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!