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Today’s Devotional | July 22 | PROVERBS 5:15-23 | Husbands and Wives

Today's Devotional

Memory Verse
Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth (Proverbs 5:18).

Here is a good test for married couples. Estimate the number of years you have left together. Figure the number of hours that totals. Divide the number by three and subtract the answer from the total to find the number of waking hours together. Now divide the remaining amount by two to arrive at the approximate time apart because of work. How do you intend to spend the hours that remain?

How many hours do you intend to spend arguing? In hand-to-hand combat? Pouting? Administering the “silent treatment”? Grumbling? Finding fault? Putting one another down? Criticizing one another before friends? Being apart unnecessarily? Now that you’ve removed the clutter, what will you do with the time that is left to invest?

How many hours have you reserved for expressing your love for each other? Holding one another? Complimenting? Walking together? Laughing? Sharing projects of mutual enjoyment? Relaxing together? Planning new adventures? Enjoying your children or grandchildren? Praying together? Studying the Bible? Attending church services? Telling others of God’s blessings?

Generally, we do not think about how quickly life escapes. The Bible speaks about the importance of “redeeming the time.” Unless priority is given to rejoicing together, as God intends, couples may waste most of their lives in unpleasant tasks or sour attitudes, thereby missing God’s will for their lives.

“Rejoice with the wife of thy youth.” And enjoy your husband while he’s with you. It’s the Bible way to live!

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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    July 21 | GALATIANS 5:10-15 | Religious Cannibals
    Memory Verse
    But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another (Galatians 5:15).

    Many a missionary has come back from the foreign field with thrilling stories of the power of the Gospel to change cannibals to Christians. Missionary books abound with like accounts. That kind of transformation in people gives proof of the reality of salvation. How wonderful to think of a man feeding his soul on the Word of God, who once fed his body on the flesh of his fellowman?

    Interestingly, Paul speaks of another kind of cannibalism.

    The Galatian church had once been a center of dynamic Christianity. Paul, himself, had ministered there. The Gospel had been presented clearly and the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people had been evident. The love of Christ was an active force in personal relationships. Paul said they had loved him so much that they would have been willing to pluck out their eyes and give them to him to improve his poor vision, if that had been possible.

    Sadly, things changed. The church became legalistic and love left. Paul lamented their spiritual poverty.

    Observing their bickering and infighting, he warns that if they keep eating away at one another they will eventually consume one another. They had become Christian cannibals.

    There is no room for cannibals among Christians. Instead, we are to “...love one another with a pure heart fervently” (I Peter 1:22).

    When Christians conquer their spiritual cannibalism, another great missionary story will be told. Those observing real love among the people of God will turn to the Saviour. The church will fulfill its mission at home. And this will enlarge its missionary ministry the world around!

    July 20 | PSALM 119:161-168 | The Bible
    Memory Verse
    I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil (Psalm 119:162).

    In our youth, most of us have fancied finding buried treasure. As adults, millions buy lottery tickets or gamble in other ways in the hope of receiving great treasure. The psalmist valued God’s Word far more than any earthly bonanza.

    If you have difficulty rejoicing today, praise God for the Bible. Think about its worth. Dwell on its riches. Apart from this divine revelation, we would know little of the personality of God. We might conclude that He is powerful and the Creator, for “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1), but we could never understand His love and would therefore miss life’s greatest blessing.

    The Bible reveals God’s plan of the ages. We do not have to stumble through life ever questioning the direction of history and fearing the future. God has explained His plan. History is His story. We do not fear what the future holds because we know the One who holds the future. And it has been revealed to us in the Bible.

    The earth has some traumatic days ahead. Christ is coming. The dead will be raised. Christians will be raptured. Tribulation will overtake the earth. Political and religious chaos is sure to come. But none of these things will take God by surprise, and students of the Bible have been given a preview of these events.

    Christians who read God’s Word are “in the know.” They are better informed than the world’s most able news analysts.

    What a book! Rejoice in it. Praise God for it. Let its message rule your life today!

    July 19 | GALATIANS 5:1-9 | Ye Did Run Well
    Memory Verse
    Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? (Galatians 5:7).

    The church at Galatia had known better days. Once it had been vibrant and alive. Love for one another had been evident to all.

    Now they were locked into a system of legalism. And it had happened so easily. The logic of adding law to faith had appeared to be so right. But in adding to Christ, they had taken away from Him. They had traded the simple Gospel for a complex system of man-made rules.

    Paul analyzed their problem... saw through their charade. He asked: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Galatians 3:1). He knew that their downward trek had begun when they had started to listen to a new voice, one given to a message that twisted the true Gospel. Now he was calling them back to the truth.

    Has your church known better days?

    Can you pinpoint the time the decline began? Has warm fellowship given way to cold legalism?

    The way back is the way of surrender. Stop following religious pied pipers who offer methods and doctrines built on human effort and exalting man’s ability: “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).

    Come back to the simple, wonderful, Gospel message. And share it with others. Take the lead in calling your church back to the Saviour by rededicating your own life to Jesus and by reaching out to the lost.

    You did run well.

    And that means you can serve your Lord again!

    July 18 | I CORINTHIANS 3:1-11 | Babies in the Church
    Memory Verse
    I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able (I Corinthians 3:2).

    God’s plan for His children is birth, growth and maturity. The moment one receives Christ as personal Saviour, he is born again. There is rejoicing at the birth of a child and in heaven there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels when one is born again. Sadly, some who are born again never grow. They remain spiritual infants throughout life, missing the blessings of the abundant life.

    Spiritual babies are concerned with self rather than service. They carry their feelings on their sleeves and have to be handled with care. They are like bombs, always ready to explode. Infancy shows in any crisis. The spiritual baby is upset over the smallest of things, expecting to be catered to by the pastor and other members of the church. The church baby examines everything as a receiver instead of a giver. He asks: “What is there in this for me?”

    Spiritual babies are concerned with argument rather than action. Look for the trouble spot in the church and the ecclesiastical infant will be there. Gossip is his delight. Trifles touch off his temper. Often his self-righteous attitude masquerades as piety. He can sound so right that others follow him. But a real look at the church baby reveals that much of his fussing is a smoke screen to keep him from getting involved in the real mission of his church. It is always easier to be part of the faction than to get into the action.

    Spiritual babies look to man rather than to God. An infant’s world is small, revolving around a few people. Church babies also have small worlds, revolving around a few favorite preachers or leaders. They are more loyal to men than to the Master or the church.

    God blesses people on the grow!

    July 17 | PSALM 97 | God Reigns
    Memory Verse
    he LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof (Psalm 97:1).

    God reigns.

    Have you ever thought how sad the plight of planet earth would be if that were not true?

    We would all be on a hopeless voyage through space with no destination. Every grave would be a place of despair and total separation.

    Life would be without purpose.

    The universe would be like a giant clock winding down until the end.

    No prayer would ever be heard or answered.

    Man would always walk the dark valley of death alone.

    All of life’s horizons would be limited by time.

    The trinkets and thrills of this life span would be the only things of value.

    But God reigns.

    Therefore the earth can rejoice.

    We are the recipients of the love of God and the beneficiaries of His boundless grace.

    We do not walk through life alone if we have been born again.

    The dark valley has been changed to the valley of the shadow of death — and He — the Light of the World — walks there with us.

    Heaven is a real place for a prepared people. Treasures can be sent on ahead for enjoying forever.

    In every perplexing situation in life, we know that He is in charge. God reigns! Rejoice!

    July 16 | ACTS 4:32-37 | A Loving Church
    Memory Verse
    And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common (Acts 4:32).

    The great number of converts in Jerusalem after Pentecost created an economic emergency. Many of these believers had come from other places for the Jewish feast days and now that they had been born again, they remained but were unprepared financially for the longer stay. Others may have lost their means of livelihood because of being identified with Jesus.

    No matter.

    They would survive. Why? And how?

    Because the Christians in Jerusalem loved one another more than they loved their possessions. They sold their possessions and pooled their resources to meet this emergency.

    Most American Christians know little of sharing with the needy in their fellowship. We have become so accustomed to having the government handle emergencies that we often neglect those near us in times of need.

    How long has it been since you sent a gift to one in need?

    What have you sacrificed in your church?

    What do you intend to do about it?

    “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit” (James 2:15-16).

    July 15 | PSALM 71 | Old Age
    Memory Verse
    My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed (Psalm 71:23).

    “Let it be our unceasing prayer that as we grow older we may not grow colder in the ways of God,” said good George Muller.

    Muller lived up into the late nineties — always bright, full of interest, hopeful, joyful. In his last years, he would often stop in the midst of his conversation to exclaim, “Oh, I am so happy!” And it was not a mannerism, nor was it feigned.

    “As we advance in years,” he had written long before, “let us not decline in spiritual power; but let us see to it that an increase of spiritual vigor and energy be found in us, that our last days may be our best days... Let the remaining days of our pilgrimage be spent in an ever-increasing, earnest consecration to God.”

    “The devil has no happy old people,” it has been said. And that is understandable. How sad to have lived only for these few passing years and the thrills or compensations of them! In that case, old age is like a solemn countdown to the end. Treasures must be left behind. Moments must be drained of all good, for nothing good is expected beyond the grave.

    In contrast, the Christian can rejoice in old age. He is still young in the light of eternity and every beat of his heart moves him closer to glory. He is not leaving his treasures but going to them. The end of life is but the end of his limitations. He savors every moment as another opportunity to serve his Lord and to be with loved ones, but he knows that better things are ahead and that a great reunion is coming in heaven.

    Whether in church, his home, or in heaven, he can say, “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee.”

    Week 30 | Living in the Light

    An artist sat at his easel creating a gripping,
    powerful painting. Using dark, somber hues,
    he drew dreary, empty fields framed by stark,
    skeleton-like trees, under a cold, snow-laden sky.

    In one corner of the canvas he sketched a
    lonely, desolate house, its stark lines fading
    into the shadows of the night. Then the artist
    paused to contemplate the bleak and
    melancholy scene he had created. After a few
    moments, he picked up his brush to add a
    finishing touch.

    With a dab of bright yellow paint, he put a
    warm, glowing light in the window of the
    house. And suddenly, magically, the whole
    scene was transformed -- that single light
    overcame all the darkness and spoke of hope
    and life!

    This story reminds me of the impact the
    birth of Jesus made on the world and the
    entire history of mankind. As the Apostle John
    declared, In Him was life; and the life was the
    light of men
    (John 1:4).

    The light in the sky

    For 400 years before the birth of Jesus there
    had been no new Word from God, no
    prophetic voice, no new revelations. Man's
    attempts to control his own destiny had
    brought confusion and disaster. The shadows
    of sin and hopelessness had settled over the
    land of Israel, and the whole world had sunk
    into the dismal depths of unbridled sinfulness
    and despair.

    Then, with a stroke of God's hand, He
    brightened the landscape of history and gave
    hope again to a dreary world. He put a light
    in the sky! The star of Christmas lit up the sky
    and captured the attention of all men in all
    nations.

    Why a star? Why a light? The Almighty
    could just as easily have spoken to mankind as
    He did to the shepherds through the choir of
    heavenly angels. Why was such a momentous
    event as the birth of Jesus marked first by a
    light in the sky?

    I believe it was because when God flung
    back the curtains of heaven and opened His
    throne room directly to earth ... light poured
    through as the Son of God made His entrance
    into the world.

    The earth was dreary, dark, and lonely. But
    with a single stroke, God changed the picture
    -- He put a light in the window.

    The light in the stable

    In Rembrandt's famous painting of the
    nativity scene, all the light in the stable is
    centered around the Christ child. This is a
    fitting depiction, for He is the Source of all light.

    It is no accident that the Son of God came
    to a stable rather than a palace. He came, not
    just to the rich, the privileged, the powerful
    alone, but to all men -- even the poorest and
    most humble.

    Yet, the wealthy were not excluded from
    His presence. Those Wise Men who sought
    Him were obviously men of means, since they
    brought rich gifts of gold and precious spices.
    When they sought Him, humbling themselves
    to come where He was, they, too, were welcomed.

    Jesus said, I am come a light into the world,
    that whosoever believeth on me should not abide
    in darkness
    (John 12:46).

    The shepherds were the first to arrive on the
    scene (see Luke 2:8-20; Matthew 2:11).
    Sometime later there came the "kings," or
    magi, from afar. Have you ever wondered why
    they all didn't arrive at the same time to
    worship Christ?

    I'm told there is a prophetic significance to
    the timing of those events -- that Christ came
    to the Jews first, then to the Gentiles.

    But all who came to find the Source of light
    in the stable were received joyfully.

    The light in our hearts

    Today there is no single brilliant star
    lighting up the sky. Nor do pilgrims to
    Bethlehem find a divine light still emanating
    from the place where once a rude stable stood.

    Where, then, is the light of the world? It
    still burns ... in the hearts of those who believe
    in Jesus Christ and who receive Him as their
    Lord and Savior. We are His luminaries in
    today's world. If the people around us are to
    see the light of Christ, they must see it in you
    and me!

    We ourselves don't have the ability to be
    lights -- but we can be reflectors of the Light.
    When we allow Christ's light to come inside
    our hearts, the Holy Spirit, the transformer,
    makes us lamps through which the light
    shines.

    God, through the Holy Spirit, transforms
    the stable of men's hearts into the temple of glory!

    The same Jesus who said, I am the light of
    the world
    (John 8:12) also says to us, Ye are the
    light of the world
    (Matthew 5:14). And we are
    to let our light -- His light -- shine forth.

    He said, If I be lifted up from earth, [I] will
    draw all men unto me
    (John 12:32). As we
    allow Christ to be lifted up in our lives, He'll
    do the illuminating. He'll attract others to Himself.

    How often have you met a person who had
    such a glow around him that you knew he was
    a child of God even before you were
    introduced to him? There is a kind of peace
    and tranquility, a love that just radiates to
    others. And people are drawn to such a person
    because it is natural to be drawn to light.

    In the neighborhood where Jack and I used
    to live, the people on our block all decided to
    put out luminaries as decorations at Christmas
    time. A luminary is a simple brown paper bag
    filled with enough sand to keep it from
    blowing away... with a small candle inside.

    A single candle didn't give off much light by
    itself, but when the whole street was lined with
    these luminaries, the whole neighborhood was
    bathed in a soft, beautiful glow!

    One of the ongoing themes of this ministry
    is "Lighting New Fires of Revival,
    Redemption, and Reconciliation" through our
    outreaches. And I believe the way to kindle
    those anew is to allow the
    light of the Lord to shine through each of us.

    I'm not talking about the fires of fanaticism
    that break out of control and wreak havoc and
    destruction wherever they go. Instead, I'm
    talking about the glow, that divine light that
    softly shines through and combines with the
    light shining from other believers about us.

    We must be faithful. We must not fail. A
    world dying in darkness is looking for the
    Light.

    In the words of the familiar chorus:

    This little light of mine,

    I'm gonna let it shine,

    Let it shine,

    Let it shine,

    Let it shine!

    Week 29 | Is There Room in Your Heart for Him?

    What a special time of the year!
    Thanksgiving and Christmas are more precious to me
    than any other holidays, and they so beautifully
    go hand in hand.

    More and more, I realize the importance
    of being grateful for the true essence of
    Christmas -- that God became flesh. He came
    as a baby, humbling himself to a manger and,
    one day, to Calvary's tree for you and me. Oh,
    what love!

    I wonder if we can really understand the
    emotion in heaven and the joy on earth as
    Mary and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem
    just prior to the birth of Christ.

    An historic journey

    Can you see them as they wearily make
    their way through the narrow streets of
    Bethlehem? Mary, tired from the long journey, sits
    on the little donkey as Joseph leads it along.

    Their journey is almost over, and none too
    soon. They stop in front of one of the inns in
    Bethlehem. With a tender word, Joseph
    comforts his wife and then strides quickly toward
    the inn door.

    Have you ever wondered what Mary was
    thinking as Joseph knocked at the innkeeper's
    door? Perhaps she was remembering what her
    cousin Elizabeth had said to her some time
    before. Blessed art thou among women, and
    blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence
    is this to me, that the mother of my Lord
    should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the
    voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears,
    the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

    And blessed is she that believed: for there
    shall be a performance

    [fulfillment] of those
    things which were told her from the Lord

    (Luke 1:42-45).

    Mary knew how blessed she was for, out
    of all the women in the world, God had
    chosen her to give the world this baby. This
    wasn't Joseph's baby; He was the Son of God,
    produced by the Holy Spirit, waiting to be
    born in Bethlehem (see Luke 1:35 and
    Hebrews 10:5).

    Mary knew about the promise that
    foretold: But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though
    thou be little among the thousands of Judah,
    yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me
    that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth
    have been from of old, from everlasting

    (Micah 5:2).

    Mary's mind didn't dare leap ahead to
    contemplate the rest of those words. It was
    enough for her to know that she was, at this
    very moment, in Bethlehem (ancestral home
    of King David, Joseph's forefather) and that
    her time to give birth was at hand.

    Mary looked at Joseph, footsore and
    fatigued from walking alongside the donkey all
    the way so that she could ride. She knew how
    blessed she was to have this good and just
    man as her husband. He had handled the
    situation so well. He had shown her nothing but
    love and concern. More than once he had told
    her, "I know, beloved wife, that this child has
    been conceived in a special way. The angel
    laid all my fears to rest."

    Joseph had learned of Mary's pregnancy
    after she returned from visiting Elizabeth. For
    six months they had marveled at the conversations
    they had each had with the angel. It
    must have been awesome for them, realizing
    that the Holy Ghost had visited Mary and that
    the child she carried was a divine original.

    "Oh, Joseph," I can hear Mary saying, "He
    is to be called 'the Son of God.'"

    "Yes, Mary," Joseph responded, "and His
    name is to be called JESUS, for He shall save
    His people from their sins."

    The prophecy

    Did they recall the words of Isaiah? Did
    they repeat those names? Behold, a virgin
    shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call
    his name Immanuel...For unto us a child is
    born, unto us a son is given: and the government
    shall be upon his shoulder: and his
    name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
    The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The
    Prince of Peace
    (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6).

    Perhaps Mary remembered those
    conversations as her husband knocked at the
    innkeeper's door. She was so tired. The journey
    had been long and hard. But now, at last, they
    had arrived in Bethlehem.

    For us, today, a journey to Bethlehem is
    still not easy. In the hustle and bustle of the
    season, there are many things to deter us.
    We've all heard that we should keep Christ in
    Christmas, but let's be sure that we keep
    ourselves in Christmas, as well! If we are not
    careful, we can become so busy with Yuletide
    activities that we are exhausted before we get
    to Bethlehem -- and miss the real Christmas
    altogether.

    Knock...knock...knock! Joseph knocks at
    the innkeeper's door. A Baby is about to be
    born -- the most important Baby ever to be
    born on this earth. "Let us in...let Him in...out
    of the cold and darkness of the night." But the
    Bible tells us there was no room for them in
    the inn
    (Luke 2:7).

    No room! Those are heart-rending words.
    Would we have said that? Yet, isn't it being
    said every day? We are all innkeepers, with
    room for many things, but do we have room
    for Him? In our lives -- shabby stables that
    they are -- He may be cradled, but we must
    give Him room.

    Joseph, the rugged carpenter of Nazareth,
    a just man whose faith transcended his
    misgivings, enfolded Mary's helplessness in his
    strong arms as he lifted her off the back of the
    little donkey. Someone had tapped him on his
    sagging shoulders and said, "There is a place,
    if your wife won't mind. I know I can fix it
    and make it clean. It will be quiet there...and warm"

    Lowly beginnings

    Joseph had ministered to Mary's needs in
    that weary pilgrimage to Bethlehem; but his
    husbandly duties had not yet ended. Mary in
    a stable? The Son of God born in a barn?

    How his mind must have reeled. Remember,
    he was very human.

    Husband, would you like for your wife to
    give birth to her firstborn in a stable? What
    lowly circumstances! The Lord of all heaven
    and earth was about to make His human
    presence known in the world -- but in a barn?
    This
    was not the birthplace Joseph had imagined
    for JESUS.

    Barns smell, not just of clean hay, but of
    animals. Barns are not always sanitary. Oh,
    the lovely Nativity scenes that we see at
    Christmas do not begin to portray what Joseph
    and Mary must have experienced in those
    prebirth moments, as they contemplated their plight.

    One wishes we could push back the pages
    of time and make it different -- different,
    perhaps, like the school Christmas play I heard about.

    One little boy had been asked to play the
    role of the innkeeper in the play. His parents,
    schoolmates, and teachers were so excited and
    pleased for him because he wasn't quite "normal"
    like the other boys and girls. Still, they
    wanted to include him in the performance.

    Seven little words

    His were simple lines. When Joseph knocked
    at the door and asked for a room, he, the
    innkeeper, would say, "There is no room in the
    inn." Seven words. And that was all.

    The big night came. Practice perfomances
    had gone well. Then came that moment.

    Knock...knock...knock -- Joseph knocks at
    the inn door. With great emotion and convincing
    reality, Joseph presents his case to the
    innkeeper. His wife is very pregnant. In fact, the
    baby is due any moment. Won't the innkeeper
    please let them in?

    The little boy who had rehearsed his lines
    so very carefully, listened patiently, and then
    said the seven words loud and clear: "There is
    no room in the inn."

    Joseph turned, his shoulders sagging. But
    before he could leave, the innkeeper opened
    the door, thrust his head out, and said, loud
    and clear, "Wait...wait! You can have my room."

    It wasn't in the script. Nor was it in the
    script on that first Christmas. And so it was,
    that...she brought forth her firstborn son, and
    wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid
    him in a manger; because there was no room
    for them in the inn
    (Luke 2:6,7).

    As we recall this short resume of the most
    beautiful story ever given from God, may your
    heart be reminded of the importance of
    remembering, not just the gifts that are to come,
    the families we are to see, and the loved ones
    we shall enjoy, but remembering the true
    message of Christmas -- God's love for us. And
    may we not get so distracted by the many
    activities of the holiday season that we never
    even reach Bethlehem.

    Dr. Van Impe and I are grateful for the
    opportunity to share the saving message of
    God's love for the world in these closing days
    of time. Thank you for your prayers and support.

    Week 28 | I Remember Mother

    I can't even begin to imagine how Mary
    must have felt on the day the angel told her
    the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that
    she would become the mother of the Messiah.

    No doubt many Jewish girls dreamed of
    being chosen for such an honor, but they had
    no idea of what price would have to be paid
    by the maiden who became the mother of
    Jesus. How many virgins would have had the
    faith and steadfastness in God to receive this
    unique ministration of the Holy Spirit? And
    how many would have had the strength of
    character to endure the shame of being found
    with child before her marriage?

    What a remarkable person Mary must have
    been. No doubt she was the ultimate of
    womanhood or God would not have chosen her to
    bear His Son. And surely her unswerving
    faith and devotion to duty are unexcelled in
    the pages of human history.

    What a profound inspiration and influence
    her life of humble trust in God must have been
    for the boy Jesus as He increased in wisdom
    and stature
    (Luke 2:52) during His growing-up
    years in Nazareth. The Lord must have
    come to know His mother in a very special
    way during the nearly 30 years He lived with
    her and Joseph.

    At the end of His life and ministry, Jesus
    must have remembered many things about His
    mother. No doubt He recalled her loving con-
    cern and patience when she traveled back to
    Jerusalem to find Him, at age twelve, still in
    the Temple with the elders.

    And He must have remembered her trusting
    faith and her recognition of His divine
    nature at the wedding in Cana. Although He
    did not promise to remedy the shortage of
    wine (fruit of the vine), Mary confidently told
    the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do
    it
    (John 2:5).

    Jesus knew Mary's gracious spirit all of
    His life. With His divine nature, He could
    also see her heart, for He knew all of mankind.
    And yet Mary continued, with dignity, to be
    His mother. What a pure life she must have had.

    Jesus remembered and respected His
    mother. On the cross just before He died, He
    looked down and saw her there, when so many
    others had forsaken Him. And in the hour of
    His greatest agony, carrying the awful burden
    of the sins of the world, He remembered Mary
    and made provision for her care. Seeing the
    Apostle John near her, He said, Woman,
    behold thy son!
    And to John, Behold thy mother!
    (John 19:26,27).

    Precious memories

    I remember my mother with every bit of
    admiration and respect that I think Jesus had
    for His mother. So much of who I am and
    what I am is a result of her loving guidance
    and positive influence. I first learned love at
    Mother's knee through her touch, her care.
    Then she pointed me to the love of Christ, and
    I was reared in a Christian home.

    It was from Mother's voice that I first
    heard music, which has been such an
    important part of my whole life and ministry. In one
    of my earliest childhood memories, I am in
    her arms and she is singing! I have no doubt
    that my love for music came from her -- I started
    singing when I was 5 years old.

    I learned the discipline of my life from
    Mother. She never allowed me to sing in
    public unless I had my song memorized. I did not
    play the piano for others unless I had
    practiced.

    Humility was a quality Mother taught me
    by example. To this day she has the most
    beautiful, unassuming spirit of anyone I know.
    To me she is a perfectly blended combination
    of the biblical sisters, Mary and Martha. She
    always spent time worshiping the Lord -- I've
    walked into her bedroom many times and
    found her on her knees or reading her Bible.
    But her personal devotions were always
    balanced with service to others.

    My Mother was -- and is -- a servant of the
    Lord and people. She goes out of her way to
    help, and nothing is ever too much for her to
    do. I've watched her bake for her friends, do
    laundry for a sick person, or make phone calls
    to encourage others when she was weary
    herself. She always would take time to send
    cards for funerals, birthdays, or other
    occasions when a friendly note would be appreciated.

    I remember Mother taking me to church
    revivals where I had been invited to sing.
    When we walked inside together, she would
    say to me, "Go ahead, honey, serve the Lord."
    And she would stay near the back of the
    church, not wanting to be noticed.

    To this day, at age 83, Mother stays busy
    serving the Lord. The staff at our Jack Van
    Impe Ministries office love to have her come
    around. "Things are just better when she's
    around," they say. "She lightens the day and
    brings an extra measure of love and harmony."

    Inner beauty

    From Mother, I learned the secret of inner
    beauty -- of filling my heart and mind with
    love and wholesomeness and letting them
    permeate my entire being. And I also learned the
    importance of always trying to look my best
    and having my home clean and in order.

    Mother always kept herself beautifully
    groomed and modestly dressed, and her home
    immaculate. She taught me that appearance is
    important because it reflects the kind of
    person one truly is inside...and is a testimony --
    good or bad -- for the Lord.

    There are so many other qualities my
    mother taught me -- tenderness, a sense of
    duty, a living expression of the gifts of the
    Holy Spirit. Space doesn't permit a listing of
    even half the good things she imparted to me
    by instruction and example.

    But I must mention one more -- I learned
    wisdom through my mother. Wisdom comes
    from the Lord, according to the Book of
    Proverbs. But Mother certainly was a living
    symbol of that divinely-given quality. She
    almost always had the answers to my
    questions, always knew the right thing to do in
    every situation, always seemed to know when
    to act and when to wait.

    And although she didn't have the opportunity
    to complete school when she was young,
    later in life she went back to school and took
    some business courses. She did it on her own,
    just because she wanted a little better formal
    education -- and because there were still some
    things she wanted to know about!

    Like Ruth and Naomi

    Not only was I blessed with a wonderful
    mother, but my mother-in-law and I had a
    beautiful relationship as well. I appreciated
    her so much. We never had the conflicts that
    many women seem to experience. We had
    more of a Ruth and Naomi relationship.

    My mother-in-law has a very keen sense of
    humor and a love of life, which my husband
    shares. And she also displays a sweet sense of
    trust and faith.

    My husband's parents returned to
    Belgium, their homeland, as missionaries, when
    their only child, Jack, was 17. He had just
    entered Bible school to prepare himself for
    the ministry. There were no other Van Impe
    relatives in America, and my in-laws had no
    money to leave with their young son.

    It must have taken a tremendous amount of
    faith for Mother Van Impe to leave her only
    child and go so far away. She had to commit
    him into the hands of God and trust that he
    would be all right.

    I've also respected the fact that my
    mother-in-law was never concerned about earthly
    possessions. As missionaries, their income
    was very limited, requiring many sacrifices,
    but she was content. No one ever heard her
    complain, or express a desire for a better
    house or home furnishings, or clothing. Her
    priorities were straight -- she was working for
    eternal rewards. She has always been precious
    to me personally.

    A legacy of love

    What a tremendous legacy both Dr. Van
    Impe and I have received from our mothers.

    Each Christmas season when we celebrate
    the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, I especially
    remember Mother. Let us all remember our
    mothers, how they have helped the living
    Christ to be born in our hearts.

    We can never forget what she has meant to
    us. Every day in some way her positive influence
    lives on in our lives. As the Prophet
    Isaiah wrote, And thine ears shall hear a word
    behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in
    it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye
    turn to the left
    (Isaiah 30:21).

    Week 27 | The Purr-fect Blessing

    For more than seventeen years, our cat,
    Fenica, was a great source of companionship
    and enjoyment to Jack and me. But after all
    those years, she finally succumbed to a fatal
    disease after suffering for several months. She
    was an important part of our lives. In earlier
    years, she was bright and friendly and had the
    uncanny ability to endear herself to folks
    rather quickly.

    A few years ago I wrote about how I found
    this abandoned, sick, starving creature and
    persuaded Jack to let me feed and nurse her
    back to health.

    At first Dr. Van Impe would only consent
    for Fenica to stay out on the patio...then we let
    her into the garage on cold nights. From there
    she moved straight into our hearts -- and she
    was an important member of our family from
    that day on.

    Over the years, quite a "love affair"
    developed between Jack and this soft, furry
    creature. Most people envision my husband as
    a very serious, scholarly man who thinks of
    nothing but Bible study and prayer. And he
    does spend many hours daily with his Bible
    and study material.

    But I wish you could have seen him and
    Fenica on the floor, rolling around and playing
    their own games. They had a great relationship
    -- and some pretty silly conversations! I
    really don't know what all they talked about
    together, but from Fenica's expressions and
    faithful attentiveness, it seemed obvious that
    she understood and appreciated every word
    Jack said.

    A praying cat?

    Of course, it was love at first sight for this
    little cat and me. And over the years she was
    so much company and a real friend. Often
    Fenica joined me as I knelt to pray. As I
    poured my heart out to God, I'd feel my little
    kitty snuggling up beside me.

    During the dark days a few years back
    when the ministry was struggling with great
    financial difficulties and the stress seemed
    almost overwhelming, I was able to survive
    only by laying my burdens at the feet of the
    Lord. In those prayer times, when words
    failed me and tears coursed down my cheeks,
    how comforting it was to hear a gentle purr
    and to be suddenly -- thrillingly -- aware that I
    was not alone...that God's presence was all
    around me!

    Jack and I started out to help and care for a
    neglected and needy animal. But in exchange
    for some medical attention and a little food,
    Fenica became a great source of joy and blessing
    to us. Only now -- after she is gone -- are
    we beginning to understand why the Lord sent
    this little creature into our lives.

    Pets are good for your health

    Scientists have begun to find proof of what
    they only suspected before -- that contact with
    animals has specific effects on the human
    body and mind. Health officials have verified
    that pets have definite therapeutic value in
    people's regular daily lives, and also for
    people in institutions. Hospitals, nursing homes,
    and penal institutions have discovered the
    positive impact animals can have on handicapped
    or socially maladjusted individuals. Some of
    them regularly bring animals into therapy
    sessions for patients and inmates, and puppies
    and kittens often get responses from people no
    one else had been able to reach.

    As early as 1790, a Quaker group in
    England discovered the value of taking mentally
    handicapped people on group retreats and
    encouraging them to roam the grounds and
    spend time with farm animals. This therapy
    seemed to get tremendous results compared
    with the limited institutional treatment
    available at that time.

    Organizations like the Latham Foundation
    of Alameda, California, and the Delta Society
    of Renton, Washington, promote interest in
    human-animal bonding and study the role
    animals play in human development.

    Studies have shown that encouraging
    abused children to be responsible for caring
    for animals -- especially disabled or injured
    creatures -- provides a real psychological
    boost. Perhaps just seeing how another
    helpless, hurting creature can overcome the odds
    and survive gives them hope.

    But the benefit of association with animals
    is not just psychological. Studies show that
    the heart rate is lower when people are in the
    presence of a friendly animal. And elderly
    people with pets make fewer visits to the
    doctor. Perhaps we are discovering a new form of
    low cost preventive health care.

    Of course, it's really not new at all. I
    believe it is highly significant that in the
    beginning, God first gave Adam the animals and
    birds to keep him from being lonely. Genesis
    2:18,19 says, And the Lord God said, It is not
    good that the man should be alone; I will
    make him an help meet for him. And out of
    the ground the Lord God formed every beast
    of the field, and every fowl of the air; and
    brought them unto Adam to see what he would
    call them.

    I believe that in most cases, animals want
    to be the friends of man, not enemies. Most
    animals become hostile or vicious only out of
    fear or as a result of being abused by man.

    Animals have great value

    How important are animals to us? We've
    already seen that God provided them to Adam
    even before He gave him Eve. That's pretty
    important! And later on, when the wickedness
    of man became intolerable to God in Noah's
    day, not only did the Lord devise a plan to
    save representatives of the family of man from
    the destruction of the flood, He also arranged
    to save at least one pair of every species of
    animal!

    God regards His creatures as beautiful and
    valuable. And so should we. There are many
    ways they can be of service to us...and there is
    much we can learn from them.

    Wisdom from a pet

    I remember a cold winter's day when I
    walked into our bedroom to look for a book
    I'd left there. It was freezing cold outside,
    with snow on the ground, but the rays of the
    sun were streaming through the window.

    Fenica was stretched out in a chair by the
    window, soaking up the warmth of the sun.
    When she heard me come in, she stretched her
    head back and looked at me upside down...but
    didn't move. It was almost as if she were
    saying, "I don't have a worry in the world -- I
    have you to keep me safe and warm."

    I found my book and went back
    downstairs, but I found myself thinking how
    wonderful it would be if I could learn to trust and
    rest in the Lord's love the way our cat confidently
    and comfortably depended on Jack and me.

    As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount,
    If ye then, being evil, know how to give good
    gifts unto your children
    [or pets], how much
    more shall your Father which is in heaven
    give good things to them that ask him?

    (Matthew 7:11).

    So perhaps we all could take some lessons
    in living from precious pets like Fenica.

    • She trusted me and knew I loved her
      and would not hurt her or allow her to
      be injured -- and I can trust God (see
      John 3:16; 1 John 3:16; Galatians 2:20;
      Ephesians 2:4,5).
    • My cat relied on me to direct her and
      not let danger fall in her path -- and I
      can rely on God (see Proverbs 3:5,6).
    • Fenica knew I cared for her and that I
      would take care of her, so she was not
      burdened down with concern. I can
      cast my care on the Lord, for He cares
      for me (see 1 Peter 5:7).
    • No matter what she needed, Fenica
      turned to me as her source of supply.
      And I can have that same relationship
      with my heavenly Father, who supplies
      all [my] need according to his riches
      in glory by Christ Jesus
      (Philippians 4:19).

    And finally, Fenica loved to be with Jack
    and me. Wherever we were in the house, she
    tried to be near us. Often, even when I walked
    through the house, she would go along with
    me. She didn't need anything -- she wasn't
    asking for anything...she just wanted to be
    near me and have fellowship with me. And
    that was so very special to me.

    How much more must our heavenly Father
    enjoy having us want to spend time in His
    presence and have fellowship with Him?
    There's a wonderful inspirational song that
    says, "I'll walk with God." It speaks of
    having God beside us to lead and guide us.

    What a thrill to be able to have personal
    fellowship with our Creator, who is also our
    Friend. Nothing in life can ever defeat us
    when we walk with Him.

    It really is...The Perfect Blessing.