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Today’s Devotional | September 20 | ACTS 2:41-46 | A Praying Church

Today's Devotional

Memory Verse
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).

The church at Jerusalem was made up primarily of new converts. One hundred twenty disciples had begun witnessing on the day of Pentecost and their efforts produced 3000 converts, Nevertheless, these new converts were involved in the prayer life of the church immediately.

It is a mistake to suppose that those newly converted cannot be expected to pray earnestly and powerfully. True, as they grow in grace their maturity will show in prayer, but babes in Christ should be taught to pray without delay. Attendance at the prayer meetings of the church should be expected of all members — new and old.

The New Testament church was powerful because it was a praying church. If the power of your church depended on your prayer life, how powerful would the church be? Would your church be strong in prayer if every member prayed as you pray? What percentage of your fellowship would be present at the prayer meeting service if all members attended as faithfully as you attend?

Five ministerial students were visiting in London on a hot Sunday in July. While they were waiting for the doors of the Metropolitan Tabernacle auditorium to open, a man approached them and asked if they would like to see the heating plant of the church. Thinking it strange to be speaking of a heating system in July, they followed him out of curiosity. He opened a door and whispered: “There it is, sirs!” Seven hundred people were kneeling in prayer.

Some heating system!

Why not install one in your church?

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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    September 19 | ACTS 1:8-14 | Of One Accord
    Memory Verse
    These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (Acts 1:14).

    Christians praying together — of one accord — in a local church can expect the mighty power of God in their witnessing. But too many churches are torn by strife and divisions. As a result, the Spirit of God is grieved and the church plods week after week on its weak way.

    As the day of Pentecost approached, the disciples laid aside all differences and united their hearts in believing prayer. We remember that day when the Holy Spirit came as promised and we cherish the account given in the Bible of the thousands saved and the fellowship that was theirs.

    • What would it take to get your church praying in one accord?
    • Who would have to make the first move?
    • What petty grievances would have to be forsaken?
    • What do you intend to do about it?

    Many Christians flit from church to church trying to find one that conforms to their idea of a perfect church. Some are genuinely concerned and are seeking a fellowship like that set forth in the Book of Acts. They feel they could serve the Lord and live victoriously if only they could find a church where the spiritual temperature was conducive to Christian victory and growth.

    The disciples were the most unlikely group on earth with which to start a revival. Yet history speaks for the great work of God among them because they were of one accord.

    Stop tramping. Start where you are and do what you can to get the saints together in earnest prayer — united in love. That kind of praying will change your church. And end your search!

    September 18 | JOHN 17:1-9 | Praying for Me
    Memory Verse
    I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine (John 17:9).

    Here is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus. It is known as His great intercessory prayer. He prays for His disciples and for all who will believe as a result of their ministry.

    He prays that you and I will be kept from evil (verse 15). Temptation whirls around all, inviting shame and destruction. The enemy is strong and the flesh is weak. But Jesus has prayed for us. We do not enter the day alone or in our own strength. His Spirit and His prayers follow us every step of the way.

    He prays that you and I will be sanctified through the truth. To be sanctified is to be set apart from the world and for God. Sanctification is in three dimensions — positional, progressive and perfect. As to position, we are sanctified at the moment of new birth. When we are saved through faith in Christ, we are set apart for God. Progressive sanctification continues throughout life. This has to do with growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Perfect sanctification takes place when the Lord returns. Then we shall be perfect for we shall be like Him. (1 John 3:2,3)

    Progressive sanctification is the aim of the prayer of Jesus for you and me. He is praying for growth and development in His own. And notice the instrument of sanctification — THE WORD OF GOD (verse 17). His Word gives growth. It contains the vitamins and minerals of soul health.

    Our daily growth and Christian victory are concerns of Christ. Prayer concerns. Certainly there is then no excuse for defeat.

    I expect to conquer and grow. Jesus prayed for me.

    And His prayers continue to this day!

    September 17 | I KINGS 17:1-16 | Elijah
    Memory Verse
    For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth (1 Kings 17:14).

    Elijah was a powerful prophet. He announced a drought because of the sins of his people and there was neither dew nor rain for three and one half years. James reveals that Elijah prayed for the drought to come: “Elias [Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:17,18).

    During the drought, God took care of Elijah and others who were faithful. God is as able to provide our needs in times of famine or depression as in times of prosperity. Christians ought not waste time worrying about the state of the economy or the outcome of international politics. God’s plan is unfolding and our responsibility is to be faithful in witnessing for Christ while there is time.

    On one occasion, God used a widow to feed His servant. The widow had but a handful of meal and a little oil but God would stretch those meager provisions and make them last until rain came. The widow’s act of faith in providing for Elijah has caused her to be remembered to this day.

    Finally, Elijah called for a contest to prove how foolish it was to worship the false god, Baal. In his call, he challenged the people to get off the fence and worship the Lord. “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

    Take Elijah’s advice and give your all to Jesus.

    September 16 | JOHN 15:1-14 | Ask What Ye Will
    Memory Verse
    If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you (John 15:7).

    At first glance, this appears to be another wide open promise of answered prayer — “ask what ye will.” Further investigation shows it to be a conditional promise.

    The first condition is abiding in Christ. This has to do with consecration and continual confession of all known sin. In other words, it does not deal with salvation only, but with a daily dedicated walk with Christ. There is no room for hypocrisy here. One who abides in Christ in the sense given in this stern chapter makes Christ Lord of all. His life is separated from the world and unto God. He cares not about the persecution. Consistency in Christian living is his aim. And his abiding in Christ produces fruit to the glory of God the Father.

    The second condition is God’s Word abiding in us. That does not happen by a two- minute perusal of a prepared devotional, however helpful. For the Word of God to abide in us, there must be a time set aside for extensive Bible reading and preferably for Bible memorization and meditation. Since the Bible is God’s revelation of His will and purpose for man, it deserves our attention. Sadly, it often rates below the newspaper and the television set in priority. No wonder prayers go unanswered.

    This prayer promise calls for a new commitment. Are YOU willing to surrender all to Christ, making Him Lord of all in your life? Are you ready to give His Word its proper priority? If so, expect answered prayer!

    September 15 | JOHN 14:1-14 | In Jesus’ Name
    Memory Verse
    And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).

    What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus? It means to come to God relying on the merits of Jesus, having no confidence in our own righteousness. It also involves praying so that Jesus may be glorified in the answer. On the latter, the late Dr. Charles Blanchard shared the following in his book, “Getting Things from God:”

    “Again, praying in the name of Jesus is praying in order that the name of Jesus may be glorified, His kingdom built up, His church established. This test again causes many of our supposed prayers to disappear.”

    Keeping this in mind, what was the motive in your praying yesterday? Did you come to the throne of grace in the merits of Jesus, or did you pray feeling that God really ought to answer because you deserve it for your faithful service? Did your praying have the glory of God as its motive? If not, you did not really pray in the name of Jesus.

    The promise of answered prayer that is made in the name of Jesus is both thrilling and frightening. The promise is so broad and unlimited that its possibilities are exciting. The danger lies in loosely using the name of Jesus as a habit of prayer or a magic phrase without thought or reverence and in so doing taking the name of Christ in vain.

    To pray in the name of Jesus, then, involves the attitude of the heart. If you have come in His merits and for His glory, ask boldly in His name. He is responsible to keep His promise of answered prayer.

    September 14 | LUKE 22:39-46 | Thy Will Be Done
    Memory Verse
    And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44).

    The four most difficult words to pray are these: THY WILL BE DONE. Our stubborn wills resist submission. Yet if we are to follow in His steps, those four difficult words must describe our purpose in living.

    Consider the circumstances under which Jesus prayed “not my will, but thine, be done.”

    Judas had agreed to betray Him for thirty pieces of silver. The illegal and unjust trial lay just ahead of Him and beyond that the cross with its pain and shame. Nevertheless, His will was submitted to His Father’s.

    We do not know what tomorrow holds. Dark clouds may be gathering on the horizon and a storm of trouble may threaten. We have but one thought — deliverance from difficulties. Still, none face such misery as He faced when He prayed in submission to the Father’s will.

    While submission comes hard for most, it helps to remember that our Heavenly Father loves us. We are not surrendering to a tyrant bent on our destruction when we pray “Thy will be done.” This is a case of giving one’s self over to the One who always does right and who loves us with an everlasting love.

    Submission to God’s will does not guarantee an easy road in the immediate future. But it does promise a blessed eternity. Rewards await those who stop trying to save their lives and dare to risk everything with Jesus. Then we will rejoice in the blessings that will be ours from having earnestly prayed, “THY WILL BE DONE!”

    September 13 | LUKE 18:9-14 | The Sinner’s Prayer
    Memory Verse
    And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 18:13).

    The Pharisee and the publican picture all people who pray. The Pharisee approached God on the basis of his own righteousness and thought that was safe ground. The publican came just as he was, admitting his sin and claiming God’s mercy.

    There are but two kinds of religion: that which says “Do” and the other that says “It is done.” Multitudes hope to get to heaven because of their good works and therefore go out of their way to perform religious and righteous acts. Sadly, their good works will avail nothing. Heaven’s gates are not hinged on the accomplishments of men. How clearly Isaiah has explained the futility of seeking God’s favor through good works: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

    The publican understood that he was a sinner. This is absolutely necessary. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Only sinners can be saved. And ALL are sinners: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

    But God has been merciful to sinners. Christ died for sinners. There on the cross the debt of sin was paid. You can come to the Saviour just as you are. There is no need to reform or change in any way to be received of Him. Come with repentant heart and trust in Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour. You do not even have to pray a prescribed prayer: “...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved... “ (Acts 16:31).

    Week 38 | Eat, Drink and Be Merry

    "Happy New Year." "Eat, drink, and be
    merry... have a good time!"

    Each year, when the waning hours of
    December give way to the opening moments
    of January, millions of people around the
    world celebrate. Many attend parties, some
    lavish extravaganzas with feasts and open bars,
    others small private gatherings with more
    modest refreshments.

    Restaurants and nightclubs are filled to
    capacity, and multitudes gather in New York
    City's Time Square to wait for and watch the
    fall of a large, lighted globe which symbolizes
    the passing of the old year into history and the
    arrival of the future in the form of the New Year.

    At the stroke of midnight, millions lift their
    glasses for a toast to the New Year, and by
    word and example encourage each other to
    "eat, drink, and be merry!"

    There are other celebrations, too, where the
    liquor does not flow and the merriment is not
    a boisterous attempt to overcome propriety
    and inhibitions. One could not fail to notice
    that the eating, drinking, and being merry in
    these celebrations is of quite another kind.

    In thousands of churches across the
    country, Christians gather for "watch night"
    services to give thanks for God's blessings
    during the old year and to invoke His
    guidance and provision in the year to come.
    There is time given for fellowship, testimonies,
    praise and worship, prayers -- for food, music,
    tears, joy, and laughter! Here, too, people are
    observing the universal invitation to eat,
    drink, and be merry (spiritually, as we'll see).

    It should come as no surprise that
    Christians should be able to celebrate with
    genuine exuberance and joy -- even more
    than the people of the world. Our Lord said,
    These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy
    might remain in you, and that your joy might be
    full
    (John 15:11).

    Becoming a Christian does not take away
    all problems and difficulties in our lives. All of
    us have discovered that there are numerous
    occasions for unhappiness. But neither should
    being pious appear to be an ordeal of misery.

    A keen observer once noted that sometimes
    Christians act like a man with a headache --
    he doesn't want to get rid of his head but it
    hurts to keep it on. Groaning, complaining,
    and displaying a mournful face is not the best
    way to express one's faith. How can Christians
    expect unbelievers to seek very earnestly
    something that looks so uncomfortable?

    Jesus said, In the world ye shall have
    tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have
    overcome the world
    (John 16:33).

    If we have the assurance of being
    overcomers with Christ, we have a right to
    celebrate! As Christians, we of all people
    should be able to say "eat, drink, and be
    merry.

    Eat

    First of all, we can eat. Our appetite should
    not be for caviar and other gourmet delicacies,
    but for the Word of God. The Apostle Peter
    admonishes, As newborn babes, desire the
    sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow
    thereby
    (1 Peter 2:2).

    God's Word is our source for the substance
    of faith... and faith provides the strength that
    enables us to stand against the sea of trouble
    that may surround us at times.

    I love the imagery of Micah 5:4, And he
    shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord.

    What a great thought -- that through the
    Word we can feast and draw strength from the Lord.

    In the original language, the meaning of the
    word translated "feed" also implies "to
    shepherdize." To me that suggests that the
    benefit we obtain is not just food, but also a
    shepherd to guide us, watch over us, restore us,
    protect us, and preserve us. No wonder the
    Lord invites us to "come and dine."

    In the "Decade of Destiny," let us take
    advantage of the bountiful benefits God has
    provided for us in the Bible. Even as we daily
    consume physical food, every single day may
    we find a renewal of faith from taking in the
    substance of God's Word which will give us joy
    and provide strength for life's challenges.

    Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the
    waters
    (Isaiah 55:1).

    Have you ever been thirsty? Surely thirst is
    one of the greatest discomforts the human
    body can endure.

    I'll never forget being in Israel a few years
    ago to tape a television special. I was
    performing a song on location -- out in the
    merciless, glaring heat of the sun on a 115+
    degree day.

    After a while my mouth and throat were dry
    and parched. My tongue actually stuck to my
    teeth. I was absolutely parched. Somehow I
    managed to get through the song, but I felt
    exhausted and faint, and we headed back to
    our hotel.

    As soon as we arrived, they gave me a large
    glass of iced tea, and I quickly drank it down.
    That was several years ago, and I still
    remember how good that cold drink tasted. I
    felt like it had saved my life!

    Perhaps you've had your own desert
    experience, when everything around you
    seemed dry and lifeless and you were nearly
    overcome with thirst. What a joy in such a
    time to drink of the water of the Word -- to
    taste and see that the Lord is good!

    Jesus ministered to a Samaritan woman at a
    well one day. After asking her for a drink from
    the well, He offered her a source of living
    water. Whosoever drinketh of the water that I
    shall give him shall never thirst; but the water
    that I shall give him shall be in him a well of
    water springing up into everlasting life
    (John
    4:14; John 7:37).

    Think of it -- Christ himself, and the Holy
    Spirit, will well up inside of us as a source of
    living water that will forever quench the thirst
    of our souls. The water they give is permanent
    and satisfying!

    How do we drink of this living water? By
    practicing His presence and spending time
    with Him. If we eat by reading the Word of
    God, then we drink by spending time in
    meditation and communion with the Lord in
    His presence.

    Isaiah 12:3 says, Therefore with joy shall ye
    draw water out of the wells of salvation
    . All
    Christians have this living water inside when
    they receive the Lord. I do! You do! But so
    often we don't have the spiritual maturity that
    keeps that fountain of water springing forth.

    People who sometimes complain that their
    spiritual lives have become very dry need to
    take that scripture to heart and draw new
    water from the well and renew their joy.
    Perhaps they have not been drawing from
    Him, drinking instead from some man-made
    well. Let's be careful what we drink, lest the
    water within become unfit and contaminated.
    It is only when we draw from Him and His
    Word that we allow the Holy Spirit to truly
    refresh us.

    I believe the effect we get from drinking
    Christ's living water should be the same that
    people of the world get from drinking wine --
    it should bring a relaxed joy. And be not drunk
    with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with
    the Spirit
    (Ephesians 5:18). Drinkers seem to
    experience an almost immediate sense of joy
    and happiness, just because they've been
    drinking. In the same way, when we drink of
    the water of life, people should notice that we
    are experiencing happiness and joy... because
    we've been drinking.

    Be Merry

    Jesus said in John 10:10, I am come that they
    might have life, and that they might have it more
    abundantly.

    Nowhere does the Bible teach that we
    shouldn't enjoy life. Rather, we are told that
    Jesus intended for us to live an abundant life.
    Abundance is a positive condition, suggesting
    satisfaction and joy.

    Many in the world seem preoccupied with
    their pursuit of happiness. They equate
    happiness with hilarity -- with being carefree
    and giddy and full of laughter.

    To me, there's a difference between
    happiness and joy. The world's happiness is
    totally dependent on circumstances, on what's
    happening around them. But the true
    Christian can have joy no matter what comes
    his way because of the abundant life that is
    being poured out through him.

    The Psalmist David declared, Thou has put
    gladness in my heart
    (Psalm 4:7). These are not
    the empty words of a pious Pollyanna! David
    knew many heartaches and disappointments
    in his life. He suffered the loss of a child, his
    own son turned against him, his king tried to
    kill him, his own reign was turbulent and
    filled with war and struggle. Certainly he
    didn't live a sheltered, picture-perfect life, yet
    he could say he had gladness. Happy is he...
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
    he wrote in
    Psalm 146:5. And in the midst of life's trials,
    troubles, and heartaches, that is the only
    source for happiness.

    The world's quest for happiness through
    eating, drinking, and being merry is doomed
    to failure. Following through with their
    formula will only cause them to wake up the
    next morning feeling really bad. As my
    husband, Jack, has often said, "If you have
    champagne on Saturday night, you'll have a
    real pain on Sunday morning."

    In reality, the only people who can find true
    joy and happiness by following the advice to
    "eat, drink, and be merry" are the people of
    God! They partake of spiritual manna that
    produces true joy. Beloved friend, in these last
    days, don't be overcome by the darkness of the
    world and the doom and gloom some would
    promote. Eat of the promises of God's Word.
    Drink of the Holy Spirit's never-failing
    presence. Be merry with the joy of the Lord
    welling up within! Life is a rich adventure
    when we live up to our privileges and
    experience His unspeakable blessings.

    This, then, should be our invitation to the
    lost and unsaved. Rather than issuing a
    warning to sinners to seek salvation as an
    escape, we can joyfully proclaim, "Come with
    us and we will do thee good -- the Lord
    invites you to eat, drink, and be merry... for
    tomorrow we live!"

    Week 37 | Who Is Mary?

    It seems to me that most Christians today
    -- especially Protestants -- spend little time
    thinking about Mary.

    Oh, once a year she shows up on a
    Christmas card, shown either riding on a
    donkey's back or keeping a silent vigil beside
    the newborn Christ child in the manger. Even
    then, she may be scarcely noticed amid the
    animals, shepherds, and wise men.

    On those occasions when we do think
    about Mary, our main concern may be
    maintaining the proper balance between
    reserve and respect for this remarkable
    woman. Yet we can't fully understand the
    miracle of the Christmas story if we fail to
    consider Mary's role. She's really the central
    human figure in one of the most important
    events in the history of mankind.

    Who was Mary? What relevance does her
    life have to our personal faith?

    I am astounded by her comprehension and
    calm acceptance of the monumental miracle
    the angel Gabriel announced would happen.
    Imagine a poor, uneducated peasant girl being
    told she would conceive and give birth to a
    great king, the Son of God! Yet Mary
    understood... and she believed.

    Perhaps one of the few people Mary could
    confide in during this time was her cousin,
    Elisabeth, who was to be the mother of John
    the Baptist. Elisabeth confirmed that what was
    happening to Mary was divinely ordained, and
    encouraged her. Blessed is she that believed, said
    Elisabeth, for there shall be a performance of
    those things which were told her from the Lord

    (Luke 1:45).

    In the midst of today's relaxed (collapsed?)
    moral standards, it may be difficult for us to
    realize the sacrifice Mary had to make to agree
    to yield herself to the Holy Spirit. In her
    culture, for an unmarried woman to be found
    with child could have resulted in a death
    sentence!

    At the very least, she faced
    misunderstanding by most people, probably
    rejection by her betrothed, and scorn and
    shame in the eyes of her contemporaries.

    Which of us would have the courage and
    strength to subject ourselves to such an ordeal?
    But Mary's strong faith moved her to
    cooperate with God's plan. Her simple,
    humble response was, Be it unto me according
    to thy word
    (Luke 1:38).

    Mary stands out in the gospel story as the
    symbol of the true humanity of Jesus. She is
    the link between the divinity of Christ and the
    humanity of Jesus. She is the link between the
    divinity of Christ and the humanity of all
    mankind. Jesus could not have been
    completely God and completely man without
    Mary's role.

    Without question Mary and her husband,
    Joseph, played an important role in shaping
    and influencing the developing years of the
    young Jesus. As a youngster, Jesus was taught
    the scriptures and the laws of God. When He
    amazed the learned scholars in Jerusalem at
    age 12, one can say that His divinity shone
    through... but He also had been taught and
    trained to do His homework.

    And it may well have been at home that
    Jesus learned the words He cried at
    Gethsemane -- "Not my will, but thine be
    done!" Certainly His mother had set an
    example before Him of humble submission to
    the plan of God.

    The character exemplified in the life of
    Mary is an inspiration and challenge to every
    believer. She was courageous, committed,
    compassionate, and concerned.

    Mary's Courage

    I envision Mary having great strength and
    durability, yet retaining complete and perfect
    femininity. She was courageous, going calmly
    and with dignity where few others would have
    been willing to go. She faced hardship,
    opposition, even danger, with no complaints.
    She was willing to let God's will be done in her life.

    After facing the ostracism and personal
    humiliation of being pregnant without a
    husband, Mary had the strength and courage
    to mount a donkey only a few days before
    giving birth and make the long, hard journey
    to Bethlehem.

    And it must have taken courage of another
    kind to deal with the throngs of strangers who
    came to visit her newborn son -- shepherds,
    wise men from the East, and doubtless other
    curious onlookers.

    Later, when Herod sought to kill all babies
    in the land, she helped save Jesus from the
    slaughter by journeying to Egypt with Joseph
    and the child to live among foreigners. Did
    this take courage? Absolutely!

    And let's not forget the courage demanded
    of Mary to take on the responsibility for
    rearing and nurturing Jesus through his
    childhood and into manhood. It takes great
    courage to be the parent of any child -- how
    much more to be the mother of the Son of God?

    Mary's Commitment

    Once Mary heard and responded to the
    angel's announcement that she was chosen for
    a divine commission, she was committed.
    From that moment on, she never wavered or
    looked back.

    Her commitment was complete -- she set
    aside any personal ambitions and dreams to
    make herself available to God's plan. Her
    whole life was dedicated to carrying out the
    divine mission to which God had called her.

    So seriously did she take her responsibility
    that the crisis of losing and finding her Son
    again in Jerusalem when He was 12 prompted
    her to scold Him for causing her such concern.
    And Jesus gently rebuked her by reminding
    her that He must be about His Father's
    business.

    And a few years later, at Calvary, her
    commitment kept her at the front of the cross
    while almost everyone else fled. Even in the
    face of what must have been tremendous
    anguish to see her Son's suffering, she
    remained committed to God's plan.

    Mary's Compassion

    From the beginning of her adult life, Mary
    lived her life for others. She put the needs of
    others before her own, and ministered to those
    around her -- husband, family, friends.

    I imagine Mary as being the perfect
    embodiment of all the marvelous qualities of
    the virtuous wife described in Proverbs 31. She
    was humble, but supremely capable and
    efficient in her efforts to serve.

    Can you imagine this woman going around
    very arrogantly, saying, "Treat me special -- I
    am the mother of the Son of God?" Of course not.

    Surely Jesus patterned part of His life after
    her example. When he promised rest to those
    who labor and are heavy laden, He said, I am
    meek and lowly in heart
    (Matthew 11:29). I am
    sure He must have observed the qualities of
    humility and compassion in her daily life.

    Mary's Concern for Others

    The story of Christ's first miracle in turning
    water into wine at the wedding in Cana
    provides a very telling insight into the
    character of the mother of Jesus. Even in a
    situation where providing the refreshments
    was not her responsibility, Mary was
    concerned for others. When it became obvious
    that there was not enough to drink at the
    wedding feast and the host was about to be
    embarrassed, she got involved.

    She was aware of what was going on around
    her... and was concerned about the problems
    of others. But more than feeling sympathy for
    them, she had a solution. "I know my Son can
    take care of this," she said.

    After making Jesus aware of the problem,
    she told the servants of the house, Whatsoever
    He saith unto you, do it
    (John 2:5). And, of
    course, the Lord did meet the need and the
    beverage He provided was recognized as the
    best of the evening!

    So Mary's life is an inspiration to us -- her
    courage, commitment, compassion, and
    concern. Her Christian character and devotion
    is an eloquent witness that, with the help of
    the Holy Spirit, we can be strong enough to
    withstand any test, even the crucifying
    tensions of modern life. Perhaps the key to
    Mary's spiritual life is found in that beautiful
    Bible passage known as the Magnificat (see
    Luke 1:46-53). In those wonderful verses it
    seems one can hear her opening her innermost
    heart as she cries -- "My soul doth magnify
    the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God
    my Savior... holy is His name. And His
    mercy is on them that fear Him from
    generation to generation."

    Thank you, Mary, for the inspiration and
    godly example of your faith-filled life! May
    God help us to magnify the Lord, rejoice in
    our spirits, and receive His mercy... today,
    and until His perfect plan is fulfilled in all the earth.

    Week 36 | Somebody’s Children

    Last summer, after sensing the need for a
    change of pace, my husband and I drove to
    Montreal, Canada ,the largest
    French-speaking city in the world, after Paris. It was
    delightful and so relaxing. Just what we
    needed. The people were friendly, the old city
    intriguing, the food wonderful. Montreal is
    considered to be one of North America's most
    interesting cities. And we found it to be true.
    In fact, we agreed Montreal is one of the most
    beautiful cities we've ever seen. In two weeks'
    time we walked 150 miles savoring all the
    sights and delights, and learning about the
    history and the greater metropolitan area itself.

    One afternoon we found an old-fashioned
    ice cream parlor. "It has to be a great place,"
    Jack said, "look at all the people!" He patted
    his "midsection" and I raised my eyebrows and
    we walked in. We found an empty table and
    placed our order.

    Just as we were being served, two
    bedraggled-looking young people came in
    each carrying a backpack. They were obviously
    exhausted. They spied an empty table where
    the waitress hadn't removed the plates from
    the previous customers, and they plopped
    down. But just that quickly, they snatched up
    the leftovers and wolfed them down. Eyes
    darting around, never making eye contact with
    anyone, they focused on other empty tables
    with plates containing food and quickly ran
    from one to the other, stuffing the food into
    their mouths. The young woman, whom I
    guessed to be about twenty, was more
    aggressive than the young man. They were just starved!

    It happened so fast that everyone was in a
    state of shock. About the time we and others
    had recovered from seeing this, they grabbed
    their backpacks and were out of the door and
    gone. "Jack, if only they'd stayed long enough,
    we could have offered to buy them food!" I
    was dazed by the brief encounter. "Oh Jack," I
    continued, "I wonder whose child she is
    my voice trailed off.

    Jack leaned across the table and patted my
    hand. The food which had been served so
    attractively had somehow lost its appeal. I
    looked around and noticed others were feeling
    the same way. The charming place which just
    moments before had been the scene of
    animated conversation now seemed strangely silent.

    Jack's eyes were sad; mine were tearful.

    As we left the ice cream parlor and
    continued our leisurely walk, my eyes glanced
    around. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the
    young couple. "There are so many like them
    in city after city all over Canada and the
    United States," my husband said.

    "Where are the parents?" I asked. Jack
    shook his head. Later, as I reflected on the
    incident, (in fact, I don't think I will ever
    forget those two young people), I was
    reminded that one of the most wonderful
    things about being a Christian is that we are
    God's children. Our needs are important to
    Him and He is always ready to supply (Phil.
    4:19). He knows the way that we take (Job
    23:9). I took comfort in the knowledge that
    God even knew their names (Isa. 45:4). I
    could leave them in the Father's hands.

    As we venture into a new year, we can do so
    with confidence, knowing that the steps, as
    well as the stops, of God's children are ordered
    by Him (Ps. 37:23). Because we are His
    children, we can count on His promises, and
    they are so many! Our potential as His
    children is limitless.

    But we need to be living up to our
    potential. How do people know we belong to
    God? Three things, it seems to me,
    characterize the life of a child of God: (1) Our
    conversation; (2) Our conduct; and (3) Our
    convictions.

    Our conversation: She (or he) openeth her
    mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the
    law of kindness
    (Prov. 31:26).

    My mother had a little saying which I have
    called to mind many times: "He that thinketh
    by the inch, and speaketh by the yard, shall be
    kicked by the foot."

    The Bible is full of counsel about the need
    to guard our conversation. Consider just these
    few: A soft answer turneth away wrath: but
    grievous words stir up anger
    (Prov. 15:1). How
    many relationships would fare better if these
    words were called to mind when people were
    tempted to temperamental outbursts! The
    tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of
    the wicked is little worth
    (Prov. 10:20). Silver
    reflects. What a beautiful word picture this
    presents! Our tongues should reflect the Lord.

    Our conduct: We must back up our
    conversation with right conduct. Those
    beautiful graces depicted in Galatians 5 should
    exemplify the conduct of our lives: But the
    fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
    long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,
    temperance: against such there is no law
    (vv. 22,
    23). An entire article could be written around
    each word, but let me simplify it in this way:
    LOVE is a new constraint, JOY is a new cheer,
    PEACE is a new compassion,
    LONG-SUFFERING is a new continuance,
    GENTLENESS is a new characteristic,
    GOODNESS is a new character, PATIENCE
    is a new confidence, MEEKNESS is a new
    courtesy and TEMPERANCE is a new
    contentment.

    Our Convictions: The story is told of
    David Hume, the agnostic, who was
    reproached by his friends because of his
    inconsistency. He used to like to go hear the
    famous preacher John Brown preach, and
    when questioned about this he explained, "I
    don't believe all that he says, but at least once
    a week I like to hear a man who declares his
    convictions."

    How important for us to have strong
    convictions and to abide by them. The letter
    of James emphasizes that our "yes" should be a
    simple "yes," and our "no" a simple "no"
    (Ja. 5:12). In other words, be convinced in
    your heart and stand by your convictions. Be a
    man or woman whose word is unquestionable.
    If you say you are going to do something, or
    you promise something, it ought to be as if
    you were in a courtroom and had taken an
    oath to speak the truth.

    These are just some of the identifying
    characteristics that mark us as children of
    God. The psalmist said, Mark the perfect man,
    and behold the upright: for the end of that man
    is peace
    (Ps. 37:37). None of us have arrived,
    we aren't wholly perfect, progress is perhaps a
    more accurate word to describe our condition.
    But we should be progressing.

    Perhaps a good prayer would be: "Lord,
    help me to reflect the fact that I am your child."

    Week 35 | Listen He Speaks Ever So Softly

    It was long past time for my annual
    physical, in fact, I was enjoying such good
    health and vitality that it had been three years
    since I had visited my doctor. However, at the
    conclusion of a thorough exam, the report was
    quite disconcerting. (Before I proceed, let me
    encourage all of my readers, if at all possible to
    go for that annual "check-up.")

    "We will have to do some tests," the doctor
    explained, "then, in a couple of weeks, we will
    know where we stand."

    Immediately, my mind was filled with
    different thoughts. "Can this be me who is
    experiencing this questionable report? No!
    My doctor is wrong! What if she is not?" By
    the time I got home and shared the news with
    Jack I found myself asking God, "What's this
    all about?"

    In compliance with the doctor, I took the
    medical tests and began the long wait for the
    results. All the while, we were praying and
    seeking the Lord for His divine purpose and
    will to be accomplished in my life.

    By the end of the two weeks, we found
    ourselves rejoicing in the faithfulness of God.
    I knew He had everything under control.
    Deep in my heart, I knew it would be all right.
    "But Lord," I asked, "what is the purpose
    behind this trial?"

    Then -- the night before we received the
    results of my tests -- Jack looked over at me
    and said, "I have peace in this matter, so
    tonight let's go out and celebrate this victory
    in our lives!"

    We went to a lovely restaurant that is meant
    for celebrating and fine dining. A nice,
    handsome pianist softly played the piano in
    the corner of the dining room, and candles
    softly lit each of the tables. Jack and I laughed,
    enjoyed our luscious dinner and shared in a
    wonderful conversation about the Lord. It
    was an evening I'll never forget.

    As we prepared to leave, I expressed to my
    husband how much I wanted to go and thank
    the pianist for sharing his special talent with
    us. Being musicians ourselves we were
    impressed with his tremendous ability to
    "tickle the ivories."

    "You have a beautiful touch on the
    keyboard," I told him.

    "Thank you," he answered. "I am sorry if
    you saw me staring at you and your husband."
    He explained: "For a year, my fiancee and I
    watched your television program faithfully.
    She used your ministry to help lead me to the
    Lord, and then... she died. She was only 38
    years old and I have been bitter toward the
    Lord and unable to pray ever since."

    I reached out and took his hand from the
    keyboard and stated: "God doesn't want you to
    be bitter and neither does she. Your fiancee is
    in a better place right now and you will be
    with her again -- perhaps soon. The best
    thing you could do right now is to get your
    heart right with the Lord, so that when He
    comes again, you can go and be at her side."

    Jack, who has always been sensitive to the
    moving of the Holy Spirit, began to explain to
    this young man the Scriptures and how it is
    appointed unto men once to die
    (Hebrews 9:27).
    Then he added, "Your sweetheart is in heaven
    and awaits your homecoming. Be ready, Brian!"

    Jack and I were so blessed as we watched the
    Lord begin to move in his heart. Right at the
    piano, with tears streaming down his face he
    recommitted his life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
    He looked up at both of us and said, "I can
    hardly wait to call my fiancee's twin sister to
    tell her what has happened tonight." We had
    a word of prayer and promised to send him
    our video about heaven.

    The next morning, I heard from my doctor.
    My tests showed that I was just fine. The
    doctor said, "You and Jack go out and
    celebrate, Rexella." She did not know that we
    had already claimed the good report and the
    special blessing we had found in doing so. Of
    course, we continue to rejoice and thank the
    Lord for the results of the test, but we realize
    that if for no other reason we had gone
    through this trial, Jack and I could be at the
    restaurant that night to speak to the young
    pianist.

    God's ways are so much greater than ours.
    This was probably the Lord's plan all along!
    How important it is for you and me as
    Christians today to listen to the Holy Spirit
    and obey His leading in our lives! The things
    and events that surround us are real and at
    times they can be overwhelming, and we are
    unable to recognize Jesus and the guidance of
    His Spirit. Let the circumstances be what they
    may. Always maintain complete reliance upon
    Him and listen to the often quiet voice of His
    Spirit as He leads you into victory and
    blessings yet to come. Be totally
    unrestraining, be willing to risk everything.
    We do not know when His voice will come
    again, so be ever-aware and obey.

    I realized, there are three very important
    lessons in regard to listening to the Holy Spirit
    that we can learn from this personal
    experience with the young man.

    1. We must listen when the Holy Spirit is
    leading us.

    I Thessalonians 5:19, says: Quench not the
    Spirit.
    That means, when you are being led by
    the Holy Spirit, you must listen to His voice.
    The little promptings and opportunities that
    God passes along your way mean you must be
    faithful. Follow the Lord's leading in these
    situations so that you do not quench His
    ministry in your life.

    In Acts the 8th chapter, we read the
    wonderful testimony of Philip the evangelist as
    he was led to a desert road that descends from
    Jerusalem to Gaza. Once there, the Spirit said
    unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this
    Chariot
    (Acts 8:29). Arriving at the chariot,
    there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court
    official, who was reading the book of Isaiah.
    However, he did not grasp what the prophet
    was saying, so beginning with the passage of
    Scripture in Isaiah, Philip led the Ethiopian
    eunuch to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    If Philip had not obeyed the prompting of
    the Holy Spirit in his life -- and, if Philip had
    not preached Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch --
    this court official may never have been won to
    the Lord.

    The same was true for Jack and me as we
    talked with this young pianist that night. If
    we had just walked out, not wanting to get
    involved, or if we had talked with the musician
    about his fine musical skills and not talked
    about the Lord or the Scriptures, this young
    man may never have received the ministry he
    so desperately needed.

    2. When the Holy Spirit guides us, He will
    empower us to do His will.

    A beautiful example of this dynamic
    thought can be found in the life of the Apostle Peter.

    Previous to Peter being filled with the Holy
    Spirit, he was a spiritually weak man. Who
    can forget the night when Jesus was brought
    before Caiaphas the high priest, and the
    scribes and the elders? Peter lingered outside
    in the courtyard where he was confronted by a
    servant girl who asked if he was one of Jesus'
    disciples. Peter vehemently denied the Lord
    three times that night.

    Remember, this was before the Holy Spirit
    filled Peter's life.

    Oh, the grace of God! Only 50 days after
    the denial, we read the wonderful account in
    Acts, chapter 2, of Peter's boldness on the Day
    of Pentecost. This was the event Jesus
    prophesied before he ascended: But ye shall
    receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come
    upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both
    in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria,
    and unto the uttermost parts of the earth
    (Acts 1:8).

    After Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit,
    he stood up before the crowd that day --
    unashamed and unafraid -- proclaiming the
    Good News of Jesus Christ. Three thousand
    souls were won to the Lord!

    Soon after this, Peter and John were
    brought before the Sadducees who
    commanded that Peter and John no longer
    teach in the name of Jesus (see Acts 4:13). But
    Peter would not be intimidated. He said
    (along with the Apostle John), Whether it be
    right in the sight of God to hearken unto you
    more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot
    but speak the things which we have seen and
    heard
    (Acts 4:19,20).

    Scripture also records: With great power gave
    the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord
    Jesus: and great grace was upon them all
    (Acts 4:33).

    What made this difference in the life of the
    Apostle Peter? It was the Person of the Holy Spirit.

    Previous to being filled with the Holy
    Spirit, Peter was so weak, in and of himself, he
    denied Christ in front of a damsel. After the
    infilling of the Holy Spirit, Peter became bold
    in faith and proclaimed the Gospel in the face
    of beatings and eventually, martyrdom (he was
    crucified upside down).

    3. When the Holy Spirit leads and
    empowers us for the sake of the Gospel, and
    we faithfully obey His promptings -- not
    quenching the Holy Spirit... then blessing comes!

    That evening, after Jack and I shared in this
    precious conversation with our young pianist,
    we walked away rejoicing. We were happy
    about the wonderful things God did in that
    man's life -- and in ours -- by bringing us all
    together for this special moment of ministry.
    We felt truly blessed! Winning souls and
    witnessing for Christ always produces joy.

    For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of
    rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our
    Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our
    glory and joy
    (I Thessalonians 2:19, 20).

    Jack and I have often found that in
    attempting to bless others, we are also blessed.
    As we attempt to reach out and water the lives
    of others with Scripture, we are watered
    ourselves. As we comfort others, our own
    comfort is increased. We find consolation and
    gladness in our own lives as we give to others.

    Jesus said, Give, and it shall be given unto
    you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken
    together, and running over, shall men give into
    your bosom. For with the same measure that ye
    mete withal it shall be measured to you again

    (Luke 6:38).

    Proverbs says it this way: The liberal souls
    shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be
    watered also himself
    (Proverbs 11:25).

    We must remember: Whosoever will save his
    life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life
    for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save
    it
    (Mark 8:35). True life is found as you give
    yours away in service to others.

    In closing, I am reminded of the Dead Sea,
    located between Israel and the Jordan, whose
    water content is so salty that very little is able
    to exist within its waters.

    The intrinsic problem of the Dead Sea
    results from the fact that it has several inlets
    that flow into it -- the Jordan river is one of
    them -- but has no outlets to share its waters
    with other bodies. In other words: All
    receiving and no giving results in a body of
    water that has no life.

    As followers of the Lord, we must never
    become like the Dead Sea -- where all we do
    is sit, soak and sour! We must get rid of the
    desire to be a part of the "bless-me-club," and
    become a member of the "blessing club." The
    way to receive a blessing... is to be a blessing.

    We must become an effervescent witness for
    Christ having a wellspring of living water
    flowing out of our hearts and into the lives of
    others. That well-spring of life, that Jesus has
    given to each of us as believers, is His precious
    Holy Spirit (see John 4:14 and John 7:37-39).

    Let us determine that we shall always listen
    to the voice of the Holy Spirit inside us...
    even if it means encouraging and witnessing to
    a pianist in the middle of a restaurant!