Evaluate Your Situation

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. 

The words of Psalm 139:23–24 are especially appropriate at the start of a new year:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

The psalmist’s invitation for God to search and test him was the perfect prelude to transformation. If you’re committed to making some changes in the coming year, try following the psalmist’s example. Ask God to guide you in evaluating your own life to determine which areas are ripest for change.

The quest for a new you requires a clear-eyed look at the current you. It begins with an evaluation of the following:

• Where you are in your life
• Where you’d like to be a year from now
• What obstacles are standing in your way
• What skills, assets, and allies you can draw on to make changes

Here are a few reflective questions to help you start the process.

• What do you have to be thankful for as the new year beckons? (Be specific and thorough as you list your blessings.)
• On a scale of one to ten—with one being “completely unsatisfied” and ten being “perfectly satisfied”—how happy are you right now with your health? Your finances? Your friendships and work relationships? Your spiritual state? Your family? Your personal life?
• How do you feel as you contemplate a new year and a new you? Are you excited? Confident? Nervous? Worried you’re aiming too high?

• What opportunities do you see on the horizon for the year ahead?
• What good habits can you start that will have a significant impact on your life?
• Consider your area of least satisfaction from the previous set of questions. Where would you like that number to be by the end of the year? What would it take to get there? (For example, let’s say you want to improve your health from a five to an eight. List some of the characteristics you think it takes to achieve an eight. Does it mean being within a certain weight range? Does it mean finishing a 5K race? Does it mean working out four times a week? Be specific.)

• What bad habits and destructive patterns are sabotaging your life?
• What specific circumstances or situations will present challenges for you as you attempt to make changes in your life?
• What doubts, fears, or temptations do you anticipate wrestling with?

• What personal qualities, skills, or God-given gifts will you be able to draw on as you make changes? (Don’t be afraid to welcome input from trusted friends and loved ones. Someone who knows you well might see something in you that you haven’t recognized in yourself.)
• What have you learned from past experiences that will help you succeed this time around?
• Who can you turn to for help, encouragement, support, or companionship in the coming year?

Once you have a clear picture of who you are now, who you want to be, what obstacles and challenges lie ahead, and what sources of strength you can draw upon, then you can start to plot your course.

This blog post has been adapted from Unlock the Bible's Secrets, a special-edition magazine that is now available in stores.


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The Way, the Truth, and the Life

, by Christopher D. Hudson

am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 
John 14:6 

Articles—specifically, the words and the—are perhaps the most overlooked parts of spoken or written language. Generally speaking, they contribute so little to a sentence that we take them for granted.

Occasionally, though, an article carries supreme importance. The entire meaning and emphasis of a statement rests on its tiny shoulders. Case in point: Jesus’ description of himself in John 14:6. Article in question: the.

In the context of Jesus’ statement, the word the conveys absolute uniqueness. “I am the way and the truth and the life” (emphasis added). No one else can claim those titles. Jesus didn’t say, “I am way” or “I am one of the truths.” Jesus singled himself out as the only conduit to God— the only path through which we may receive forgiveness for sin and come to the Father.

How many people wrestle with guilt on a daily basis? How many people have trouble forgiving themselves for things they’ve done? How many people feel unclean or worthless? How many people need Jesus?

He is, after all, the only genuine source of forgiveness. Other options may dull our pain or make us forget things we’ve done. But only Jesus can wipe our slate clean. Only he can make us righteous. Only he can restore our relationship with God.

This blog post has been adapted from Who Is Jesus?, a special-edition magazine that is now available in stores wherever magazines are sold. 


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God's Lamb

, by Christopher D. Hudson

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.

The apostle Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth was written more than twenty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection—just enough time for skep­tics to have wormed their way into the conversation. Two decades removed from the event, it was easy for people to plant doubts, especially among new believers, by asking, “How do you know that’s what really happened?”

One way doubters attempt to explain away the events that followed Jesus’ crucifixion is to suggest that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, that he only lost consciousness or went into shock. Thus, his post-crucifixion appearances were not those of one who had conquered death but of one who had survived the cross.

Paul assured the Corinthians that Jesus had indeed died. In fact, he had been buried for three days—just as the Old Testament Scriptures said he would be.

Paul defended the truth and provided assurance to the Corinthian believers that the words of Scripture can be trusted. Jesus was not just crucified, Paul emphasized; he was crucified to pay the penalty for our sins—exactly as the Scriptures (written centuries earlier) said he would be: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7, NIV).

This blog post has been adapted from Who Is Jesus?, a special-edition magazine that is now available in stores wherever magazines are sold. 


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He Loved the Unlovely

, by Christopher D. Hudson

"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

If it’s true that you can judge a person by the company they keep, what are we to make of Jesus, who spent quite a bit of time with blue-collar types who were more than a little rough around the edges, crooked tax collectors, and even hated foreigners?

We can conclude that he

• has a heart for the entire spectrum of humankind;

• is unwilling to let people slip through the cracks of society;

• can find good in anyone;

• offers salvation that is not tied to social standing.

As a tangible example, consider how he reached out to lepers who were the outcasts of society. They were shunned not only because they were considered contagious but also because Jewish religious law declared them unclean. Many lepers were banished from Jewish settlements and made to live beyond the outskirts of cities. Few people interacted with lepers, and even fewer had physical contact with them.

Yet when Jesus visited Bethany, he stayed in the home of Simon, a man who had leprosy. Simon was most likely an ex-leper at that point, having been healed by Jesus on a previous visit. What we do know is that Jesus reached out to the people whom others cowered from. He touched the untouchable.

This blog post has been adapted from the special-edition magazine Who Is Jesus?, which is available in stores wherever magazines are sold. 


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Give Back to God

, by Christopher D. Hudson

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 

Here’s the irony. The most important step in taking the reins of your finances is acknowledging who really holds the reins of your finances. (Hint: it’s not you.)

Here are four tips to help you put God first in your financial decision making.


Consider the following statements and decide if each is true or false:

• The skills, talents, and personal qualities that help you earn a living are God-given gifts.
• Your job—that is, your ability to earn money—is a blessing (regardless of how you may feel about it on bad days).
• Without God, your financial outlook would be much bleaker.

If you answered “true” to any of these statements, you’re well on your way to understanding who holds the reins of your finances. Now it’s time to give back to the One who gave everything to you.

Jesus wasn’t easily impressed when it came to acts of service. One woman, though, managed to capture his attention and earn his praise without even trying.

Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41–44)

A God-honoring tithe requires sacrifice. It is not easy to make—nor should it be. The apostle Paul took things a step further, arguing that it’s not just the amount of the gift that matters; it’s the attitude behind it.

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Finally, tucked at the end of the Old Testament is this promise from God to his people, relayed by the prophet Malachi:

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (Malachi 3:10)

The passage from Malachi is not necessarily a guarantee of future riches. Blessings come in many different forms, including peace of mind, wisdom, and the privilege of being part of God’s work in the world. But one thing is clear: God promises to care for those who remember him.

Some people like to give their entire gift to their local church. They trust church leaders to distribute it as needed. Others take a more hands-on approach, dividing their tithes and offerings among several ministries (including their church) that are close to their heart.

If you’re not sure how to allocate the money you give back to God, pray about it. Ask him to make you aware of the needs around you and to guide you in making wise decisions.

If your tithing starts to seem rote—or if your motivation starts to falter—spend some time considering how God might use it to make a difference in the lives of others. Don’t think in terms of helping a church or an organization. Think of the people who will benefit from your faithful giving.

• Villagers in a developing country who will no longer have to walk miles for clean water every day, thanks to a well that was dug in their community
• Children who will make their first steps into God’s Word, thanks to a new interactive Bible study app
• A single mother whose prayers are answered by a donation that allows her to buy a reliable used car

A subtle change of approach can shift your thinking from How much am I required to give? to How many people can God help with my gift?

Once you put God at the center of your decision making, you can proceed to the nuts and bolts of crafting a financial strategy to maximize your generosity.


This blog post has been adapted from the special-edition magazine Unlock the Bible's Secrets, which is now available in stores where magazines are sold.


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Humble and Gentle

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

Matthew 11:29

Did the gentleness of the Savior come as a surprise? Did the prophets of old expect the Messiah, God’s chosen one, to be gentle? He was God, after all. And no one knew better than the people of Israel what God could do when his holiness was offended.

Jesus possessed extraordinary power. He could command the elements to do his bidding. He was holy, righteous, and unblemished by sin—yet he was surrounded by sinners. He was challenged, taunted, and eventually tortured and killed by his enemies. He had every reason to be vengeful. He chose to be gentle.

The Bible also records that humility was the key to Jesus’ effectiveness—as well as to the effectiveness of his followers. By conducting himself as a servant, Jesus essentially said to his followers, “Here’s how to do it.” He understood that humble people get things done. They are ideal workers. They don’t concern themselves with credit or glory. They are content to give it all to God. Humble people concentrate on the mission at hand. That might explain how Jesus was able to change the world in three short years.

Likewise, humble people make an impression on others. They are nonthreatening and nonirritating. Few people object to their presence. Even though they don’t call attention to themselves, they stand out in a crowd. They earn the right to be heard, and when they do speak, people listen.

This blog post has been adapted from the special-magazine Who Is Jesus?, which is  available in the U.S. wherever magazines are sold.


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