was
suppurating ear infection; her eyes were reddened,
and she had a temperature of 104 degrees.
Her stool consisted largely of bones --
evidence that, without decent food, she had
barely survived by scavenging. Her heart
was enlarged; there were growths in the
abdominal/lung area, and arthritis of the
spine.

Even had the immediate problems been
healed, and even had she been fed and
cleaned, her life expectancy was undoubtedly
only a very few months -- and wretchedly
agonizing months at that.

"Please put her out of her misery," I said.

They led the little dog in from the X-ray
room. Seeing me, she wagged her tail
feebly and, as I knelt, she crept to me and
rested her head trustingly in the curve of
my arms.

One of the assistants had told me once,
"I always try to be there and hold an animal
whose owner isn't there when it has to be
euthanized." I was glad she was there with
me now. Both of us held and petted and
spoke to the little dog as Dr. Chang inserted
the merciful needle.

It was over in a minute. Peacefully and
quietly she relaxed and went limp. As she
lay there on the towel, we stroked her
battered body.

She was out of her misery.

She was a good little dog. With decent
care, she could have lived a long life. You
gave her about six years.

You cared for her once upon a time, to
some degree. You had her spayed. Did it
trouble you at all to abandon this friendly
little dog? Did her friendship mean nothing
at all to you? Or is this the way you treat
your friends?

When you last saw her, she was a frisky,
healthy pet, trusting, secure, and happy.
That was when you discarded her.

I thought it of some importance that you
know what happened to her after you
dumped her.

I'm projecting a bit now, but I think she
waited for you to reclaim her. I think she
knew you'd come and rescue her. She could
not have fathomed how you could do
otherwise. I think that's one of the reasons she
resisted my first efforts: She was still
waiting for you.

She'd been thrown on her own in a hard
city -- frightened, cold, harried, bewildered.
Hunger drove her to rummage through
garbage that ravaged her insides. Larger dogs
attacked and mutilated her. She fled from
bullets. But she kept coming back to where
you'd left her. Her spirit and flesh were
almost dead when I found her. She was
living only for your return.

I had your dog put to sleep the other
day. You gave me little alternative.

Reprinted from Detroit Free Press Magazine (April 29,
1990) by permission.

 

Week 48 | Stop! Look? Listen!

First, winter slips away...then spring comes
and goes...and then summer is upon us.

I think sometimes we fail to appreciate
this beautiful change of seasons. The
wonder of God's creation becomes commonplace
and we take it for granted. How long has it
been since you really stopped and took time
to look and listen to everything around you?

Several weeks ago, my husband, Jack,
and I were on an airliner flying home from
California. For weeks we'd been extremely
busy working on our television programs
and completing the TV studio and
production center in our new World Outreach
Center. I'd planned to use the time on the
plane to catch up on some of my reading.

My Father's world

After a while, I glanced out the
window -- and the beautiful panorama I saw
nearly took my breath away. It happened
to be an unusually clear day, and as I looked
down, I could see the Grand Canyon. It
was spectacular! I stopped what I was
doing and just drank in the grandeur unfolding
below me.

In a little while, the plane was soaring
over the majestic Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Oh, what a magnificent sight! I
started smiling -- I even laughed out loud! I
thought, My Father created all of this -- and
more! I'm only seeing one small part of one
little planet in God's great cosmos
. And my
heart was thrilled.

It occurred to me that this was the first
time in a long while -- perhaps months -- that
I'd stopped and really looked at my Father's
world. I was only sorry that I couldn't hear
the glorious sounds of nature below me
instead of the steady roar of the jet engines.

But that experience on the plane was a
good reminder for me. Since then I've been
making an effort to go outside and Stop!
Look! and Listen! every day. And what a
refreshing, rejuvenating, healing experience
it is for me!

Wonders all around us

When Jack and I go for a walk or take a
break out in our backyard, we make it a
point to look and listen to the wonders
around us. There are some rabbits that
visit us, and some chipmunks that live in a
hole under one of our large trees. They are
so active -- so happy and full of life. It's a
joy to watch them.

Sometimes it even seems to me that all
of God's creation around me is rejoicing.
Not long ago, Isaw a mother robin building
her nest. She was gathering tiny pieces of
grass, twigs, and string and weaving them
all together. She worked so diligently,
chirping happily all the while. I found myself
caught up in that beautiful creature's joy.

But recently I've detected something else,
too. At times I can almost hear the voices
of nature saying, "Release us from the
pollution that is surrounding us right now.
Restore us, Creator, come back to us!" The
Apostle Paul declared, For we know that the
whole creation groaneth and travaileth in
pain together until now
(Romans 8:22).

It's heartbreaking to see what man is
doing to the environment -- our cities are
filled with smog, litter, and trash. And even
in the wilderness remaining, man's callous
carelessness causes disasters like the
terrible oil spill in Alaska.

God created nature perfect. It wants to
be perfect again. He created a world where
the animals, birds, and sea otters were safe.
They want to be safe again.

Despite the best efforts of scientists and
environmentalists to clean up pollution like
the oil spill, the bulk of the restoration will
have to be left to nature. And in time,
nature will cleanse itself -- perhaps nearly
as pure and perfect as before.

In addition to what we're doing to our
natural world, it seems to me there's a lot
of pollution in our lives -- the sights and
sounds around us...the visual pollution of
pornographic publications and TV programs,
the commotion and clamor that fill our daily
activities.

Surely we need to get away from all that
and let our minds be washed and rejuvenated
from Satan's assault on our senses.
We need to focus our attention on the good
things of God. It's time to tune in to "íwhatsoever
thingsí" are true, honest, just, pure, lovely,
and of good report (see Philippians 4:8).

Get closer to God's creation and it will
direct you back to God.

There's something about getting out
among the sights and sounds of nature that
helps clear away our concerns and confusion
and puts things back into perspective. No
wonder God spoke through the psalmist and
said, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm
46:10).

"Slow me down, Lord"

I can identify with the plaintive prayer of
the poet who cried, "Slow me down, Lord,
I'm goin' too fast!" How often we jam our
lives so full of projects and duties that we
grow weary and disheartened. We lose our
enthusiasm and zest for living. Each day
becomes an endurance contest, which we
survive only to collapse in bed for a few
hours, then get up to start the rat race all
over again.

We may even be convinced that what
we're doing is important -- we can even be in
the midst of serving God, doing His work.
But if our good works cause us to lose
personal contact with Him -- if we don't take
time, individually, to communicate with
Him -- we're missing it.

Has this ever happened to you?

Then it's time to STOP! Make time in
your day to look and listen to God's handiwork
around you. Take time to let God
speak to you through the wonders of His
creation. Don't forget that Jesus himself
often took time to go away from the
multitudes. He would walk out along the
seashore or go up onto a mountain to pray and
commune with God. And I'm just sure He
took time to look and listen to what was
around Him!

If Jesus needed to spend time alone in
God's presence, how much more you and I
need to do so. Yet, how easy it is to put off
our Bible study and cut back on our prayer
time until it becomes an empty ritual -- or
we lose daily contact with the Lord
altogether. God has provided everything we
need to fulfill and enrich our lives...and if
we're not careful, we can rush right past it
all every day.

Summer is vacation season for many
people -- perhaps you're planning some time
away. Don't make the mistake of scheduling
your vacation so full of travel and activities
that you come back home needing to rest
from your rest! Take time to relax -- be still
for a while. Stop! Look! Listen!...and let
God recharge your batteries and rejuvenate
your mind and spirit.

Hear and obey the words of our Lord in
Mark 6:31: And he said unto them, Come
ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and
rest a while.

But don't wait until your vacation to get
started. Right now is a good time to re-open
the lines of communication with God. Take
time every day to enjoy the beautiful things
the Lord has placed all around you. Read
the Word. Talk to God. Listen for His
voice.

I promise you -- when you Stop! Look!
and Listen! you will see God as you've never
seen Him before. You will hear the voice of
the precious Holy Spirit within you who
speaks so tenderly and gives such strength!
It will change your whole world and make
your life a rich and glorious experience
again.

Week 47 | A Lesson For Life From a Donkey

One of the great ironies in the gospel
accounts of Jesus' last days on earth is the
story of His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
We still remember and commemorate this
event each year on Palm Sunday.

The Bible tells us that Jesus sent two
disciples to find a donkey colt no one had
ever ridden before and to bring it to Him.
They did. And then they put their cloaks
across the little animal's back for a saddle.

Then Jesus rode from the Mount of
Olives, across the valley and through the
narrow streets up to the gate of Jerusalem.
A multitude of people prepared the way for
Him, spreading their garments and strewing
branches from trees in His path.

"Hosannah!" they cried. "Blessed is He
that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosannah in the highest!"

So Jesus entered Jerusalem, and into
the Temple, with the adulation of the
multitude who hoped He would become their
new king. Sadly, only a few days later,
many of these same people would join the
throngs demanding that Christ be crucified!

But there's a part of the story about the
Triumphal Entry that has always fascinated
me. It's about the donkey colt Jesus rode
that day. That little animal has some
important lessons for us, I think.

The donkey was available

First, the little donkey was available,
ready to be used. Jesus knew the colt was
there and sent His disciples to the particular
place they could find him. And when
the animal's owners were told that the
Master had need of the donkey, they willingly
let him go.

But the donkey was willing, too. Mark's
Gospel says no man had ever sat on his
back. He was unbroken, untamed,
untrained. But he was available.

Why didn't Jesus choose a larger,
better-qualified animal to carry Him -- a
spirited riding horse, or at least the mother
of the colt? Why did He ask for such an
humble little animal?

I believe the reason might be to show us
that the Lord can use small things -- if they're
available and ready to be used. One doesn't
have to have a great voice to sing God's
praises. Nor is it necessary to have great
talent and training to teach a Sunday school
class. One need not have "a way with words"
to send birthday greetings, get well, or
sympathy cards to people who need to hear
from someone who cares.

Are you available? Are you willing to do
what you can for the Lord, however small
your talent or ability seems to you? There
is something you can do -- God has given
each of us spiritual gifts to use in His service.

But we have to be available. Had the
little colt been hidden away where the
disciples couldn't find him, he would have
missed having the Son of God ride upon his
back!

Remember the story of the five wise and
five foolish virgins who were invited to the
marriage supper. When the bridegroom
came, the five foolish virgins were gone --
not available to go into the wedding.

How many times do you and I miss out
on God's great blessings simply because
we're not available when the Lord desires to
use us?

The donkey was submissive

I don't know a lot about animals, but
I've been told that horses, mules, and
donkeys have to be broken, or trained, to be
ridden. They have to learn to accept the
burden of a rider and to respond to his
direction and guidance.

This wild little donkey had never been
ridden before -- no man had ever sat on his
back. But when the disciples brought him
to Jesus and put a cloak on his back for a
saddle, he was submissive. There is no
record in the scripture that he protested,
bucked, or rebelled.

He couldn't have known what was
happening, or what was ahead. One moment
he was standing peacefully at his mother's
side -- the next he was dragged away and a
heavy burden was put upon him. And as
far as we can tell, the little donkey submitted
to these strange events without a fuss.

How often do we balk and buck when
asked to carry out some assignment or bear
some burden? "Why me?" we cry. "Get
somebody else."

So often we tend to hold back until we
can see the end from the beginning. We
want to see the light at the end of the tunnel
before we go into it. We want to
understand everything happening in our lives
before we submit to it. But that's not the way
life works. Submission is more than
agreeing just with what we understand and
approve.

How proud and presumptuous to say to
God, "Show me Your will for my life, then if
I like it, I'll do it!" The Apostle Peter warns,
God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to
the humble. Humble yourselves therefore
under the mighty hand of God, that he may
exalt you in due time
(1 Peter 5:5,6).

When God leads us to do something for
Him, rather than worrying about being
embarrassed, put on the spot, or even
misunderstood or disliked by other people, we
should submit immediately, trusting in Him.
We need to be willing to be led by the Holy
Spirit in such a way that we will obey --
blindly, if need be -- no matter what God asks.

The little donkey submitted to Jesus... and so should we.

The donkey was unafraid

Can you imagine a more difficult and
frightening time to be ridden for the first
time than this colt experienced? He had no
preparation, no training. He is snatched
away from his mother by strangers, another
stranger gets upon his back, and he bears
his first burden through narrow streets
crowded with excited, shouting people,
waving tree branches and clothing,
crowding around him from every side.

Such an experience would be enough to
excite any animal and make him nervous
and skittish. But the little donkey didn't
kick anybody or try to get away. He just
kept going along, carrying Jesus the way
He wanted to go.

I'm sure the Lord must have leaned over
and whispered to the little animal, "Don't
be afraid. Don't fear -- I'm with you." And
in the most confusing circumstances, with
the press of the multitude all around, the
colt kept calm and cool. He just kept on
doing what he was supposed to do, going
where he was supposed to go. And because
Jesus was with him, he was not afraid.

God's supreme sacrifice

Bible scholars tell us there was great
significance in Jesus' visit to Jerusalem at
this time, just before the Passover
sacrifices. The gate Jesus entered to reach the
city was the one through which people
brought their sacrifices to the Temple. No
doubt the streets were full of sheep and
lambs being led to the sacrificial altar. And
here comes God's Son, riding on a donkey,
about ready to be offered up as the
supreme sacrifice for the sins of the world!

So, because he was available,
submissive, and unafraid, the little donkey played
a key role in one of the most riveting events
in all of history.

If the donkey could speak to us today,
what do you suppose he would say?

It would not be the first time a donkey
spoke. The Old Testament, in Numbers 22,
tells of Balaam's donkey who chided the
prophet who rode him, for opposing the will
of God. The donkey saw what Balaam's
spiritually blinded eyes did not -- the angel
of the Lord with a drawn sword, standing in
the path.

If you listen very carefully with the ears
of your heart, I think you can hear the little
donkey's voice even now. He's saying --

"If God could use me, He can use you,
too. No one is too humble or insignificant to
have a place in God's service.

"Just be available -- stay where the Lord
can reach you. Keep an open heart, an
open, holy life.

"Then, trust God enough to submit to
Him. Don't buck and kick against the
unknown. Decide that the Lord knows what's
best and simply do what He asks. He'll
never steer you wrong!

"And last, you don't have to be afraid
when Jesus is with you. His presence, His
touch, will calm your fears and keep you on
track no matter what goes on around you.

"Maybe you've never done anything great,
or accomplished very much before. But
your life can be different. If you're
available, submissive, and unafraid, who knows
what you'll be chosen to do and how
important it may be to the world.

"After all, you're even more important to
God than a little donkey such as I. And the
very first time I was ridden, I carried the
King!"