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For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15

Have you ever taken the time to sit and listen to any of the promotional television shows? Each show has a product or ‘system’ to sell that will make your life easier physically, relationally financially or career-wise. The problem with most of these shows is that they can’t possibly take into account your particular life circumstance, your past, your family situation, your feelings or your hurts.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a show on TV that gave you ten easy steps to having whatever you wanted or needed in life? The unfortunate reality is, it’s not going to happen. No one can possibly give you an easy answer to all the things that are troubling you. There is no quick-fix to the disappointments, the pain of abuse, the fear of the future or the shadows of your past, those ghosts in the closet that you have kept hidden for years.

Worse yet, no one fully understands how you feel. You may be lucky enough to have one or two friends that can understand somewhat the feelings you are going through. They may be able to cry with you, listen to you and support you, but nobody can climb inside your body to know exactly how you feel. No one, that is, except Jesus.

Jesus alone knows and understands exactly how you feel and understands your weakness. In fact, the Bible says he personally has experienced every temptation, every rejection, every struggle you have. The difference is that Jesus never gave in to those temptations, never let the rejection keep him captive, never allowed the attacks of other people to affect how he viewed himself.

Even though he knows how to overcome all those obstacles, he’s not going to hold that over you. You’ll never hear Jesus say, “Suck it up! I resisted. I overcame. You just need to be strong. You just need to reach deep within yourself and resolve to be better”. Jesus won’t criticize us because even though he was victorious over the struggles of life, he knows we are weak. He knows we fail.

Jesus is our great high-priest. A high-priest was the person that would go before God with our sins and seek God’s forgiveness on our behalf. When Jesus goes to the Father with our sin, he says something like, “I know he’s failed again. I know she’s having a hard time with forgiveness and that addiction, but I know how he/she feels. I was there. I know the struggle and the power life can have over them.”

There aren’t ten easy steps to perfection. But there is one easy step to forgiveness in Jesus Christ. There is one person in this world who understands every time you’ve failed. Every time you’ve given in to an addiction, a struggle, anger, hate or any of the other things that attack. Jesus understands. He longs to hold you in his arms of grace. He’s only a prayer away.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I don’t fully understand how you can understand me when I don’t understand myself most days. There are so many days when I wake up in the morning determined to conquer the obstacles in my path, only to fail miserably. Thank you for knowing how I feel. Thank you for accepting me anyway. Forgive me for my failings and empower me to get up and keep going. In your name I pray, Amen.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

One of the amazing things about the Bible, in my opinion anyway, is the nuggets of truth that are scattered throughout its pages. Little phrases that hold in them tremendous encouragement for us and open to us a clear view of how much God really does love us.

1 Peter 5:7 is one of these nuggets. To set the stage a bit, the book of Peter was written by Jesus’ disciple, Peter. You remember good ole’ stick my foot in my mouth, hot tempered, proud and boastful Peter. The same guy that promised to honor Jesus and then denied him a few minutes later?

Peter wrote this letter to Christ-followers who were going through persecution that was so severe that it was considered the most heinous treatment of human beings in history. He’s writing to people who felt outnumbered, misunderstood and in constant threat of imprisonment, torture and death.

Towards the end of his letter he says “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Did you see it? The nugget of truth for us? Look again. “he cares for you”.  Let it sink in. “he cares for you” He, Jesus, the Son of the most high God.

Now personalize it. “Jesus cares for me.” Mull that over. Jesus cares.  Doesn’t sound like a distant, removed or uninterested God to me. He cares. He doesn’t just care for the world. Jesus cares for me!

That’s not stuffy theology. It’s not restrictive doctrine or rigid rules. It’s love. You see, what Peter is really telling his readers then and now is this. During those times when life is impossible. When your relationships have failed, when you are misunderstood or caught in sin, when the addictions seem to be overpowering you, when fear and ruin seem inevitable. Jesus cares.

When someone cares for you it’s evident. You know someone really cares for you when they listen intently to your every word; when they know what you like and dislike; when they understand your anger or sorrow or frustration.

A person who really cares for you is always proud of you. Not for what you have done but because of who you are, the real you. You know, the one that others rarely get to see?

A person who cares of you challenges you. He encourages you to strive for your dreams, but doesn’t get disappointed in you when things don’t go as planned. He’s the kind of person that attends every one of your games, or recitals, or concerts or workshops and listens intently to the same words you’ve said a thousand times and acts like each repeated thought is brand new and profound.

That’s Jesus. He cares for you. When the world crashed in, remember. Jesus cares for you.

Caring has another side to it. It’s not a pleasant side at the time, but it’s an important side none-the-less. If a parent, for example, cares for his child he disciplines his child. Discipline isn’t punishment. Punishment has anger at its base and revenge as its motive. Discipline is more about love, about shaping, about molding. Its motive is love. Its desire is pure.

Alongside discipline is its twin, tough love. Discipline says I’ll mold you. Tough love says, “if I have to, I’ll let the consequences of your decisions run their course. Then, I’ll mold you when you are ready.

Discipline and tough love are never fun. Not for the receiver or the giver. But discipline and tough love both work together to create character and integrity that will bring us through the tough times.

That’s Jesus. He cares for you. He loves you the way you are, but loves you far too much to leave you that way. When life gets hard, don’t get angry or bitter. Remember that Jesus cares. Talk to Him. Rest in Him. Let his healing arms of love surround you.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. Thank you for caring for me. I know I’m not always an easy one to love. I make bad choices. I hurt people and myself. I get angry at you when I don’t get my way. I’m just a spoiled two-year-old sometimes. I’m so undeserving of your patient, loving care but I thank you for being here for me. You truly are an Awesome God. Amen.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

In the classic story ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Dorothy and her three traveling companions take a trip to see the ‘wonderful Wizard of Oz’. Each of them has a need that no one else has been able to meet. Each of them is scared, discouraged and in a seemingly hopeless situation. Their only hope is the wizard.

Once they get to Oz they find out that the wizard is almost impossible to meet with and, at first, they are turned away. When they are allowed a visit, they are terrified to come into his presence. His throne room is full of flames and terror. His voice is scary and gruff. Once they make their urgent requests known he finally agrees to give them their wishes, but only if they risk their lives doing something that meant certain death.

You know the story. They get the broom from the wicked witch and, upon returning to the wizard, discover that the so-called wizard is really nothing more than a bumbling old man with no special powers except to talk a good line.

While we all realize that ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is nothing more than a fantasy, in our more honest times we have to admit that we view God more like the wizard when we are in our time of need. We view him as unapproachable, fearful, powerful and demanding our very souls. Other times we view him as a bumbling old man that is really only interested in saving his own skin and living a life of prestige and power.

It’s time to get over the ‘Wizard of Oz’ mentality in our Christian lives! As Christ followers the writer to the Hebrews gives us a completely different view of who God is and our position before him. First of all we have the right to enter the Throne of Grace. Throne implies absolute and complete power. But this throne isn’t a throne full of flames, smoke and fear. It’s a throne of grace. Grace doesn’t require anything of us but to accept the free gift of Jesus Christ’s forgiveness. No witches broom to sacrifice. No life-threatening or personality destroying actions to gain admittance. We don’t need to clean ourselves up. We can enter this throne room just as we are: selfish, rebellious, angry, afraid, battered, bruised and addicted. No matter where you are, what you’ve done or how you got to where you are you are qualified to enter the very throne room of the Creator God. AWESOME!

Secondly we enter the throne room with confidence. Why? Because as our Father, God welcomes us as his children. He isn’t a father that is too preoccupied with the game on TV, the yard work, his own status or anything else. His one and only concern is to hear you, comfort you, guide you and forgive you. He isn’t interested in making you something you are not; He’s interested in making you the best you can be!

Lastly, when we come before Him we find mercy and grace. He won’t accuse us. He won’t say ‘I told you so’. He won’t demand you jump through a bunch of hoops. It’s absolutely amazing! He knows our need before we even get to the throne room. He isn’t concerned about who is at fault or how many times you’ve stumbled, strayed or rebelled. He’s only interested in making you the best you can be so you can live a life of freedom from the affects of the pain we all encounter.

Get rid of the “Wizard of Oz” mentality in your life as a Christ-follower. When you pray and read His Word remember that you are coming into a room full of love, forgiveness, understanding and healing. God loves you and wants nothing more than to show you the grace and mercy you need to live life to its fullest.

PRAYER: Holy God. I confess to you that often times I see you more as the fearful or bumbling wizard of Oz. I’m ashamed of what I’ve done, angry at you for not doing what I wanted you to do and doubt your ability to take care of me. I’ve gone off on my own journey to find fulfillment and run aground. Please help me to realize what it means to come into your presence. Help me to come with confidence to You so that I can experience the grace and mercy that is already mine because of my faith in Jesus. In His name I pray, Amen.

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