I am apologizing again, I m falling asleep!
I m in front of the laptop with 2 internet sites open plus the email as well It has taking me an enormous amount of time just to write this little post,
Goodnight MAE To all,
Child of God
I am apologizing again, I m falling asleep!
I m in front of the laptop with 2 internet sites open plus the email as well It has taking me an enormous amount of time just to write this little post,
Goodnight MAE To all,
Child of God
My dear Blogger friends,
I had a very busy day today so, I was up really late last night to find some of my usual posts and quite a few new interesting posts.
I schedule about 67 but only 2 showed up.
Somehow WordPress did not function so I had very few views and visits plus few likes. The site lost all of my posts. Tomorrow I have another very busy day and I will try my best to put a few posts out and check your posts which I also did little of today, sorry it was a very interesting but truly busy day for the Lord.
I apologize in advance but their engineers do not work on the weekend so I have to wait until Monday to see if they find them.
All that work for nothing!!!
Please be patient with me. I will read as many as I can of yours tomorrow and post a little. Until Monday that is all I can do.
Love you all in Christ Jesus,
God Bless you,
Child of God.
Walt often greeted me with, “Hey, Dan, I have an opportunity for you.” This was how many of our conversations began. Over time I learned to laugh and beat him to the punch. “So Walt, what opportunity do you have for me today?”
Walt was one of those happy, easy-going guys who had the gift to see the positive in every situation. Even the worst of times was an “opportunity” for someone to learn something new, to grow, to rise above expectations and do great things. Walt lived as if every “opportunity” was a moment for us to remain faithful, do our best, and then watch as God showed up to redeem and transform a difficult situation.
I was a young man when I worked with Walt, and I learned a lot. Above all, I learned that even the most difficult of situations is “an opportunity” to see God at work.
In May of 2016, a man dressed in a white coat stood at the foot of my hospital bed and told me I had Stage IV colon cancer. At that moment, my wife Nancy and I began a journey not of our choosing. Nancy and I have moved from grieving a devastating diagnosis to learning to see opportunity in the midst of a difficult situation. We have witnessed the reality of disappointments transformed into opportunities for good. It is possible to be joyful in the midst of adversity.
If I were granted the opportunity to make it all go away, to wake up from this horrible dream, I would take it. The cloud hanging over my life is not a pleasant one. Weekly trips to the oncologist for chemotherapy treatments, MRI and CT scans, labs and such are getting old. Yet in the midst of it all, there are opportunities to gain much more than I have lost.
Just the other day I asked Nancy if my personality had changed. I knew the answer. I just wanted to see if it was obvious to those closest to me. She confirmed what I felt to be the truth: I am a gentler, calmer, more peaceful person than I was before. The “type A” push and drive to get things done and succeed has been tempered with a dose of reality about the shortness of life. When I look at life, I have the ability to see that which is truly important.
Lunch with Nancy has become more of a daily reality. We slow down, stop for a few minutes and share time away from the office. It sounds simple, but it is significant. In the past there was too much to do, so much to accomplish.
My calendar is less full. This change is, in part, because I am not able to push and move at the pace I once called normal. This reality provides me with moments to be still and listen for God’s leading and directing. This has always been an important part of who I am, but cancer has provided me an “opportunity” to do it even more.
I laugh more. Each moment has a special quality to it. Confession: there were times in life I was so focused on what could be that I missed what was. Looking to the future and planning on how to make things become a reality often robs us of the chance to be with people in the moment.
I find I am living in the present much more than I was before. Not only am I in the present, but I also find it enjoyable and life-affirming. I am still planning, preparing, and working to move into the future. However, my plans are tempered with an ability to be at peace with what is. There are other changes. Some are subtle, others I see very clearly. Cancer was a “setback.” It was also an “opportunity.” I pray God continues to give me the strength to see the opportunities for myself and others as I travel this journey.
Imagine for a moment you and I had the opportunity to sit down for a cup of coffee. As we got to know each other, I would eventually ask something along these lines: “How do you experience God at work in your life?”
If you are like many people I talk with, you might struggle to answer. Pastor types will often begin by talking about what they are doing or reading. That is not what I am asking. What I want to hear about is how you are being with God. I long to hear how you are encountering God in the midst of your everyday life. As you think of your life, what opportunities currently exist for you to bring your cares and worries to Abba Father, trusting Him to transform and redeem a difficult situation into something lifegiving?
Easter is a season of transformation, renewal, hope, and opportunity. A Roman cross was transformed from an instrument of death to a symbol of hope and life. The tomb, a place of mourning, became a symbol of life and rebirth. Is there something in your life where you can invite God to transform what may currently be a difficult situation into something lifegiving? Go ahead, seize the opportunity, give us something to really talk about when we finally have a chance to sit down for coffee.
Daniel Nicewonger is a graduate of Messiah College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Daniel has served as pastor for American Baptist churches in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, and currently serves as the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Kennett Square, PA. Daniel is married to his wife of 28 years, Nancy. They have two adult children, Joseph and Rayann.
When you walk around the house, it’s probably not hard to see you have teenagers living there. Backpacks in random corners. Coffee tables piled with notebooks. Bedrooms where you haven’t seen a floor in weeks. Kitchen shelves you can hardly keep stocked with food. At least that’s how it is at my house.
If that’s you too, first of all, you’re not alone. Parenting teenagers in 2019 is not for the faint at heart, but God put those teenagers in your home for a purpose—to love and care for them as you help them navigate their world.
On the surface, it appears teenagers primarily eat (pizza, gum, and anything with the word sour in it), sleep (nightly campaigning to push their bedtime an hour later) and go to school (begrudgingly). But if that’s all they do, why do they find navigating their world so difficult? Why are they stressed out? Why do they seem so anxious? Why do they seem so busy all of the time?
Believe or not, research shows that Generation Z is the most stressed out generation ever. The reality is that teens are feeling caught in their schedule, their access to culture, their constant connectedness to the world through technology, and the pressure to succeed. In fact, kids begin to experience these feelings at younger ages than ever, even before they enter their teen years.
Days of rest really don’t really exist anymore. We expect teenagers to act a certain way, maybe because we remember the way we were as teens or because we still see them as children. Often the expectations placed on teens are too unrealistic for them to handle.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and you have role in that. In fact, the most influential person in a child’s life is a parent. And along the way, you can influence them lean into the power of God to help them navigate the complexities of being a teenager in the twenty-first century.
Here are five things we can do to prepare our kids to tackle anything throughout their busy lives:
The most important thing you can do for your teen is pray for them. The world they navigate can feel like a battlefield. Pray that God will be their strength through the ups and downs they face. Let them hear your prayers. This communicates how much you love them and are on their side at home, no matter what happens at school.
“You can talk to Me lying down, sitting up, or with arms stretched up to heaven. Your eyes can be opened or closed. I don’t care about the position of your body—I care about the position of your heart. And when your heart is seeking Me, I will hear you.”
– Jesus Calling for Teens: 50 Devotions for Busy Days
We can’t do life on our own. Help your teen develop strong friendships. Find a church with a great youth ministry and bring them consistently. Make your home a place where your teen wants to hang out with their buddies. Friends are a strong influence at this phase of life. Be sure your child’s friends are pointing them toward the ultimate Friend: Jesus.
“My friendship is practical and down-to-earth. As your Friend, I am always here to listen and to help. Together we will face whatever each day brings: pleasures, hardships, adventures, disappointments.”
– Jesus Calling for Teens: 50 Devotions for Busy Days
As teens navigate life through school and extracurricular activities, they face immense pressure to succeed from teachers and coaches and even parents. When it comes to letting go of stress, laughter really is the best medicine. Make fun a priority during their teenage years, because adulthood will have enough pressures for a lifetime. Yes, help them accomplish goals, but make sure they’re having fun along the way!
“Don’t take yourself so seriously. It’s okay to make a mistake. Everyone stumbles and falls. Everyone does something embarrassing sometimes. Learn to laugh at yourself, and don’t worry if other people laugh along. Besides, you have Me on your side, so what are you worried about?”
– Jesus Calling for Teens: 50 Devotions for Busy Days
The world is filled with voices trying to define how we see ourselves. This is especially true of our teens. Voices from pop culture. Voices from friends. Voices from teachers and coaches. But even though it doesn’t seem like it, a parent’s voice is still most important to them. Be the voice that reminds your teen how God defines them: His beloved child, created in His image, who has what it takes to accomplish His purpose for their life.
“Ask My Spirit to help you hear My voice above all the others. Listen closely to what I have to say, and then follow Me wherever I lead.”
– Jesus Calling for Teens: 50 Devotions for a Thankful Heart
The pace of the teenage life can be nonstop. Going to school, participating in extracurricular activities, hanging out with friends—not to mention fitting in homework and studying somewhere along the way. This pace of life will wear on them at some point. Before that happens, make sure they’re scheduling time to rest and rejuvenate. Help them learn to find peace in the only One who can give true peace for their busy life.
“Stop trying to figure everything out, and hang out with me. I created you to need rest. Not just the kind of rest that comes from sleeping, but the kind that comes only from spending time with Me—rest for your soul .”
–Jesus Calling for Teens: 50 Devotions to Grow Your Faith
Parents, your role is crucial when it comes to helping your teen navigate their busy world. You may wonder if they’re listening. You may question if anything you say is having any impact on them right now. Please be assured: what you do matters.
When we step into their messy world and love them unconditionally through these formative years—even if we don’t get it right all the time—our kids will know they have someone on their side who loves them, no matter what’s happening. Our homes will be a place where they can take a break, find a place to breathe in the middle of their busy world, and find peace in the arms of their Heavenly Father who loves them beyond anything they can imagine.
Dan Scott has been working with kids for over 20 years as a teacher, pastor and communicator. He is passionate about engaging the hard-to-reach preteen age group and is the author of Caught in Between: Engage Your Preteens Before They Check Out, which offers the latest research findings on preteens. Dan and his wife, Jenna, live outside of Atlanta, Georgia with their four children. For more information, please visit www.caughtinbetweenbook.com. And if you unsure of how to move forward and support your preteens through one of life’s most challenging times? Take Dan’s Preteen Engagement Assessment, here
It touches each of us, sooner or later. A friend, a brother, a co-worker, or perhaps, you. If you haven’t been affected by divorce, you probably will be-it’s one of the signatures of our society. In today’s culture, divorce lurks and leers like a predator surveying his prey.
What does God say about divorce?
What scripture-based counsel is available for those whose hearts have been broken by divorce? For those considering divorce, what guides can keep them committed to the marriage?
As we study this painful topic together, remember this: God hates divorce. But the same God who hates divorce, loves the divorced, just as He does all his children. If you’re contemplating divorce, I pray you’ll reconsider reconciliation, if at all possible. If your heart has been broken by divorce, go to Him for healing. If divorce has separated you from God, I pray that you will find your way back to Him.
He’s left the light on. The door is unlocked. He’s waiting for you.
In the hallway of my memory hangs a photograph. It’s a picture that I treasure very much. A picture of two people – a man and a woman, a couple in the seventh decade of life.
The man lies in the hospital bed. But the hospital bed is in the living room, not in the hospital room.
His body, for all practical purposes, is useless. Muscles have been so ravaged by disease that they’re stretched from bone to bone like the taut fabric on the spokes of an umbrella.
The man breathes through a hose attached to a hole in the base of his throat. And though his body is ineffective, his eyes are sparkling-and they search the room.
They search the room, looking for his partner, a woman whose age is concealed by her youthful vigor. Though her hair is gray, she’s vibrant and healthy, in contrast to the figure lying in the bed.
She energetically goes about her task of the day: taking care of her husband. With unswerving loyalty, she does what she’s been doing for the past two years. It’s not an easy assignment: she has to shave him, bathe him, feed him, comb his hair, brush his teeth.
She holds his hand as they sit and watch television together.
She gets up in the middle of the night and suctions his lungs.
She leans over and kisses his feverish face.
What a precious picture it is. It’s precious because it’s a portrait of my own mom and dad.
Some would say it’s a tragic picture of what disease can do to a man’s body. And while that’s true, it’s a glorious reminder of what devotion can do to a couple’s marriage.
By the time God called my father home, my parents had been married over 40 years. A lot can happen in 40 years. Married during the Depression. Four children, three tonsillectomies, 16 years of college tuition, over a dozen job transfers. Six years in which one would work the morning shift and one would work the evening shift so the kids wouldn’t be left alone.
Forty years offers plenty of reasons to give up on marriage. More than enough excuses to walk out. Not only did they live through one World War, they probably endured 100 domestic wars as well. So what was it that gave their marriage “staying power”? Once, a few months prior to his death, I asked my father what had kept the two of them together.
He said, “Well, leaving was never an option.”
Leaving was never an option.
What they had was a forever marriage-a marriage in which two people, eyeball-to-eyeball, say I’m going to love you when I don’t feel like loving you. I’m going to love you when you’re sick. When we have money and when we don’t. I’m going to love you forever.
Marriage demands the greatest level of tenacity and talent and tenderness that any human being can summon. How bizarre that two people could stand up before a group of folks, gaze into each other’s eyes, and promise to ride the roller coaster of life together. It’s zany, unbelievable, and yet it’s God’s plan. The institution of the home is God’s idea. When God made man and realized that His creation was lonely, He went to work, creating a companion for him. He brought the two of them together in that first beautiful wedding. Giraffes were the bridesmaids and the lions were the groomsmen.
They all marched down that tree lined aisle carpeted with pine needles. And God Himself joined the two together.
Yet, since that first wedding, marriage has fallen on hard times. Somewhere along the line, instead of an honored institution blessed by God, marriage has become an option for some and a passing fancy for others.
Nobody ever said marriage is easy. It’s been said that a wedding is an event, but marriage is an achievement. It takes patience and caring and giving and giving and giving.
Sometimes that knot will be like a smooth silk ribbon wrapped around a little girl’s pony tail. But there will be other times when it will be like trying to loop a huge hank of rope-scratchy, itchy, weighing you down.
This knot has a name – it’s called “commitment.”
THE COVENANT OF COMPANIONSHIP
Why is the marriage commitment so important to God? It may help to remember that ours is a God of covenants. Marriage is a covenant commitment – and covenant commitments are a part of God’s fabric. That’s who He is. He’s the God who looked at Abraham and promised, “I will bless you.” He’s the God who looked at the children of Israel and pledged, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He’s the God who stood on the ascension hill and said, “I will be with you always, until the end of the earth.”
The marriage vow, a covenant of companionship, begins by separating ourselves from our parents and uniting with our mate. Becoming one flesh as the marriage is consummated unites the couple physically, mentally, and emotionally (God’s dream for each couple is a covenant.).
Divorce is not God’s idea. Divorce was not created by God. Divorce was a toleration of God. Remember when the Jews questioned Jesus about divorce? “Jesus answered, Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because you refused to accept God’s teaching, but divorce was not allowed in the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman is guilty of adultery. The only reason for a man to divorce his wife is if his wife has sexual relations with another man” (Mt. 19:8-9).
When we violate the covenant of marriage, we violate what God has called us to be. “The Lord God of Israel says, ‘I hate divorce…so be careful. And do not break your trust’” (Mal. 2:16).
Easier said than done.
Don’t you understand, God? I walk into my house and it’s like walking into a war zone. I’d rather stay at work than go home on Friday afternoons…
Our house is so full of tension we could slice it with a knife. How in the world do you expect me to honor that type of covenant?…
How does God answer such a question? By saying: I expect it of you because I have honored that type of covenant with you!
To understand the importance God places on covenants, read Gen. 15:1-21. The scene is a wedding ceremony, if you will, between God and his people. God promises to bless Abram with many children. Then God sets the stage for sealing the covenant. He instructs Abram to prepare some animals and birds.
The ceremony consisted of taking two animals, cutting them in half, and setting the carcasses apart, forming a path. Traditionally, the first party to the covenant would walk the path between the carcasses, saying “May what has happened to these animals happen to me if I fail to uphold my covenant.” Then the other party would do the same, carrying a torch and a smoking pot, repeating the same pledge. In the account of God’s covenant with Abram, the man awoke to see a torch and smoking pot passing through the carcasses. God was sealing the covenant between Him and Abram.
Remarkable. God making a covenant with man. Over and over, God would honor that covenant:
When the children of Israel complained in bondage, God did not leave them.
When He delivered them and they wanted to go back to Egypt, He did not leave them.
When they made a golden calf and worshiped it, God didn’t leave them.
When their King David lied, cheated, and committed adultery and murder, God didn’t leave them.
When His own friends fell asleep while He agonized in prayer at Gethsemane, He didn’t leave.
When His own follower placed a kiss of betrayal on His cheek, He didn’t leave.
When a Roman soldier made raw meat out of his back with a whip, Jesus didn’t leave.
When the spikes sent roaring pain through His body, Jesus didn’t leave.
When He came back from the grave and found his apostles huddling together in fear, He didn’t leave them.
That is the kind of God we serve. A God of covenant. That is why covenant promises are important to God. A God who believes that a covenant pledge is a covenant to be honored. As a child of God, that is our heritage. A heritage that calls you to be faithful, not just to God, but to your spouse. If your marriage needs rebuilding, you have a God who charges you to call on Him to help rebuild your home.
One of the last messages my father ever gave me was scribbled on a piece of paper as he lay in his hospital bed. “Max, be faithful to your wife.”
We have a heritage of faithfulness. There’s no greater reason to be faithful to your spouse than to honor the God who has been faithful to you.
From 1960 to 1980, the number of divorces in our century doubled. In 1980, predictions estimated the rate of divorce to double again by the turn of the century. Why?
To understand this crisis of society, let’s take a look at community charges that have affected the family. We have seen a deterioration in the community ties that once were instrumental in the support of the family. There was a time of family accountability. A day in which grandma and grandpa lived down the road, mom and dad were a block away, cousins were scattered around town. Divorce was rare, something out of the ordinary, even considered scandalous.
But those days have passed. Today we often don’t even know our neighbors, much less hold ourselves accountable to them.
Today the average American lives 150 miles away from the nearest relative and moves once every four years. The result? Every time we uproot, we find ourselves in a new situation, increasingly anonymous in the world.
This anonymity is the seed of lessened accountability. You move to New York City or San Francisco or Houston, and no one knows you. You walk through a mall and nobody stops to say hello. You’re anonymous. Anonymity becomes appealing because along with the decrease of recognition comes a decrease of accountability. No one cares what you do, so it doesn’t seem to matter so much what you do.
So, in our society, lessened accountability and increased anonymity have contributed to the explosion of divorce. Our attitudes have changed: what was once a rare and scandalous is now acceptable and common. But God’s teaching hasn’t changed. It’s very clear on the subject: God hates divorce. He has honored his covenant with us and expects us to do the same. God hates divorce. But scripture is equally clear: God loves the divorced. Divorce is not a sin above sins, but a sin among sins. There is never a place from which we can’t start over. There is never a place so far from God that He can’t draw us back to Him.
KEEPING THE TENSION TENSE
God loves the divorced but hates divorce. Oh, how we tend to go from one extreme to the other. On one hand we preach the anger of God toward those who fail and elevate divorce as the sin above sins (which it’s not).
The result is a battered and bruised people wondering if God ever has a place for them again. Or, in our efforts to be compassionate toward the battered and bruised, we go overboard in giving them compassion. Observers note this compassion and think “If divorce is that easy, then why stay married?”
But the tension must remain tense. God hates divorce. He hates it because it destroys the children whom he loves. But let us be as equally loud and clear and state that God loves the divorced, that it is not a sin among sins. The same God who will forgive your bad attitude or bad temper can forgive a bad decision in marriage.
The teaching of God is very clear. Perhaps it’s the listening of man that’s fuzzy. Look what God says on the subject:
Some Pharisees came to Jesus and tried to test Him. They asked, “Is it right for a man to divorce his wife for any reason he chooses?”
Jesus answered, “Surely you have read in the Scriptures: When God made the world, he made them male and female. And God said, ‘So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife and the two will become one body. So there are not two, but one. God has joined the two together, so no one should separate them.’”
The Pharisee asked, “Why then did Moses give a command for a man to divorce his wife by giving her divorce papers?”
Jesus answered, “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because you refused to accept God’s teaching, but divorce was not allowed in the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman is guilty of adultery. The only reason for a man to divorce his wife is if his wife has sexual relations with another man.”
The followers said to him, “If that is the only reason a man can divorce his wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus answered, “Not everyone can accept his teaching, but God has made some able to accept it. There are different reasons why some men cannot marry. Some men were born without the ability to become fathers. Others were made that way later in life by other people. And some may have given up marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. But the person who can marry should accept this teaching about marriage.”
The people brought their little children to Jesus so he could put his hands on them and pray for them. His followers told them to stop, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children.” After Jesus put his hands on the children, he left there”
(Mt. 19:3-15 NIV).
As you wrestle with the dilemma of divorce, keep these three truths in mind:
God values people. Underneath every theological or doctrinal teaching his abiding truth. And because He values us, God’s law exist, not for our pleasure, but for our protection. We are His possession. We belong to Him. We are His children.
God values covenants. God is a covenant God. When God states something, He does it. He is honest. He doesn’t back away. He’s committed to it. God has always based His relationship with people upon a promise. He lives according to a promise, not according to a system or rule book.
God knows that broken covenants break people. If I tell you I’m going to do something, and I don’t do it, something inside of you breaks. If I fail to keep a promise to my daughters, they will look at me and say, “But daddy, you promised.” A promise is all we’ve got. God knows that since everything is built on a promise, when a promise is broken, hearts are broken.
DIVORCE IS WAR
If you’ve been through a divorce or if you’ve witnessed a divorce, you know what broken people look and feel like. Divorce causes us to say things and do things that we would have thought unspeakable and unacceptable. Divorce is war. A territorial war. A cold war. A verbal war. A physical war. But it’s a war. And in every war, there are wounds and fatalities. It’s a tragedy.
Are you considering divorce? Please, rethink your plan. Give the marriage everything you’ve got. Try your very best. If you’ve already done that, give it one more shot. Go not just the second mile, but the fifth and the tenth and the hundredth miles. Begin viewing divorce as not just an option, but as the last ditch, final move.
Nurture the marriage. Remember the original plan. Keep it alive. And never, never underestimate the pain of a broken marriage.
Remember that God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). Divorce is not the sin above sins. It is a sin. It’s wrong. But it’s forgivable.
Are you happily married? Be compassionate toward those who aren’t. If there is someone in your church or your circle of friends who has been divorced, do your part to take away the stigma.
Are you divorced? Then seek God’s healing mercy. Repent and start over. You’ve been wounded in battle, but God can bring beauty out of that pain. He has done it before; He will do it again. Perhaps the pain you’ve experienced has equipped you to minister to others in pain.
What’s the bottom line on divorce?
What does God want us to do?
If you are married, God wants you to stay married. When you marry, you make a covenant before God. And he wants you to honor that covenant.
If you are separated, God wants you to do everything possible to be reconciled to your mate.
Understandably, it may not be possible. Circumstances may be beyond your ability to intercede. However, ours is a God or reconciliation. The God who brought an estranged humanity into relationship with the heavenly Father has the power to reunite separated couples.
Not only is He the God who creates, He is the God who can recreate and He wants to recreate your marriage and your life. He’s a God who wants to work within your home and do what you think is impossible.
If you are divorced, in opposition to scripture., reconcile with your mate. If it is not possible, then accept God’s grace and move forward. Seek to live a life pleasing to God from this point on.
God is a merciful God. Can God forgive anger, gossip, malice. He is a merciful God. He’s the God who had mercy on the adulterous woman. He’s a God who not only forgave but commissioned the Samaritan woman who had been in and out of five different broken homes. Is He a God of mercy? Yes!
Whether you’re struggling with a potential divorce, or you’re enduring the pain of divorce, God wants to guide you out of that dark country.
Take His hand and leave the dark country of divorce for the new horizon on the mountaintop.
The fog of the broken heart. It’s a dark fog that slyly imprisons the soul and refuses easy escape. It’s a heavy cloud that honors no hour and respects no person. Depression, discouragement, disappointment, doubt…all are companions of this dreaded presence.
The fog of the broken heart disorients our life. It makes it hard to see the road. Dim your lights. Wipe off the windshield. Slow down. Do what you wish, nothing helps. When this fog encircles us, our vision is blocked and tomorrow is a forever away. When this billowy blackness envelopes us, the most earnest words of help and hope are but vacant phrases.
If you have ever been betrayed by a friend, you know what I mean. If you have ever been dumped by a spouse or abandoned by a parent, you have seen this fog. If you have ever placed a spade of dirt on a loved one’s casket or kept vigil at a dear one’s bedside, you, too, recognize this cloud.
If you have been in this fog, or are in it now, you can be sure of one thing – you are not alone. Even the saltiest of sea captains have lost their bearings because of the appearance of this unwanted cloud. Like the comedian said, “If broken hearts were commercials, we’d all be on TV.”
Think back over the last two or three months. How many broken hearts did you encounter? How many wounded spirits did you witness? How many stories of tragedy did you read about?
My own reflection is sobering:
The woman who lost her husband and son in a freak car wreck.
The attractive mother of three who was abandoned by her husband.
The child who was hit and killed by a passing garbage truck as he was getting off the school bus. His mother, who was waiting for him, witnessed the tragedy.
The parents who found their teenager dead in the forest behind their home. He had hung himself from a tree with his own belt.
The list goes on and on, doesn’t it? Foggy tragedies. How they build our vision and destroy our dreams. Forget any great hopes of reaching the world. Forget any plans of changing society. Forget any aspirations of moving mountains. Forget all that. Just help me make it through the night!
The suffering of the broken heart.
Go with me for a moment to witness what was perhaps the foggiest night in history. The scene is very simple; you’ll recognize it quickly. A grove of twisted olive trees. Ground cluttered with large rocks. A low stone fence. A dark, dark night.
Now, look into the picture. Look closely through the shadowy foliage. See that person? See that solitary figure? What’s he doing? Flat on the ground. Face stained with dirt and tears. Fists pounding the hard earth. Eyes wide with a stupor of fear. Hair matted with salty sweat. Is that blood on his forehead?
That’s Jesus. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.
Maybe you’ve seen the classic portrait of Christ in the garden. Kneeling beside a big rock. Snow-white robe. Hands peacefully folded in prayer. A look of serenity on his face. Halo over his head. A spotlight from heaven illuminating his golden-brown hair.
Now, I’m not an artist, but I can tell you one thing. The man who painted that picture didn’t use the gospel of Mark as a pattern. Look what Mark wrote about that painful night.
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for an hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” 1
Look at those phrases. “Horror and dismay came over him.” “My heart is ready tobreak with grief.” “He went a little forward and threw himself on the ground.”
Does this look like the picture of a saintly Jesus resting in the palm of God? Hardly. Mark used black paint to describe this scene. We see a “man of sorrows.”2 We see a man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief.
We see a Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.
The writer of Hebrews would later pen, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.” 3
My, what a portrait! Jesus is in pain. Jesus is on the stage of fear. Jesus is cloaked, not in sainthood, but in humanity.
The next time the fog finds you, you might do well to remember Jesus in the garden. The next time you think that no one understands, reread the fourteenth chapter of Mark. The next time your self-pity convinces you that no one cares, pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this dusty planet, listen to him pleading among the twisted trees.
Here’s my point. Seeing God like this does wonders for our own suffering. God was never more human than at this hour. God was never nearer to us than when he hurt. The Incarnation was never so fulfilled as in the garden.
As a result, time spent in the fog of pain could be God’s greatest gift. It could be the hour that we finally see our Maker. If it is true that in suffering God is most like man, maybe in our suffering we can see God like never before.
If you’re drifting in the fog of divorce, remember: this time of suffering maybe the closest you’ll ever get to God. Watch closely. It could very well be that the hand that extends itself to lead you out of the fog is a pierced one.
1 Mark 14:32-42, NIV
2 Isaiah 53:3, NIV
3 Hebrews 5:7, NIV, italics mine.
Chapter One – Tying a Knot and Hanging On
1. What does Max mean when he says: “Leaving was never an option”?
2. “A wedding is an event, but marriage is an achievement.” Has your marriage been an achievement? Why? Why not? Think of a couple whose marriage would be considered an achievement. What are some characteristics that
3. Why is the covenant of marriage so important to God?
4. When the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce, what was his response (Mt. 19:13-15)?
Chapter Two – The Dark Country of Divorce
1. What are some causes of divorce “explosion” in America?
2. For what reasons does God permit divorce?
3. Malachi 2:16 says God hates divorce. What significance does that have for divorced people? Hoe does He feel about them?
Chapter Three – Broken Heart, Mended Faith
1. Think of some broken hearts you have known. Have they moved toward healing?
2. Has your heart been broken? Has it caused you to separate yourself from God? If so, what brought you back into a relationship with Him?
3. Read Isaiah 53:3. Who is the one referred to here? Can you relate to his broken heart?
The Dark Country of Divorce Published by UpWords Ministries © 1996 by Max Lucado
“Broken Heart, Mended Faith” from No Wonder They Call Him the Savior original © 1986
“You can find joy in the midst of brokenness. One of the hardest times to be joyful is when you’re dealing with multiple problems
—seeking solutions but finding none—
and then several new difficulties beset you. The way to encounter joy in adversity is to encounter Me. You can pray,
‘Jesus, help me find You in the midst of this mess!’ ”
—Jesus Today, Day 67
“You aren’t listening to me. I’ve had enough. Get out of my house!”
Harsh, isn’t it? Brokenness reveals itself in so many ways. I recently felt very broken over a verbal misunderstanding. I knew that the other party could only see her way and felt that I was completely wrong. Exasperation grew when she failed to take time to listen to me, and I lost my temper for the first time in a long time. As a Christian, I felt extremely discouraged. My wrong did not help her wrong; it only made the situation more difficult. The relationship became broken, and it may be a very long time before complete healing can take place. My heart hurt, and I found myself asking the Lord how to move forward and find joy after the encounter.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
Heavenly Father, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I failed You, and now, I’m tempted to wallow in this brokenness. Forgive me for losing my temper. I want to do what today’s daily devotional advises. Help me find You in the midst of the mess.
When I turn to Jesus, I am reminded that my sorrow doesn’t have to continue. That in His presence, joy is always present. Trials bring joy. I know, it seems contrary to logical thinking. But James explains that joy can result from the trial because the brokenness results in stronger character.
Jesus, thank You for bringing joy to my heart because You are always near. I can find joy in You through my failures because You are all-powerful and ever-healing. I want to remember You take every wrong and make it right. Thank you for the reminder that You never allow loss without using it for my good and Your glory. Thank You for always redeeming pain through purpose.
The argument and broken relationship I described above were over my daughter’s care. Taylor has a rare neurologically degenerative disease. As her mama, I felt and believed one thing, and someone else who cares about Taylor believed another. Misunderstanding and emotional distress caused a broken relationship. A few days ago, the palliative home-care team came to visit Taylor. While it might seem a strange thing to find joy in that, I believe God brought someone to help our family keep her as comfortable and content as possible. I discovered joy in His provision.
God, would You transfer my thoughts of despair to thoughts of joy? Flood my heart with Your supernatural happiness. Fill me with the sense of rejoicing in Your power. Thank You for redeeming my mistakes and refilling my soul with joy.
“Counting it all joy” encompasses every detail of life, and honestly, I’m far from mastering it yet. But when I think about the word “count,” I feel a reassurance that God doesn’t expect perfection. You can’t get to one thousand without first simply counting one. And then two. And so on. Each of us can take the challenges one at a time. One day at a time. One moment at a time.
When finding joy seems difficult, run into the arms of your heavenly Father. When you’ve drawn as closely as you can, then remain there for as long as you can. Through spending time in His presence, you’ll obtain more of His perspective.
God, I trust You to transform my sorrow into joy. When I fall into trials, You lift me up. When I fail due to weakness, You supply strength. When my patience wears thin, You replenish my spirit. Thank You for ushering Your joy into my brokenness. Thank You for meeting me in the middle of the mess.
A special note about Taylor Wojnarowski.
Taylor was called home on January 2, 2019.
We express our deepest sympathy to the Wojnarowski family.
Rachel Wojo is the author of One More Step: Finding Strength When You Feel Like Giving Up. Her popular daily Bible reading plans on rachelwojo.com have reached over 5 million people. Rachel and the love of her life, Matt, run to the rhythm of 7 children in Columbus, OH.
I will bring these people to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer (Is. 56:7).
In the court of King Xerxes, entering the king’s presence without permission carried a penalty of death for the offender. This law was not lightly taken by the people of Persia. But, in order to save her people, Queen Esther collected her courage and approached the throne. The king accepted her without rebuke, granted her request, and a nation survived.
It’s a beautiful story of boldness spurred by devotion. And, though King Xerxes wasn’t too bad (as biblical rulers go), aren’t you glad our heavenly king rules his throne room differently?
Aren’t you glad God is more accessible than Xerxes? What if we could go to God in prayer only when he called us? What if we needed an official guard to announce our presence?
Suppose only certain people could pray. Suppose only specified topics could be discussed.
Doesn’t sound like the throne room of our heavenly King, does it? Instead of limited accessibility, our King is always available, eternally ready to hear his people, and continually waiting for us to approach.
In fact, no moment brings greater delight to the King than when his children enter his presence.
You walk through the halls of a magnificent royal court. As you reach the entrance of the throne room, you peer through the doorway and see the king on his spectacular throne. Royal guards are posted along the wall and sentries stand at the door. But they do not stop you as you walk. They ask for no credentials or letters of introduction. You need not register with the king’s aide. There is no protocol that must be observed. For, as you enter the throne room, you say the word which brings the king rushing to you.
He is your father.
Just as Jesus prayed “Our father who is in heaven. . .“ (Mt. 6:9) so do we address the heavenly king as father. When Jesus used the term abba, he changed forever the relationship between man and God. The concept of addressing God as “Abba, father” was revolutionary, because of the intimacy implied by the word itself. In the days of Christ, abba was a term of endearment used by children, much like “daddy” in our culture. Though God is described as a father in the Old Testament, the use of the more familiar term doesn’t appear until Jesus uses it himself. Scholar Joachim Jeremias explains the impact of its unusual change in usage:
“Abba” was an everyday word. No Jew would have dared to address God in this manner; yet Jesus did it always in all his prayers which are handed down to us, with one single exception: the cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus authorizes his disciples to repeat the word ‘abba’ after him. He gives them a share in his sonship. He empowers them as his disciples to speak with their heavenly father in just such a familiar and trusting way.
Why do we have instant access to the throne of God? Because the throne is occupied by our father. The Father loves us so much that we are called children of God. And we really are his children (I John 3:1).
God is the ideal father. Though some may view fathers through the lens of pain or detachment, this earthly pain need not cloud our image of God as father. He represents the perfect picture of what a father should be: he offers his children protection, provision, concern. He is never too distant to receive you, never too busy to listen to you. You cannot approach him too often. He is but a thought away from you.
Imagine. A perfect, holy God who receives sinners into his presence. How, you ask, how can this be? How can we in our imperfection, dare approach a holy God? We have the right to enter his presence because we have been clothed in Christ. Apart from Christ, God is inaccessible. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. The only way to the father is through me” (John 14:6).
Christ covers us with his goodness. He wraps us in his sinlessness and dresses us in his holiness.
Recently, I had an experience that brought home this point. I was invited to attend the Masters golf tournament. Now, for you non-golfers out there, let me explain that the Masters is no ordinary tournament. No ticket is more difficult to obtain than a ticket to this premier event. No sports event is harder to enter than the Masters. And getting into the locker room requires the cunning of a Mission Impossible team. The term “off limits” was created by the folks at the Masters: no one goes in except players and caddies and VIPs.
I should know because I tried to get in. I wanted to walk the floors which had felt the footsteps of Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Ben Hogan. But I couldn’t. I didn’t have the credentials. I could only gaze from a distance.
But then I got my coveralls.
You see, on the day before the tournament, the pros play in a par-three round. The golfer gives his caddy the afternoon off and invites a friend to take his place. My friend, golf pro Scott Simpson, invited me to be his caddy. I’ve never been more honored to lug a bag in my life. I went to the caddy shack and picked up my official caddy hat and put on the required white coveralls. Then, after the round I carried the bag up to the locker room, right past the doorway where earlier I had been denied entrance.
I entered the locker room and walked around like I was born to be there. I looked in the mirrors where the pros look. I sat in front of the lockers where the great ones have sat. I roamed at leisure, for now I was wearing the clothes of a caddy. Like the non-pro wearing caddy clothes when we come to Christ, we change clothing. For through faith you are all sons of God in union with Christ Jesus. Baptized into union with him, you have all put on Christ as a garment (Gal. 3:27).
We are wrapped up in Christ, completely reclothed and covered. We can enter the presence of God without question. Remember the words of Isaiah:
The Lord makes me very happy. All that I am rejoices in my God. He has covered me with the clothes of salvation and wrapped me with a coat of goodness, like a bridegroom, dressed for his wedding, like a bride dressed in jewels (Is. 61:10-11).
Entering God’s presence. When the children of the king come into the throne room, a holy moment takes place. Entering his presence through prayer is not a rare event on a holy calendar. It’s not a singular ceremony reserved for some special group. Nor is it a spectacular episode for the history books. Instead, it is moment by moment access to a Holy God.
And, though lofty in privilege, it’s common in availability. It is the lifelong chance of a lifetime.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: he that comes must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6).
Suppose you are vacationing in a remote area, far removed from population. Your child becomes ill, urgently needing care. You and your spouse load the child in the car and race to the nearest village. There you are told of three medical caregivers, all three living next to each other. You drive to the street, locate the first physician and knock on the door.
No one answers. You knock again and no one answers. Only after knocking a third time, do you notice a sign over the doorway which reads, “No one lives here.” So, you run back to your car and inform your mate, “The place is empty.”
“Go next door,” you are instructed and so you do.
This time there is an answer to your knock. An old man with a kind face listens to your problem and answers, “I wish I could help you. There was a day when I could. But I can’t now. I need care myself. In fact, if you have time, I need someone to come and prepare my meal. Also, if you could spare a few dollars, I’m a bit short on cash. . .“
Realizing your child won’t be helped here, you apologize mid-sentence to the gentleman and leave, shouting to the car as you run, “Someone is here, but he can’t help.”
Your child is worsening by the minute and you have only one more option. You run to the third house. This time an able-looking professional opens the door. “How may I help?” he asks. You explain thatyour child is ill and needs immediate care. “Quickly, bring the child to me,” he urges.
“Are you able to help?”
“Are you willing to help?”
He is there and he is willing to help. That’s all you know. That’s all you need to know. You don’t need to know his birthplace, his Social Security number or his life story — all you need is his existence and availability, his presence and his willingness. He is there and he is good. Those two facts are enough to take you to his presence.
Those same two facts are enough to take you to the presence of God. The man who approaches God must have faith m two things, first, that God exists and secondly that God rewards those who search for him. (Heb. 11:6 Phillips). What is required? A conviction that God is and conviction that God is good. Those who would come to God must believe that God is real and God is responsive. These convictions form the foundation of prayer. These convictions are found in one word in the first sentence of our Lord’s prayer.
What is the word? I’ll give you a hint. You just read it. Where is it? You just read it.Is it in this sentence? It is. It’s in the answer I just gave. Come on, Max, is this a joke?Would I kid you? (By the way the word was in your question.) See it?
Is. Our father who is in heaven.
God is. Not God was. Nor God will be. Not God could be or should be, but God is. He is. The God of the present tense.
That’s all you need to know to come to God. More is helpful but not necessary. More can come later, but none can come earlier. Begin with the reality and the responsiveness of God. Remember the condition described in Hebrews? If you believe there is a living God, (he is) and you believe there is a loving God, (he rewards those who seek him,) then you have faith. And you are welcome in his presence.
The foundation of his kingdom is not built on you, but on him. The key question is not “Who am I?” but rather “Who is God?”
I write these words on an airplane. A late airplane. An airplane different from the one I was originally assigned. My first flight was cancelled for mechanical difficulty. I and a few dozen not-so-happy campers were down-loaded onto another plane. As we checked into the new flight, I heard many of my passengers ask, is this plane ok? Any mechanical flaws with this 747? We were full of questions about the plane’s ability to fly, but the attendant had no questions about our ability to do the same.
Not once were we asked, “How about you? Can you fly? Can you flap your arms and get airborne?” Bizarre questions. My ability to fly is not important. My strength is immaterial. I’m counting on the plane to get me home, hence I inquire as to its strength.
Need I make the connection? Your achievements, however noble, are not important. Your credentials, as remarkable as they may be, are of no concern. God is the force behind this journey. His strength is the key factor. Focus not on your strength, but his. Occupy yourself with the nature of God, not the size of your bicep.
That’s what Moses did. Or at least that’s what God told Moses to do. Remember the conversation at the burning bush? The tone was set in the first sentence. Take off your sandals because you are standing on holy ground (Ex. 3:5). Immediately the roles are defined. God is holy. Approaching him on even a quarter-inch of leather is too pompous. With those eleven words Moses is enrolled in a class on God. No time is spent convincing Moses what Moses can do. Much time is spent explaining to Moses what God can do.
We tend to do the opposite. Our approach would be to explain to Moses how he is ideally suited to return to Egypt. (Who better understands the culture than a former prince?) Then we’d remind Moses how perfect he is for wilderness travel. (Who knows the desert better than a shepherd?) We’d spend much time reviewing with Moses his resume and strengths. (Come on Moses, you can do it. Give it a try.)
God doesn’t. The strength of Moses is never considered. No pep talk is given, no pats on the backs are offered. Not one word is given to recruit Moses. But many words are given that reveal God. The strength of Moses is not the issue. The strength of God is.
Let’s re-read that last phrase replacing the name of Moses with your name. The strength of_________ is not the issue. The strength of God is. You aren’t the force behind the plane nor the mortar within the foundation: God is. I know that you understand that statement, but do you accept it in your heart? Would you like to? Let me put down my inspirational pen and pick up my instructional pen. Allow me to get very practical with you and show you how you can have a deeper trust in God’s character.
One of the most encouraging ways to study God is to study his names. The study of the names of God is no brief reading. After all there are dozens of them in scripture. But if you want a place to begin, start with some of the compound names of God in the Old Testament. Each of them reveals a different aspect of God’s character.
Maybe you are wondering how a study of the names of God can help you trust God. Let me explain. Imagine that you and I are having a conversation in 1978. You approach me on the college campus where I was a student and ask, “Do you know Denalyn Preston?” I would have answered, “Let me think. Oh, I know Denalyn. She’s an acquaintance of mine. She’s that cute girl who likes to ride bikes and wear overalls to class.” That’s all I knew about her.
But go forward a year. Now we are in Miami, Florida, where I am a minister and Denalyn is a school teacher attending the church I serve. “Do you know Denalyn Preston?” “Of course, I do. She’s a friend. I see her every Sunday.”
Ask me again a year later, “Denalyn Preston? Sure I know her. She can’t take her eyes off me.” (Just kidding, honey.)
Fast forward twelve months. “Who doesn’t know Denalyn Preston?” I would answer. “You think she might be willing to go out on a date with me?”
Six months later, “Of course I know her; I can’t quit thinking about her. We’re going out again next week.”
Two months later, “Do I know Denalyn Preston? I’m going to marry her next August!”
Now it’s August of 1981. “Do I know Denalyn Preston? No, but I know Denalyn Lucado; she’s my wife. And quit bugging us, we’re on our honeymoon.”
In three years my relationship with Denalyn changed. And with each change came a new name. She went from “acquaintance”, to “friend”, to “eye-popping beauty” to “date” to “fiancee” and “wife.” Of course the names have only continued. Now she is “confidante,” “mother of my children,” “life-long partner,” “boss” (oops, just kidding again.) The more I know her the more names I give her.
The same happened in the Bible. The more God’s people came to know him, the more names they gave him. Initially God was known as Elohim. “In the beginning God (Elohim) created. . .“ (Gen. 1:1). The Hebrew word “Elohim” carries with it the meaning “strong one or creator.” Therefore when we call God Elohim, we refer to his strength or omnipotence. Elohim appears 31 times in the first chapter of Genesis because that is were we see his creative power.
As God revealed himself to his children, however, they saw him as more than a mighty force. They saw him as a loving creator who met them at every crossroad of their lives.
Jacob, for example, came to see God as Jehovah Roi; a caring shepherd. “Like a shepherd,” Jacob told his family, “God has led me all my life” (Gen. 48:15).
The phrase is surely a compliment to God, for Jacob was less than a cooperative sheep. Twice he tricked his brother, at least once he suckered his blind father, he out-crossed his double-crossing father-in-law by conning him out of his livestock and then, when the fellow wasn’t looking, made like a Colt out of Baltimore in the middle of the night sneaking off with anything that wasn’t nailed down.
Jacob was never a candidate for the best-behaved sheep award, but God never forgot him. Gave him food in the famine, gave him forgiveness in his failures, gave him faith in his final years. Ask Jacob to describe God in a word, his word was Jehovah Roi — the caring shepherd.
Abraham had another word for God: Jehovah-jireh. “The Lord who provides.” Abraham came by the name honestly. It all began when Abraham heard the call to go to the land of Canaan and so he went. God promised to make him the father of the nations and he believed. But that was before Lot took the best land. That was before the king of Egypt took his wife. That was before he found out that he, the father of the nations, was married to a barren wife. But then Lot ended up in Sodom and Gomorrah, the Pharaoh ended up returning Sara, and Abraham ended up bouncing his first-born on his hundred-year-old bony knees. Abraham learned that God provides. But even Abraham must have shaken his head when God asked him to sacrifice his own son on Mt. Moriah.
Up the mountain they went. “Where is the lamb we will burn as a sacrifice?” (Gen. 22:7) his son asked. One wonders how the words made it past the lump in Abraham’s throat, “God will give us the lamb for the sacrifice, my son” (vs. 8). Jehovah-jireh: the Lord will provide. Abraham tied up his son and placed him on the altar and raised the knife and the angel stayed his hand. Abraham had proven his faith. He heard a rustling in the thicket and saw a ram caught in a bush by his horns. He offered it as an offering and gave the mountain a name: Jehovah-jireh — The Lord Provides.
And then there is Gideon. The Lord came to Gideon and told him he was to lead his people in victory over the Midianites. That’s like God telling a housewife to stand up to her abusive husband; or a high school student to take on drug peddlers or a preacher to preach the truth to the fat and sassy. “Y-y-you bb- better get somebody else,” we stammer. But then God reminds us that he knows we can’t but he can and to prove it, he gives a wonderful gift, peace. He brings a spirit of peace. A peace before the storm. A peace beyond logic, or as Paul described it, “A peace which passes understanding.” He gave it to David after he showed him Goliath, he gave it to Saul after he showed him the gospel, and he gave it to Jesus after he showed him the cross. And he gave it to Gideon. So Gideon, in turn gave the name to God. He built an altar and named it “Jehovah-Shalom” The Lord is peace. (Judges 6:24)
God the Creator, God the Caring Shepherd, God the Provider, Lord of Peace. Just some of the names that help us understand the God Who Is.
God is the God who always is. I am who I am, he says.
Who is the one who created the world? God is.
Who is the one who provides the needs of his children? God is.
Who is the one who saves his people? God is.
Who is the one who rewards those that diligently seek him? God is.
Your neighbor really wants you to read this chapter. No kidding. In fact, he’s sighing a big sigh of relief. Why? Because he knows that harmony begins with understanding and that understanding starts with information. The purpose of this chapter, then, is to give you some information about your neighbor.
Of course, when we say “neighbor” we’re using the broad definition of the word. Neighbors aren’t just the folks next door or around the corner. Your neighbor is anybody you meet on life’s journey. That’s the lesson Jesus gave when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). You remember the story of a man who was beaten and robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. . . as he lay dying, two religious leaders came by, deciding not to stop and help. The fellow in the ditch might have died had it not been for a compassionate traveler who carried him to the next city, secured medical help, and paid the costs. Not only is this parable a compelling story, it is God’s clear definition of a neighbor: anyone you meet on the road of life. So, let’s visit our neighbors: could be your date, your mate, or the girl at the gate. It’s the cute guy on the elevator and the cranky receptionist on the third floor. It’s the friend who nurtures you, the forgetful senior citizen, and the homeless guy who carries his possessions in a paper sack. All of them are your neighbors, and when we enter the presence of God through prayer, they are present as well. Prayer is the pathway for all God’s children, and our neighbors gather with us in the throne room.
Let’s try to understand these neighbors: why your spouse is moody, why your employee is jumpy or why your teenager acts like, well, a teenager. They share some common denominators that Jesus listed in his model prayer. “Our Father” (we are all children in need of a father), “our daily bread” (we are all beggars in need of bread), “our debts” (we are all sinners in need of grace), “deliver us from temptation” (we are all strugglers in need of strength).
In one way, we are much like Ruth and Verena Cady. Since their birth in 1984, they have shared much. Like most twins, they have shared a bike, a bed, a room, and toys. They’ve shared meals, stories, TV shows, and birthdays. They shared the same womb before they were born and the same room after they were born. But the bond between Ruthie and Verena goes even further. They share more than toys and treats. They share a heart.
Their bodies are fused from the sternum to the waist. Though they have separate nervous systems and distinct personalities, they are sustained by the same three-chambered heart. Neither girl could survive without the other. Neither would want to survive without the other. With separation not an option, cooperation became an obligation.
They have learned to live together as neighbors. Take walking for example. When they began to attempt toddling on their own, they developed their own style. Instead of taking turns leading each other, they began to walk sideways, as if in a dance. And they dance in the same direction.
They’ve learned to compensate for each other’s weaknesses. Verena loves to eat. But Ruthie finds sitting at the table too dull. Ruthie may eat only a half cup of fruit a day, but that is not a concern, for her sister will eat enough for both. They’ve learned to tolerate consequences for which they are not responsible. When one girl is disciplined by a period in “timeout” the innocent party tags along.
The twins have many lessons to teach us. Though we may claim to be autonomous, we aren’t. Though we may claim to be independent, no one is. Like the sisters, we are dependent on each other. Oh, we don’t eat out of the same plate, but we are sustained by the same earth. We don’t sleep in the same bed, but we sleep under the same sky. We don’t share one heart. (Or do we: don’t we share the same hope for eternity? Don’t we have a mutual hunger to be loved and saved?) And, like the twins, don’t we share the same Father?
Perhaps that’s why the model prayer isn’t addressed to “my father,” or “your father,” but “OUR Father.” “Our Father who is in heaven.”
And, because he is father to all, his house has many rooms. The rooms are large and the hallway is busy. As you pass through the halls, you brush shoulders with Ethiopian tribesmen and Russian peasants and Norwegian farmers and any other soul who has looked into the skies and prayed, “Our Father.” Though you may not know them and though you may not understand them, you are linked to them by virtue of a mutual father.
Why is it important to remember this community? It’s important because before you talk to Him, he wants you to be at peace with Them. Remember his command earlier in the Sermon on the Mount? “When you offer your gift to God at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave a gift there at the altar. Go and make peace with that person, then come and offer your gift.” (Mt. 5:23-24).
Jesus envisions a person going to worship. He sees that the person has a gift to give. Perhaps it’s a tithe, or a song, or an act of service. On the way to offer the gift, however, the person remembers an unresolved conflict. He thinks of a neighbor he has offended. The worshiper has nothing against the person, mind you, but the person has something against the worshiper. Jesus’ instructions are clear: Before you come to my house, go to his house. Before you give me a gift, gift him an apology. Before you give me a tithe, give your neighbor an olive branch. Harmony is a cherished ideal in God’s house.
Isn’t it in yours? You parents understand this point. A couple of your children are in a cold war. They won’t speak to each other, but one decides to speak to you. He hugs your neck and says, “You’re a good Mom.” Now, as much as you welcome the compliment, you want his attention focused on resolving the conflict. “The greatest compliment you can give me is to make up with your big sister.”
God is a parent who wants only the same from his children. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we took this command seriously? What if we determined to be at peace before we sat in the pews? The phone lines would start humming on Saturday night.. . “Sorry to call so late, but tomorrow I want to worship with a clean conscience and, well, I know I was rude to you this week. Could we talk about it?”
You know, it’s hard to deeply worship your father when you’ve been unkind to his children or when you don’t like his kids. In fact, the apostle John says, it is impossible to worship in this state of mind. “If people say they love God, but hate their brothers and sisters, they are liars. Those who do not love their brothers and sisters whom they have seen cannot love God whom they have never seen” (1 John 4:20).
Of course, you cannot control the response of your neighbor to your gesture of peace. You may do everything possible to make amends, but still be rejected. But at least, we must do everything possible. As Paul urges, “Do your best to live in peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).
A good place to start is by reminding yourself that you and your neighbor have much in common: the same hopes, the same fears, similar pain, similar joys. Remind yourself that we are all children in need of a father.
When my oldest daughter turned twelve, I took her to Israel. One afternoon, as we were exiting Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate, we found ourselves behind an Orthodox Jewish father and his three small girls. One of the daughters had fallen a few steps behind, and became enmeshed in the crowd. “Abba,” she called out to him. The father stopped, searched, and found the missing child. He extended his hand, she took it, and the family continued on down the street. He held her hand tightly in his as they waited for the light to change at the corner. From then on, the little girl walked through the busy intersection without fear. She was holding the hand of her “Abba.”
When Jesus used the term “abba” in his model prayer, he spoke the tenderest expression found in Hebrew for a child to use when calling his father. Not a distant, unapproachable father, but an “abba” whose hand holds ours, whose arms carry us, whose heart weeps when we weep. It’s in this common need for “abba” that we find our sense of community. Aren’t we all needing “abba”? One who will come when we call, extend his hand when we feel afraid, and guide us when we trust.
Sometimes we think we’ve outgrown the Father’s hand or we’re too mature to need his help. That may be where your neighbor is right now. He may have struggles that only God can understand, that only God can remedy. That may be where your neighbor is right now. He may be hard to like or difficult to live with. But, be patient, just as you would want him to be patient with you.
It won’t be long before he looks up and realizes he is on a busy street with no clue how to get home. It could be that he, like the little girl, will say, “Abba.” And it could be that you’ll be there to show him thefather’s hand.
Entering His Presence:The Holiness of Prayer
Published by UpWords Ministries
©2002 by Max Lucado
Edited by Karen Hill