Christian Life

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We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses. Hebrews 4:15

An industrial design graduate from a Singapore university was challenged in a workshop to come up with a novel solution to a common problem using only ordinary objects. She created a vest to protect one’s personal space from being invaded while traveling in the crush of crowded public trains and buses. The vest was covered with long, flexible plastic spikes normally used to keep birds and cats away from plants.

Jesus knew what it was like to lose His personal space in the commotion of crowds desperate to see and touch Him. A woman who had suffered from constant bleeding for 12 years and could find no cure touched the fringe of His robe. Immediately, her bleeding stopped (Luke 8:43-44).

Jesus’ question, “Who touched me?” (v. 45) isn’t as strange as it sounds. He felt power come out of Him (v. 46). That touch was different from those who merely happened to accidentally touch Him.

While we must admit that we do sometimes wish to keep our personal space and privacy, the only way we help a world of hurting people is to let them get close enough to be touched by the encouragement, comfort, and grace of Christ in us.

Lord Jesus, I want to be near You and know You so that when I’m in contact with others they can see You through me.

A Christian’s life is the window through which others can see Jesus.

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His Blood

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Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. -Hebrews 9:22

Mary Ann believed in God and His Son Jesus, but she struggled with why Jesus had to shed His blood to bring salvation. Who would think of cleansing something with blood? Yet the Bible says, “The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood” (Heb. 9:22). That, in Mary Ann’s opinion, was disgusting!

Then one day she had to go to a hospital. A genetic condition had altered her immune system, and doctors became alarmed when the illness started attacking her blood. As she was in the emergency room she thought, If I lose my blood, I will die. But Jesus shed His blood so I can live!

Suddenly everything made sense. In the midst of her pain, Mary Ann felt joy and peace. She understood that blood is life, and a holy life was needed to make peace with God for us. Today she is alive and well, thanking God for her health and for Jesus’ sacrifice on her behalf.

Hebrews 9 explains the meaning of the Old Testament blood ritual (vv. 16-22) and the once and for all offering of Jesus that brought animal sacrifice to an end (vv. 23-26). Bearing our sin, He willingly died and shed His blood to become our sacrifice. We now have confidence to enter God’s presence. How could we ever thank Jesus enough for making His sacrifice our sacrifice, His life our life, and His Father our Father?

Lord, I thank You for Jesus and for the shedding of His blood for me. I want to live my life in gratitude to You.

The blood of Christ washes away our sins.

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Look Forward

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Simeon . . . was righteous and devout . . . and the Holy Spirit was on him. -Luke 2:25

When the great Dutch painter Rembrandt died unexpectedly at age 63, an unfinished painting was found on his easel. It focuses on Simeon’s emotion in holding the baby Jesus when He was brought to the temple in Jerusalem, 40 days after His birth. Yet the background and normal detail remain unfinished. Some art experts believe that Rembrandt knew the end of his life was near and—like Simeon—was ready to “be dismissed” (Luke 2:29).

The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon (v. 25), so it was no coincidence that he was in the temple when Mary and Joseph presented their firstborn son to God. Simeon, who had been looking for the promised Messiah, took the baby in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (vv. 29-32).

Simeon was not longing for the glory days of Israel’s history, but was looking ahead for the promised Messiah, who would come to redeem all nations.

Like Simeon, we can have an expectant, forward look in life because we know that one day we will see the Lord.

Father, may we, like Simeon, be always looking ahead for the appearing of Jesus our Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20

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A Better View

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Because he was short he could not see over the crowd. -Luke 19:3

As a child, I loved to climb trees. The higher I climbed, the more I could see. Occasionally, in search of a better view, I might inch out along a branch until I felt it bend under my weight. Not surprisingly, my tree-climbing days are over. I suppose it isn’t very safe—or dignified.

Zacchaeus, a wealthy man, set aside his dignity (and perhaps ignored his safety) when he climbed a tree one day in Jericho. Jesus was traveling through the city, and Zacchaeus wanted to get a look at Him. However, “because he was short he could not see over the crowd” (Luke 19:3). Fortunately, those things did not stop him from seeing and even talking with Christ. Zacchaeus’s plan worked! And when he met Jesus, his life was changed forever. “Salvation has come to this house,” Jesus said (v. 9).

We too can be prevented from seeing Jesus. Pride can blind us from seeing Him as the Wonderful Counselor. Anxiety keeps us from knowing Him as the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). Hunger for status and stuff can prevent us from seeing Him as the true source of satisfaction—the Bread of Life (John 6:48).

What are you willing to do to get a better view of Jesus? Any sincere effort to get closer to Him will have a good result. God rewards people who earnestly seek Him (Heb. 11:6).

Thank You Jesus for all that You are. Show me more of Yourself as I read the Bible and pray. Help me to pursue You with all of my heart and mind.

To strengthen your faith in God, seek the face of God.

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Be Still

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Be still, and know that I am God. -Psalm 46:10

Years ago I responded to letters within a couple of weeks and kept my correspondents happy. Then came the fax machine, and they seemed content with receiving a response within a couple of days. Today, with email, instant messaging, and mobile phones, a response is expected the same day!

“Be still, and know that I am God.” In this familiar verse from Psalm 46 I read two commands of equal importance. First, we must be still, something that modern life conspires against. In this hectic, buzzing world, even a few moments of quiet do not come naturally to us. And stillness prepares us for the second command: “Know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” In the midst of a world that colludes to suppress, not exalt, God, how do I carve out time and allow Him to nourish my inner life?

“Prayer,” writes Patricia Hampl, “is a habit of attention brought to bear on all that is.” Ah, prayer . . . a habit of attention. Be still and know. The first step in prayer is to acknowledge or to “know” that God is God. And in that attention, that focus, all else comes into focus. Prayer allows us to admit our failures, weaknesses, and limitations to the One who responds to human vulnerability with infinite mercy.

Dear Lord, help me to be still. Nourish my soul as I spend time with You in prayer.

In prayer, God can quiet our minds.

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Written on our hearts

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These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. -Deuteronomy 6:6

In my neighborhood, religious inscriptions abound—on plaques, walls, doorposts, commercial vehicles, and even as registered names of businesses. By the Grace of God reads an inscription on a mini-bus; God’s Divine Favor Bookshop adorns a business signboard. The other day I couldn’t help smiling at this one on a Mercedes Benz: Keep Off—Angels on Guard!

But religious inscriptions, whether on wall plaques, jewelry, or T-shirts, are not a reliable indicator of a person’s love for God. It’s not the words on the outside that count but the truth we carry on the inside that reveals our desire to be changed by God.

I recall a program sponsored by a local ministry that distributed cards with Bible verses written on both sides that helped people memorize God’s Word. Such a practice is in keeping with the instructions Moses gave the Israelites when he told them to write the commandments of God “on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:9). We are to treasure God’s Word in our hearts (v. 6), to impress it on our children, and to talk about it “when [we] walk along the road, when [we] lie down and when [we] get up” (v. 7).

May our faith be real and our commitment true, so we can love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength (v. 5).

Father, may Your words be more than nice sayings to us. May they be written on our hearts so that we will love You and others.

When God’s Word is hidden in our heart, His ways will become our ways.

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The Brokenhearted

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The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. -Psalm 34:18

When a good friend suddenly lost her husband to a heart attack, we grieved with her. As a counselor, she had comforted many others. Now, after 40 years of marriage, she faced the unwelcome prospect of returning to an empty house at the end of each day.

In the midst of her grief, our friend leaned on the One who “is close to the brokenhearted.” As God walked with her through her pain, she told us she would choose to “wear the label widow

All grief is personal, and others may grieve differently than she does. Her response doesn’t diminish her grief or make her home less empty. Yet it reminds us that even in the midst of our worst sorrows, our sovereign and loving God can be trusted.

Our heavenly Father suffered a profound separation of His own. As Jesus hung on the cross He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Yet He endured the pain and separation of crucifixion for our sins out of love for us!

He understands! And because “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18), we find the comfort we need. He is near.

Dear heavenly Father, as we think about the sadness that comes from the death of a loved one, help us to cling to You and trust Your love and goodness. Thank You for being close to our broken hearts.

God shares in our sorrow.

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