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Today’s Devotional | August 14 | I CORINTHIANS 8 | Liberty

Today's Devotional

Memory Verse
But if any man love God, the same is known of him (I Corinthians 8:3).

Many Christians wrestle constantly with the question of what they can or cannot do in the Christian life. Their understanding of “the world” is fuzzy and they struggle to know the difference between dedicated Christian living and compromise with sin. Often it appears they have drawn an imaginary line as close to danger as possible and are crowding it continually, yet giving the impression they want to do it right. They run from one counselor to another seeking guidance, sometimes with the purpose of finding a Christian leader who will soothe their consciences by lowering the standard just a bit. They appear to want to get away with as much as they can and still make it to heaven.

There is another group of saints who are sincere and dedicated but confused. They honestly want to live for Christ and honor Him in their words and actions, but they have trouble knowing what to do in a number of situations. The clear-cut issues are no problem to them, but the “gray” areas keep them off balance. In the text above, Paul dealt with just such an issue. Christians were troubled about whether or not to eat meat that had been offered to idols. There was nothing wrong with the meat because the idols were but images made with hands. Still, there was an area of doubt.

Paul settled the “what to do” issue by appealing to their love for the Lord. Liberty would have allowed them to eat the meat. But how would this have affected those who didn’t really understand Christian liberty? Therefore liberty had to be tempered with love.

Let love temper Christian liberty and the “gray” will go away.

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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    August 13 | ROMANS 13:8-14 | Fulfilling the Law
    Memory Verse
    Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:10).

    Jesus once shocked the Pharisees, saying: “...thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). They had hoped to trap Him in some contradiction concerning the law given to Moses. His answer silenced them.

    Explaining Paul’s effort to drive home this same great truth to the Christians at Rome, Dr. H. A. Ironside wrote: “ ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ He who thus loves could, by no possibility, ever be guilty of adultery, murder, theft, lying, or covetousness. It is impossible that love should be manifested in such ways as these. ‘Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.’ It is in this way that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.”

    Year after year, legislatures and parliaments grind out laws designed to keep the populace in line and to preserve the common peace. These laws, containing rules and sentences, are prepared and passed to keep citizens from wronging or hurting one another. How unnecessary most laws would be if love reigned! Billions in tax monies would be saved if love determined actions.

    Prisons and jails would he empty if love was a way of life.

    We cannot control the way others live, but we can fulfill the purpose of God in our lives by loving one another.

    And our neighbors will notice!

    August 12 | JOHN 21:15-25 | Love For Others
    Memory Verse
    So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him. Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him. Feed my lambs (John 21:15).

    In preparing Peter for his work in the early church, the Lord asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter had to learn that genuine love for Christ required acts of love and concern for others. He would be called on to feed and care for thousands of new converts. These members of the New Testament church would be known for their warm fellowship and love for one another. Peter must set the example.

    It is easy to speak or sing of our love for the Lord, but real love must act. James reminded his readers that faith without works is dead. The same might be said of love. At the end of a sermon by Dr. Harry Ironside, the congregation was singing, “OH HOW I LOVE JESUS.” As they sang softly, a skid row derelict made his way to the front of the church, coming all the way from the last pew. His clothes were ragged and dirty and he reeked with the smell of booze. A call was made for a personal worker to come and talk to him about Christ — but not one person moved. It was one thing to sing about love for Jesus and another to kneel beside this down and outer who had come to learn of Him. But real love for Christ reaches out to others — especially those in great need.

    What can you do today that will demonstrate your love for Jesus? Will you be asked to feed His lambs, His sheep? Awaiting you in your day’s activities are people with hungry hearts. Some need the Gospel. Others are Christians who need help and encouragement. While you’re deciding whether or not to get involved, face the question: “Lovest thou me?”

    August 11 | ROMANS 12:9-20 | Brotherly Love
    Memory Verse
    Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another (Romans 12:10).

    In the first century after Christ, Tertullian, the Christian theologian wrote: “It is our care for the helpless, our practicing of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of our opponents. ‘Look,’ they say, ‘how they love one another. Look how they are prepared to die one for another!’”

    But is that reputation alive and well today?

    In some areas and individual situations it is! Sadly, in others the missing dimension is love that really cares.

    Note the tenderness of Paul’s wording: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love.” Commenting on the words, “kindly affectioned,” Dr. Kenneth Wuest points out that the Greek word used is “philostorgos.” He then explains: “The word here represents Christians as bound by a family tie. It is intended to define more specifically the character of ‘philadelphia’ (brotherly love) which follows, so that the exhortation is, ‘love the brethren in the faith as though they were brethren in blood.’”

    The world is looking for a brotherhood. Witness the existence of dozens of lodges, clubs and other organizations that claim to be fraternal. Here is another example of human effort to produce a remedy for the need of man. All brotherhoods or sisterhoods call out for the real thing. The bond between Christians, made possible through the love of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, produces genuine brotherhood. How sad when this powerful truth and experience is neglected!

    Nothing is gained through bemoaning the absence of Christian love. Action is required. The place to begin is here. The time is now.

    August 10 | JOHN 15:15-27 | The World’s Love
    Memory Verse
    If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (John 15:19).

    The world loves its heroes, but even this love is temporary. One may be king of the mountain one day and cast down the next. Big names of the past are often the moral and financial wrecks of today. Faces that once graced top magazine covers now sell cheap sensational papers with stories of the former star’s present predicament. The world’s love is fickle and dependent on fortune.

    God’s love is enduring. The ups and downs of life do not affect it: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).

    Which love shall we choose?

    Responding to the love of God by receiving Christ can put one at odds with others. Some will not understand. The love of the world will be forfeited. In some cases this may cost popularity or money. In many parts of the world it means imprisonment or even death. Nevertheless, it will be worth it all when we meet the Lord.

    Forfeiting the world’s love to serve Christ is a small loss compared to eternal gain. Wise ones choose the love that lasts!

    August 9 | JOHN 13:21-35 | Disciples
    Memory Verse
    By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35).

    Love is a requirement of discipleship. It is the identifying Christian characteristic. The world is able to recognize one who is disciplined to Christ by his daily and practical acts of Christian love.

    Real Christianity suffers when religion gets in the way. It has always been so. We are so given to accepting outward claims to piety that we often conclude the best Christians are those who put on the most religious airs. Platform prowess may convince the general public as to who is the spiritual one in town or in the local church. But polish and performance will not count at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

    Heaven will contain many surprises. The old song says: “Everybody talkin bout heaven ain’t goin there.” Many talk about heaven who have climbed the religious ladder to high positions in Christian work but are bankrupt of love. They are quick to judge and they major on criticism. The eloquent DeWitt Talmadge observed: “There are in every community, and every church, watch dogs, who feel called upon to keep their eyes on others and growl. They are always the first to hear of anything wrong. Vultures are always the first to smell carrion. They are self-appointed detectives. I lay this down as a rule without exception, that those people who have the most faults themselves are the most merciless in their watching of others. From scalp of head to soles of foot, they are full of jealousies, or hypercriticism.” In such cases, heaven may not be the destination. People who are truly born again have the Holy Spirit within. And the fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22-23).

    August 8 | MATTHEW 5:43-48 | Love Your Enemies?
    Memory Verse
    But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

    Two Christian men had a disagreement and one of them began to slander the other throughout the neighborhood. Upon hearing of it, the object of the gossip went to his indignant brother and said: “Will you be kind enough to tell me my faults to my face, that I may profit by your Christian candor and try to get rid of my errors?”

    When the slanderer agreed, the man under attack went a step further. “Before you begin telling me what you think is wrong in me, will you please bow down with me and let us pray over it, that my eyes may be opened to see my faults as you will tell them?” he asked.

    Upon finishing the time of prayer, the one seeking reconciliation said: “Now proceed with what you have to complain about.”

    But the other replied, “After praying over it, I now feel that in going around talking against you, I have been serving the devil and have need that you pray for me and forgive me the wrong I have done you.” Love had won.

    Perhaps the most difficult instruction in the Bible to follow is that of loving those who wrong us. Yet, this is God’s way. He loved us while we were enemies through sin: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).

    An atheist once said about Christians: “They are not as good as their Book.” It’s time to start following God’s Word instead of yielding to the fallen nature within.

    When you start loving your enemies, who will be first on the love-list?

    August 7 | PSALM 119:161-168 | Not Offended
    Memory Verse
    Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them (Psalm 119-165).

    The Bible contains the greatest love story ever written. Nothing in literature can compare with the Bible because it was given by inspiration of God. All that we know about the love of God is contained in the Bible.

    People who love God love the Bible. It is impossible to hate the Word of God and love the Author. Your love for the Lord can be measured by your attitude toward the Bible.

    Exposure to the Bible in a devotional sense changes lives. The Bible has power to give daily victory over temptation. Many have despaired of ever conquering some besetting sin. Following David’s formula in Psalm 119:9-11 would have solved the problem and ended constant defeat: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. “

    One of the great benefits of loving God’s Word is in experiencing its power to deliver us from super sensitivity. Those who love the Bible will stop carrying their feelings on their sleeves. It is impossible to love the Bible, read it regularly and take it into life, without overcoming the sensitivity syndrome.

    Christians do not have the right to be offended. We are not allowed to get our feelings hurt over trifles. Supersensitive saints are missing something in their walk with God. They need to fall in love with the Bible and its message so that feelings are subject to God’s Word and will.

    If this truth offends you, better hurry back to the Bible for help!

    Week 32 | Trust Daddy and Jump!

    It's amazing how often I am awakened in
    the middle of the night and find myself
    thanking and praising God for all of His grace,
    mercy and blessings. Recently, I have found
    myself, in that quiet time of the early
    morning, reminiscing about my happy
    childhood. How very grateful I am to the Lord
    for such beautiful memories. I remember with
    fondness and joy the good times we had
    together as a family. My father was a big man
    -- well over six feet tall, fun-loving and tender
    -- and my brothers were the best companions
    a little girl could have. My precious, sweet
    Mother, though petite, had robust energy and
    always joined in our many outings of picnics,
    concerts, boating, swimming and a multitude
    of events conducted by our church.

    We had a favorite place to go in the summer
    for swimming. Since we lived in Michigan,
    where there were various areas one could enjoy
    for this fun-time sport, my father taught me to
    swim at a very early age. I must have been
    about seven when I had my first experience at
    diving. The place we liked the best had a
    twenty, perhaps even a thirty-foot high
    waterfall. My older brother was a wonderful
    swimmer and I'd watch in awe as he made his
    way to the top of the waterfall and then dove
    off. I wondered if I'd ever be able to do that. I
    hoped so, but it did look scary.

    The day came when my Dad said, "Rexella,
    go on up there and jump off. I'll be here to get
    you." At first I paused, looked at him to make
    certain I'd heard correctly, and he nodded his
    head and urged me on. Self-assured, I strutted
    off and made my way to the top. But when I
    got there, I said to my brother who had
    followed me, "I can't do it."

    "Sure you can," he confidently coaxed,
    "you're a great little swimmer. I know you can
    do it. You just trust Daddy and jump."

    From the top of the falls I looked over to
    the side bank where my mother and little
    brother were waiting and watching for me to
    do my first jump. "I can't disappoint my
    family," I thought. "You go first," I said to
    Bob, still hesitant. Then I looked down and
    my Father called up, "Jump, I'll be right here
    for you." I saw his smiling face and
    remembered that he had never failed me in the
    past. So I took my first leap of faith and trust.

    The first thing I remember was hitting the
    water with a thud and sinking down, down,
    down. All of a sudden I felt the strength of my
    Daddy's hands as he pulled me up to the top.
    What a relief and how good it felt to have his
    hands gripping mine. I clung to his neck for a
    moment and was rewarded with his words,
    "Good girl! I knew you could do it."

    This was the first illustration of trust that I
    can really remember and to which I relate
    when I think about trust and all that it means.
    The word trust implies reliance on someone or
    something. It calls to mind other words such
    as confidence, faith, dependence, assurance
    and certainty. Good words.

    We know love is freely given, but trust is
    something that must be earned. You can look
    at someone and think, "I love him or her for
    Jesus' sake," but you can't trust them until you
    know them and are assured that they have
    earned the right to be trusted. In particular, in
    the cultural climate in which we find ourselves
    today, we have come to realize that one just
    can't trust everybody. That's a sad
    commentary, but true.

    But there is Someone who is fully
    trustworthy -- worthy that is, of our total
    trust. That Someone is Jesus. We can take Him
    at His Word, and that Word is the Bible.

    It isn't always easy to trust. The apostle Peter
    discovered this when he jumped into the
    raging sea to go to Jesus who was walking on
    the water. Remember the story in Matthew
    14:22-33? As long as Peter kept his eyes on
    Jesus, trusting Him, he was fine as he actually
    walked on the water; but when Peter
    continued walking against the boisterous
    wind; he was afraid, and began to sink. It isn't
    always easy to step out from that which is
    secure into something precarious. Nor is it
    easy to keep trusting when the waves of fear
    and doubt overwhelm us. Let's never forget
    this beautiful thought when we reach out to
    Jesus: His hand will always be there to save us,
    guide us and help us. When Jesus reached out
    His hand to Peter and caught him, Peter was safe.

    Trust Him With Your Past

    First of all, we can trust Him with our past.
    I John 1:7 assures us if we walk in the light, as
    He (Himself) is in the light, we have fellowship
    one with another, and the blood of Jesus
    Christ His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.
    When it says all, it means all -- all of the past.
    We can trust Him for cleansing, for
    obliterating all that would otherwise stand
    between us and our holy God.

    Psalm 103:12 tells us, As far as the east is
    from the west, so far hath he removed our
    transgressions from us.
    And that's a long, long
    way. Who can measure it? I was reminded
    recently that the distance between the North
    and South Pole is measurable because there is
    a limit to northness and southness. However,
    there is no East Pole or West Pole. Isn't it
    amazing that the Bible is explicit in saying As
    far as the east is from the west
    ... I find that
    awesome. To think that's how God removes
    our sin from us. Yes, immeasurably! When
    God deals with our sin, a radical removal takes
    place. What a wonderful, trustworthy God we have!

    Hebrews 8:10 provides assurance of this
    truth with these words: For I will be merciful to
    their unrighteousness, and their sins and their
    iniquities will I remember no more.
    It's as if we
    had never sinned or done anything wrong or
    displeasing to God. How amazing to think we
    can trust God with our past.

    Trust Him With the Future

    Then, we can trust God with the future.
    Those familiar words in Proverbs 3 take on
    new meaning as one thinks about the
    implications of the word trust: Trust in the
    Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto
    thine own understanding. In all thy ways
    acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths

    (vv.5,6).

    That word "shall" in this verse speaks of the
    future. It says we can trust Him to guide us in
    the days to come. How does He do this? He
    does it in different ways. Let's consider three:
    1. Through prayer. 2. Through circumstances.
    3. Through the certainty of His Word.

    First of all He has promised to be
    trustworthy as we pray. How very often we
    sense the strength of our Lord as we ask Him
    to bless and guide us in prayer. He alone can
    change situations beyond our control.
    Without reservation we are assured that He
    can be trusted to care for each and every
    request. Sometimes His answer may be,
    "wait," sometimes He says, "This is not good
    for you," and sometimes he says, "Yes, it is
    accomplished." Have you experienced the
    peace of knowing that you have been heard
    even before you arise from your knees?
    Remember the words of Isaiah in chapter 65,
    verse 24: And it shall come to pass, that before
    they call, I will answer; and while they are yet
    speaking, I will hear.

    Let's also consider how God guides us
    through circumstances. Remember the Old
    Testament story of Ruth? What a beautiful
    picture of what it means to trust in God. In
    this book we read how Ruth decided to stay
    with her mother-in-law, Naomi, after tragedy
    struck her family. God blessed Ruth for her
    faithfulness in the form of a good husband,
    Boaz, and a child (from whom King David
    was a direct descendant). Had Ruth not
    listened to the voice of the Lord and followed
    her Mother-In-Law to Israel, God could not
    have used circumstances to lead her to Boaz
    and bless her with such a sweet reward. What
    a beautiful commitment Ruth 2:12 reveals:
    The Lord recompense thy work, and a full
    reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel,
    under whose wings thou art come to trust.
    Oh,
    that we might all follow the guidance of the
    Lord so that He might use circumstances in
    our lives to bless us and reward us with
    heaven's best.

    Lastly, let us think about how God guides
    us through His Word. The Bible is not a
    lottery system whereby we choose a verse of
    scripture for each day and end up taking just
    what we want to hear. But it is a book of

    • "instruction and correction," II Timothy 3:16, 17
    • "guidance," Psalm 119:105
    • "assurance and peace in a troubled world," Isaiah 26:3.

    I could list an entire page of what the Bible
    can be trusted to do for us, but let me just
    assure you, it will never fail, it will never
    change and it will always be relevant to our
    daily life.

    Often, as I have my devotions with the
    Lord, I ask Him to make my mind and heart
    receptive to what He wants to reveal to me
    through His Word. As I continue to read and
    meditate, there it is -- just what I need. I love
    Psalm 119:140, Thy word is very pure: therefore
    thy servant loveth it.

    The world is not a safe place. Everyone is
    talking about violence. A Dallas newspaper
    front-page article says that guns soon may pass
    vehicles as a top killer, according to federal
    health officials. Already, shootings cause more
    deaths than traffic accidents in Texas, six other
    states and the District of Columbia. This find
    came as public opinion polls showed growing
    public alarm about violent crime. Let's hear
    the words of David when he said: The Lord is
    my rock; and my fortress, and my deliverer, The
    God of my rock; in him will I trust; he is my
    Shield and the horn of my salvation, my high
    tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou savest me
    from violence
    (II Samuel 22:2, 3).

    There is only one place where we can go
    and be assured that placing our trust will not
    be misplaced dependence, and that is at the
    feet of Jesus. My brother's words come back to
    me with true meaning for today's stress-filled
    world, "Trust Daddy and jump!" Do you
    know the joy of trusting your heavenly Father?
    He stands ready to catch you as you take that
    leap of faith and -- jump!

    Week 31 | I Remember Israel

    I shall never forget the first time I saw Israel!
    There I was, newly married and already
    traveling to the land I had learned to love as a
    little girl in Sunday school.

    Israel wasn't modern then. I remember
    thinking that the land looked just as it must
    have in ancient times. Yet, it seemed to me to
    be almost a bridge... between the past and
    the future.

    Surely, Israel is the most exciting nation in
    the world. Its very existence seems to
    culminate all Bible prophecy. My husband has
    often remarked that Israel is the key to all
    Bible prophecy.

    I Remember My

    First Impression of Israel!

    Wandering through the narrow streets of
    Jerusalem during my first visit, everything I
    saw and experienced seemed so far removed
    from modern times! In fact, some of the shops
    I entered seemed to be just as they were 2,000
    years ago.

    My first impression of Israel, however, was
    not just of a land rich in ancient history, but a
    land that had been stripped and starved.

    Not too many years prior to my first
    pilgrimage, Jews from all points of the globe
    had begun to flood back into their homeland,
    fulfilling ancient prophecies with their arrival.
    As a people, the Jews had been persecuted,
    beaten, and deprived. Many were survivors of
    Hitler's horrible death camps, having lost their
    entire families as well as all earthly possessions
    to the atrocities of Nazism during World War II.

    Thousands of Jewish refugees arrived in
    Israel with literally nothing more than the
    clothes on their backs... and a fierce
    determination to make their Israel bloom!

    I Remember the Diversity of Israel!

    When Jack and I returned to Israel a few
    years later, I was truly amazed! Israel had
    undergone an almost unbelievable
    transformation! I could see the fulfillment of
    Isaiah 35:1... the desert shall rejoice, and
    blossom as the rose.

    The Jews, with their innovative genius, had
    installed irrigation systems throughout their
    entire land... instantly transforming arid
    deserts into fruitful, productive orchards and
    gardens. And the desolate land shall be tilled,
    whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that
    passed by. And they shall say, This land that was
    desolate is become like the garden of Eden

    (Ezekiel 36:34, 35). I witnessed this!

    Construction in the cities had also begun
    to move forward, and amid the treasured
    antiquities were now high-rise buildings with
    every modern convenience.

    Throughout the land, I was struck with the
    diversity I saw everywhere! It was not unusual
    to see a man leading a little donkey loaded
    down with burdens alongside a busy street
    teeming with trucks and cars. Nor was it
    unusual to see a supersonic jet roar over the
    head of an Arab riding a camel.

    I discovered that in this incredibly diverse
    20th century Israel, I could:

    • Visit Qumran, where the Dead Sea scrolls
      were discovered... or tour the Department
      of Nuclear Physics at the Weizman
      Institute.
    • Experience the coolness of the mountains
      and pastures of Galilee... and the parched
      deserts of the southern region near the
      Dead Sea.
    • Learn about the rich heritage of the Jewish
      culture... discover more about the Arabs
      and their predominant religion, Islam...
      and also worship Jesus with other
      Christians.

    I Remember the Sights of Israel!

    Today, as I reminisce about Israel, I can still
    see the fishermen casting their nets into the
    Sea of Galilee... the shepherds caring for
    their flocks in the fields... the barren desert
    where Jesus endured the devil's temptations...

    I can envision modern Jerusalem, with the
    ancient wonders of old Jerusalem entwined
    within it... the Jews praying at their Wailing
    Wall... the tomb of Lazarus... the field of
    Boaz, where Ruth and Naomi gleaned wheat
    and where the shepherds later received the
    angel's message of the Messiah's birth...

    I remember the Garden of Gethsemane,
    where Jesus' sweat was as drops of blood...
    and Golgotha, where He suffered the shame
    and the agony of the sum of mankind's sins.

    Of all the places we visited, I can say that
    the Garden of the Resurrection, where our
    Lord first revealed himself as risen from the
    dead, was the most profound place for me! In
    fact, I was moved to tears as I sat quietly, just
    praying.

    I recall the awesomeness of the Valley of
    Megiddo, or Jezreel, where the battle of all
    battles -- ARMAGEDDON -- will take
    place. It's such a vast, open area, and a place of
    such prophetic destiny.

    As we winded our way through the teeming
    streets of Tel Aviv, I could not help but realize:
    "This land means EVERYTHING to the Jews!"

    For them, Israel is their home, their life,
    their honor, and their purpose. Apart from
    Israel, the Jew believes he hardly has an
    existence.

    I Remember the People!

    I have many fond memories of the Jewish people!

    My husband and I taped many television
    specials and programs there. Many people
    opened their hearts and homes to us! They
    knew we were Christians, but they could also
    sense that we loved THEM! Jack and I were
    even welcomed to tape inside the Jewish
    Knessett building! The members I
    interviewed were so very kind and gracious!

    I remember the openness of Israel's
    President Yitzhak Navon. He was such a
    magnetic personality, and will always live in
    my memory as one of the most genuine, kind
    men I have ever met. He knew his Old
    Testament thoroughly and easily conversed
    with Jack about Bible prophecies. We were
    invited to his private residence, where he and
    Jack discussed the Bible, end-time events, and
    the role of Israel in the last days.

    On another occasion, we were invited to
    dinner at the home of the late Prime Minister
    Menachem Begin. The dinner, however, was
    canceled suddenly -- due to the assassination
    of Egypt's President Anwar Sadat! Prime
    Minister Begin had to leave immediately for
    Tel Aviv and an emergency meeting of his
    cabinet -- so I did not get to interview him
    after dinner, as planned.

    I was fortunate to interview Abba Eban,
    former Israeli Ambassador to the United
    Nations who was often called "the Voice of
    Israel." And I met and interviewed Moshe
    Arens, who then was Israel's Ambassador to
    the United States.

    I also remember the beautiful, innocent
    children. On one of my videos, I taped songs
    with a group of them. They sat on my lap, we
    talked, we laughed and played together. When
    I think of the war that has gone on constantly
    there, and when I think of what the Jews as a
    people have gone through, it tears at my heart.

    The Jews of Israel are only a heartbeat away
    from disaster!

    I have a very dear friend -- Estee Levine --
    with whom I have corresponded regularly for
    many years. Her residence is in Jerusalem, and
    she is responsible for preparing the
    accommodations for thousands of tourists
    who visit Israel each year.

    During the Desert Storm operation, Israel
    was frequently under attack by Saddam
    Hussein's air raids. During those war-torn
    months, Estee wrote me about the birth of her
    granddaughter. She wrote: "We had a time of
    great rejoicing! And we could rejoice -- even
    in the midst of rocket attacks!"

    I've always found that kind of optimism
    among the Israelis -- even among the
    children. They have such a valiant attitude of spirit!

    It's as if God has instilled His own
    optimism into His people, because they are
    ultimately going to win. Micah 4:3 says, And
    they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and
    their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not
    lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they
    learn war any more.
    That day of peace is coming!

    I Remember Jesus!

    Seeing the places where He walked,
    recalling the events of His life, even receiving
    communion in the place of His Resurrection
    made me feel so much closer to Jesus!

    Time and again, Jack and I found ourselves
    retracing the steps of Jesus and the disciples.
    There was Capernaum, where we explored
    fascinating ruins and again traced the steps of
    Jesus, who taught the multitudes there. I
    almost expected to see the throngs described in
    the Bible, pressing closer and closer in, to hear
    the words of life! When we walked along the
    Via Dolorosa, we could not help but painfully
    recall Christ's final steps before Calvary.

    We served communion to those of our tour
    group in that quiet garden, and I was
    emotionally stirred by the experience! I shall
    never forget that from where I was sitting, I
    could look up... to see Golgotha, the place of
    the skull, where His crucifixion took place...
    and I could also look down... at the stone
    which had been rolled away from the tomb
    that could not hold Him. What a powerful
    contrast!

    Experiencing Israel in all her diversity and
    splendor has added more depth and
    dimension to my faith, and has given me
    many wonderful memories.

    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.