THERE IS NO LIFE AS EXCITING
AS THIS LIFE WE HAVE IN CHRIST.
TO THINK THAT THE GOD WHO MADE THE UNIVERSE
IS MINDFUL OF US.
I EXPERIENCED IT AGAIN LAST WEEK.
EVEN AS IT WAS HAPPENING,
I KNEW IT WAS HIM.
HE WAS GUIDING AND ILLUMINATING PRAYER
FOR ME AND FOR YOU.
My daughter-in-law, Dianne, wanted to celebrate her husband’s “Jubilee” birthday on Oct 30th. So she rented a cabin in beautiful Brown County, Indiana and invited me and two of J. R.’s dear friends to come. As we were driving to the cabin, she stopped at this cross that a Christian family had erected where people could stop and pray, nailing their requests to the cross. We prayed for J. R. and nailed our requests there.
At the cabin, for the next two days, we shared the excitement of the Christian life, how we’d seen God move, what we were learning about His mysterious ways. J. R.’s friend, Eric, a young man of character with a heart passionate for God was such a rich addition to our days. As we sat around a wooden table in the cabin’s farmhouse kitchen, I learned that Eric and his twin sister had been adopted.
“Sounds like a story might be there.”
He smiled. “Definitely. My mother had around ten miscarriages. She was later diagnosed with a disorder called endometriosis. She was able to conceive but unable to carry the child in the womb for very long because of the disorder. Yet, she took to heart the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 and did not stop knocking on God’s door, asking for children.”
As soon as Eric mentioned that parable I sensed Aslan on the move. This parable has perplexed me! (This summer when we were doing proverbs and parables, I considered diving into it, but when I came to the edge of it, the waters were still too dark and mysterious. Do we really have to beg God? I backed away and told the Lord I didn’t yet understand.) I knew I’d want to bring it up with Eric sometime later.
Eric continued. “After eight years of unsuccessful pregnancies she went to have surgery to remove the endometriosis. As she came out of surgery she could sense the presence of the Lord in the room with her. She felt a tangible, yet invisible hand gently touch her forehead. Then she heard the Lord’s voice, ‘You are my child. You will have no pain in labor. I am going to give you a boy and a girl. They are gifts from me.’
They went to an adoption agency to apply and specifically asked for twins: a boy and a girl. After some time they were called by the agency and had been approved to adopt a baby boy. Mother asked, ‘Don’t you have twins? A boy and a girl?’
The social worker was shocked. Weren’t they grateful? ‘Don’t you want this baby boy?’
My mother and dad said, ‘Oh yes, we do!’
With great excitement, they made preparations. Finally, they thought, they would have a baby. But in time the social worker called with the heart-breaking news that the adoption had fallen through. Mother went out on the porch in grief before God. As she sat there, she thought she heard an animal in distress moaning — but then she realized the moans were coming from deep within herself.”
I nodded. The mystery of suffering. And yet I knew, with Eric sitting right before me, that this was not the end of the story.
Indeed, his mother did not stop knocking. And, eventually, there was another call from the social worker. They had twins: a boy and a girl. The Lord’s word to his mother came to pass a full two years after she heard him speak to her. They brought their new son and daughter home from the hospital in the summer of 1982. The following is a picture of the Olsons with their grown twins.
God gave this woman of persistent prayer more than she could have imagined: twins that had hearts so tender for God, children who would grow to love Him passionately. Eric and his wife April are the parents of three small children: the first, Jonah, was born with a chromosome disorder called trisomy-18 that caused such severe disabilities that nine medical personal met with Eric and April and urged them to “just pull out the tubes and let Jonah die quickly and peacefully.”
Eric and April exchanged glances. No! This child was God’s gift to them. Today Jonah is almost four and has made tremendous progress. He is a joy and a delight, and has taught them much. He is now breathing on his own during the day and is close to walking. Do they grow weary? Absolutely! But they also have an inextinguishable joy, And they are persisting in prayer for more healing for Jonah. Eric, for now, is a stay-at-home Dad while April holds a job outside the home.
Eric is often invited to churches to portray Jesus dramatically, and we were blessed by his portrayals that weekend — one of Jesus’ farewell address in John 14-16, and one of the Sermon on the Mount. Sometimes I struggle with portrayals of Jesus — for of course, no one can catch Him. But Eric’s portrayals somehow caught the awesomeness and gentleness of Christ and moved my heart.
We walked in Brown County, we talked and pondered the things of the Lord.
I never can stop marveling how the chipping away at my control idol has improved my relationship with everyone I love. Though J. R. and I have often had different perspectives on a passage, I am finding now that there is a richness rather than an abrasiveness about that if we can just give one another grace. Indeed, there is such a sweetness in our relationship now, and we do really do learn from one another.
And I have to much to learn.
I brought from the back burner my perplexity concerning the parable of the unjust judge. “That has always mystified me.”
“Really?” asked Eric. “But why?”
“That God would even be compared to such an appalling man.”
“But He’s being contrasted, not compared! The answer is in the parable, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” Jesus ends the parable by asking, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
I nodded. “Okay. But how do we reconcile being told to persist in prayer with the warning not to be like the Pharisees who think they will be heard because of their many words?”
Immediately Eric went into a dramatization of the Pharisees with their long pious faces, speaking prayers for show. Again, a contrast to how we should be. We should persist in secret.
Then Eric said — I like to think of this parable side by side with the story of the Canaanite woman from Matthew. And he acted that out for me. It was so good that after I left I asked J. R. to film it for me and send it to me for this blog. They generously agreed!
This week we will study these two passages, and next week we will put them into practice.
Sunday November 8th Icebreaker
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. What initial insight does Eric’s portrayal give you?
Monday – Friday Bible Study
3. Read Luke 18:1-8
A. Why, according to verse 1, is Jesus telling this parable? What does this verse teach you about your prayer life?
B. What do you learn about the judge in verse 2, and why does this put the widow in a hard place?
C. Why does he finally give in, according to verse 5?
D. What do you learn about God from verses 7-8?
E. What question is asked in verse 8 and what is the implied answer?
4. In what areas is your adversary attacking you?
5. How could you apply this parable to your prayer life?
6. Read Mark 7:24-30
A. Jesus was hoping for rest and went into the region of the Gentiles. What happened there?
B. Put yourself in the mother’s place. How would you feel?
C. In verse 27 Jesus is giving her a parable. She understands. How does she respond in verse 28?
Tim Keller, in his commentary on Mark, writes:
In other words, she says, “Yes, Lord, but the puppies eat from the table too, and I’m here for mine.” Jesus has told her a parable and she gets it…”Okay, I understand. I am not from Israel, I do not worship the God the Israelites worship. Therefore, I don’t have a place at the table. I accept that.” …She is wrestling with Jesus in the most respectful way and she will not take no for an answer. …She’s not saying, “Lord, give me what I deserve on the basis of my goodness. She’s saying, “Lord, give me what I don’t deserve on the basis of your goodness — and I need it now.” …She is the first person in the gospel of Mark to hear and understand a parable of Jesus.
If you are like me, you’ve heard sermons on prayer, even read books on prayer — and yet your prayer life isn’t as hot as you’d like it to be. Next week we are going to apply what we’ve learned. Get a notebook or a spiral index card notebook. If you want to record your prayers in another way, do, but be ready by this coming Sunday.
The following video is optional, but I think you will love it and be blessed by it. It is a video of Eric and April explaining what they have made as the theme of their marriage: Jesus Makes The Difference.
7. What is your take-a-way this week and why?