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Today’s Devotional | September 24 | JOB 2:1-10 | Job’s Wife

Today's Devotional

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).

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 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).

September 20 | ACTS 2:41-46 | A Praying Church
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?

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.

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."