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Family Photos

Tell me if this is you: Friends invite you to their house for the evening and, before the night is over, you’ve perused the pictures that rest on their shelves and pondered and portraits that hang from their walls. For while an open door welcomes you into their house, it is the family photos that draw you into their life.

Even in our own home, family in frame calls us to pause and remembrance. Wooden edges encase memories of loving and living, of taking and giving; golden perimeters surround stories of coming and going, of aging and growing. We smile at goofy glasses and toothy grins, and we laugh at paisley polyesters and passé plaids. Some images return us to moments of joy, while some summon a lump to the throat, and still others remind us to forgive yet again.

The Bible tells us that Jesus “dwells in [our] hearts by faith.”1 We are His home, for He resides in all who believe in Him and welcome Him in. No lens has captured His image, of course, but even as He lives with us and in us, we have a very special way to pause, remember what He has done, and take in all that He was and is and always will be: it’s called communion. When we break bread and partake of the wine together, we remember the One who instituted this outward sign of an inner grace. For as He held up the bread and lifted the cup, He declared His covenant with us and His presence in us until He comes again.

Then in renewed confidence, we go forth in the perpetual assurance that He goes in us. In fresh humility, we serve others in the knowledge it is He who works through us. In unity of the Spirit, we remember none of us lives alone, for He has made us to be one with each other—children of the same Father, united in His Son, all included in one family picture.

Father, thank you for sending us your Son. Grace us to live and serve as one, always remembering Jesus, who united us forever in Him. In His name and by the power of your Spirit, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is life.

1 Ephesians 3:17

Read Paul’s teaching on the Lord’s supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

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Welcome! Please come in.

It was on our way home from an open house when Peggy and I decided to become involved in International Friendships (IFI), for we had just celebrated its fruit—the baptism of a student, a PhD candidate from China now attending Ohio State. His humble happiness was infectious, and his joy in Jesus stirred our souls to action. Over the eight years since then, we have hosted 20 students in our home for two or three nights while they navigate a culture shock half way around the world from home, and we’ve treasured these relationships as they’ve matured into friendships.

IFI was started in 1979 by a Columbus, Ohio pastor who noticed the increasing number of OSU students here from other lands—the world was coming to our doorstep. With great foresight, he realized that reaching these young men and women with the gospel would not only birth new spiritual life in them, it would also, in turn, ripple through their communities and countries when they returned home with great news of full and forever life in Christ Jesus. IFI now operates in 30 U.S. colleges and universities, and Rich Mendola, its executive director since 1994, estimates that, over the years, students from 50 countries have received Christ as their Savior and/or grown in their Christian faith here.

But there’s another blessing, somewhat hidden in this ministry: IFI provides ample opportunities for believers who want to reach out and connect with others for Jesus but just don’t know how. Are you are called to small but significant act of service? Then you can share the love of Christ by picking up students from the airport and taking them to where they will be staying or even take them shopping for student-essentials. Is teaching your gift? Then come and participate in Friday night IFI Bible studies. Are you the helping or encouraging kind? Being an English-speaking partner is an easy way to form new friendships over coffee and conversation.

The world has come to America, friends; all we have to do is show up and welcome it with giving hearts. God takes it from there.

Father, thank you for the joy of life in Christ. Please use me to share His love with the people I will encounter today, no matter who they are or where they come from. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is life.

[Read today’s Scripture in Romans 15:15-21.]

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The Mystery Revealed

With the holidays still fresh on your mind, take a moment to think back through a lifetime of occasions and special moments. Can you remember the gifts that touched you most deeply—the ones that planted a lump in your throat, ushered a tear from your eye, or emptied the words from your lexicon? Personally, I think of the log cabin quilt Peggy stitched for me while we were engaged and the sleeve of golf balls my son, Matthew, bought me to celebrate the first time I shot under 50 for nine holes of golf. Though these expressions of thoughtfulness had little in common with each other, love enwrapped them both

It is one thing for a kindness to melt our heart from the outside; it is an entirely different thing for a gift to become our heart from the inside. Sound too fanciful? It happened. In fact, God prepared the world for its eventuality, prophesying through Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you . . .”1 Yet as we learned in last week’s post, the mystery of the prophet’s foretelling was “kept hidden in God”2 until the chosen moment of its revealing.

Then at just the right time and in just the right place, there came the Man from God telling his small band of disciples, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven …”3 He lived perfectly and spoke powerfully; He taught authoritatively and healed amazingly; He served humbly and forgave wholly. And hours before He would be hoisted up on the executioner’s cross, He prayed to His Father on behalf of everyone who would ever believe in Him, “that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.”4

And therein, said the apostle Paul, lay “the mystery that had been kept hidden for ages and generations, but now disclosed to the Lord’s people.” For to people of every nation, wrote Paul, “God has chosen to make known . . . the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”5 The Son of God, in whom eternal life exists is now life in us eternally; and just as “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,” so also “in Christ [we] have been brought to fullness.”6

This is the long-hidden mystery of God—once concealed and now revealed: He has made us one with Himself, our lives are fully and forever enwrapped in His, and no one can ever separate us from Him. Our new heart is His heart; our new life is Christ, our sure and certain hope of glory.

Father, how deeply you must love me. Let me never be deceived into thinking anything less. Thank you for the gift of Christ in me. May I live freely and confidently in Him. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is life.

1 Ezekiel 36:26
2 Ephesians 3:9
3 Matthew 13:11 [NASB]
4 John 17:22, 23
5 Colossians 1:25-27
6 Colossians 2:9, 10

Today’s post is part two in a three-part series. Click here to read last week’s post, “The Mystery Concealed.”