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Today’s Devotional | September 28 | JAMES 5:7-20 | Fervent Prayer

Today's Devotional

Memory Verse
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16).

Too much praying is only form.

Many who scorn written prayers are as guilty of formalism as those who read their supplications to God. Having fallen into the habit of repeating the same prayers over and over again, they do not really pray from their hearts. They mean well — but they do not pray well. This is not to imply that prayers are better because of eloquence. On the contrary, it is a call for communication with God in prayer rather than rote recitations that rise no higher than the ceiling.

Elijah was a prophet who prayed fervently. His recorded prayers were brief but powerful. His prayer on Mount Carmel is contained in two Bible verses: “…LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (I Kings 18:36:37), That fervent prayer brought fire down upon the sacrifice that had been prepared and in a short time the awful drought that had lasted for so long had ended.

How does your prayer fare in the “fervent” examination?

Is it time to trade form for fervency?

Remember: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

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 27 | JAMES 4:1-10 | You Didn’t Ask
    Memory Verse
    Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not (James 4:2).

    What surprises heaven will bring! When the shadows flee away and all is made plain, we’ll discover how much we missed by not asking for it. No wonder God will have to wipe away tears.

    Interestingly, many of the things we strive for are among the things we might have had if we had asked for them. Fussing over supposed deserved offices in the church, material possessions, and other gains might well have been ours had we sought them in prayer. All the mileage rolled up on life’s odometer was unnecessary — the arguing, complaining and bitterness. Ernest prayer could have provided what conflict denied... “...ye have not because ye ask not.”

    Some do not ask because their first recourse is not to prayer. When desire surfaces, human effort is the first avenue taken for achievement. The phrase “All we can do now is pray,” is the child of such carnal reaction. The opposite ought to be true. Prayer should be the first means of securing the desires of our hearts.

    Others do not ask because they have limited prayer to spiritual needs. They think it right to pray about things for the church or for things that have to do with witnessing, but God is ruled out as a supplier of daily needs or wants. Such reasoning has no basis in Scripture and should have no place in the Christian life. To the child of God there must be no separation of the sacred and secular. Everything must be done for the glory of God. All desires are either subjects for prayer or they are wrong.

    What are you missing that you ought to have? It’s possible that you have not, because you ask not!

    September 26 | ACTS 16:19-34 | Prison Break
    Memory Verse
    And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them (Acts 16:25).

    In adversity it is normal to pray. But to praise?

    Paul and Silas, jailed for Jesus, greeted midnight with a doxology. That’s victorious Christian living!

    Reacting differently than expected, attracts attention. When God’s imprisoned servants began praying and praising, the other prisoners heard them and were affected by their testimonies. Following the earthquake and the opening of the prison doors, their fellow prisoners were more interested in hearing Paul and Silas than in escaping.

    Praising God in difficulties gives evidence of submission to God’s will. Too many live “under the circumstances.” Praise is foreign to those who succumb to their trials. They pray and pout. No wonder others are not influenced to trust Christ through their witness.

    Prayer that breaks bonds comes from praising hearts. If that sounds too positive to be realistic, meditate on Paul’s instruction to the persecuted church at Philippi: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

    But in what can one rejoice in prison? Perhaps in the truth that he has been set free from sin through the death of Christ on the cross. At any rate, with backs bleeding and their feet in stocks, Paul and Silas made that dungeon a place of praise and prayer.

    And here you are pouting about your problems!

    September 25 | EPHESIANS 6:10-20 | The Battle
    Memory Verse
    Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:18).

    We’re at war!

    Though at peace with God and experiencing the peace that passes all human understanding, all Christians are in conflict with spiritual foes bent on their destruction: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

    There is no discharge in this war until death.

    If the sounds of battle discourage you, remember that you are equipped for victory. Casualties are unnecessary. We have a conquering Captain and all needed armour to insure safety is provided. The enemy cannot overcome the Christian soldier whose defense is salvation, faith, truth, the Gospel of peace and the Word of God. Only neglect of God’s furnished protection can result in defeat.

    This protection is provided through prayer. To neglect prayer in the fight of faith is to ignore the importance of constant contact with the Commander-in-Chief.

    Some are pressed with the struggle. Circumstances have seemed against them. Temptation has been especially strong. Depression hovers like a dark cloud. Efforts to exercise faith or to advance with the truth have been futile. What can be done?

    Pray.

    And in your prayer, remember others who are struggling, too!

    September 24 | JOB 2:1-10 | Job’s Wife
    Memory Verse
    But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips (Job 2:10).

    Job’s wife may be the most maligned woman in the Bible.

    It’s not fair.

    What she said was bad, but one must remember when she said it. Her children had just lost their lives. She and her husband had lost all their property. And now the man she loved had lost his health. Under such conditions many would have said foolish things. Depression often causes words to drop from our lips that would never be uttered under normal circumstances.

    We must be careful not to judge the man by the moment. Or the woman.

    Job understood his wife’s state of mind and spoke to her tenderly. He didn’t call her a fool. He knew her too well for that...and loved her. He simply told her that she was talking like one of the foolish women. He reminded her that she was out of character. This was not like her. There is not a touch of bitterness in his word of correction. This patient and good man knew the load of grief being carried by his deprived wife and he had compassion on her.

    And now a good word for Mrs. Job. It is said that whenever a man reaches the top a good woman is holding the ladder. And Job had become a prosperous and respected man. Mrs. Job had evidently been a loyal and helpful companion through the years, a good homemaker and mother. She doesn’t deserve the criticism heaped on her for her single lapse of judgment during a time of deep depression.

    To attack others when they are down is to act like the foolish ones. “Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25).

    September 23 | ACTS 4:31-34 | Power
    Memory Verse
    And when they had prayed the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

    Dr. F.B. Meyer was on his last visit to America. A large audience had assembled in a New York City church to hear him speak. Dr. Meyer’s health was failing and he had to be helped to the platform by two men. He was so weak and wobbly that he was seated in an elevated chair from which he was to preach.

    As the faithful servant of God began to preach, however, the audience witnessed a miracle of God’s power. Dr. Meyer stood to his feet and preached with the vigor of youth for more than an hour. God had enabled him for that occasion. Here was living proof of Isaiah 40:29-31: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

    All ministers could be empowered in their pulpits through the prayers of their congregations. Though weak and wobbly in their own strength, they would become channels of blessing if their people would be faithful in prayer. Nothing is more tragic than church and pastor attempting to do God’s work in human strength.

    In the early church, they prayed and the place was shaken. Many places need shaking today. We are in need of an earth-shaking revival that can only come through prayer. It’s time to pray!

    September 22 | ACTS 12:1-17 | Praying Big
    Memory Verse
    Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him (Acts 12:5).

    Persecution was daily fare for the early church. Stephen was stoned to death. James, the brother of John, was executed by King Herod. Imprisonment was common, the only crime being telling the good news of the Gospel.

    When Peter was arrested and jailed it was probably no surprise. Still, the church was not willing to ho-hum the matter just because the practice was common. They began to pray unceasingly for Peter’s release from prison.

    Meanwhile, back at the slammer, Peter was sound asleep — a good indication that he wasn’t overcome by his difficulties. The one who had been such a coward before the crucifixion now relaxed awaiting the will of God to unfold. Clearly, he had traded fear for faith.

    God answered the prayer of the church. An angel unshackled the sleeping apostle from his chains and set him free. It all happened so quickly and miraculously that Peter wasn’t sure he was awake. He thought he might be seeing a vision (verse 9).

    Finally, certain that this was for real, Peter hurried to where the church was at prayer — praying big — asking for Peter’s release. However, when their prayer was answered they could hardly believe it. Rhoda, who answered the door when Peter knocked, was thought mad when she reported that Peter had arrived.

    These early Christians learned two important lessons. First, it pays to pray big. Second, God is greater than our faith. They asked, but didn’t really expect an answer. In spite of their frail faith, God answered.

    Ask big. The answers may surprise you!

    September 21 | ESTHER 4:10-17 | Esther
    Memory Verse
    And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14).

    God is always on time.

    In the darkest day, God makes a way. The Jews were faced with extinction because of the evil plan of a Jew hater named Haman. He was not the first nor the last to attempt to destroy the Jews. History’s graveyards are filled with those who hoped to do away with the children of Israel.

    Esther was the queen but had never revealed her racial identity to the king. Now Mordecai, her relative who had raised her, came to ask her to intercede on behalf of her people. It was a risky request, placing Esther’s life in danger.

    God uses a woman or a man to fulfill His plan. Throughout history, God has raised up people to carry out His will. Moses’ mother defied Pharaoh’s law and spared the life of her son, who was destined to deliver his people. David arrived at the camp of Israel when Goliath had intimidated the armies of Saul. John Wesley was converted and his heart was set afire for Christ in time to save England from the revolution. John Knox was there when Scotland needed him. Esther must face the challenge of rescuing her people.

    Esther’s cry was to do or die. She laid her life on the line. Read again her response to the call of duty: “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

    Esther rose to the occasion and saved her people.

    “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (See Acts 1:8).

    Week 39 | Just to Say, “Thank You!”

    No story in the Bible more movingly
    pictures human gratitude than the healing of
    ten lepers in Luke 17:12-18...

    And as He entered into a certain village,
    there met Him ten men that were lepers,
    which stood afar off'. and they lifted up their
    voices and said, ëJesus, Master, have mercy on
    us.í

    And when He saw them, He said unto
    them, ëGo shew yourselves unto the priests.í
    And it came to pass, that, as they went, they
    were cleansed.

    And one of them, when he saw that he was
    healed, turned back, and with a loud voice
    glorified God. And he fell down on his face at
    His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a
    Samaritan.

    And Jesus answering said, ëWere there not
    ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There
    are not found that returned to give glory to
    God, save this stranger.í"

    Have you too found that sometimes when a
    person gets what he wants, he forgets to say
    thank you? Throughout Jesus' ministry, He
    was giving examples of how we should live. He
    knew -- as He knew all things -- that only
    one man would return to express appreciation.
    Thus, Christ wanted this story of the ten
    lepers recorded for future generations, so that
    we would know the importance of giving
    thanks.

    Give Without Expecting Thanks?

    I've heard it said that we should not
    "expect" thanks in return for the kindnesses we
    show. If we don't expect it, we will never be
    disappointed in our fellow man. However, I
    believe that the attitude of being grateful and
    showing it is a biblical principle. Notice verse
    17; it seems as if Jesus expected a "thank-you"
    from all ten lepers. He said, "But where are the
    nine?"

    Jesus was showing us a practical example of
    Colossians 3:15, "Be ye thankful." Obviously,
    thanksgiving is expected of us. This is one
    reason mothers and fathers, while teaching
    their children to speak, emphasize the
    importance of saying "please" and "thank
    you.

    We expect such "common" courtesies even
    from toddlers. Naturally, it is disconcerting
    when adults are ungrateful in response to
    God's kindnesses to them. How many of us
    follow the dictum of Colossians 3:15, "Be ye
    thankful"?

    Bless the LORD, O My Soul!

    In Psalm 103, we read a beautiful song of thanksgiving:

    Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is
    within me, bless His holy name.

    Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all
    His benefits:

    Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; Who
    healeth all thy diseases;

    Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; Who
    crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender
    mercies;

    Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things;
    so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
    The Lord executeth righteousness...

    (Psalm 103:1-6)

    Notice in this text that the psalmist recalls
    the "benefits" of serving God, and even lists
    them in his song of praise. Have you ever
    created such a list? The little Sunday School
    song that I learned as a child implores us to
    "count your blessings; name them one by one,
    and it will surprise you what the Lord has
    done." When we pray and give thanks to God,
    let us remember all the wonderful blessings He
    has bestowed on us!

    A Chocolate Remembrance

    It was my special joy to meet and fellowship
    with the many friends who came to our open
    house at our JVI Headquarters. What a
    pleasure it was to hear so many of them say,
    "Thank you" to Dr. Van Impe and me during
    that great day of celebration.

    Some of our friends even surprised us with
    special presents. I'll never forget, one beautiful
    little girl, maybe seven years of age, with her
    big eyes glowing, handed me a box of candy
    and said, "We remembered that your husband
    likes chocolates." I reached down, embraced
    her, and said, "Thank you, sweetheart."

    Since we are unable to write thank-you
    notes to everyone who came to our open
    house or brought gifts, I would like, in this
    open forum, to thank everyone for their
    thoughtfulness, love and generosity.

    But let me go one step beyond thanking our
    wonderful guests who came to visit us. Let me
    also extend my gratitude to every supporter
    and friend of our ministry. Thank you all, dear
    ones, for your financial help, prayers, letters
    and encouragement.

    We especially thank you whose lives have
    been changed for your notes and letters of
    testimony. Jack and I have had many praise
    sessions because of God's word in your hearts.

    The Impact of Encouragement

    It would be virtually impossible to carry on
    this ministry to which God has called us
    without help and encouragement from
    precious friends like you. We need your
    encouragement; we thrive upon hearing about
    your triumphs and victories because God used
    our ministry to reach you. It is difficult to
    express the impact we feel as we receive
    hundreds of thousands of letters each year
    sharing such blessings. It is like a warm ray of
    sunshine on a cold winter's day.

    At His last supper, Jesus showed us exactly
    how important encouragement is at the
    darkest hours of our life. When Jesus had thus
    said, He was troubled in spirit, and testified,
    and said, ëVerily, verily, I say unto you, that
    one of you shall betray me.í Then the disciples
    looked one on another, doubting of whom He
    spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom
    one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved
    (John
    13:21-23).

    John could feel the Master's burdened spirit
    and leaned his head on Jesus to express his love
    and concern. John wanted to give his Lord a
    measure of additional strength and
    encouragement. This example of human love
    from this disciple is so beautiful that it cannot
    be overlooked.

    I am sure Jesus absorbed a great deal of love
    and respect from His apostles. I do believe,
    however, God laid it on their hearts to be
    extremely compassionate and supportive of
    the Lord Jesus especially because of the agony
    which lay ahead.

    The Most Important Person on Earth

    Jack and I thank you for the encouragement
    you have been to us. May our example help
    you to express appreciation to special people in
    your life for the blessings they have been to
    you.

    For instance, when was the last time you
    said "thank you" to the person you hold
    dearest on earth? Remember your mate is a gift
    from God, and the Bible teaches us to love and
    respect each other. Read Ephesians 5:20,25,28.

    Ladies, when the man in your life opens the
    door for you, do you say, "Thank you,
    sweetheart"? Gentlemen, when the lady of
    your dreams fixes your favorite meal, do you
    remember to say, "Thank you honey, that was
    delicious!" (You might even say "thank you"
    when the roast is tough, especially when you
    have only been married for 10 weeks!) When
    your son or daughter plans a surprise birthday
    party for you, do you give him or her a loving
    hug and express gratitude? Oh how important
    it is to be mindful to say "thank you,"
    especially to those closest to us.

    Thanks for the Memories

    Parents, also, deserve our thanks. In fact,
    the edict to honor our father and mother is
    one of the Ten Commandments -- and it is
    the first commandment with a promise.
    Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days
    may be long upon the land which the Lord thy
    God giveth thee
    (Exodus 20:12).

    I am sure that there are many people who
    made an infinitely important impact upon
    your life, but who probably are not aware of it.
    Perhaps there was a teacher somewhere along
    the line who captured your imagination and
    helped you to learn. Would it not be a
    wonderful idea to write a thank-you note
    telling him or her of the great contribution
    that they made toward the success of your
    career and personal life?

    I heard the story of a grown man who
    remembered his best school teacher from years
    past, and sent her a letter thanking her for all
    she had given him and his classmates. The
    teacher was in her 80's now, and gratefully
    replied, saying: "I taught school for 50 years,
    and this is the first note of gratitude I have
    ever received!"

    Likewise, your thank-you note would mean
    so much to someone today.

    Everyday Gratitude

    Most of us don't take the time to thank our
    pastors or Sunday School teachers or ministers
    of music and youth for the hours they spent
    studying and preparing to help us in our
    spiritual walk. I feel confident they would
    appreciate knowing you are grateful and have
    been blessed by their ministry.

    Saying "thank-you" will also enhance your
    opportunities to witness for Christ. When the
    clerk at the supermarket is helpful, look that
    person right in the eye and say, "Thank you."

    I know this is appreciated, because one
    young lady who has helped me many times at
    the store said to me, "You know, Rexella, you
    are the only customer who really looks at me,
    and this tells me I'm important to you." I pray
    she sees more than just a look, but that
    through my eyes she sees Someone whocares
    for her deeply.

    Of course, we could go on and on with a list
    of people who deserve our thanks, but as you
    open your horizon of opportunities to show
    appreciation, let me assure you that you will
    experience a great sense of satisfaction in
    expressing it.

    H.W. Beecher said, "Pride slays
    thanksgiving. A proud man never thinks he
    gets as much as he deserves."

    The Bible tells us that all have sinned and
    fallen short of the glory of God. In light of
    eternity, none of us "deserves" the many
    wonderful blessings which have been bestowed
    on us. Our sinful humanity deserves only
    eternal punishment.

    Yet Christ in His infinite mercy provided a
    way of escape for us through His shed blood,
    and rewards us with eternal life. How can we
    not be thankful every moment of our lives? We
    did nothing to deserve all of His blessing;
    Christ did it all.

    So there is no room for pride in our lives,
    and oh -- so much room for thanksgiving!
    Let us rejoice this day and obey the command
    of Colossians 3:15: "Be ye thankful."

    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."