He doesn't want to be merely a weekend getaway. He has no interest in being a Sunday bungalow or even a summer cottage. He wants to be your mailing address, your point of reference, your home...always. He wants you to live in the Great House of God.
Using the Lord's Prayer as a floor plan, bestselling author Max Lucado takes you on a tour of the home God intended for you. Warm your heart by the fire in the living room. Nourish your spirit in the kitchen. Seek fellowship in the family room. Step into the hallway and find forgiveness.
It's the perfect home for you. After all, it was created with you in mind. There's only one home built just for your heart. No house more complete, no structure more solid.
The roof never leaks. The walls never crack. The foundation never trembles.
In God's house, you're home. So come into the house built just for you. Your father is waiting.
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the GREAT HOUSE of GODA Home for Your Heart
By Max Lucado
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 1997 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Great House of God
A HOME FOR YOUR HEART
I ask only one thing from the Lord. This is what I want: Let me live in the Lord's house all my life. —Psalm 27:4
I'd like to talk with you about your house. Let's step through the front door and walk around a bit. Every so often it's wise to do a home inspection; you know—check the roof for leaks and examine the walls for bows and the foundation for cracks. We'll see if your kitchen cupboards are full and glance at the books on the shelves in your study.
What's that? You think it odd that I want to look at your house? You thought this was a book on spiritual matters? It is. Forgive me, I should have been clearer. I'm not talking about your visible house of stone or sticks, wood or straw, but your invisible one of thoughts and truths and convictions and hopes. I'm talking about your spiritual house.
You have one, you know. And it's no typical house. Conjure up your fondest notions and this house exceeds them all. A grand castle has been built for your heart. Just as a physical house exists to care for the body, so the spiritual house exists to care for your soul.
You've never seen a house more solid:
the roof never leaks,
the walls never crack,
and the foundation never trembles.
You've never seen a castle more splendid:
the observatory will stretch you,
the chapel will humble you,
the study will direct you,
and the kitchen will nourish you.
Ever lived in a house like this? Chances are you haven't. Chances are you've given little thought to housing your soul. We create elaborate houses for our bodies, but our souls are relegated to a hillside shanty where the night winds chill us and the rain soaks us. Is it any wonder the world is so full of cold hearts?
Doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to live outside. It's not God's plan for your heart to roam as a Bedouin. God wants you to move in out of the cold and live ... with him. Under his roof there is space available. At his table a plate is set. In his living room a wingback chair is reserved just for you. And he'd like you to take up residence in his house. Why would he want you to share his home?
Simple. He's your Father.
You were intended to live in your Father's house. Any place less than his is insufficient. Any place far from his is dangerous. Only the home built for your heart can protect your heart. And your Father wants you to dwell in him.
No, you didn't misread the sentence, and I didn't miswrite it. Your Father doesn't just ask you to live with him, he asks you to live in him. As Paul wrote, "For in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28 NIV).
Don't think you are separated from God, he at the top end of a great ladder, you at the other. Dismiss any thought that God is on Venus while you are on Earth. Since God is Spirit (John 4:24), he is next to you: God himself is our roof. God himself is our wall. And God himself is our foundation.
Moses knew this. "Lord," he prayed, "you have been our home since the beginning" (Ps. 90:1). What a powerful thought: God as your home. Your home is the place where you can kick off your shoes and eat pickles and crackers and not worry about what people think when they see you in your bathrobe.
Your home is familiar to you. No one has to tell you how to locate your bedroom; you don't need directions to the kitchen. After a hard day scrambling to find your way around in the world, it's assuring to come home to a place you know. God can be equally familiar to you. With time you can learn where to go for nourishment, where to hide for protection, where to turn for guidance. Just as your earthly house is a place of refuge, so God's house is a place of peace. God's house has never been plundered; his walls have never been breached.
God can be your dwelling place.
God wants to be your dwelling place. He has no interest in being a weekend getaway or a Sunday bungalow or a summer cottage. Don't consider using God as a vacation cabin or an eventual retirement home. He wants you under his roof now and always. He wants to be your mailing address, your point of reference; he wants to be your home. Listen to the promise of his Son: "If my people love me they will obey my teaching. My Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them" (John 14:23).
For many this is a new thought. We think of God as a deity to discuss, not a place to dwell. We think of God as a mysterious miracle worker, not a house to live in. We think of God as the Creator to call on, not a home to reside in. But our Father wants to be much more. He wants to be the One in whom "we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28 NIV).
When Jehovah led the children of Israel through the wilderness, he didn't just appear once a day and then abandon them. The pillar of fire was present all night; the cloud was present all day. Our God never leaves us. "I will be with you always," he promised (Matt. 28:20). Our faith takes a quantum leap when we understand the perpetual presence of the Father. Our Jehovah is the fire of our night and the cloud of our day. He never leaves us.
Heaven knows no difference between Sunday morning and Wednesday afternoon. God longs to speak as clearly in the workplace as he does in the sanctuary. He longs to be worshiped when we sit at the dinner table and not just when we come to his communion table. You may go days without thinking of him, but there's never a moment when he's not thinking of you.
Knowing this, we understand Paul's rigorous goal: "We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). We can fathom why he urged us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17 NKJV), "be constant in prayer" (Rom. 12:12 RSV), "pray in the Spirit at all times" (Eph. 6:18), "continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God" (Heb. 13:15 NKJV), and "let heaven fill your thoughts" (Col. 3:2 TLB).
David, the man after God's own heart, said, "I'm asking God for one thing, only one thing: to live with him in his house my whole life long. I'll contemplate his beauty; I'll study at his feet. That's the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world" (Ps. 27:4–5 MSG). What is this house of God that David seeks? Is David describing a physical structure? Does he long for a building with four walls and a door through which he can enter but never exit? No. Our Lord "does not live in temples built by human hands" (Acts 17:24). When David said, "I will live in the house of the Lord forever" (Ps. 23:6), he was not saying he wanted to get away from people. He was saying that he yearned to be in God's presence, wherever he was.
David longed to be in God's house.
I know what you're thinking: Sure, Max, but he was David. He was the poet, the prince, the giant-killer. He didn't have car pools and diapers and a boss who breathes deadlines like a dragon breathes fire. I'd love to live in God's house, too, but for the time being, I'm stuck in the real world.
Forgive me, but I beg to differ. You aren't stuck in the real world. Just the opposite, you are one step away from the house of God. Wherever you are. Whatever time it is. Whether in the office on Thursday or at soccer practice on Saturday, you are only a decision away from the presence of your Father. You need never leave the house of God. You don't need to change your zip code or your neighborhood; all you need to change is your perception.
When your car is stuck in traffic, you can step into the chapel. When the gust of temptation unbalances your stride, step behind the wall of his strength. When the employees belittle you, take a seat in the porch swing next to your Father; he'll comfort you. Remember, this is no house of stone. You won't find it on a map. You won't find it described in a realtor journal.
But you will find it in your Bible. You've seen the blueprint before. You've read the names of the rooms and recited the layout. You're familiar with the design. But chances are you never considered it to be a house plan. You viewed the verses as a prayer.
Indeed they are. The Lord's Prayer. It would be difficult to find someone who hasn't quoted the prayer or read the words:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9–13 KJV)
Children memorize it. Parishioners recite it. Students study it ... but I want to challenge us to do something different. I want us to live in it ... to view it as the floor plan to our spiritual house. In these verses Christ has provided more than a model for prayer, he has provided a model for living. These words do more than tell us what to say to God; they tell us how to exist with God. These words describe a grand house in which God's children were intended to live ... with him, forever.
Would you like to take a look around? Me too. I know the perfect place to begin. In the living room a painting hangs over the mantel. The owner of the house treasures it. He invites all who enter to begin their journey gazing at the picture and learning the truth about our Father.
Chapter TwoThe Living Room WHEN YOUR HEART NEEDS A FATHER
Our Father ...
Our Father who is in heaven ..." (Matt. 6:9 NASB). With these words Jesus escorts us into the Great House of God. Shall we follow him? There is so much to see. Every room reveals his heart; every stop will soothe your soul. And no room is as essential as this one we enter first. Walk behind him as he leads us into God's living room.
Sit in the chair that was made for you, and warm your hands by the fire that never fades. Take time to look at the framed photos and find yours. Be sure to pick up the scrapbook and find the story of your life. But please, before any of that, stand at the mantel and study the painting that hangs above it.
Your Father treasures the portrait. He has hung it where all can see.
Stand before it a thousand times and each gaze is as fresh as the first. Let a million look at the canvas and each one will see himself. And each will be right.
Captured in the portrait is a tender scene of a father and a son. Behind them is a great house on a hill. Beneath their feet is a narrow path. Down from the house the father has run. Up the trail the son has trudged. The two have met, here, at the gate.
We can't see the face of the son; it's buried in the chest of his father. No, we can't see his face, but we can see his tattered robe and stringy hair. We can see the mud on the back of his legs, the filth on his shoulders, and the empty purse on the ground. At one time the purse was full of money. At one time the boy was full of pride. But that was a dozen taverns ago. Now both the purse and the pride are depleted. The prodigal offers no gift or explanation. All he offers is the smell of pigs and a rehearsed apology: "Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son" (Luke 15:21).
He feels unworthy of his birthright. "Demote me. Punish me. Take my name off the mailbox and my initials off the family tree. I am willing to give up my place at your table." The boy is content to be a hired hand. There is only one problem. Though the boy is willing to stop being a son, the father is not willing to stop being a father.
Though we can't see the boy's face in the painting, we can't miss the father's. Look at the tears glistening on the leathered cheeks, the smile shining through the silver beard. One arm holds the boy up so he won't fall, the other holds the boy close so he won't doubt.
"Hurry!" he shouts. "Bring the best clothes and put them on him. Also, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get our fat calf and kill it so we can have a feast and celebrate. My son was dead, but now he is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found!" (Luke 15:22–24).
How these words must have stunned the young man, "My son was dead ..." He thought he'd lost his place in the home. After all, didn't he abandon his father? Didn't he waste his inheritance? The boy assumed he had forfeited his privilege to sonship. The father, however, doesn't give up that easily. In his mind, his son is still a son. The child may have been out of the house, but he was never out of his father's heart. He may have left the table, but he never left the family. Don't miss the message here. You may be willing to stop being God's child. But God is not willing to stop being your Father.
Of all his names, Father is God's favorite. We know he loves this name most because this is the one he used most. While on earth Jesus called God "Father" over two hundred times. In his first recorded words Jesus explained, "Didn't you know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:49). In his final triumphant prayer he proclaimed, "Father, I give you my life" (Luke 23:46). In the gospel of John alone, Jesus repeats this name 156 times. God loves to be called Father. After all, didn't Jesus teach us to begin our prayer with the phrase, "Our Abba"?
It is difficult for us to understand how revolutionary it was for Jesus to call Jehovah "Abba." What is a common practice today was unheard of in Jesus' day. New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias describes how rarely the term was used:
With the help of my assistants, I have examined the prayer literature of ancient Judaism.... The result of this examination was, that in no place in this immense literature is this invocation of God as "Abba, Father" to be found. Abba was an everyday word. It was a homely family-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 his disciples to speak with their heavenly father in such a familiar and trusting way.
The first two words of the Lord's Prayer are affluent in significance: "Our Father" reminds us we are welcome in God's house because we have been adopted by the owner.
God's Mission: Adoption
When we come to Christ, God not only forgives us, he also adopts us. Through a dramatic series of events, we go from condemned orphans with no hope to adopted children with no fear. Here is how it happens. You come before the judgment seat of God full of rebellion and mistakes. Because of his justice he cannot dismiss your sin, but because of his love he cannot dismiss you. So in an act that stunned the heavens, he punished himself on the cross for your sins. God's justice and love are equally honored. And you, God's creation, are forgiven. But the story doesn't end with God's forgiveness.
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. (Rom. 8:15–16 NASB)
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Gal. 4:4–5 NASB)
It would be enough if God just cleansed your name, but he does more. He gives you his name. It would be enough if God just set you free, but he does more. He takes you home. He takes you home to the Great House of God.
Adoptive parents understand this more than anyone. I certainly don't mean to offend any biological parents—I'm one myself. We biological parents know well the earnest longing to have a child. But in many cases our cribs were filled easily. We decided to have a child and a child came. In fact, sometimes the child came with no decision. I've heard of unplanned pregnancies, but I've never heard of an unplanned adoption.
That's why adoptive parents understand God's passion to adopt us. They know what it means to feel an empty space inside. They know what it means to hunt, to set out on a mission, and take responsibility for a child with a spotted past and a dubious future. If anybody understands God's ardor for his children, it's someone who has rescued an orphan from despair, for that is what God has done for us.
God has adopted you. God sought you, found you, signed the papers, and took you home.
God's Motive: Devotion
As a minister I have had the privilege of witnessing—up close—the emotion of adoption. On one occasion a lady in another state who had heard me speak called and asked if I knew any prospective adoptive parents. Her pregnant daughter was seeking a home for her unborn child. I put her in touch with a family from our congregation and took a front row seat as the drama unfolded.
Excerpted from the GREAT HOUSE of GOD by Max Lucado Copyright © 1997 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 The Great House of God: A Home for Your Heart....................1
2 The Living Room: When Your Heart Needs a Father....................9
3 The Foundation: Where Trust Begins....................21
4 The Observatory: A Heavenly Affection....................31
5 The Chapel: Where Man Covers His Mouth....................43
6 The Throne: Touching the King's Heart....................51
7 The Study: How God Reveals His Will....................61
8 The Furnace: Because Someone Prayed....................73
9 The Kitchen: God's Abundant Table....................83
10 The Roof: Beneath God's Grace....................95
11 The Hallway: Grace Received, Grace Given....................105
12 The Family Room: Learning to Live Together....................117
13 The Walls: Satan, God's Servant....................127
14 The Chapel: Relying on God's Power....................141
15 A Home for Your Heart....................151
Postscript: His Model, Our Guide....................157