Date: November 22, 1936
Prayer for Family Blessings
We praise Thine eternal mercies for Thy protecting hand, which by day and by night has guarded our homes against war and disaster and kept us from the manifold calamities which have befallen millions of our fellow-men. We beseech Thee, gracious God, do Thou also protect our homes from the domestic dangers that arise from sin and selfishness. Grant us, above all, not wealth and luxury, ease and comfort, but faith in the abiding mercy of Thy Son, first to forgive us our sins and then to strengthen us for the truly abundant home-life. Teach us to exercise in our families the power that Thou hast given us in Thy Word and in prayer for the building of happy homes, which can endure the strain of many storms in this turbulent day and remain immovable because they are built on the rock of faith in Christ’s redeeming love. May our blessed Savior, whose first miracle was performed at a wedding-festival, who during His life of service blessed the God-fearing home with His presence and took the little children into His arms, whose last words on the atoning cross also embraced loving comfort for His mother, knock at our doors, be welcomed into our family circles, and ever remain as the blessed Head and Hope of our homes. Yes, come, Lord Jesus, and be our constant Guest! Amen.
Today I must abide at thy house. – Luke 19:5
IF I could paint a canvas to picture Jesus Christ exerting His deepest influence and bestowing His richest blessing upon our country and its inhabitants, I should portray Him, not at the Capitol in Washington, directing our legislators; not in the secret chambers of the Supreme Court counseling the nine men whose decisions may help to shape the history of the coming years; not at the head of our flashing armies and our proud navies; not in a conclave of scientists, raising His hand in benediction upon the schools of the land. Instead, if I were asked to show the place where the Savior’s love and mercy could be exerted with greatest blessing, I would depict the vast panorama of American homes welcoming the divine Christ to their hearth and to their hearts. Say what we will about the stirring issues that confront the nation today; attach whatever importance we may to the events that are shaping the history of our world, civil wars, new international alliances, labor troubles, on the one hand, and prosperity waves, salary increases, holiday bonuses, stock dividends, on the other, the truth remains that the basic factor in the happiness of one man or of a million men is to be found in the home and that the pledge of this happiness is not modern lighting and electric equipment, not convenient appliances and comfortable furniture, not the size and the location of the home, its architecture and decoration, its lawns and gardens, but, above all, the presence of Christ, the assurance of His forgiving love and strengthening faith.
What good are all the plans for modern home construction with their new features in steel and stone and glass, air-conditioning and heat control, if the specifications do not call for Christ as the Cornerstone and if the family forgets the words of unalterable truth: “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it”? What good are all the projects designed to insure the permanence of the family, the special courses in domestic education, the library of books on home problems, when, with all this counsel and advice, the home without Christ is built on sands and may be blown over by the first gust of an unfavorable wind? You may have your psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, child psychologists, domestic experts, your marital clinics, cooking charts, and vitamin schedules; but give us Christ for the family, and on that Rock we will build a home that the hurricanes of life can never shake.
If I cannot paint this panorama of America’s homes thrown wide to welcome Christ, I can speak to you individually and show you the blessing, power, and glory that come with—
THE ABIDING CHRIST IN YOUR HOME
In the nineteenth chapter, fifth verse, of his gospel St. Luke, the beloved physician, the only one of the four evangelists to record this striking appeal of the Savior, the sacred writer who particularly emphasizes Jesus as the Friend of sinners and His Gospel as the message of forgiveness, directs these words of Christ to you and to your home, “Today I must abide at thy house.”
THE GRACE OF THE ABIDING CHRIST
Throughout the entire land of Judea in our Savior’s day no city had a more unsavory reputation than thiefinfested Jericho. Within that ill-reputed city, notorious even unto this day, no group of men was more bitterly detested than the local publicans, or tax-collectors, often greedy, dishonest, cruel, and always representative of the rich foreign oppressors, the Roman rulers. Among these despised officials in this odious place no one felt the brunt of popular hatred more than Zacchaeus. It was disgraceful enough to be a publican; but to be a chief of these outcasts and to have become wealthy in this position was to be a public enemy. Even the whining lepers on the outskirts of Jericho would have cursed him and the thieves in the thickets sneered at his name. Yet it is to this shunned man in this disgraced city that our blessed Lord speaks words of extraordinary grace, “Today I must abide at thy house.”
Suppose, for a moment, that our Lord had addressed some exalted personage in the palaces at Jerusalem. The conclusion would have been all too easy that Jesus was especially attracted to the luxury of the cultured, respected upper classes and that He had little time and no thought for those who suffer from the reproach or sorrows of this world, those who live in the wrong sections of their city or who huddle together in cold, cramped quarters. But here in Jericho we meet the Christ for all mankind, the Christ for every age, for every home, for every family, and one of the greatest of His promises is spoken to an outcast in an outcast community.
This blessing had come to Zacchaeus as a complete surprise. When the news spread that Jesus of Nazareth had entered Jericho, he was seized by an impulse, deeper than mere curiosity, to see the Man of miracles. Being short of stature and realizing that in the clamor and confusion he would be pushed to the rear and prevented from catching even a glimpse of Jesus, Zacchaeus ran ahead of the procession, climbed a sycamore-tree, and from that point of vantage awaited the coming of Christ.
Again, what a wealth of promise in this picture of the chief tax-collector on a limb overhanging the road of Jesus’ approach! A wealthy man eager to behold Christ, an example that urges men and women of comfortable means to turn their hearts to the Savior and behold His mercies! A seeker after God discarding his dignity and inviting ridicule through his zealous desire to see Jesus,—a challenge to many of us whose fire of faith is extinguished by the first blast of cold opposition, who confess Christ before congenial friends, yet ignore and deny Him before His avowed enemies! Zacchaeus, a man who found the disadvantage of His short stature miraculously transformed into a startling advantage! Just as today thousands can testify that their material losses have become spiritual gain; the blind who perhaps never beheld Christ with seeing eyes, but were won for Him through the loss of their sight; the lame and the halt who never came to Christ when they were sound of body, but who now leap to Him in the deep joy of their faith; the invalid and the suffering who in earlier health never raised a hymn of praise to their God and Savior, but who have been brought to His mercies through hindrances that have proved disguised blessings!
When Jesus approaches, not with the fanfare and the flourish of royalty nor with kingly scepter and garb, but clothed as an ordinary traveler, destitute of all the bejeweled decorations with which modern art often destroys His true lowliness and simplicity, His eyes scanning the sea of human faces about Him only to rest on Zacchaeus, the tax collector’s day of destiny has come. Without being told the name of this eager spectator, our Savior in His all-knowing, all-loving mercy cries out, “Zacchaeus,” with a warmth of greeting that the despised publican has perhaps never experienced; and before that small-statured man in the tree can regain his composure, Jesus continues: “Make haste and come down; for today I must abide at thy house.” How electrifying these words! How incredible the thought that this Preacher without a parallel, this Master who taught, not as the scribes and Pharisees, but with authority from Heaven, should cross the threshold and enter the house that others had shunned! Yet it was true, triumphantly true. Jesus had precious truths to impart to Zacchaeus within the walls of his home. Although the Savior’s face was set with rigid fixity toward Jerusalem and the agonies of Gethsemane and Calvary; although Jesus had come to the last week of His earthly life and, before the next seven days had elapsed, would be deserted by man and forsaken by God, nailed to the cross, crushed into death by the weight of all human sin, yet He stops on that journey to Golgotha because here in Jericho His eversearching heart has found a soul to be saved, a home to be rescued. What if the self-righteous throng protests that Jesus is “to be a guest with a man that is a sinner”? His merciful heart is not changed by these rebukes. He steps through the doorway of the publican’s home, pronounces the greatest blessing ever spoken upon any dwelling, “This day is salvation come to this house,” and concludes with that beloved passage of promise which, I know, has helped to strengthen the faith and joy of life in many of your hearts, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
This same Jesus, no longer marching to His crucifixion, but now enthroned in eternal glory and dominion, cries out with personal force to every one who hears His words, “Today I must abide at thy house.” You may not know Jesus, or you may have known Him once and turned traitorously away from Him; you may have set your dial to this broadcast by what men would call the sheerest chance, but by the gracious guidance of God this may be your day of eternal destiny. For Christ sees you; He knows you; He calls you as in the days of His flesh He summoned Zacchaeus. And once again, it does not matter where you live, who you are, or what you have been; it does not matter how poor and small and crowded or how large and luxurious and attractive your home may be, Christ now calls to you, “Today I must abide at thy house.”
THE NECESSITY OF THE ABIDING CHRIST
Never before have American homes needed Christ as in this hour when our domestic tragedies have descended to new low levels. Stop to behold the malignant growth of divorce, with State Legislatures running neck-to-neck races while they turn the disruption of the family into profit; marriages that should be terminated only by death broken in farcical-hearings of seven minutes and ten minutes, with judges and lawyers united in collusive falsehood and witnesses raising their hands to God in oaths that are blasphemous perjuries; headlines and front-page publicity for divorces in prominent families; a serial story in our newspapers glorifying royal marital escapades.
Or think of the assault on the morality and happiness of the family waged by forces opposed to parenthood and childhood, the most repulsive commercialism the nation has ever seen, promoted through lies and frauds, which picture wilful childlessness a virtue; unwomanly women who storm Congressional chambers in the attempt to flood the nation with birth-control propaganda; Protestant churches—and this is one of the most alarming symptoms of degeneracy—allied in organization with these unholy forces. Now, the Bible does not endorse ill-advised plans like the Canadian baby marathon; it has no doctrine of human mass production; nor does it overlook the requirements of maternal health and child development; but when 36 out of every hundred families in our country are childless and many of them because of selfish and sinful attitudes, the very foundation of home happiness and national prosperity is destroyed. If this rate of childlessness continues, within our own generation the White House will issue appeals for more babies as Germany and Italy have, and our legislatures will put a premium on parenthood and subsidize childhood.
I must pass over the other sectors on which the American home is being attacked: unfaithfulness on the part of husband or wife; assaults of lust directed by the stage, the screen, the sex novel, the sex magazine; flouting the Scriptural ideals of purity by agitators who use the guise of free speech to promote free love and who smile disdainfully at the Christian emphasis on clean living; attractions that are taking mothers away from their homes and children; preoccupation that often makes father a stranger to his own flesh and blood; ingratitude or rebellion of children and indifference or tyranny of parents. I must omit the discussion of these and other vital issues to say that many in my audience need the abiding presence of Christ in their homes because of hardships, grief, sorrow, pain, failure, poverty that only too quickly, sometimes overnight, can descend upon any home. I know that I am speaking to parents who have been brought closer together by adversity, yet who face a drab, cheerless winter with no definite prospects of employment, with diminished food supplies, but with increasing problems that come with the dawn of every new day; homes in which sudden and serious accident, lingering illness, or approaching death have left that chilling of grief and numbness of heart which nothing seems able to remove; large, attractive dwelling-places that are overshadowed by the specter of family trouble, where husband and wife, who of all people in this world ought to be welded together by the closest ties of love, are living as sworn enemies; homes in which God-fearing, church-going, prayer-loving parents, in spite of all their pleas and warnings, have had their hopes of happiness crushed by the immorality of their children; homes in which an unbelieving father breaks the spiritual unity of the family and, unheedful of the entreaties of his wife, maintains the stolid, selfish course that ultimately will lead to eternal separation from his loved ones in the hereafter. It is to these homes, bowed under the weight of endless sorrows, cursed with drunkenness, impurity, profanity, quarrel, strife, broken by unfaithfulness and unbelief, that the Savior’s words, “Today I must abide at thy house,” address themselves with redoubled force. If you have vainly sought happiness for your home through a dozen human remedies; if you want light in the darkness of any domestic problem, guidance for any marital perplexity, hope for the most harassing family situation, then before God I promise you: Your Savior can give you divine light and direction and confidence for whatever may befall you and your home if you hear His plea “Today I must abide at thy house” and answer:—
Abide, O dear Redeemer,
Among us with Thy Word
And thus now and hereafter
True peace and joy afford.
THE BLESSING OF THE ABIDING CHRIST
When Christ abides in your home, His love does what no other power in the world can do: it probes deep to the root and cause of all domestic trouble, suffering, and unhappiness, to the sins of selfishness, impurity, covetousness; and as a surgeon spurns the very thought of a surface treatment for an internal disease, but insists on removing the malignant growths or the infected tissues, so our Savior’s cure for domestic ills penetrates, as nothing else can, to this basic cause.
We can all agree, I feel sure, that sin is not a popular and pleasing subject of public discussion. It has fallen into such disfavor, even in churches, that according to a prominent churchman more than 90 per cent. of all preachers have banished this short, ugly word from their pulpits. As disagreeable as sin is, as reluctant as we are to confess it, and as eager as we are to disguise it, behind every unhappy home you can discover the unhappiness of sin, the sins against the commandment of purity, the sin of unfaithfulness to marital vows, the sins of drunkenness, lust, hatred, fear, trustless despair, the sin of self-worship, and the denial of God.
When Jesus comes to abide within the walls of any home, He first of all removes the guilt and the stain of sin and then creates twice-born men and women strengthened for resistance against iniquity. Let us be clear on this basic issue: The Christ who, I pray God, may abide in your homes and whom I ask you, first of all, to accept in your hearts and lives is no hazy figure of undefined and uncertain purposes. The Christ who holds out blessings for your home must be more than the greatest mind of the ages, more than the most powerful figure of history, more than the most compelling example in all the records of humanity; for these weak and diluted and emaciated misrepresentations of Christ are phantom figures that will disappear in the first fog of family trouble. Follow them, and you will be crawling over the desert of delusion toward the mirage of a false Messiah. You must have Christ as the divine and human Savior from sin, the God-man, who, though He hates sin, loves the sinner with the unquenchable, unfathomable, unfaltering devotion that led Him, the Substitute and the Atonement for all human sin, to offer Himself as the one perfect ransom-offering for all men and for all ages, and by His holy blood on the cross to free us from guilt and punishment and to strengthen our spiritual resistance to sin’s destructive power.
If Christ is yours in this complete and trusting faith; if, when you hear Him say, “Today I must abide at thy house,” you answer, “Come, Lord Jesus, and be our Guest,” then you can inscribe over the doors of your heart this blessing once pronounced on the abode of Zacchaeus, “This day is salvation come to this house,” and that salvation will show itself in a Christ-centered life and in a new blessing of happiness. You ask for proof? I take you to the families of the early Church, the leaven that saved society from its own terrifying vices, that taught men to treasure their children instead of exposing them, to love their wives instead of casting them off, the spiritual strength that taught women the glory of motherhood, the happiness of working side by side with their husbands for the upbuilding of the home. The blessed home influence of Christ is not restricted to ancient history. Today, in homes that are on relief and in homes that are more prosperous than ever before, in families that are beset with heart-breaking problems and in families that live in the serene, smooth calm of unruffled happiness, this abiding Christ has lost none of His power. In last week’s mail I received a remarkably dramatic letter from a Kentucky family that was drawn from the depths by the Word of God. It was written by a father of five children, a man forty-three years old with an excellent education, too proud to beg or to accept relief. On the Sunday before last he sat in his armchair, not having enough food in the house to stave off starvation, no coal, and the children improperly clothed against the winter’s cold. In that black moment there was no prospect of help, only the besetting thought of suicide. That distracted father was led to tune in our program. He heard the rest-giving promise of Jesus, and the soul-Savior, who told Zacchaeus, “Today I must abide at thy house,” came to abide in that gloom-enshrouded home, and in his letter that father has acknowledged the abiding Christ in glowing terms of resolute hope.
The divine light which came into the darkness of that Kentucky dwelling is the same light that can dispel any gloom overshadowing your home. The Savior brooked no delay when He invited Himself to the home of Zacchaeus. “Make haste,” He said, “for today I must abide at thy house.” Will you not today, now, at this moment, resolve to accept Christ, if you have rejected Him before, to enthrone Him in your home more securely if you have been indifferent to His grace? There may not be a tomorrow written on the calendar of your life. For some of you it may be Christ now or never; and in the words of Sacred Writ I plead with you: “Today, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts,” but when your Savior Jesus Christ stands on your threshold and says, “Today I must abide at thy house,” for your happiness on earth and your soul’s salvation answer:—
Abide, O faithful Savior,
Among us with Thy love,
Grant steadfastness, and help us
To reach our home above.
God grant that you will! Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.