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Spiritual Spinach

Jesus can relate to us

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Lee Strobel tells a great Christmas story about a chinchilla.

An atheist-turned-

Christian author, Lee was a former award-winning legal writer for The Chicago Tribune.

Today, he’s a New York Times best-selling author, probably best known for his book, “The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus.”

I read that memorable book many years ago and heard his recent sermon at Saddleback Church online.

During the sermon, Lee talks about when his son, Kyle, was a boy. Kyle was allergic to dogs and cats, but wanted a pet.

So the Lee and his wife, Leslie, bought their son a chinchilla. They named him Dusty.

As Christmas approached, the Strobels decided to get a gift for Dusty, who’d been living in a small cage.

They bought him a three-story cage with built-in toys.

On Christmas Eve, they put the elaborate cage next to Dusty’s old cage, thinking he’d run right into his new home.

But Dusty was terrified and wouldn’t budge from his old cage — no matter how they coaxed him.

Dusty just couldn’t understand their encouragement.

Here’s where Lee gives a wonderful analogy.

What if Lee could have become a chinchilla and lived alongside Dusty?

Maybe then Dusty would have listened and trusted him. Then perhaps Lee could have encouraged Dusty to walk through that door into the new and better place.

In a way, that’s what Jesus did on Christmas.

He didn’t become a chinchilla. He became a human and because he lived among us we can relate to him as someone who knew hunger, thirst, exhaustion and pain. Jesus knew what it was like to have friends. He knew grief and joy.

This gives Jesus a special credibility when he says he’s opening the door to his kingdom to us.

We can walk through that door and revel in it for all eternity.

How do we walk through the door?

I was blessed to learn this a long time ago.

It happens when we believe that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, pray and repent of our sins (none of us is perfect) and ask Jesus to come into our hearts and be our Savior. Then we can spend eternity with him.

Lee points out that when we go through that door, the Holy Spirit can help manifest in us the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Our God can give us hope and courage, too.

During his sermon, Lee shares the beautiful Scripture, Revelation 3:20 in which Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

He’s talking about the door of our heart.

Jesus is ready for us to open that door.

In my house, I have a replica of a painting of Jesus by Warner Sallman. It’s called, “Christ at Heart’s Door,” and is based on Revelation 3:20.

It depicts a tender scene of Christ knocking on a wooden door.

Pastors say the door in the painting has no outside latch or doorknob, indicating that Jesus doesn’t force his way in.

He must be invited.

He’s waiting.

Now, I know we’re in a busy time. The Christmas season can get hectic.

But can we take a couple moments to think about a man and his pregnant wife making a long journey to a town, where they can’t find a place to stay.

Except in a stable.

There, the woman gives birth to a baby who will become the world’s Savior.

An angel proclaims the great news — not to kings or noblemen — but to some shepherds in a field.

Like a bunch of detectives, the shepherds follow the angel’s clues about a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

And they find him.

After that, they become a bunch of broadcasters telling others what they’d seen and heard.

The Bible also tells of Wise Men, who follow a star to the place where Jesus is.

By now, Jesus and his parents are in a house. The Wise Men worship the baby, bringing gifts of gold — and two elements used in fragrances — frankincense and myrrh.

I wonder if Joseph and Mary needed those gifts when they had to flee to Egypt after Joseph was warned in a dream that King Herod had learned about baby Jesus and sought to take his life.

It doesn’t say they spent the gold or sold the other items in Egypt.

Or what they did with it at all.

But I know God has a way of taking care of his beloved children and he certainly would take care of Jesus.

Now, after the evil king’s death, Joseph, Mary and Jesus return to Israel and settle in Nazareth.

Jesus goes on to fulfill his mission of dying to pay the price for our sins.

And that’s where Easter comes in — the whole reason for Christmas in the first place.

Jesus rose from the grave and lives to give us hope, joy and peace.

I don’t know if Dusty ever went through that door to his new and improved home.

But we can go through a door that can take us on a journey of faith with a Savior who loved us so much he’d rather die than live without us.

Then after our lives are over on this earth, we can spend eternity with him.

That’s the ultimate door to a place where hardship, heartache and hatred don’t exist.

And it’s a door to a life with our Savior Jesus, who I believe loves little kids who want pets and scared chinchillas and masterful storytellers like Lee.

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly faith-based column.

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