Chapter OneJanuary 1
Truth Demands a Response
Teach me Thy way, O Lord; I will walk in Thy truth.
One foggy night, the captain of a large ship saw what appeared to be
another ship's lights approaching in the distance. This other ship was
on a course that would mean a head-on collision. Quickly, the captain
signaled to the approaching ship: "Please change your course 10 degrees west."
The reply came blinking back through the thick fog: "You change your course
10 degrees east."
Indignantly, the captain pulled rank and shot a message back to the other
ship: "I am a sea captain with 35 years of experience. Change your course 10
Without hesitation, the signal flashed back: "I am a seaman, fourth class. You
change your course 10 degrees east!"
Enraged, the captain realized they were approaching each other quickly and
would crash within minutes. So he blazed his final warning: "I am a 50,000-ton
freighter. Change your course 10 degrees west!"
A simple message winked back: "I am a lighthouse. You change your
Like the sea captain, we may need to change course when confronted with
the truth. That's what happens when we make it a priority to spend time reading
and applying God's Word. It is eternal truth. It doesn't change, so we need
to adjust our lives to walk in that truth.
So many of us spend our lives avoiding the truth of God's Word because we
don't want to walk in it. Christ said in John 8:32 that "the truth shall make you
free," but as Herbert Agar wrote in A Time for Greatness, "The truth that makes
men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear."
What is the Bible to you? A collection of nice stories? The foundation of a
conservative worldview? Or is it God's Word, "living and active and sharper
than any two-edged sword?" (Heb. 4:12). Does anything keep you from obeying
God's Word in every area of your life-your business, your marriage, your
family? Do you need to adjust the course on which you are heading today?
* * *
Is there a truth you have been avoiding in your life-an area of your
relationship you have been unwilling to confront?
That God's Word will be your guide in decision making and your rock in
establishing family values and priorities.
Making the Most of It All
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise,
making the most of your time.
Someday, when the kids are gone, there will be plenty of ice cream just
for Barbara and me. I won t find the can of Hershey's chocolate on the
lower shelf . empty and with a sticky bottom. We will return to a small
refrigerator and eat on the antique table we used when we were first married.
Cars will be clean again. The floorboard won't be covered with Sunday
School papers or petrified McDonald's french fries. And gum, Legos, Matchbox
cars, doll combs and even fishhooks won't be smushed into the carpet.
Doors will be shut, and I won't have to go through the house turning off
every light. We won't stumble over herds of teddy bears, dolls and stuffed animals
grazing or napping on the carpet.
Fewer tools will be lost. No frantic search parties at bedtime for lost blankets.
Socks will miraculously find their mates, and the car keys will be right
where I left them.
But of course other things will have changed, too.
When the kids are gone, we won't hear the pitter-patter of little feet running
down the hallway, then feel a warm, wiggly body crawling into bed and snuggling
with us early on Saturday morning.
No more little-girl, frilly Easter dresses or first days of school. No winter picnics
or log cabin playhouses. No more fishing and hunting trips or wiener roasts
or just goofing around with a childish hand in mine.
Someday there will be no more handmade Father's Day cards or wooden
plaques titled "World's Best Mom." No more crayon drawings, verses and stick
people drawn on construction paper and displayed on the refrigerator.
So until someday arrives, we're going to cherish our moments together.
We're going to try to take seriously-but happily-the apostle Paul's counsel:
"Making the most of your time."
Sticky or not.
* * *
What "season of life" are you in right now? Are you making the most of this
time, fulfilling your responsibilities with contentment, joy and appreciation?
For contentment and for the ability to focus on what
God has called you to presently do.
And Jesus said, "Who is the one who touched Me?" And while they were all denying it,
Peter said, "Master, the multitudes are crowding and pressing upon you."
But Jesus said, "Someone did touch Me."
With the world's population racing toward five billion inhabitants, it
may seem strange that many observers see loneliness as society's number
one need. This widespread disorder has been described as being lonely in a
crowd or "crowded loneliness."
Although it would seem that families are a natural antidote for loneliness, we
all know they don't always work that way. In large and small families among
children, and between husband and wife, individual needs for "belonging" are
often ignored and loneliness looms. Here are some symptoms: declaring some
topics off-limits for discussion; substituting television, small talk or silence for
meaningful conversation; allowing the calendar to become too crowded for time
together; the wife immersing herself in the children and the husband in his work
in order to avoid intimacy; refusing to confront each other on important issues
and covering them up with an attitude of "peace at any price."
Jesus lived in a tiny, crowded portion of Palestine. It was incredible that in
the midst of a mob, all jostling each other, He should take note of a lonely
woman's personal touch. But that's just what He did.
Your family can be just such a gathering-a place where each family member
can experience both the security of togetherness and the meeting of individual
One of Satan's greatest strategies is to isolate people from each other. Is his
demonic strategy working in your home?
* * *
Which path does your family seem to be on-toward greater intimacy or isolation?
What schedule pressures could you adjust to give your family more
opportunities for interaction?
That God will give each family member some of Jesus' ability to overcome the
threat of "crowded loneliness."
God's "Box Top"
for the Family
Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.
Each fall I divide my sixth grade Sunday School class into three groups to
compete in putting together a jigsaw puzzle. As these 12-year-olds scatter
into three circles on the floor, I explain that there is only one rule in
our competition: to put together the puzzle without talking.
The contents of one puzzle are deposited on the floor and Group One immediately
goes to work. The group promptly sets up the box top that depicts the
picture of the puzzle it is completing.
Then I move to the second group, dump the pieces on the floor and quickly
give the group a box top. What the group doesn't know is that the box top is for
The third group is given the same puzzle pieces, but it doesn't receive a box
top. Usually the kids in the group start to protest, but I quickly remind them
there is to be no talking!
What follows is fascinating.
Group One is somewhat frustrated by not being allowed to talk, but it still
makes steady progress. Group Two keeps trying to use the picture, but nothing
seems to work. And since the kids in the group can't say anything, their frustration
level soars. The group members look at me with pleading eyes. Soon, I
see the wrong box top come flying out of the group!
Group Three is interesting. Because the kids have nothing to guide them,
they do their own thing. The kids give up and just lie on the floor.
Am I a cruel teacher? No, there is a point that I make that day.
Life, marriages and families are like the pieces of the puzzle. The pieces are
all there for us, but something is needed to help us bring order out of chaos.
There are a lot of competing blueprints and pictures out there vying for your
commitment and mine. It only makes sense, however, to look to the God who
created the family to learn a design that will work.
It's never too late to pull out your Bible and begin using the right box top.
* * *
Do you think you are building your family from the right blueprints? Do you
and your spouse have the same box top? If you continue on your current path,
what will your home look like?
That God will give you discernment to recognize when you are building your
marriage with the wrong box top.
And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one
having authority, and not as the scribes.
Have you seen Jesus? I mean really seen Him? Not some kind of 900-foot-tall
object, but rather the Jesus Christ who Jives in the Bible?
When I look through the book of Mark, I see a Christ who is amazing.
And He obviously struck others the same when He lived on earth.
For one thing, His teachings were amazing. The people were shaken to their
cores by the authority Christ had when He taught.
Second, He performed miracles that were amazing. He healed the blind, the
sick, the lepers. Mark 4:35-41 gives us another little outline or a story, a brief
glimpse of a miracle that Jesus performed. This is no mystical myth. This was a
real event that occurred. This passage describes Jesus with His disciples and
how He rebuked the wind of a storm.
On a windy day you or I could go outside and say to the wind, "Hold it." But
it would just keep on blowing. A wall could be built, but that really would not
stop it. The wind would flow right over it. Yet Jesus turned an angry sea into a
calm surface by speaking and causing the wind to stop.
Christ healed the sick, fed the 5,000, and not only walked on water but also
made it possible for Peter to do the same. I sometimes wonder what it was like
to be Peter as he stepped out of that boat. He had his eyes on Christ and he
stepped out and it was solid. Then he saw the wind and began to sink.
I've heard Peter criticized in sermons for seeing the wind and sinking-for
his doubt and unbelief. But he still stepped out-he had the faith to get out of
the boat and "onto" the water! And he's the only person in history to walk on
water, other than Jesus.
What's my point? Have you ever been amazed by His teachings? Have you
ever really stepped out and taken Him at His word?
* * *
How has God's teaching made a difference in your life?
That you would see Christ as the amazing God on a daily basis.
Since I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain-for
I hope to see you in passing.
Captain Red McDaniel rapped on his cell walls in the "Hanoi Hilton"-tap . tap-tap-tap-practicing
the special camp code prisoners used to
communicate with each other. He was risking his life since one of the
strictest rules in the celebrated Vietnamese POW camp was: No communication
with other prisoners.
His communist captors wanted to keep all "guests" isolated and vulnerable.
And McDaniel had already been through that; now he was in solitary confinement.
As the long hours and days passed, he met the real enemy-isolation.
Without human contact or conversation, he knew only the dulling, silent darkness
The highlight of each day was being taken to the washroom, where he managed
to whisper briefly with two other Americans. They taught him the camp
code, which involved a certain number of taps or other signals that spelled out
letters of the alphabet.
McDaniel, who tells of his long years of imprisonment in his book Scars and
Stripes, saw nearly 50 of America's finest trained men go into isolation, never to
be heard from again. For himself, it was either communicate or die. New prisoners
who did not learn the code within 30 days would gradually start to draw
inward and deteriorate. They would stop eating and slowly lose the will to live.
Eventually, isolation would suck their very lives from them.
Isolation and the failure to communicate also drain life from relationships.
Like the apostle Paul, most people long for intimacy and fellowship, but without
communication, these essentials are impossible.
Communicate-your marriage depends on it!
* * *
Can you recall an example in your own family when the lack of communication
created a problem? How could family members work together to improve
That the lines of communication will stay open in order for your relationship
with God and your family to flourish.